We previously discussed the case of Fire Chief Don Payne in Jericho, Arkansas where he went to court for a second time in one day to complain about the police use of abusive speed traps in the small town. An argument erupted in front of Judge Tonya Alexander and Payne was shot from behind by one of the officers. Now, a local prosecutor has decided that Payne should be criminally charged but no officer will face a charge in the case. West Memphis City Prosecutor Lindsey Fairley appears to believe that shooting an unarmed man surrounded by officers is an appropriate use of force.
When Payne went to complain to the court, he found seven officers in the courtroom. One of them shot him with a .40 caliber handgun in the hip from behind.
Fairley says that the officers had every right to detain Payne. That, of course, does not include the right to detain through the use of potentially lethal force under Tennessee v. Garner.
Fairley says Payne went after officers, and the officers had every right to detain Payne. There is of course a considerable difference between the right to detain and the right to use potentially lethal force.
There have been widespread complaints against the local police who are accused of doing little else but ticketing citizens for driving a couple miles over the speed limit to sustain their small department.
Like other citizens, he had reached his limit. The town of only 174 residents used to be policed by deputy sheriffs but added its own small force in the 1990s. However, they soon found that the officers appeared to do little else than write traffic tickets to pay for their department to the point that residents complain that they are reluctant to go outside in their vehicles. One resident, Albert Beebe, complained that “[w]hen I first moved out here, they wrote me a ticket for going 58 mph in my driveway.”
I fail to see how use of lethal force can be justified for an unarmed man surrounded by seven officers but Fairley either has some different information or different understanding of the constitutional use of such force.
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