Just a couple hours ago, an apparently homeless man was gunned down by officers from the Vancouver Police Department in Washington State.
Published reports and one resident near the shooting tell us that the incident began unfolding just after 11:00 am today. A fight between two me was reported on a busy roadway. When the first officers arrived, they found one man unconscious on the ground. The other man allegedly began throwing items from a shopping cart at police. That is when the man was shot.
The Columbian newspaper says police say that the man was holding “sharpened objects” when officers fired. We are told by someone nearby that the man appeared to be homeless and was holding what appeared to be a pipe. (A witness told the paper that the man appeared to be holding a piece of rebar.)
A video taken by a passerby details many shots by the police. (The Facebook video which is embedded at the end of this post is quite disturbing.) No one that we have spoken with says the homeless man was armed with a firearm or deadly weapon.
Just two months ago another shooting took place at the same location. That shooting, however, did not involve any shots fired by the police.
One year ago, Vancouver Police shot and killed a man who provided services to the city’s homeless population. A neighbor who witnessed the shooting said police did not attempt CPR or render any aid after that shooting. That was one of four police shootings in Vancouver in just four weeks.
In one of those cases, the victim was just 16 years old. In another case, one officer fired 40 rounds at a fleeing suspect.
A video taken by a passerby shows that the police fired many shots. (The video taken from Facebook is embedded at the end of this post.) No one that we have spoken with says the homeless man was armed with a firearm or deadly weapon, however.
Vancouver PD - Shoot First, Ask Questions Later
Admittedly, it is early in the investigation. This shooting took place just five hours ago. It will likely take investigators weeks and dozens of interviews before they release a report. We are somewhat skeptical, however, as the investigation is being handled by the Regional Independent Investigative Team.
In November 2018, Washington voters passed an initiative that requires independent review teams to investigate all fatal police shootings.
In Clark County, the team is made up mostly of police officers although it is required to have at least two civilian members.
In a recent interview, Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain said that the despite the many police shootings, he did not believe there was a problem with his officers or their training. We disagree. There are better ways to take a homeless man throwing rocks into custody than with a hail of gunfire.
Prior shootings in the city have brought out protestors. Already comments questioning the police in this shooting are beginning to appear on social media. One person wrote:
“Well they [Vancouver Police] need to put it to an end to this unnecessary shooting, and it’s very unconstitutional. Just because someone’s homeless doesn’t give them the right to shoot them. They need proper training and have better ethics then just kill them. Just because someone’s homeless doesn’t mean they’re dangerous, they might have issues so don’t shoot them just because they have issues.”
Use of excessive force by the police is illegal. Cops are paid with taxpayer money to protect us, not to break the law and brutalize the homeless.
Even if the man shot today was throwing beer cans, rock or pieces of rebar, police didn’t have the right to use deadly force.
Unfortunately, we often see where police overreact either out of fear or because they can’t control their adrenalin. When that happens, someone gets inevitably gets hurt. In this case a man was shot and possibly killed. Better training and more access to nonlethal alternatives could have prevented this situation.
The officer or officers that shot today must be held accountable. We hope that the police department, review team and state prosecutors do a thorough and proper investigation. We do not condone excessive force or police misconduct in any form.
Not every police shooting is actionable. Police are allowed to use deadly force to protect their own life or that of a third party. The standard for holding someone criminally responsible versus civilly responsible are different - just ask O.J. Simpson. That means even if the officers are cleared and not criminally charged, however, they can still be sued. A jury can determine that deadly force wasn't justified.
Act Quickly to Protect Your Civil Rights
Police misconduct and excessive force claims must be made within legal time limits (statute of limitations). This is usually a very short period of time to make a claim.
It is also important to act quickly because as time passes, evidence can be tampered with or disappear, witnesses can forget the details of what they saw, officers have more time to cover their tracks. Your attorney's investigators need to act fast if you want to see any results at all. Filing a police misconduct claim is a race against the clock. You must act now – to make your best case.
Bad cops, police departments, and any institution that allows them to break the law must pay their debt to society.
Jail Death and Injury Law has the national structure and deep resources to get to the bottom of any police misconduct investigation. We have developed a unique process for maximizing claims and finding the culprits.
To see if you have a case, call us 866.836.4684 or Connect Online. All inquiries are protected by the attorney – client privilege and kept confidential. There is never any charge for initial consultations. Cases are handled on a contingent fee basis