Boone County, Kentucky, Deputy Tyler Brockman was called to a party because people were having too much fun and must be stopped. Brockman did his duty, and upon his arrival, a field party broke up and people began leaving.
Oh no. Not good enough. Brockman decided it was his job to stop the cars as they left to check if the party-goers were drunk. No probable cause. No checkpoint, Just Brockman, because he is the paragon of sobriety.
Out drove 19-year-old Samantha Ramsey. Brockman was not about to let that happen.
According to the sheriff’s department, Brockman was hit by Ramsey’s car and “thrown on the hood,” where he was so afraid for his life that he shot four bullets into Ramsey, killing her. As explained by his lawyer after a grand jury refused to indict:
While Tyler and his family remain extremely thankful he is alive, his survival came with the heavy burden of doing what he had to do to protect himself and others.
But in Boone County, apparently neither the rules of logic nor the laws of physics apply. Even assuming Brockman was stupid enough to walk into a moving car, the glancing blow would have thrown him in the opposite direction, not atop the hood of the car. Do they still teach Newton’s Third Law in Kentucky?
In contrast, others inside the car say that Brockman leapt onto the hood to stop this heinous party-goer from leaving when he demanded she stop because, well, he did. According to the allegations of a suit filed by Ramsey’s family:
Without any warning to Ramsey or her passengers, Brockman jumped onto the hood and demanded that she stop her car.
Uh oh. Now Brockman’s on the hood of a car, and that can be life-threatening to him, so he shot and killed Ramsey. Nothing wrong with that, the grand jury returns, even if Brockman may not have been as much of a poster boy for sobriety as his conduct may appear.
The key allegations by the family’s attorneys are: Deputy Brockman was on anxiety medication, he had no probable cause to stop Ramsey’s car and Brockman could have noted Ramsey’s license plate number and then called for help from others nearby.
Putting aside the fact that Brockman lacked any probable cause to stop Ramsey in the first place (yes, her BAC was .12 and she had marijuana in her blood, but Brockman didn’t know any of this), the fact remains that Brockman’s decision to jump on the hood, thus putting himself in a theoretical position of harm, was his own doing, not Ramsey’s.
She didn’t stop instantaneously as he commanded her to? So what? There was nothing to suggest that she presented an imminent threat to anyone. Brockman was just pissed that she didn’t succumb to his authority, and he wasn’t going to let her get away with that. He had to act. He had to stop her. He just had to. So onto the hood he jumped.
It’s certainly arguable that being on the hood of a moving vehicle presents a danger to a police officer. The obvious solution is don’t do it, but that required thought. This apparently was not Brockman’s strength, so jump he did.
He could have, realizing the abject stupidity of his decision, then jumped off. But no, you say, as that is risky. He could have sprained an ankle, perhaps scraped his knee. All manner of harm could ensue from jumping off the hood of a moving vehicle. Even if the car was slowing because there was a guy laying on the hood.
So instead of risking any potential for harm to himself, Brockman made the “split second decision” to kill 19-year-old Samantha Ramsey. Hooray, the officer is safe. Bummer for Ramsey.
While the law permits a police officer to use deadly force when threatened with serious harm, it presumes that the cause of that harm is the conduct of the other person, the choice made by the person about to get shot and killed. Here, to the extent Brockman was actually in danger at all, it was the product of his own monumentally foolish decisions. Indeed, a series of them.
First, there was Brockman’s decision that he had the authority to stop cars without cause, just because he’s a cop and when he says stop, you stop. Then there’s the decision to go after the car that fails to stop upon command, because everybody knows that a cop in uniform is tough enough to force a 2000+ pound machine to bend to his will. Add to that the decision to jump onto the hood of that car, because that’s always a sound means of getting someone to comply, and Brockman ends up in an untenable position.
So Brockman, having made a series of bad choices, is forced to make a final choice, and he does by killing Samantha Ramsey. He created the situation that gave rise to whatever limited threat to his safety existed, and Ramsey paid for his choices with her life.