Seeing his partner dragged under a car on a traffic stop gone bad, an Albany, NY police officer was forced to shoot and kill the car’s driver to save the first officer’s life.
This is the video that was presented to the Grand Jury, which found the officers’ actions reasonable. It is a combination of video from the patrol car and from a nearby surveillance camera.
Here’s what happened…
At about 2045 hours on February 16, 2010, two Albany police officers observe a vehicle make a traffic infraction. The officers also note that the vehicle matches the description of a car involved in a recent shooting. The officers confirm the description of the shooting vehicle matches the vehicle they see, and then make a traffic stop.
The first officer approaches the driver on the driver’s side of the vehicle. The second officer initially remains in the car as he calls in the stop on the radio. The second officer then approaches the vehicle on the passenger side.
When the second officer gets to the passenger compartment, he sees a handgun laying on the floorboard. Later, it was determined the gun was a loaded .45 caliber revolver. The second officer tries to get the attention of the first officer by calling out “Yo…yo…yo…”
The driver of the vehicle, a 37 year old on parole for a felony drug conviction, then speeds off. Due to the roads being covered in snow, the suspect vehicle is not able to build much speed initially, and the second officer is able to stay with the vehicle. As the first officer runs up toward the vehicle, the vehicle spins and strikes the first officer with its front bumper, throwing the first officer backward and onto the ground.
The vehicle then drives right at the first officer, who is hit a second time, and is dragged under the car. The car ultimately pins the officer to a gate or fence nearby.
At about the time the vehicle drives at the first officer, the second officer begins shooting at the driver. In the end, the second officer hits the driver seven times, including a shot through the neck.
EMS was on scene very quickly. The officer pinned under the car was taken to the hospital. After recovering from a knee injury, that officer was able to return to work.
The suspect died of his wounds.
The video is pretty darn frightening. I’ve been hit head on by a car and it is pretty darn scary. I was fortunate in that I was able to roll up onto the hood and off to one side. This officer was dragged and pinned by the car.
The officers survived and the bad guy did not. It is a win. However, are there things that could have been done better? How would you handle various aspects of this encounter?
Some things to consider:
- If stopping a car for a minor infraction that matches the description of a vehicle from a shooting, how do you handle it? I assume the officers had a description only, and not a tag number.
- These officers were working in a two-officer car. If you work in solo units, how would you handle the stop?
- The stop was called in after it was made, leaving the first officer on his own during the first few seconds of contact with the suspect. Could the stop be called in prior to the stop allowing both officers to approach at the same time?
- The second officer was able to see the gun from the passenger side of the car, while the first officer was not able to see the gun from the driver’s side. If acting alone, an officer using the passenger side approach would have been able to see the firearm.
- Cops are hard-wired to pursue the wicked. When someone rabbits, we chase. When the suspect fled, is trying to follow on foot the best course of action? Would returning to your squad to give chase put you in less, or more, danger?
Consider this incident and plan out several winning scenarios in your mind on how to handle the problem. By planning now, you will be much more likely to react quickly in the best possible manner when you run into a similar situation.
Richard is a police officer with a medium sized, central Florida department, and previously worked for a Metro-Atlanta agency. He has served as a field training officer, court officer, corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, watch commander, commander of a field training and evaluation program, and general pain in the butt to management-types looking to cut training hours.