Chances are, if you pull out a gun in an attempt to kill a curious dog, only to miss and strike a child less than two feet from you, your actions would be considered negligent and unreasonable.
But that is only because you’re not a cop.
As we keep learning, cops have the right to pull out their guns and fire at anything and anybody that makes them fear for their lives as long as they can claim their actions were “reasonable” under the given circumstances.
And what is reasonable for a highly trained cop paid to enforce the law does not mean it is reasonable for your average citizen who has not gone through six months of training that may include a lesson or two about gun safety.
The latest case to highlight this absurdity comes out of the federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals where judges ruled last week that a Georgia sheriff’s deputy named Michael Vickers acted reasonably when he fired his gun at a wandering dog only to strike a 10-year-old child who was laying on the ground.
The court determined it was an “accidental shooting” and dismissed the lawsuit against Vickers on the basis that he is protected by qualified immunity because they believed his actions to be reasonable.
The incident took place July 10, 2014 when Coffee County sheriff’s deputies were chasing a man named Christopher Barnett who had shot and wounded a Douglas police officer in an earlier armed robbery attempt.
Barnett, 21, ran into a front yard where several children were playing with the deputies close behind. The deputies ran into the yard and ordered everybody down at gunpoint, including Barnett and six children as well as an adult named Damion Steward who was watching over the kids. Two of the kids were less than three years old.
This is what took place next, according to the lawsuit filed by Amy Corbitt, the mother of Dakota Corbitt, the 10-year-old boy who was shot, who is referred to as “SDC” in the suit:
While the children were lying on the ground obeying the orders of Defendant Vickers, said Defendant unreasonably, maliciously, negligently, and without necessity or any immediate threat or cause, discharged his firearm at the family pet named “Bruce” twice. The first shot missed the animal, who retreated under the residence. At no time during the interim did Defendant Vickers ask someone to restrain the animal and at no time did any other agent or employee of Coffee County attempt to restrain or subdue the animal. Approximately eight to ten seconds elapsed since the first shot and Defendant Vickers then discharged his firearm at Bruce a second time as it was approaching his owners. He again missed the animal and struck Plaintiff Amy Corbitt’s minor child, SDC, in the back of his right knee. 29.
At the time of his injury, SDC was readily viewable to Defendant Vickers. In fact, SDC was approximately eighteen inches from Defendant Vickers, lying on the ground, face down, pursuant to the orders of said Defendant. Other minor children were also within only a few feet of Defendant Vickers. No officer or agent at the scene was required to discharge a firearm. With a large number of innocent bystanders, mostly children in the immediate area, no use of force should have been used aside from the arrest and physical restraint of Christopher Barnett, who was visibly unarmed and readily compliant with Defendants. No agent or employee at the scene had the need to shoot at the family pet, nor did anyone appear to be threatened by its presence.
In dismissing the suit, the judges stated “there is no clearly established right to be free from the accidental application of force during arrest, even if that force is deadly.”
The above video is from the initial news report about the shooting. James Barnett, the suspect deputies were chasing, was sentenced to life in prison in 2015.