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The NYPD shot two bystanders on Saturday night in an attempt to apprehend a man in Times Square. Many are now wondering why the officers chose to use deadly force in a situation with so much risk of injury to innocent civilians.
The New York Times reported that police were investigating the circumstances of the shooting that injured the two bystanders -- both women. But police declined to comment on whether the shooting "appeared justified."
What circumstances are appropriate for police to use deadly force? And can bystanders accidentally shot by police sue over their injuries?
When Is Deadly Force Justified?
Although Saturday's incident is still being investigated, the U.S. Supreme Court has laid out some basic precepts for judging police use of deadly force. In general, deadly force is allowed if suspects:
In this case, the NYPD officers opened fire when the man later identified as Glenn Broadnax "reached into his pants pocket" and simulated a gun with his hand, pretending to shoot at several officers, reports the Times. Broadnax turned out to be unarmed.
Also raising questions: The fact that most of the charges filed against Broadnax are misdemeanors. Typically, a "severe crime" that warrants the use of deadly force must be a dangerous felony.
Potential Recovery for Injured Bystanders
The two women hurt in the NYPD shooting, Theodora Ray, 54, and Sahar Khoshakhlagh, 37, can take steps toward potentially suing the police department for negligence to recover for their injuries. Generally, victims hurt by police must first file claims against the city before pursuing full-fledged lawsuits.
Indeed, the Times Square shooting evokes memories of another Manhattan shoot-out in 2012, one that also injured several civilian bystanders.
On the other coast, a mother and daughter injured in a mistaken shooting by the LAPD were awarded $4.2 million for their injuries, after police mistook their car for a suspect's and fired into their vehicle.
According to the Times, Ray was hospitalized for a broken tibia and fibula, and may have a long road to recovery thanks to errant bullets from the NYPD.