FBI Approves of their Agents Killing Suspect, But Not of Shooting His Car Tire

Saturday, April 23, 2016
Jameel Harrison (photo: Baltimore City Police Dept.)




By Charlie Savage, New York Times


WASHINGTON — When Jameel Harrison, a suspected drug dealer, attempted to escape from FBI agents trying to arrest him near a Baltimore shopping center two years ago, agents opened fire. Two bullets hit his Infiniti FX37’s left front tire. Six bullets struck him in the head and neck, killing him.


After investigating the case, a state prosecutor and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division declined to prosecute the agents. That left the FBI’s shooting incident review group, a panel of officials who decide whether shootings comply with bureau policy on the use of lethal force and that rarely punishes agents. In 2013, The New York Times reported that of more than 150 episodes in which an agent shot another person dating back at least two decades, the group deemed every one justified.


In the case of the Baltimore shooting, however, the bureau took the unusual step of deeming part of that case a “bad shoot” in agents’ parlance. But the group did not fault the two agents who killed Harrison Instead, it chastised only the agent who shot the tire, recommending that the agent be suspended for a day without pay, according to documents obtained by The Times in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.


The review group’s reasoning was that the bureau’s policy on using lethal force forbids firing a gun to disable a vehicle, and it concluded that this had been the agent’s motive in shooting the tire. But the same policy permits firing a gun to protect people from danger, and the panel decided that the two agents who shot Harrison were trying to keep him from driving into bystanders.


The FBI review group made its decision about the Baltimore case in November 2014. In February of that year, the group also termed an episode in which an off-duty agent in Queens, New York, shot and wounded a car burglar outside his house a “bad shoot,” as documents disclosed by the FBI in August 2015 previously revealed.


Those two “bad shoot” findings ended a years-long pattern in which the FBI had deemed proper every intentional shooting by its agents, according to thousands of pages of bureau records obtained in Freedom of Information Act litigation.


To Learn More:

Why do Police Ignore Federal Guidelines and Shoot at Moving Vehicles, Killing Occupants? (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Steve Straehley, AllGov)

When FBI Shoots Someone, It’s Always Justified…According to the FBI (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)


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