Police Abuse

Cops Shot Unarmed Georgia Woman in the Head, Admired Their Marksmanship, Prevented First Aid After

They are both still gainfully employed-woman's interaction with police began over suspicion of drug use

|

AJC

An awful story in Georgia about a fatal 2010 police shooting as investigated by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News, illustrates many of the structural and systemic problems in policing and police discipline, not just in Georgia but around the country.

35-year-old Caroline Small took police on a low-speed chase that ended with her Buick Century in a ditch on its rims. The two cops who followed her shot her, claiming they feared for her life because she could drive the car, which was without tires now, down the narrow path between her and them . After shooting her in the head, the cops are caught on their cameras talking about their marksmanship. A subsequent investigation of the incident cleared them of wrongdoing but the investigation by the Journal-Constitution found a number of problems:

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News investigation of the case found that:

• Glynn County police officers interfered with the GBI's investigation from the start, seeking to protect the officers.

• The department tampered with the crime scene and created misleading evidence that was shown to the grand jury.

• The local district attorney shared the state's evidence with the officers nearly two months before the grand jury convened and cut an unusual deal with them just before it met.

Both cops remain employed as police officers in Georgia and were never disciplined. Video shows them waving off a former EMT who witnessed the shooting and was trying to offer first aid. Last year a federal judge threw out a wrongful death suit by the family because, she said, the cops said they felt Small was a threat and so killed her lawfully. Small's interaction with cops began when someone saw her sitting in her car in a parking lot and called police about suspected drug use.

The factors that contributed to the "nothing to see here" approach in Georgia are not unique to that state. Police shootings are universally investigated by someone substantively connected to law enforcement—be it the police department's own internal affairs department, state investigators, or outside prosecutors. Police shootings are generally protected by law not only if a reasonable threat existed, but if the cop involved perceived a threat. The system of law enforcement privileges—things like treating disciplinary files as private personnel records and employment as a police officer as a public service privilege—meanwhile, ensures obfuscation can prevent transparency and accountability.

In the last year, incidents of police brutality have received more and more attention, but the burgeoning police reform movement still focuses on the issue on a case-by-case basis. It draws more attention to individual cases of brutality and the ancillary issue of racist cops rather than the systemic problem of police brutality. Those systemic problems are created by a set of privileges extended to police officers and law enforcement by the government that can be revoked by them as well. The prosecution of the six cops accused of killing Freddie Gray, for example, may feel like a victory to protestors, but every protection those cops enjoyed, including waiting 10 days to give an official statement and remaining on the city payroll with termination proceedings impossible until a conviction is secured, other cops will continue to enjoy. The lucrative system can remain intact for police officers, prosecutors, and other government officials, and all it cost was the prosecution of six cops.

Read the whole heart-wrenching piece about Caroline Small here.

Via the Twitter feed of Radley Balko.

Advertisement

NEXT: Here's How Regulators Create Problems, Not Solve Them

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Well, we ARE always making fun of the cops for being terrible shots. So this is…improvement, I guess?

    1. After looking at crime scene photos, it looks like the car was pinned stationary between a pole and the police car. This wasn’t the usual panic fire on a moving target; this was pretty much an execution as punishment, and yet still there are plenty of holes not on target.

    2. Why those dirty government crooks! The crooked pigs are protected by their cowardly judge and prosecuting attorney friends. Everyone involved in this investigation should be in prison for life including the scum bag pigs in this case..

  2. The local district attorney shared the state’s evidence with the officers nearly two months before the grand jury convened and cut an unusual deal with them just before it met.

    Does the bar have nothing to say about this?

    1. Nope. Members of the Cop-Industrial Complex are excused from compliance with all laws, regulations, codes of ethics, etc.

    2. Of course the bar has nothing to say about this. They are all cowardly crooked enablers of this type of misconduct. They always protect crooked judges, prosecutors, and personal injury lawyers!

    3. Scotch and soda please.

  3. Video shows them waving off a former EMT who witnessed the shooting and was trying to offer first aid.

    OK, let’s say they really did think she was worth pursuing. And let’s say they really thought she was a threat to them. Even grant them an adrenaline/in the heat of the moment comment about their marksmanship.

    But how in hell does any decent person waive off a voluntary offer of medical aid?

    1. any decent person

      Found the problem for you there, Raven.

      1. Yes – assumes facts not in evidence.

    2. But how in hell does any decent person waive off a voluntary offer of medical aid?

      Probably the anxiety of knowing they fucked up / acted egregiously.

