Friday, 23. November 2012
A St. Paul police officer used deadly force to subdue an unruly suspect, and the conflicting stories paint a different picture of the events that took place.
Officer Joseph Higgins responded to a domestic disturbance call to find another officer, Ramar Davis, with his gun drawn. Davis was commanding Kevin Carroll, 47, to drop his duffel bag and get on the ground. Higgins later described the scene.
“He had this frantic look on his face, his eyes, I haven’t seen anyone in a long time with that look in their eyes,” Higgins said of Carroll. “He was saying, ‘(expletive) you, kill me, shoot me, I’ve got a gun’ or something about a gun. Then his hand either went under the duffel bag or inside it, I am not sure where it was at.”
It was at that point that Higgins, fearing for his safety and the safety of Officer Davis, fired three shots at Carroll.
Carroll was stuck in the chest, calf and thigh. He recovered, but needed multiple surgeries following the incident.
Carroll said the events of that night took place differently than described in the police report. He said he never mentioned having a gun, and refused to cooperate because he didn’t want to lie on the wet ground. He admits to holding the duffel bag, but said both his hands were clearly visible.
“I’m still questioning why,” Carroll said of the shooting. “I really just didn’t believe that I deserved to be shot.”
Police were originally called to the house because Carroll’s wife, Shantell Hutchinson, said she feared for her safety. Carroll and Hutchinson had an argument earlier in the day, and Carroll agreed to stay at a hotel that night. Carroll said he was wet from the rain, and stopped home to get a jacket, only to find the screen door locked. He broke the screen door, and then used his key to get inside. Carroll grabbed his jacket without seeing or speaking to Hutchinson, but she called the police when she heard the screen door break.
The 911 dispatcher who spoke to Hutchinson asked her about the circumstances of her call. When asked if her husband had a weapon, Hutchinson said he did not.
Officer Davis, who was first on the scene, said Carroll stated otherwise. According to the police report, Carroll yelled “I got a gun, I got a gun,” at Davis.
Hutchinson said she also heard her husband yell that he wasn’t afraid to die. It was at that point that Higgins fired his weapon.
Despite the differing views on the events of the night, no charges were filed against Carroll or the officers. An internal affairs investigation found that the actions of Davis and Higgins were justified, and they had no previous record of excessive force.
Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney Avery Appelman comments
This situation clearly captures the life and death decisions police officers make every day. When confronted with someone on the street who refuses to obey commands, police officers’ aggressiveness and fear heightens. Police are trained to deal with these escalated situations by use of force, and each agency has a policy on the use of force and when deadly force can be employed.
In a situation like this, it can be argued that the police were justified in shooting a suspect who claimed to have a weapon, but I don’t believe an internal investigation by their own department is as convincing as an outside agency’s investigation.
Normally, when citizens refuse to obey law orders from a police officer they are charged with Obstruction of Justice, which is failure to comply with a lawful order from a police officer which prevents the officer from conducting their duties. I’m surprised the suspect was not charged with Obstruction of Justice.
Related source: Pioneer Press