Saturday, September 2, 2006

No Charges for Assault, Shooting

Working through a set of facts that would provide plenty of grist for an issue-spotting exam on self-defense and use of force, King County prosecutors have decided not to file any charges against people involved in a fight that included men beating an off-duty officer and the officer shooting a man. No charges for men who beat up off-duty policeman, Seattle Times, Sept. 2, 2006.

Although accounts vary, the outline seems to be: off-duty police officer rides his own motorcycle in an alley crowded with pedestrians; woman confronts him, either knocks over motorcycle or clings to it as he tries to shake her; woman falls or is knocked to the ground; four to six men go to her aid; the men beat the officer severely; officer sees a man approach and shoots him with his service revolver. Prosecutors say that many of the actions were justified. The beating went well beyond the force necessary to protect the woman from the perceived danger -- but the identity of the men who beat the officer so badly is unclear. The shooting was in self-defense.

For more on this factually complex and controversial case, see

Depending on the facts emphasized, one could have at least two very different stories: (a) well-liked officer (with commendations), almost walking his motorcycle through the alley, asking people to clear the way, announcing himself as an officer, shooting only when he feared for his life from an assailant; or (b) obnoxious motorcyclist (a cop with multiple complaints against him), revving his engine and bullying pedestrians, rashly shooting a gentle bystander who was trying to break up the fight.

Some twists involving the legal profession: the man who was shot is a criminal defense attorney; the woman who confronted the officer is a paralegal from the attorney's office; the officer's sister, who stood up for him, was found by the bar association to have lied in a friend's divorce proceeding (she is appealing the recommendation of suspension).

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