      1. Yeah, if she’d lived then she could tell her side of the story. Dead women tell no tales.

    3. ‘Any decent person’ is the key here.

      One can only hope whenever one of these precious heroes get shot they get the same treatment.

      1. Um, cops don’t get shot.

        In fact cops are almost exactly as likely to be shot by another cop in a friendly fire incident than by someone else.

        Out of roughly 900,000 armed officers with arrest authority an average of 53 of them are killed by firearms each year. When you look into the actual incidents roughly half of them were shot by either themselves or a fellow officer either during a training accident or a friendly fire incident

    4. They thought she was dead, otherwise they would still be shooting.
      With breaks to discuss the brain splatters and marksmanship.

  4. ” The prosecution of the six cops accused of killing Freddie Gray, for example, may feel like a victory to protestors, but every protection those cops enjoyed ” ARE NOT AFFORDED TO ORDINARY CITIZENS.

    Why is that?

    1. Why is that?

      Gotta keep the plebs down.

    2. Ordinary citizens don’t have a lobby to look out for their best interests or protect them from the cop unions.

      1. Can’t we form a citizen’s union?

    3. #onlycoplivesmatter

  5. A young prosecutor in the office named Jackie Johnson also wanted to be Brunswick DA and announced her intentions just three days after the shooting. She enlisted Chief Doering’s support and Doering wrote Gov. Sonny Perdue a letter of recommendation. In court documents, Doering acknowledged that he spoke to Johnson about Perry’s public statements about the Small case, and that she found his public comments inappropriate.

    Perdue appointed Johnson Brunswick Circuit district attorney Aug. 9, and she was sworn in Aug. 12 in a ceremony attended by lawmakers, local judges and police officers, according to news reports. Two days later, she was quoted in the Brunswick News saying she intended to delay taking Small’s case to a grand jury, originally scheduled for later that month.

    That’s the upshot. The DA traded endorsements for gaming the system.

    1. Yeah, I had read the Journal-Constitution story last week and I was surprised this wasn’t included in the post. Everyone should read the full story. It’s totally crazy corruption.

      1. Thankfully because we live in a democracy, this corruption will ensure that The People? will vote this corrupt DA out in the next election, and the system will have proven it’s efficacy.

      2. Don’t read it at work. You’ll want a drink afterwards.

        Fucking pants-shitting apes. They make Barney Fife look fearless.

        I hope that everyone involved in perpetrating this travesty suffers a slow, painful and ironic death.

        1. Something sexually humiliating for preference.

        2. Michael Todd Simpson died of brain cancer back in March. Generally that’s…. unpleasant.

          So, one down.

  6. Has it not occurred to cops, chiefs, and DAs that at some point they’re gonna shoot the wrong person and somebody’s gonna go Death Wish on their asses?

    1. Probably, which is why they are all for gun-grabbing..I mean, sensible gun control laws.

  7. Read the whole heart-wrenching piece about Caroline Small here.

    I’ll pass, this was enough of a nut punch, thanks. My balls are already in enough pain.

    1. Can we bring back Trumpapalooza?

  8. The day Acting District Attorney Perry watched the dash cam video he told the Brunswick News that he planned to indict Sasser and Simpson for manslaughter. [Chief] Doering was quoted saying he disagreed with the DA’s position, but respected it.

    “Was there an immediate danger to the officers or the public for them to use the level of force they did?” Perry told the newspaper. “To me the answer was no.”

    Days later, Perry inexplicably reversed course, and told the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville that he would not seek an indictment when he took the case to the grand jury.

    […]

    Perry died this past February, so the reasons for his abrupt change of heart are not fully known. But the record shows that a battle over a permanent replacement for the DA’s job was taking place in the midst of the investigation into the shooting.

    The politics of justice.

    1. As long as you’re actually The System, the system works.

  9. “She wasn’t just a junkie,” Small said. “She was a mom. She was a college student. She loved painting. She loved to read?.I do want more people to understand that she wasn’t just some horrible person running away from the police, because that’s not who she was at all.”

    Oh, running from cops isn’t a capital offense. That warrants a tasing, a beating, and possibly a few kicks to the head and face. No, she committed the cardinal sin when dealing with police: she got their bloodlust up. When a cop sees red, all bets are off. It’s like baiting a baboon. Killing a small-time junkie mother is small potatoes to the sort of mayhem they could perpetrate. She dug her own grave.

    1. And the typical bootlicker/average citizen would argue that if she just obeyed then there wouldn’t have been a problem, so it’s her own fault she died.

