Clint Peterson Was Killed by Police While Running Away

Why did a Duncanville police officer shoot Clint Peterson? Don't bother asking the cops.

What few details are in the report seem to at least confirm that Peterson had been running away before he was shot.

"Preliminary reports indicate that shots were fired during a foot chase," says the Duncanville Police Department's statement.

The courts ruled long ago that foot chases aren't a justification to shoot at an unarmed suspect.

Shyanna Gallegos next to the tree she says Peterson ran around before he was shot.
Can Turkyilmaz
Shyanna Gallegos next to the tree she says Peterson ran around before he was shot.

Details

In 1974, a Memphis Police Department officer named Elton Hymon shot at an unarmed 15-year-old burglary suspect who was trying to climb over a fence. The bullet struck the teenager in the back of his head, killing him.

At the time, the police department argued that officers were legally justified to shoot the teenager under Tennessee law. A state statute had said that police pursuing a suspect could "use all the necessary means to effect the arrest."

The victim's father didn't agree and brought a lawsuit against the city of Memphis and its police department.

Tennessee v. Gardner made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1985 ruled that an officer can use deadly force on a fleeing suspect only if the officer "has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others." Now, attorneys say, the ruling provides clear guidance that police officers can't shoot unarmed suspects on the run.

"The only time you can possibly do it is, if that person was a danger to others or himself," says Jim Harrington, a human rights attorney who founded the Texas Civil Rights Project. "But simply running away from the officer, you can't do it."

More recently, in December 2011, an Austin Police Department officer named Chris Allen shot 14 rounds at a suspect driving away in a stolen vehicle. The suspect survived and was later arrested. Nonetheless, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo fired Allen. Allen's use of deadly force "was objectively unreasonable and not within department policy," the police chief told the Austin American-Statesman last year.

"If the story is that the individual was running away from police," and unarmed, says Todd Shapiro, a criminal defense attorney who used to be a prosecutor at the Dallas County District Attorney's Office, then "justification for using deadly force would seem to be unavailable in this situation. I would expect that police officer would be charged with murder."

The Dallas County Sheriff's Department is conducting a criminal investigation. With the shooting under review, the sheriff can withhold much of the normally public information that would provide clues into Peterson's death — such as the police report, the 911 tapes or footage from any dash-cams the officers may have had.

In response to an open records request from reporters, the sheriff's office says the case may be presented to a Dallas County grand jury, and if it is, "release of the video, audio and the offense report would allow the officers being investigated to have access to evidence and case analysis before the grand jury meets on this matter."

Sherry Horne, Peterson's mother, has also asked for a report. "I need closure. I need answers and nobody will give me answers," she says.

The Duncanville Police Department is similarly mum on details as it works on a separate investigation into whether either of the officers who responded violated any department policy.

The officers who confronted Peterson were out on paid administrative leave for less than a week before returning to work. They're both back to their normal duties, the Duncanville Police Department says. The officers' names haven't been released to the public.

"I don't see anything wrong with that decision," says Robert Brown, the Duncanville police chief. "The officers have not been charged with any criminal offense. They're simply being investigated as an officer would who's used deadly force."


News of Peterson's death was overshadowed by reports of other officer-involved shootings in North Texas that were more obviously egregious, with video footage quickly made public.

On October 14, Dallas Police Department Officer Cardan Spencer shot and wounded a mentally ill man holding a knife in the middle of a residential street in south Dallas. In an initial police report, Spencer's partner Christopher Watson had claimed that the man raised the knife in an "aggressive manner" shortly before the shooting. But surveillance footage that a neighbor captured shows the man standing with a knife by his side. After the neighbor sent his video to WFAA, the Dallas Police Department fired Spencer and now plans to present a case against him to a grand jury. Spencer's partner who wrote the report, Christopher Watson, was also recently suspended by Dallas Police Chief David Brown for giving "misleading statements" in the report.

And in November, a Garland Police Department Officer who shot and killed a suspect was indicted. It was the first time in 17 years that any Dallas County grand jury indicted an officer who shot a suspect. Garland Officer Patrick Tuter killed 25-year-old Michael Vincent Allen on August 31, 2012, after a lengthy car chase.

At first, the Garland Police Department said that Allen had rammed his truck into Tuter's police car before the officer fired at him.

