Cowboy Cops Kill Innocent Bystander

In Ellis v. Ogden City, No. 08-4166 (10th Cir. Dec. 17, 2009) (here), two police officers went on a high-speed chase through a residential district.  They went up to 80 miles per hour.  The dispatcher ordered them to disengage.  After all, the suspects being pursued were known to local police.  They knew where the suspects lived.  They knew their known associates.  The suspects could have been arrested later.

What good is being a cop, though, if you can't drive fast and carry a gun?  Thus, the police drove recklessly.  They finally killed an innocent bystander.  If you or I drove recklessly through the city, we'd have been charged with manslaughter.  According to a Tenth Circuit panel, what the police did was not even worthy of a due process violation.

This tragic case addresses the level of intent necessary to prove a 42 U.S.C. § 1983claim against officers for their conduct in a high-speed chase resulting in a bystander’sdeath. The teaching of County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 836 (1998), is thatin such circumstances “only a purpose to cause harm unrelated to the legitimate object ofarrest will satisfy the element of arbitrary conduct shocking to the conscience, necessaryfor a due process violation.” See also id. at 858 (Kennedy, J., concurring) (“intent toinjure” is required)
That is so weak.  What other purpose was there?  The officers will claim that their legitimate purpose was pursuing a suspect.  Yet the suspects were well known to police.  There was no do-or-die reason to pursue the suspects.  Moreover, in continuing the pursuit, the police officers violated officials orders.  "The officers were advised and ordered bydispatch to disengage from the pursuit."

Why then did they continue the pursuit?  Let's let a jury decide.  Did the officers continue the pursuit for legitimate reasons; or because they were adrenaline junkies who cared not for the harm of others?  Yet this case will never see a jury.  Just as the bystander Ogden City police officers Matt Jones and Troy Burnett murdered will never see another day.

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