Militarization of Police

$4.5 Million Settlement for Family Of Unarmed Man Killed By Police with Submachine Gun

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The city of Downey will pay the family of Michael Nida $4.5 million after he was shot in the back by police officer Steve Gilley in 2011 with an MP5 submachine gun. According to the autopsy, he died of multiple gunshot wounds. Nida was unarmed at the time and was detained twice before the shooting. According to an investigation from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office, while Nida was detained officer Gilley threatened to "blow [Nida's] head off." The settlement came a day before a civil trial was to begin.

"We would have liked to hear a guilty verdict, but we had to weigh the pros and cons […] Money is not justice," said Teri Teramura, Nida's sister, to the Long Beach Press-Telegram, noting that she hoped the Department of Justice would get involved.

The L.A. district attorney's office found through their investigation that Gilley was justified in using deadly force against Nida. From the LA Times:

Prosecutor Stephanie Sparagna, however, wrote that Nida repeatedly resisted arrest and ran from police three times. He also ignored warnings from police, including one from the officer that he would "blow his head off" if Nida did not show his hands.

Sparagna found that Gilley reasonably feared Nida and was armed and dangerous, even though he eventually was determined not to be the robbery suspect and was unarmed. Sparagna said Gilley was required to make a split-second decision.

"Given the rapidly evolving, dangerous situation that confronted Officer Gilley, we conclude that Officer Steven Gilley was justified in using deadly force to prevent Nida's escape," she wrote in the report released Tuesday.

In Reason TV's Cops with Machine Guns: The Killing of Michael Nida Jean Thaxton, Nida's adoptive mother, took issue with use of the submachine gun itself asking, "Why would he have a machine gun? We're not in a war zone, I didn't think. I didn't think this was a war zone."

"An ordinary patrolman isn't going to be carrying something like a submachine gun," said Timothy Lynch in the piece. Lynch is the director of the Project on Criminal Justice at the CATO Institute. He says that even if they have those types of weapons, they should only be using them in rare situations.

"At first when they got it, the idea was, yeah, this is extraordinary weaponry, we'll have it just in case we'll ever need it." But as decades went by, police started to use them to enforce drug warrants and then started carrying them on routine calls.

Militarized weaponry is acquired by law enforcement from a number of different places but often it includes the Pentagon and politicians. For more, watch Cops with Machine Guns: The Killing of Michael Nida: