Deadly Force: Necessarily Justified? - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Jonesboro, AR -- Heather Flanigan Reports

Deadly Force: Necessarily Justified?

November 28, 2006 - Posted at 5:30 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, AR -- Routine operations for police officers can change in the blink of an eye if a suspect wields a firearm. Law enforcement is trained to react in situations to save and protect others and in instances where their lives may hang in the balance.  The use of deadly force is granted...but is it always justified?

Five New York City police officers are now on paid administrative leave following a shooting that left a groom dead on his wedding day.  NYPD authorities say police opened fire after the suspect hit an officer with his automobile before crashing repeatedly into an unmarked police mini-van.  Two other men were wounded in an estimated 50 rounds fired...but no gun was found in their car.                        

"We spend a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of effort training them and creating scenarios where they learn to take these decisive actions almost as an instinct," said Jonesboro Police Chief Mike Yates.

Yates characterizes deadly force as the force an officer would utilize that is likely to cause serious injury or death, often primarily the use of a firearm.

"We have basically what we call a use of force continuum and it's a scale...a decision making scale as to how the officers decide what kind of force or action to take under the given circumstances....the very lowest part of that scale would be the officers presence," said Yates.

Friday morning Jonesboro officer Christopher Walker was involved in a shootout with 16-year-old Steven Earl Hill, Jr. while serving the teen a warrant for rape.

"You had a suspect that had already fired and actually struck the officer before he returned fire. In a classic sense that would be a justifiable use of force," said Yates.

Walker's bullet proof vest may have saved his life but it was his instinct that kept him alive.

"Basically the officers are allowed to use one step of force greater then that that is being used against them.  In this case, they were at the maximum amount of force right at the very beginning," said Yates.

Hill faces charges of attempted aggravated assault, attempt to commit capital murder and rape and jail time of 10 to 40 to life. The Blytheville teenager will be tried as an adult.  His bond is $1 million dollars.

His sister Sandra Hill is charged with obstruction of governmental operations.    

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