In early May, Marlon Brown of DeLand, Florida was pulled over for an alleged seatbelt violation. When confronted by police, Brown chose to flee the scene, running through a nearby vegetable garden to escape.
Instead of pursuing Brown on foot, one officer, James Harris, hit the gas and sped after the man, still in his police cruiser. Instead of apprehending the suspect, Harris ended up running him down and crushing him beneath his car. A medical examination found that Brown did not die of broken bones, but instead suffocated beneath the weight of the cruiser.
The good news is this: an internal police investigation found that Harris’ conduct was in violation of the department’s chase policy, and he was immediately fired. Unfortunately, when the case when to court, a grand jury decided not to bring charges against Harris. So while he’s out of a job, Harris isn’t going to end up doing any jail time for killing a suspect.
Brown’s family is understandably upset about the decision, claiming that local media coverage that mentioned his past criminal history may have biased the jury. Brown had previously served time in jail and had been arrested more than two dozen times over the course of 20 years — but his family maintains that on the night in question, he had done nothing wrong.
The city has paid Brown’s family $550,00 to avoid any future civil litigation, but that hasn’t stopped them from loudly and vocally telling the media that they don’t believe justice has been done. They’ve even released a graphic video taken at the scene showing Brown’s death to help spread awareness of the situation.
Unfortunately, suspects being killed by police is nothing new. As Care2′s Kristina Chew noted recently, if you act in any way erratically during an encounter with the police, you’re likely to be shot. This doesn’t just include people who try to flee the scene of a crime — it includes people with disabilities, racial minorities and even nearby pets. It seems that even when police don’t immediately reach for a gun, that’s still no guarantee of safety.