Sixth Circuit overturns summary disposition wrongfully granted to policeman after fatal shooting
In yet another case of a fatal encounter with police, the Federal appeals court overturned the lower court's summary dismissal of a family's excessive force claim in Godawa v. Byrd. Perhaps when this case originated, it was considered unlikely that an officer would use deadly force against a person who was simply running or driving away. In 2015, we know that this is an all-too-common occurrence, after watching numerous videos of precisely that happening.
The Godawa's son was suspected of having an open container of alcohol in his car and of underaged drinking. When he attempted to drive away from the arresting officer in a parking lot, he was shot and killed. Most of us agree that underage drinking should not carry a death sentence.
The Court noted that to the extent the encounter was caught on video, it was not inconsistent with the narrative of the victim family's case, and that a jury could reasonably conclude that there was no justification for the use of deadly force against the boy. The Court noted that the evidence could easily support the conclusion that the officer, Byrd, was never in danger, that Godawa displayed no violence in the interaction, and that Godawa''s clearly established Fourth Amendment rights were violated by the shooter.