Civil Liberties

'Go Ahead and Take Him Out'


Victor Harris was speeding—going 73 miles per hour in a 55-mph zone, according to police. And instead of pulling over when a police car flashed its lights at him, the 19-year-old tried to get away. Still, ramming him into an embankment and paralyzing him seems excessive. Today the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether Harris should be allowed to sue the officer who rammed him, Coweta County, Georgia, Sheriff's Deputy Timothy Scott. Scott got clearance from his superiors to perform a "precision intervention technique," which involves hitting the suspect's car at an angle to make it spin and stop, but he decided to hit Harris' Cadillac from behind instead because the two cars were going too fast. The issue is whether the maneuver amounted to an "unreasonable seizure" under the Fourth Amendment and, if so, whether Scott should have known that at the time of the chase. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit sided with Harris, concluding that "the use of deadly force is not 'reasonable' in a high-speed chase based only on a speeding violation and traffic infractions where there was little, if any, threat to pedestrians or other motorists as the roads were mostly empty and Harris remained in control of his vehicle."