Police officers have difficult and dangerous jobs. Above all else — even more important than apprehending criminals — police are tasked with ensuring public safety. Police agencies must train officers to not engage in actions that place innocent people in danger.
Innocent people were endagered outside the Empire State Building in August of last year during a shootout between police and a gunman. Fortunately, no pedestrians were killed by the 16 bullets police fired, but nine were injured by police bullets.
One of those pedestrians has filed a lawsuit against the police department, alleging the officers were not properly trained and should have confronted the suspect in a quiet area to minimize danger – not on a crowded sidewalk in front of a world-famous tourist destination.
Chenin Duclos, a 32-year-old from North Carolina, had arrived at Grand Central Terminal and was walking to catch another train when she was shot in the hip at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street and fell to the ground.
You might remember the details of the incident. According to police, Jeffrey Johnson waited outside the Empire State Building with a handgun on Aug. 24, 2012. When the man he believed was responsible for laying him off from his job a year earlier exited the building, Johnson shot him to death and walked off.
Amid the panic, a bystander followed Johnson and pointed him out to police. When the officers confronted him, Johnson pulled out a weapon and police opened fire, firing 16 shots and killing Johnson. Nine bystanders, including Duclos, were hit either by bullets or by fragments.
While several of those injured have filed notices of claim — a legal precursor to a possible lawsuit — the lawsuit filed Jan. 22, 2103 is the first associated with the incident, the lawyer for Duclos told ABC News. It alleges the officers were not properly trained to confront Johnson in a quiet location where the danger to innocent bystanders would be minimized.
A Case Study in Personal Injury Liability
The police officers were clearly acting in the heat of the moment, and no one is suggesting they intended to hurt any bystanders. When criminals pull guns on police officers, police need to fire back. But, in this situation, the criminal likely would not have pulled his gun had police not approached him on a crowded sidewalk at 9 a.m. in midtown Manhattan. If you’ve ever visited midtown Manhattan, you know how crowded these streets are.
The officers should have been trained in alternate methods to apprehend the gunman that didn’t trigger a violent confrontation on a crowded street. An innocent person had been shot to death just moment before. No one needs it to happen again.
Due to her injury, Duclos, a student at the University of North Carolina, has had trouble resuming her studies. She suffered a shattered femur and a neck injury, and still undergoes physical therapy.
The Goal of Personal Injury Cases
This case isn’t about blaming police officers for taking quick actions. It’s about ensuring that people and public agencies are held accountable for the injuries that result from their actions. Sadly, this is necessary to force them to adopt policies and procedures that will minimize the risk of this happening in the future. This is personal injury law.
If you or a loved one has been harmed by the negligence of a person, business or government agency, contact Oshman & Mirisola, LLP to speak with a qualified attorney who will help you protect your rights.