Conflict between the police and those that they are obligated to protect and serve is rampant in today's high-crime areas, and the role of the police is a difficult one at best. This conflict was manifested late on the night of Thursday, March 14th when the police in Trenton, New Jersey answered a call regarding a suicide threat.
When the four police officers arrived at the scene on North Olden Avenue, they found Jason Williams, a 42-year-old man, in a doorway holding what looked like a handgun. The investigation that occurred later showed the gun to be a BB gun, but somehow during the encounter, Williams was shot by two of the officers and was later pronounced dead at Helene Fuld Medical Center of Trenton.
When a Police Officer Can Legally Kill
Most policies that stipulate when a police officer can legally shoot a suspect begin with the law of justifiable homicide. This means that there are fairly clear-cut circumstances in which a police officer can legally kill a suspect. An officer can shoot a suspect if the suspect is a felon who is attempting to flee, if the suspect is threatening others and the purpose of the shooting is to defend these others, or in self-defense.
The legal shooting of a fleeing felon is generally limited to those who have harmed someone and are at risk for harming someone again. The officer must act only on what seems to be the facts of the situation at the time. Police shooting policies generally specify that lives are to be spared whenever they can be spared.
The Decision to Pull the Trigger
Of course, a police officer at the scene who is facing a suspect with a gun and with unknown intentions is in a very challenging situation. The officer may have a fraction of a second to make the decision, and in the modern, high-tech world of criminal justice, officers face the use of video cameras, social media that posts videos out of context, the criticism and anger of local citizens, and their own fear and desire to stay alive.
Often, there are simply no clear-cut solutions to the problem. However, the investigation of the Trenton shooting is being conducted with a new law in mind. Senate Bill 1036 stipulates that the Attorney General's Office must conduct investigations of all deaths that occur during an encounter with an officer of the law who is on duty. This new law was enacted with the hope of creating clarity and stronger policy on the use of force and the shooting of suspects for police officers.
Contact an Experienced Hamilton Township Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Gun Crime Charges in New Jersey
Were you arrested or charged with a weapon charge in NJ? The consequences of a conviction could be severe, leaving you with a permanent criminal record and possibly even sending you to jail. That is why you need to speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible about your case. The attorneys at The Davis Law Firm, LLC have successfully represented clients charged with a gun charge in Lawrence, Princeton, East Windsor, and Hopewell, and throughout New Jersey. Call 609-587-9100 or fill out the online contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team. We have an office conveniently located at 2653 Nottingham Way, Hamilton Township, NJ 08619.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.