      1. Which is absolutely true, as far as it goes. But she didn’t. So the question isn’t whether she’d be alive if she’d been compliant, which she would, it’s whether noncompliance warrants this level of force. That’s how it should be put to bootlickers: we’re not discussing whether she should be arrested and punished for noncompliance. We’re discussing whether noncompliance deserves summary execution.

        1. We’re discussing whether noncompliance deserves summary execution.

          It always deserves it, even if the suspect didn’t know they were being asked to comply.

          /Tamir Rice

  10. I expect cops to be assholes. A lot of these stories tend to start with busybodies who snitch on people who aren’t bothering or harming anyone, though. Someone thought they saw suspicious drug activity and reports it.

    1. I don’t get that either. Every day I jog by a couple of beach bums that, I assume, are engaging in suspicious drug activity. What business is it of mine? They don’t accost people. They just sit on some benches and get high and chatter amongst themselves.

      Why call the cops?

      1. Report to the Reterrification Camp, citizen. Your ‘fear of the other’ levels are dangerously low for the Collective.

      2. It’s an example of altruistic punishment, I suspect. Three (or four?) generations now have imbibed the pervasive anti-drug bromides. It’s a strong delimiter between the mainstream and the subculture. So witnessing it provides an opportunity to vent one’s moral indignation and reap the high provided by punishing someone who breaks with social conventions.

    2. I think one of the biggest problems with modern society is the number of busy bodies who can’t seem to just mind their own fucking business. Especially when they think TEH DRUGZ are involved, or if it’s FOR TEH CHILDRENZ!!!!!!111!!! It’s like if they can link their busy bodying to one of those two things than they can fuck with people all they want and their consciences are clean, even if the person they’re fucking with ends up dead.

      Sometimes I feel like one of the last of a dieing breed: a person with no desire to fuck with other people.

      1. You were probably raised by parents who taught you to, “Mind you’re own business.” I was.

      2. For a person who has no desire to fuck with other people, who have an interesting screen name……….
        (Just ask Baldr)

      3. I think one of the biggest problems with modern society is the number of busy bodies who can’t seem to just mind their own fucking business.

        To me this just seems like a natural extension of the modern political process. The more politically conscious a society becomes, the more actively they participate in using the power of the state to condemn and crush the lives of those they disagree with.

  11. I find Ed’s repeated references to “it isn’t just Georgia” interesting. When these sorts of incidents reach a national audience, you often see a reaction of “That’s why I don’t go to Georgia” or somesuch.

    When Balko left for HuffPo that was a common reaction to his stories. Mississippi has a corrupt forensics system? “Yup, that’s what those hicks in Mississippi are like!” came the response from the lefties in NYC and San Francisco. Then there is a story in Ohio…. well, you know those Ohio rednecks….

    Every story went the same way. The left was just absolutely incapable of seeing the larger narrative on police procedures and policies, just as the right is blinded by subservience to the badge.

    I can’t count how many time’s I’ve posted in response to a comment like “that’s those racist Georgia cops” with lists of similar incidents in the liberal strongholds in the northeast and west, only to be roundly ignored by those hellbent on reinforcing their narrative of regional and intellectual superiority.

    1. I can’t count how many time’s I’ve posted in response to a comment like “that’s those racist Georgia cops” with lists of similar incidents in the liberal strongholds in the northeast and west, only to be roundly ignored by those hellbent on reinforcing their narrative of regional and intellectual superiority.

      Because criticizing police brutality is fine by prog-tards when it serves the interest of vilifying a group held in contempt (Southerners, whites, whatever), or when such injustices tread on one of their anointed groups (brown folk, etc.). They don’t give a shit about addressing systemic police brutality in of itself.

    2. That affliction is not restricted to lefties, Cyto. The Maryland parents in Skenazy’s article, for e.g., were assured in the comments here that moving away from Maryland, presumably because CPS is only crazy in Maryland, haha, should be their top priority.

      And I completely agree. Refusing to recognize that brutality is a nationwide issue, pervasive and systemic, is required before we’ve any chance at all of addressing it properly.

      1. Refusing to recognize that brutality is a nationwide issue, pervasive and systemic, is required before we’ve any chance at all of addressing it properly.

        Which is why it’ll never be recognized as such.

  12. the cops said they felt Small was a threat and so killed her lawfully

    Of course they did. Nothing is more important than the king’s men’s feelings.

