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Article - The Objectively Reasonable Officer

7/7/2016 12:00:00 AM

The decision in Montoute v. Carr deals directly with law enforcement use of deadly force against an armed fleeing felon

The "objectively reasonable" law enforcement officer knows that foot pursuits of armed and dangerous fleeing felons are inherently unsafe and extremely dangerous.

Extreme danger is present in these pursuits for several reasons. First, the concept of the "deadly reactionary gap" frequently enters the picture in foot pursuits of armed felons. As found in "The Tempe Study" once a bad guy has decided to fire a handgun, it takes .31 of a second to fire the first shot. Multiple additional shots can be delivered at quarter-second intervals.

Picture a fleeing suspect, firearm in hand, running from the pursuing officer. Picture the officer, firearm in hand (or holstered), running in an attempt to catch the suspect. Suddenly, the suspect, having already made up his mind to kill the officer, turns and fires multiple rounds. In 1.06 seconds, four shots have left the suspect's firearm. Before the pursuing officer can return fire multiple rounds are directed toward him/her.

The second reason that pursuing armed fleeing felons is so dangerous is the likelihood that the armed fleeing felon will adopt a hide and ambush strategy. Foot pursuits of armed suspects provide numerous opportunities for the suspect to hide and lie in wait for the pursuing officer. They can wait until the officer passes them by and shoot them from behind. I am aware of many situations where this has happened to the eternal detriment of the pursuing officer.

A third reason why pursuit of armed fleeing felons is inherently dangerous involves the deadly threat presented to other officers who attempt to cut the fleeing suspect off from another direction and are unaware that he is holding a firearm. Suppose for example that officers pursuing the suspect from behind see him holding a firearm but are unable to communicate the observation to officers on the perimeter or to officers trying to intercept him or cut him off. Those officers may be suddenly confronted by a suspect ready to shoot them before they can adequately defend themselves.

The Case of Montoute v. CarrThe Federal Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit captured the essence of this significant danger in its Montoute v. Carrdecision which deals directly with law enforcement use of deadly force against an armed fleeing felon.

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