Suicidal Subject is Slashing Himself with Knife: Time to Shoot?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Earlier this fall in Force Science News #374, we reported on the legal subtleties of responding to suicidal-subject calls and quoted Advanced Force Science Specialist Mike Ranalli as cautioning against taking impulsive aggressive action toward a subject “who isn’t committing a serious crime and isn’t an active threat to anyone other than himself.”

Now comes a case in point, decided in mid-Nov. by a federal Court of Appeals.

The subject in this instance was a 265-lb., mentally ill felon with “some history of violence” who was about to be returned to a locked psychiatric hospital after an unsuccessful trial stint at an outpatient group home in Maine. Anticipating that he’d be “upset” and uncooperative, his treatment team called a municipal officer to stand by outside the facility waiting room where he was to get the news.

Equipped with a sidearm, a TASER, an expandable baton, and pepper spray, the officer stayed out of sight with several hospital employees until she heard the subject declare that he was “not going back” to lockdown. Then, signaled by a team member, she stepped into the room and confronted him.

The subject stood up but made no attempt to move toward her. “Instead,” the court notes, “he reached into his pocket with his right hand; announced, ‘I should have done this moons ago’; pulled out a black folding knife; and brought it down hard on his left arm. He did not say anything to anyone as he slashed his arm.”

Instantly, the officer drew her gun and yelled, “Hey, hey, hey” in the suspect’s direction. As he “continued to cut at his arms”—making “no threats or movements towards anyone [else]”—the officer fired three rounds, hitting the subject twice in the chest and once in the shoulder. At that point, she later estimated at a hearing, “four to six seconds had passed since she first saw [him].” She stopped shooting when he fell to the floor, handcuffed him, and called for an ambulance.

The subject survived and about a year later brought a federal 1983 civil rights suit against the officer and her city, alleging that she violated his constitutional right to be free from unreasonable seizure when she shot him.

ADVERSE RULINGS

The officer’s attorney moved for a summary judgment in her favor on the ground of qualified immunity, claiming she reasonably believed the knife wielder had posed an “immediate threat” to her or the staff employees. But a District Court magistrate denied that motion, reasoning that the law was “clear that under the circumstances she could not constitutionally shoot [the suspect] unless he posed an immediate threat to herself or others and only after, if feasible, providing some kind of warning.”

Given the evidence, the magistrate explained, the case should be heard by a jury, which might “decide either way on the questions of whether (the subject) posed an immediate threat and whether a warning was feasible.”

On the officer’s appeal, a three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit US Court of Appeals agreed with the magistrate.

In its written ruling, the panel acknowledges that police officers are forced to make split-second decisions and “do not have the luxury of calmly considering the circumstances they face as if they were jurors or judges.”

Even so, the panel points out, the officer was at least 20 feet from the suspect when he drew the knife. He “could not have reached out and stabbed anyone first without advancing…toward the barrel of [the officer’s] raised gun,” and no one was between the two of them.

The subject “was intent on harming himself [but] threatened no one else by word or movement,” the panel says. Plus, “he had not received any warning or order” from the officer.”

Bottom line: The civil suit must forward.

The panel’s decision can be read in full at Begin v Drouin.

Our thanks to Atty. Michael Brave, director of CEW Legal for Axon Enterprise, Inc., for helping to facilitate these reports.

GDPR

  • Privacy Policy

Privacy Policy

Effective date: January 06, 2019

Force Science Institute, Ltd. (“us”, “we”, or “our”) operates the https://www.forcescience.org/ website (hereinafter referred to as the “Service”).

This page informs you of our policies regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of personal data when you use our Service and the choices you have associated with that data. Our Privacy Policy for Force Science Institute, Ltd. is based on the Privacy Policy Template from Privacy Policies.

We use your data to provide and improve the Service. By using the Service, you agree to the collection and use of information in accordance with this policy. Unless otherwise defined in this Privacy Policy, the terms used in this Privacy Policy have the same meanings as in our Terms and Conditions, accessible from https://www.forcescience.org/

Information Collection And Use

We collect several different types of information for various purposes to provide and improve our Service to you.

Types of Data Collected

Personal Data

While using our Service, we may ask you to provide us with certain personally identifiable information that can be used to contact or identify you (“Personal Data”). Personally identifiable information may include, but is not limited to:

  • Email address
  • First name and last name
  • Phone number
  • Address, State, Province, ZIP/Postal code, City
  • Cookies and Usage Data

Usage Data

We may also collect information on how the Service is accessed and used (“Usage Data”). This Usage Data may include information such as your computer’s Internet Protocol address (e.g. IP address), browser type, browser version, the pages of our Service that you visit, the time and date of your visit, the time spent on those pages, unique device identifiers and other diagnostic data.