    1. I don’t disagree that a car can be a deadly weapon. But it isn’t easily concealed, and can be downright unwieldy when trying to a hit man-sized target who can move in 360 deg. (notwithstanding Parkour experts who can just run over the car as it barrels down on them). In addition, if I understood the article correctly, they shot her because she COULD have used the car as a weapon?? Aside from the desire to brutally kill her because she dared have the audacity to run away (low speed chase indeed), isn’t it easier to get out of the way? If you shoot her and kill her, if the car is at a decent speed it could STILL HIT YOU!

      My fucking blood pressure is way up. I would take take 15mg of Vicadin to feel groovy if I didn’t worry about the cops fucking shooting me for it.

  13. I imagine Obama was all over this one. How many of his minions did he fly down for this? Anyone know? And, Holder? He must have gone ballistic.

    1. #BLACKlivesmatter

  14. the cops said they felt Small was a threat

    There is no place for rational thinking and logic when you have feelings.

    1. But, the question should be: Did the cops have a reasonable belief that she was a threat? That’s the legal standard, and in legal terms it is an “objective” standard (the belief has to be reasonable). I am aware of no state laws that have cop-only standard of purely subjective belief.

      Rule of man, not law.

      1. This is very common on the “car as a deadly weapon” rational for firing at the driver/occupants. This despite the fact that in most circumstances it is much easier and safer to simply step to one side than it is to draw and fire a weapon.

        In fact, they seem kinda mutually exclusive. I mean, if you stand in place, pull your weapon and start firing at the driver they will run you over and squish you (assuming you are correct about their intent to run you down). Or, assuming that you do manage to draw, aim true and fire before the vehicle squishes you, you will hit and kill the driver. Of the moving vehicle. The one that is bearing down on you. The driver who can now no longer apply the brakes, being dead. So you get run down and squished.

        Really not a rational course of action at all. The only positive outcome would be if you were able to draw, fire, hit the driver, then sidestep the moving vehicle. In which case you just proved that you were indeed in no mortal danger. Nice.

        From the description of this event it sounds like moving to the side was the only sane course of action in self defense from this vehicle. The description of a narrow wooded path means an easy escape into the trees was available, with little possibility of danger to other passers-by. If the driver had indeed tried to run them down there is every likelihood that her vehicle would have become immobilized in the trees, rather than being a continued threat running amok through the woods.

  15. That’ll teach that woman not to look like she’s on drugs, amirite?

  16. Police shootings are generally protected by law not only if a reasonable threat existed, but if the cop involved perceived a threat.
    .
    This is simply not true. The cops don’t have to perceive a threat, they are allowed to shoot you if you are not clearly not a threat, the possibility of a potential for a threat is enough. If you can’t see an otherwise peaceable man’s hands is he a threat? No, there is nothing there to indicate that he has a weapon or is in any way a threat. But the cops would be (and have been and are) free to blast away on the premise that he might have a weapon. Hands in your pockets, cell phone or wallet or Wii controller in your hands, hand wrapped in a towel because you cut yourself, just suffered a stroke or heart attack or going into a diabetic coma that leaves you unable to show your hands, deaf or mute or don’t speak English or listening to music through your earphones that makes you unable to hear or respond to a cop? Kiss your ass goodbye.

    1. Police shootings are generally protected by law not only if a reasonable threat existed, but if the cop involved perceived a threat.

      I don’t think this is true. Maybe it is. I haven’t noticed that self-defense statutes have a special, lower standard for cops. But, if this standard is truly a legal standard, there should be statutes or perhaps case law that sets it out as a distinct, special standard.

      A link, perhaps, would help here?

      1. Under Graham v. Connor, there’s a double standard. It’s an objective reasonableness standard, but is more or less subjective from the perspective of the officer:

        The Graham Court cautioned that “[t]he “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” It also reinforced that, “[a]s in other Fourth Amendment contexts . . . the ‘reasonableness’ inquiry in an excessive force case is an objective one: the question is whether the officers’ actions are ‘objectively reasonable’ in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation.”

        1. So, it is a slightly different standard (“reasonable officer on the scene” rather than “reasonable person”) . . .

          But still, on paper, a long way from “feels threatened”. And definitely not a subjective standard. On paper.

          Of course, IRL, there is no perceptible standard for officers, since they all have a get-out-of-jail-free card that is invoked merely be saying certain magic words.

        2. One more.

          Its also interesting that apparently a “reasonable officer” is less reasonable than a “reasonable person”. Because an officer’s belief that somebody needs killing can be based on less than what a regular person would have to show.

