A woman who was believed to be DUI, was executed by the Torrance California Police Department while she sat in her vehicle. The woman, identified as Michelle Shirley, 39, was shot dead as she sat in the driver seat of her vehicle, attempting to escape from police during a traffic stop. Until 2014, police did not have the legal authority to shoot at a moving vehicle. The Supreme Court found that police can use deadly force to end police pursuits, however it is apparent that the Torrance police officers on scene chose to execute Shirley, rather than use due care to solve the situation.
Shirley’s vehicle was surrounded by officers when she apparently attempted to back up, striking an officer. She then tried to speed forward, striking a patrol cruiser. Officers then opened fire on the vehicle, killing Shirley.
The on scene photographs show a windshield riddled with bullets, indicating the shots came from in front of the vehicle. Shooting at a vehicle and using the excuse that you feared for your life was once unacceptable. However, in 2014, a Supreme Court ruling allowed the use of deadly force to end a pursuit. As you can see from the positioning of the vehicle, Shirley’s vehicle was trapped. Despite not being able to leave the parking lot, police executed her anyway.
According to Robert J. Kane, a professor and director of criminology at Drexel University, police shooting into vehicles is not “an uncommon problem.” Until the Supreme Court ruling, individual police agencies had the ability to craft their own policies on deadly force in vehicular situations, however, they always had to meet the standard of the Use of Force Matrix. This is no longer the case. Although the officers in Torrance had the opportunity to end the situation without violence, they exploited the Supreme Court ruling and chose to end this woman’s life, instead.
“If you shoot a car and hit the person, then the car becomes a moving missile. The driver has no control over where the care is going to go. So if it crashed into a building or a bus stop and kills seven kids, was it really worth shooting?” Professor Kane stated to Vice.
Cell phone video leading up to the time of the shooting was released to the media. It does in fact show Shirley crashing into a police cruiser in attempts to escape before cutting away. It also showed, much like the still photos that are circulating, that Shirley was trapped against a gas pump and couldn’t escape. There were no additional dangers to anyone when they opened fire. According to a press release put out by the department:
On October 31, 2016, at approximately 2:28 pm, Torrance Police Officers responded to multiple 911 calls of an erratic and reckless driver in the area of Arlington Avenue and Post Avenue in the City of Torrance. The vehicle was described as having collision damage and deployed side airbags were visible to the reporting party. Torrance Police units responded to the area and upon locating the vehicle they observed reckless and dangerous driving, and a pursuit ensued. Officers were authorized to utilize a Precision Intervention Technique maneuver which brought the vehicle to a stop facing northbound on Cabrillo Ave just north of Sepulveda Boulevard. The vehicle accelerated in reverse striking an occupied Torrance Police vehicle and then accelerated forward striking a second occupied marked Torrance Police vehicle. At that point an officer involved shooting occurred at approximately 2:36 pm.
Due to the Supreme Court ruling, which basically throws out the individual details usually required to shoot a suspect, none of these officers will be reprimanded in any way. The names of the officers will most likely not be released; as for the police, this was just another day on the job.
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