Yet soon afterward, the department revised its official story and gave the public new details about what happened. The department announced that dash-cam footage revealed it was actually the officer who had crashed his squad car into the suspect's truck before firing as many as 41 rounds. Within a week after the shooting, Tuter was placed on extended leave and the department confiscated his city-owned weapons.

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11 comments
acpa4u
acpa4u

Duncanville.... what else did you expect?

I lived there for 50 years and the town and the Police Department suck.

aaronsdigitl
aaronsdigitl

However, if it is proved that an officer used more force than was necessary, the officer can be held criminally and civilly liable. In Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 105 S. Ct. 1694, 85 L. Ed. 2d 1 (1985), the Supreme Court ruled that it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment for police officers to use deadly force to stop fleeing felony suspects who are nonviolent and unarmed. The decision, with an opinion written by Justice byron r. white, said, in part, "We conclude that such force may not be used unless it is necessary to prevent the escape and the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others."

http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Deadly+Force

finnmf89
finnmf89

What is the death toll now of Dallas police shootings? In New York, police opened fire at a man blocking traffick and wounded two bystanders; then TAZERED the unarmed 'criminal', who prosecutors are now blaming for the innocent bystanders being shot. Not the police, who opened fire without warning towards an unarmed man rather than tazering him, but the unarmed man.

In east Texas an officer answering a 911 call shot and killed a man pestering his mother in law, and the officer was also injured. The officer is now seeking financial restitution for his injuries from the 911 caller for "not reporting how dangerous the man was". They're suing someone for calling 911 after shooting her son in law dead.

How many dead in Dallas this year alone? Does anyone have the toll? @dallasobserver is there any way you could put together and profiile the officers and victims of police shootings in 2013?

cajunscouse9
cajunscouse9

This is the type of journalism The Observer should produce more of.

tim.lebsack
tim.lebsack

Never call the cops.  They kill first and claim union immunity later.

scottie1620
scottie1620

We live in a Fascist police state where the cops see everybody not wearing a uniform as the enemy. It is time to stop coddling rogue cops and send them to prison for life in the general population so they can learn what it means to be brutalized by others. Cops in Duncanville have lower education and intelligence than cops in other places. It does not take much to light their fuses and make them take actions far beyond what is required of them.


Several years ago I had a confrontation with them after I caught a woman stealing the new license plate off my car because hers was expired and she could not or would not get her own tag renewed. They made no effort to chase her, but instead took me to jail for causing a disturbance. I was released a short time later when it became apparent to some judge that there had been a terrible miscarriage of justice.


These Duncanville cops should face the same end as Clint Petersen - shot in the back of the head at point blank range.

dyoung112060
dyoung112060

@scottie1620  

These are the kind of people hired as police because everyone complains about the Government  SPENDING money !


to put it in a way that every one will get the point from


" YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR"


As long as folks allow the Local businesses complain about taxes this will continue forever !

In other words, This Is The Cost Of Being CHEAP !


The Cost of Conservatism is VERY High and the ONLY way to change the situation is to VOTE Conservatives OUT at EVERY Opportunity !


Being CHEAP Never makes the World a BETTER Place !

scottie1620
scottie1620

@dyoung112060 @scottie1620 I agree!


Besides, Duncanville cops are so fat that a foot chase for them is measured as the distance between a patrol car and a donut shop. Anything longer than that requires the use of deadly force.

epicmale
epicmale

@dyoung112060 How much of you paycheck do you wish to send to your local PD in order to allow them to hire higher quality personnel?  I know you are generous with other peoples' money, but don't you think you should set the example and step up to the plate with your own money first?

dyoung112060
dyoung112060

@scottie1620 @dyoung112060  

I can't say thats a surprise Scottie.

I have to mention that I don't live in Texas and unfortunately can't really do anything about the situation there.

this is a problem nation wide and it will only get worse because of the  Right Wing Nutz and their cheapskate mentality !


All I can say is that the Tea party Crew is NOT going to Help and most definitely be Careful of the Libertarian Liars Club, they in the most part have become extreme Fascists that are more interested in having the ability to act like local Warlords rather then looking for a democratic solutions to problems, just look to Somalia, that is their VISION of a Libertarian Paradise that they are looking to bring to the Good ole' USA !


I do wish you luck in changing things there, but be careful, these lowlifes will NOT go down without a fight, and the LAST thing they believe in is a FAIR fight.

 
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