VIDEO: Officer Shoots into Fleeing Car

Objectively Reasonable Belief vs. Subjective Belief

By Jim Glennon  |   Dec 5, 2018

[Note: These videos are provided here for law enforcement reference viewing only and viewing such videos does not replace personal law enforcement training. Moreover, each live scenario is unique and nothing here should supplement an officer’s own cumulative training, experience, and personal judgment responding to such live scenarios.]

In December 2013, Chicago police officer Marco Proano, 42, fired 16 shots at a stolen car filled with several teenage males. The driver was attempting to avoid arrest and backed up past Proano at a high rate of speed.

Proano, in the video, can be seen moving towards the car with his gun drawn. The car suddenly sped backwards, the officer stepped back, raised his gun and fired. Two of the teens were struck, both survived.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, (Officer) Proano said he pulled the trigger to protect the teen hanging out the window. But prosecutors said Monday the officer, “drew first, shot next” and “tried to justify later.”

A defense attorney told the jury that the shooting lasted no more than four seconds. He introduced an Illinois law that, he insisted, justified Proano’s use of force that night. The law in question says deadly force is justified when an officer reasonably believes it is necessary to stop someone from escaping who “is attempting to escape by use of a deadly weapon.” That deadly weapon, according to the defense, was the stolen car.

Prosecutors countered by saying that every shot he fired was unreasonable.

Officer Proano said, “The night in question I didn’t go out there hunting for somebody or trying to kill somebody.”  He added, “I had minimal amount of time to put it all together – a matter of seconds.”

The jury viewed the video over and over, in real time, slow-motion and stop-action. Proano was convicted by that jury in less than four hours and months later he was sentenced to five years in prison.

From ABC7 Chicago: “Judge Gary Feinerman didn’t buy Proano’s explanation or lack of remorse. Having watched the dashcam police video several times in slow motion, Feinerman said no one was in danger that night. He called Proano’s actions a deliberate, reckless attempt to stop the occupants of the vehicle at the maximum force possible.”

Topic for Discussion

The decision to use force, seen from the perspective of the officer on the scene need be objectively reasonable. An officer’s immediately involved subjective perspective must still be reasonable from an “objective” standpoint according to The Graham Standard.

That said, the media is quick to label police shootings negatively, racist, unnecessary, etc. They attribute many shootings to some type of vile and malicious intent born from a corrupt system and/or a product of a broken system.  Rarely are either of those characterizations true and accurate.

Events such as this, while not disputing the jury’s verdict, are fast, dynamic, evolving and flat out scary. Time moves quickly, sometimes it stands still, vision is impaired as is our auditory system.  Still, those decisions must “objectively reasonable” in fast moving moments.  The brain infers, jumps to conclusions (a natural process), and otherwise does its best to avoid danger, injury and death with incomplete information.

Training is the key. Maintaining calm is essential. Videos such as this one should be used in training and roll calls for discussion purposes and educational opportunities.

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Jim Glennon
Lt. Jim Glennon (ret.) is the owner and lead instructor for Calibre Press. He is a third-generation LEO, retired from the Lombard, Ill. PD after 29 years of service. Rising to the rank of lieutenant, he commanded both patrol and the Investigations Unit. In 1998, he was selected as the first Commander of Investigations for the newly formed DuPage County Major Crimes (Homicide) Task Force. He has a BA in Psychology, a Masters in Law Enforcement Justice Administration, is the author of the book Arresting Communication: Essential Interaction Skills for Law Enforcement.
Jim Glennon

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