How the police justify the killings at traffic stops: “The car was a weapon”

In November 2020, Deputy Jafet Santiago-Miranda of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office searched for a stolen car in Cocoa, Florida. He spotted a similar vehicle, which pulled into a driveway, then backed up. The deputy left her patrol car and stood in front of the car, then fired 10 times as she walked slowly, dash camera video shows.

The driver, AJ Crooms, 16, and a passenger, Sincere Pierce, 18, who planned to go out with a friend, were dead. Authorities later said the vehicle was not the stolen car. (As in several other cases, guns were later found in or near the car, but they played no part in the confrontation.)

Last April, Deputy Nolan Davis of the Delta County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado attempted to stop a white Honda without license plates. The driver ran away and ended up crushing “stop sticks” placed by another assistant, which punctured the Honda’s tires. As the car attempted to maneuver between Deputy Davis’ patrol truck and a white truck, he got out of his car on the way to the Honda, body camera footage. Assistant Davis backed off, firing eight times, even after the Honda passed him. Paige Pierce, 26, was deceased.

The driver “was about to hit me,” Deputy Davis told his supervisor. “I had no choice, Sergeant.”

Deputy Davis later said that when he got out of his patrol truck he thought the driver may have gotten out of the Honda and “may have stopped to flee on foot,” according to one. district attorney review.

Neither deputy lost their job or faced criminal charges.

In dozens of fatal cases over the past five years, officers have responded similarly, jumping in front of vehicles or not straying away.

Such decisions are dangerous for motorists and officers. In the past five years, three officers who leaned inside vehicles during stops were killed when drivers took off. Six others were hit by vehicles they were facing, such as Amy Caprio, a Baltimore County policewoman who was killed in May 2018 after responding to a call from a suspicious vehicle linked to a burglary.

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