A detective charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter for the fatal shooting of a fellow motorist has claimed through his attorney that the alleged victim had repeatedly shouted racial slurs against the officer and threatened to kill his family.
Our D.C. criminal defense lawyers understand that the defendant in the case is black, while the alleged victim was white.
Defense attorneys say the victim was yelling at the family in their van, behaving in an enraged manner and repeatedly screaming racial epithets at the officer and his family.
The element of racial tension was absent from the investigative report penned by police on the incident. In fact, the majority of the police report relies heavily on statements from the passenger who was riding with the alleged victim. Of course, it should be understood that this individual would have a reason to provide a bias account of what occurred.
The detective, who primarily investigates insurance fraud but had previously been a road patrol officer in Newark, was driving with his wife seated next to him and his three children, ages 3 to 11 buckled in behind him. He was driving in the left turn lane when the altercation began. The defense lawyer said that the detective had been unaware there was a problem until the alleged victim pulled up alongside the van and began screaming at the family, using a series of racial slurs. Additionally, the man was threatening violence upon the entire family. As the attorney put it, "They were on notice."
The detective maintains the alleged victim drove aggressively, doing whatever was needed to stay alongside the family van. When the detective decided to pull over, he wasn't trying to escalate the situation. He thought it was over, and he wanted to stop to collect his calm - and for another reason that his lawyer has yet to disclose. But the other driver stopped some 150 feet in front of him.
At some point, both men got out of their cars. The detective identified himself as a police officer as the alleged victim marched toward him. He repeatedly ordered the man to stop. He didn't. It was only when the alleged victim was within six feet of the detective did he pull his gun and fire.
Police say the victim was shot twice - once in the leg and the second one, to an undisclosed location on the man's body, which proved fatal. However, the defense lawyer maintains only one shot was fired.
A murder charge is one of the most serious a person can face in our legal system. There are many possible approaches a legal defense team can take, and in this case, it appears to be a textbook case of self-defense.
Self-defense is not an excuse to murder, but rather a justification. It is reasonable force displayed in the face of an unjust threat. It is asserting that the actions taken were not criminal, but rather necessary to protect one's own self or others.
Murder is the intention to kill or inflict great bodily injury or action taken that reflects reckless indifference to human life. A person convicted of murder can face up to life in prison.
It is critical in these cases for defendants to hire a skilled criminal defense lawyer.