  17. “Last year a federal judge threw out a wrongful death suit by the family because, she said, the cops said they felt Small was a threat and so killed her lawfully.”

    Oh, all right, then. If I ever get sued, I guess I just need to let the judge know that my actions were justified and he/she will throw out the case.

  18. Why doesn’t Anonymous do something useful like hack a system and release the home addresses of renegade cops? Would that be illegal or something?

    1. Illegal, yes. Immoral… probably not.

  19. Last year a federal judge threw out a wrongful death suit by the family because, she said, the cops said they felt Small was a threat and so killed her lawfully.

    I have little reason not to see any cop as a threat after reading too many of these articles. I wonder if I shot one would they let me walk?

    Full disclosure, I was a US Marine and therefore may still qualify as a first class citizen, unlike all the… “other” citizens.

    1. Nope, you’re deeper on the shitlist than the rest of us.

    2. Actually, in today’s justice climate, being a former marine (I know you are never to be considered an EX-Marine!) you are automatically a threat.
      Keep your head on a swivel Ace!

    3. Nope. Cops kill Marines with impunity as well.

    4. Full disclosure, I was a US Marine and therefore may still qualify as a first class citizen, unlike all the… “other” citizens.

      Lol, that’s funny. You’re on a watchlist with the rest of us OEF/OIF veterans. Wait, I mean the rest of us white supremacist sovereign citizen domestic terrorists.

      1. I get to be a white supremacist? That’s gonna piss the boys at Stormfront off since my skin is a delicious shade of Mocha. SEMPER FI!

  20. So, the initial contact was because of a call suspecting drug use?
    Were any drugs found in her system by the autopsy?
    What was her physical state at the time of her death?
    Do GA police feel they have an inherent right to kill whites since only the black community will riot?
    Wasn’t whether or not she was a threat a determination that should be made by a jury?
    Why wasn’t the dismissal appealed?
    Curious minds, and all that.

  21. We no longer have cops in police departments that police the area and assist the public with keeping the peace. We have a domestic based occupying force that uses militaristic style weapons and training that are taught to see themselves as a military invader and the public as hostiles. Unless you have a friend or family member working in law enforcements then your safest bet is to avoid any and all interactions with law enforcement when at all possible because they view you as potential income and nothing more. Using civil asset forfeiture laws they will legally rob you and leave you with no way to regain your lost wealth without paying dearly for it .

    In the police academy they are taught to operate using a shoot first mentality. They fire at what are called ‘No Hesitation’ targets that feature old men & women, young children and even pregnant women, all of whom are holding guns. Anyone who is a gun owner or who believes in the 2nd amendment has to be a terrorist in hiding.

  22. The Clash had it right in the early 80’s

    You have the right
    Not to Kill
    Murder is a crime
    unless it was done
    By a police..man
    or an aristocrat
    know your rights

    1. quick correction

      You have the right
      Not to be killed…

  23. These jackboot thugs need to be reined in. Share this post.. I did.

  24. One thing that Reason could do to help improve the situation in this country in cases like this: publish the names of the offending criminals, er, cops.

    Such information could be useful to friends or family members who may wish to correct the omissions by the – LOL – “justice system” and police cohorts such as this bought-and-paid-for federal judge (also unnamed) who routinely let murderers off the hook.

    At the very least, public shaming and ostracism by human beings should be their fate.

  25. white lives don’t matter

  26. We (public) are held to a higher standard than the police, how does that make sense. Ignorance is a lawful excuse for cops, just not for us. The we versus them mentality of the police has become very dangerous, they don’t see us as their neighbors, like the Peace keeping officers of my youth, rather, they have become our executioners. Police unions should be paying the civil law suits since their standing in the way of police having any consequences.

  27. Never ever call the cops, unless you want to see misguided over aggression.

  28. Please always try to publish the names of the police, their photos, their home address, wife and kid’s names, church, if they attend, etc.

  29. People need to know about this case. It goes to show that the police are crossing over and killing white people too ! They better get them an Al Sharpton to bring public attention to the killings of white people by the police.

  30. Tar and feathers I tell you.

  31. In 2013, she contracted a nearby legal counselor and recorded a wrongful demise claim in government court against Glidden and the Houston County Sheriff’s Department. The claim delayed for a long time until this past August, dissertation help written when a judge hurled the case out of court. Glidden’s utilization of dangerous compel, the judge ruled, “was sensible the situation being what it is and did not disregard obviously settled law.” A cop can legitimately shoot an escaping suspect in the event that he or she sensibly trusts the individual is a risk to the officer or other individuals.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.