Tracking & Cookies Data

We use cookies and similar tracking technologies to track the activity on our Service and hold certain information.

Cookies are files with small amount of data which may include an anonymous unique identifier. Cookies are sent to your browser from a website and stored on your device. Tracking technologies also used are beacons, tags, and scripts to collect and track information and to improve and analyze our Service.

You can instruct your browser to refuse all cookies or to indicate when a cookie is being sent. However, if you do not accept cookies, you may not be able to use some portions of our Service. You can learn more how to manage cookies in the Browser Cookies Guide.

Examples of Cookies we use:

  • Session Cookies. We use Session Cookies to operate our Service.
  • Preference Cookies. We use Preference Cookies to remember your preferences and various settings.
  • Security Cookies. We use Security Cookies for security purposes.

Use of Data

Force Science Institute, Ltd. uses the collected data for various purposes:

  • To provide and maintain the Service
  • To notify you about changes to our Service
  • To allow you to participate in interactive features of our Service when you choose to do so
  • To provide customer care and support
  • To provide analysis or valuable information so that we can improve the Service
  • To monitor the usage of the Service
  • To detect, prevent and address technical issues

Transfer Of Data

Your information, including Personal Data, may be transferred to — and maintained on — computers located outside of your state, province, country or other governmental jurisdiction where the data protection laws may differ than those from your jurisdiction.

If you are located outside United States and choose to provide information to us, please note that we transfer the data, including Personal Data, to United States and process it there.

Your consent to this Privacy Policy followed by your submission of such information represents your agreement to that transfer.

Force Science Institute, Ltd. will take all steps reasonably necessary to ensure that your data is treated securely and in accordance with this Privacy Policy and no transfer of your Personal Data will take place to an organization or a country unless there are adequate controls in place including the security of your data and other personal information.

Disclosure Of Data

Legal Requirements

Force Science Institute, Ltd. may disclose your Personal Data in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to:

  • To comply with a legal obligation
  • To protect and defend the rights or property of Force Science Institute, Ltd.
  • To prevent or investigate possible wrongdoing in connection with the Service
  • To protect the personal safety of users of the Service or the public
  • To protect against legal liability

Security Of Data

The security of your data is important to us, but remember that no method of transmission over the Internet, or method of electronic storage is 100% secure. While we strive to use commercially acceptable means to protect your Personal Data, we cannot guarantee its absolute security.

Service Providers

We may employ third party companies and individuals to facilitate our Service (“Service Providers”), to provide the Service on our behalf, to perform Service-related services or to assist us in analyzing how our Service is used.

These third parties have access to your Personal Data only to perform these tasks on our behalf and are obligated not to disclose or use it for any other purpose.

Analytics

We may use third-party Service Providers to monitor and analyze the use of our Service.

  • Google AnalyticsGoogle Analytics is a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. Google uses the data collected to track and monitor the use of our Service. This data is shared with other Google services. Google may use the collected data to contextualize and personalize the ads of its own advertising network.You can opt-out of having made your activity on the Service available to Google Analytics by installing the Google Analytics opt-out browser add-on. The add-on prevents the Google Analytics JavaScript (ga.js, analytics.js, and dc.js) from sharing information with Google Analytics about visits activity.For more information on the privacy practices of Google, please visit the Google Privacy & Terms web page: https://policies.google.com/privacy?hl=en

Links To Other Sites

Our Service may contain links to other sites that are not operated by us. If you click on a third party link, you will be directed to that third party’s site. We strongly advise you to review the Privacy Policy of every site you visit.

We have no control over and assume no responsibility for the content, privacy policies or practices of any third party sites or services.

Children’s Privacy

Our Service does not address anyone under the age of 18 (“Children”).

We do not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from anyone under the age of 18. If you are a parent or guardian and you are aware that your Children has provided us with Personal Data, please contact us. If we become aware that we have collected Personal Data from children without verification of parental consent, we take steps to remove that information from our servers.

Changes To This Privacy Policy

We may update our Privacy Policy from time to time. We will notify you of any changes by posting the new Privacy Policy on this page.

We will let you know via email and/or a prominent notice on our Service, prior to the change becoming effective and update the “effective date” at the top of this Privacy Policy.

You are advised to review this Privacy Policy periodically for any changes. Changes to this Privacy Policy are effective when they are posted on this page.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, please contact us:

  • By email: [email protected]
  • By visiting this page on our website: https://www.forcescience.org/contact
  • By phone number: 866-683-1944
  • By mail: Force Science Institute, Ltd.