Fourth Circuit splits in case of police officer who walked in front of a vehicle and then started shooting at the driver when the vehicle moved
Case: Krein v. Price, Court of Appeals, 4th Circuit 2014
Facts: Policeman walks in front of vehicle driven by plaintiff (a fugitive on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge). Plaintiff starts to pull forward so policeman shoots at driver and misses. Policeman steps around to the side of the vehicle and shoots plaintiff in the head through the passenger side window. Plainiff keeps driving, but eventually stops. Plaintiff suffers permanent brain damage and loss of ability to walk from the headshot.
Decision: 2-1 split decision that there is no qi (qualified immunity) for the West Virginia State Police officer L.W. Price.
Comment: It is difficult to tell from the opinion, but it seems that when Officer Price fired through the passenger side window, another police officer was on the opposite side of plaintiff’s vehicle. Amazingly, the dissent argues that the shot fired through the passenger side window was for the purpose of protecting the officer in the backdrop of the shot. However, shooting at someone — even just in their general direction — is a terrible way of protecting that person. Then again, stepping in front of a running vehicle being driven by a fugitive from justice is a plainly incompetent way For Officer Price to protect his own safety. It is high time for police officers to stop getting in front or or behind running vehicles as an excuse to play “Dirty Harry.”