Report: 'Vast majority' of police shootings follow armed assaults

A report by the Washington Post found that in most officer-involved shootings, officers returned fire in self-defense


By PoliceOne Staff

WASHINGTON — A recent investigation by The Washington Post found that in 74 percent of the 800 fatal officer-involved shootings in 2015, the suspect had already fired shots, brandished a gun or attacked an officer with their bare hands before the fatal shot was fired.

The percentage —  595 of the 800 officer-involved shootings this year —  included cases  of violent crime, shootouts, hostage situations, carjackings, assaults or stabbings.

“We know that anecdotally, because typically that’s why police officers choose to use deadly force,” Jim Pasco, executive director of the national Fraternal Order of Police, told the publication. “These are circumstances where their lives or the lives of citizens around them are in imminent danger.”

Another 16 percent of fatal police shootings that did not involve a suspect with a firearm were also potentially dangerous situations, like a suspect refusing to drop a knife.

The five percent of cases that are second-guessed include suspects who refused to obey commands, made sudden movements or were shot on accident.

Another four percent were deemed undeterminable by the publication.

The news site conducted its study to try and identify trends among the shootings. They reviewed whether the suspects were armed or unarmed and what actions the suspect took before they were fatally shot.

Main findings:

  • 242 fatal shootings occurred when suspect pointed or brandished a gun but hadn’t fired
  • 224 fatal shootings occurred when suspect fired a gun at another person or police. 87 percent of those 224 were suspects firing at police.
  • 129 shootings occurred when suspect attacked police or other people. They were armed with knives, hatchets, chemicals or vehicles. 70 percent of those attacks were directed towards police.

Read more: On duty, under fire

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