Adrian and his three-year-old sister were asleep in bed when a police pursuit came to a horrible ending directly outside their home. The chase began when officers pulled over a car carrying Michael Hernandez, who grabbed a gun and fled the scene. After breaking into one home and threatening a family, Hernandez evaded police and ended up near Adrian’s home, with police in pursuit. Hernandez raised his weapon, the south team opened fire, and an officer to the east returned the fire thinking it came from Hernandez. Five of this officer’s bullets struck the home Adrian was in, one which pierced a wall and struck young Adrian in the back.
Adrian’s family sued the city for physical and emotional injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. Last week the Phoenix City Council agreed to a $6.5 million settlement.
It is so hard to assess blame in a situation such as this. We always want to assess blame. It is a way of helping us make sense for something bad that has occurred. It makes us feel more secure when we can define specific parameters to a situation as tragic as this one. Sometimes that blame is justified, sometimes it is a denial as to something we may have done wrong. Sometimes, it is just a coping mechanism.
In this case, I think we can all agree that young Adrian and his family share no blame for the incident. However, does the police officer deserve the blame? If you asked this question of 100 people, you would probably get a 50/50 split. While we can agree that police officers need some leeway to perform their jobs, we should also concede that blindly firing in the general direction of a criminal, while in a residential neighborhood, is not the best course of action. Indeed, the 4th and final rule of gun safety---which certainly the Phoenix Police officers know---is to always know what is behind your target. If you don’t know, or if you are not sure, then a better course of action might be appropriate.
The headline in the Phoenix newspaper read “Family Wins Settlement from City.” Are you kidding me? Their little boy is paralyzed for the rest of his life. The loss of enjoyment of life will be astronomical, and I’m sure the medical bills significant. The family and Adrian did not “win” anything. No one is a “winner” here. In fact, both parties have already lost. The settlement is the means that our law provides to compensate the innocent victims for the life of pain, suffering and disability that they will suffer because of a split second poor decision by this police officer.
But make no mistake. No one wins in this situation.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to email Chris Zachar directly at Czachar@zacharlaw.com, or visit our website at www.ZacharAssociates.com .