10-8: Life on the Line
with Charles Remsberg
P1 Special Report: Suspension of Ark. trooper for shooting at fleeing suspect illustrates three critical training points
As you read the story of the Arkansas corporal who seemed about to turn a highway speeding stop into a successful drug bust when things suddenly went sour, keep these important principles in mind:
- Remember: Never search an occupied vehicle. Ideally, the driver and any other occupants should be outside the car under surveillance by a cover officer. If backup genuinely is not available, the occupant(s) can be positioned some distance ahead or off to the safe side of the vehicle where you can spot them by popping up and glancing their way periodically during your search. Having anyone but another officer inside the vehicle while you're hunting for contraband is too much of a potentially dangerous distraction too close.
- Remember the line from an old Clint Eastwood movie: "The color of mercy is red-blood red." The vehicle in Arkansas became re-occupied after the driver complained of being cold when he originally was told to wait outside the car. He apparently was allowed to sit inside out of compassion for his discomfort. Fortunately the suspect turned out to have escape-not murder-on his mind.
- Remember the guideline of the landmark Supreme Court decision Tennessee v. Garner: Deadly force is justified against a fleeing suspect only if you reasonably believe that he or she poses a substantial danger of causing death or serious bodily harm if not immediately apprehended.
State Trooper Suspended for Shooting at Motorist
BENTON - Arkansas State Police Cpl. Jeff Ramsey was suspended without pay for three days this week for firing at a fleeing motorist whom he had previously stopped for speeding.
The suspension lasts through today.
According to state police policy: "Officers are authorized to use lethal force against persons, including fleeing felons, only when they reasonably believe that such action is in defense of human life (including the officer's own life) or in defense of any person in immediate danger of serious physical injury."
Ramsey stopped a westbound 1994 Ford Thunderbird on U.S. 70 near the Saline-Garland county line about 10 miles southwest of Benton on March 13 after the vehicle was recorded traveling 79 mph in a 55 mph zone. Ramsey received permission from the driver, Ovell Clemons, 34, of Hot Springs to search the car, state police spokesman Bill Sadler said.
Ramsey handed Clemons a jacket from the vehicle after Clemons, who was standing outside the car, said he was cold. Still complaining, Clemons was allowed to sit inside the vehicle, Sadler said.
About that time, Sadler said, Ramsey spotted ingredients in the back seat that could be used to make methamphetamine, and Clemons started the car and drove away. Ramsey pulled his service revolver and fired four shots at the fleeing vehicle, Sadler said.
Officers later found the Thunderbird abandoned on nearby Smart Road, just off U.S. 70.
Deputies Turn a 'Simple' Speeding Stop into a Triple Murder Bust