Firing In Pursuit of Fleeing Suspect Almost Always a Bad Idea


If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times:

Firing shots in pursuit of a fleeing suspect, absent a deadly force threat, is a fool's game.

In April of 2014 Indiana homeowner, 33-year-old David McLaughlin, heard the alarm on his home garage go off, suggesting that someone was breaking into the garage.

Sure enough, when McLaughlin armed himself and went to investigate, he found 31-year-old David Bailey. News reports state that police confirmed Bailey had, in fact, broken into McLaughlin's garage, and Bailey would later plead guilty to burglary in a separate but similar case.

Confronted by Mclaughlin, Bailey fled down an alley. McLaughlin pursued, and fired three rounds at the fleeing Bailey. One of those rounds struck Bailey's left arm and pierced an artery.  The other two rounds missed their intended target, instead speeding through the residential neighborhood.

Five months after these events a jury found homeowner McLaughlin guilty of criminal recklessness resulting in serious bodily injury, a felony under Indiana law. The trial judge was kind enough to reduce to conviction to simple criminal recklessness, a misdemeanor, and sentenced McLaughlin to 60 days in jail and four months of home detention.

In June 2015, nine months after McLaughlin was found guilty, gunshot victim Bailey would plead guilty to an unrelated burglary and be sentenced to three years of home detention.

Last week, 10 months after Bailey's burglary sentencing, and a full two years after the events, Bailey has filed a civil suit against McLaughlin.

The amount of damages being sought is not specified, but Bailey seeks a "monetary award in an amount sufficient to compensate [Bailey] for all damages," including what is claimed to be "serious and permanent damage" from the gun shot wound to his left arm.

It'll be a lot of money, maybe all that McLaughlin has left. McLaughlin was not a wealthy man to begin with, being a USPS employee who was suspended from his job during the criminal trial, and who testified at sentencing that he'd already been forced to sell many of his personal possessions to get by. He won't be an wealthier after this lawsuit.

The lawsuit's success is all but guaranteed, given that Bailey has never confessed to breaking into McLaughlin's garage and the fact that McLaughlin has already been found criminally reckless in his use of deadly force by a criminal court, where the standard of evidence is beyond a reasonable doubt, much greater than the mere preponderance of evidence required in a civil case.