Los Angeles police are on the hunt for a cop killer. While the suspect, ex-LAPD officer Christopher Dorner, remains at large, two innocent women are in the hospital after being "mistakenly" shot by LAPD officers taking part in the manhunt.
"Tragically, we believe this was a case of mistaken identity by the officers," LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told reporters Thursday, according to CBS News.
The women -- Maggie Carranza, 47, and her mother Emma Hernandez, 71 -- were delivering newspapers about 5 a.m. Thursday when officers opened fire on their pickup truck. The women's lawyer said police gave "no warning... no orders. No commands. Just gunshots."
Can they sue the LAPD for their injuries?
Probably, but filing a lawsuit against police officers can be complicated.
In any other situation, a lawsuit would logically follow after someone is "mistakenly" shot. The victim would sue to cover medical expenses and perhaps lost wages.
But when it comes to suing police, there are some legal hurdles to consider. Police officers generally have qualified immunity, which protects them from litigation over injuries they cause in the line of duty.
In many ways that makes sense. Police have a difficult job to do, and if they were overly concerned about stray bullets when trying to track down a dangerous suspect, we would all be less safe.
But law-enforcement officers don't get total immunity from civil lawsuits. Police are only protected if their actions were reasonable given the nature of their job. Injuries caused by unreasonable or reckless behavior can lead to a successful lawsuit.
If the women can show that the officers' actions were unreasonable, then they might be able to get police to compensate them for their injuries. For one thing, the women's pickup truck didn't match the description of Dorner's vehicle. The license plates were also different, their lawyer said.
Those facts, plus the alleged lack of police warning before opening fire, may soon be part of a potential injury claim against the LAPD. That claim could possibly turn into a lawsuit.
In the LAPD's "mistaken identity" shooting, Carranza's hand was cut from shattered glass while Hernandez was shot in the back. She was last reported in good condition.
- LAPD manhunt for killer goes door-to-door (The Washington Times)
- Empire State Shooting Victims May Sue NYPD (FindLaw's Injured)
- How to Sue the Police (FindLaw's Injured)
- No Qualified Immunity for Cops Who Suffocated Suspect (FindLaw's U.S. Tenth Circuit Blog)