Grand Jury Clears Des Moines Police Officer Who Shot And Killed Unarmed Man Who Walked “With A Purpose” Toward Her Car

CautionTapeDes Moines Officer Vanessa Miller will not face charges after a grand jury looked at her shooting of Ryan Bolinger, 28. Miller shot Bolinger from her car after he approached her car by “walking with a purpose.” Miller had chased Bolinger after he got out of his car earlier and began dancing.

After he stopped, Miller said he got out of his car and was walking “with a purpose” toward her car and she concluded that she was being threatened. So she fired through the window of her car and killed him.

The Des Moines police department described the standard governing the use of lethal force as virtually subjective. Police Sergeant Jason Halifax said “It all has to do with how an officer perceives the situation.” Halifax said, “What they’re feeling at the time. It’s what they’re seeing. It’s what they’re experiencing. There’s not a hard fast this is when you shoot and this is when you don’t.” That seems materially different from the objective test established in Tennessee v. Garner in 1985, that a police officer could used deadly force on a fleeing suspect if the officer had probable cause to believe that the suspect poses significant threat of death or injury to the officer or others. However four years later, in Graham v. Connor, the Court emphasized that the standard is whether the officer’s actions are “objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them.”

While these decisions must be made in short period of time, the standard is not a subjective one. It is hard to understand how a man merely approaching the vehicle satisfied that test. Some have suggested that the prosecutors undermined the grand jury proceedings since grand juries tend to overwhelmingly follow the lead of prosecutors. The grand jury obviously saw something objectively threatening in a man approach a vehicle in this circumstance.

The shooting again raises questions about the use of lethal force by officers in the United States. A couple years ago, we discussed how police in Iceland killed a man for the first time in history and compared that remarkable record to our own level of police shootings. This week we have another stark contrast out of Norway where police fired only two shots in 2014. They brandished firearms on just 42 occasions in 2014. Their highest rate was only 75 such incidents in 2005 and 2010. In comparison, this week we had a man shot and killed for brandishing a large metal spoon.

Notably, there is a videotape of the shooting but the police are withholding it from the public during their own investigation. It must have been shown to the jury and could shed more light why a grand jury found such a use of lethal force to be justified. It is difficult to see why the videotape continues to be withheld, particularly after the closing of the criminal case.

31 thoughts on “Grand Jury Clears Des Moines Police Officer Who Shot And Killed Unarmed Man Who Walked “With A Purpose” Toward Her Car”

  1. I knew a guy, once, who told me he was pursuing a “CAREER IN THE MILITARY.”

    I guess he was going into logistics because “careers” in the actual military (combat infantry) are frequently cut short by that pesky old “death” thing that happens a lot in war).

    Police are hired to fight bad guys. If they don’t want to fight bad guys. They shouldn’t take the job.

    This woman had no intention of performing the duties of a policeman; fighting the bad guys.

    She has a policy to kill anyone who threatens her.

    She has no basic comprehension of the job or desire to perform it.

    She just likes the ridiculously high pay, COLA’s, siting in an air-conditioned car all day, medical, dental, vision, vacation, sick leave, medical leave, maternity leave, family leave, personal days off, disability, 100% retirement at 40, retirement COLA, retirement medical/dental/vision, etc.

    Thank God for Karl Marx, the Communist Manifesto, the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” and “comparable pay” so that not ALL governmental workers have to strike (we get what they get after the strike is settled cuz we’re “comparable” – we’re too lazy to even strike, damn!).

    All us comrades get easy jobs.

    Cops killing perps is the easy way out.

    If you don’t want to get busy with bad guys, don’t take the job.

  2. Paul

    The Bill of Rights did not envision or foresee a lot of things. That’s why the very people who wrote all this stuff knew, (and here I’m spitballing of course), that all sacred texts would have to be revisited and seen in context. Thanks for reminding us.

    Re mantras-any testimony needs a really convincing testifier and a really receptive court, judge, jury, etc. In this case all players must have been doing their jobs exceptionally well. The cop could have driven off and called for back up. The decision to kill someone as the first response to a situation is one thing but as the first response to a situation that doesn’t exist is another. Like I said, if it were written as part of a Hollywood script, the producers would think it is not believable. So, it is left to the theatre of our reality.

  3. Off Topic

    Nick, I see you are watching ‘Six Feet Under’. If you complete the series you will be treated to one of the finest show finales ever filmed.

  4. This post does not contain enough information to make any judgement on the grand jury verdict, but it sure leaves the impression that the woman was scared – so scared that she had to shoot the guy who was ‘walking with purpose’. I’m willing to accept her defense and perhaps even empathize with her fear. But such fear that leads one to shoot someone for ‘walking with purpose’ disqualifies one for a career in law enforcement. I think she needs to resign – not only to protect citizens who ‘walk with purpose’ but for her own mental health.

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