Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Supreme Court sides with police in 2004 fatal chase

Dashboard video gives justices insight into dangers police face.

First Published May 27 2014 09:09 pm • Last Updated May 27 2014 09:27 pm

Washington • The Supreme Court sided with police officers Tuesday who were sued over a high-speed, two-state chase that ended with the deaths of the fleeing driver and his passenger.

The court was unanimous in dismissing civil rights claims against the officers who fatally shot driver Donald Rickard.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The ruling Tuesday reversed a lower court decision that allowed the lawsuit filed on behalf of Rickard’s young daughter to go forward against six West Memphis, Ark., police officers.

They shot Rickard and passenger Kelly Allen in 2004 in a chaotic scene on a Memphis street following a chase, captured on video, which began across the Mississippi River in Arkansas. A police officer pulled over Rickard’s white Honda because a headlight was out. Rickard sped away when the officer asked him to get out of the car.

Several justices said during arguments in March that they had watched the video and gotten a better understanding of the danger facing the police. Police fired 15 shots into Rickard’s car, of which 12 came after Rickard managed to begin driving away from officers who had surrounded the vehicle.

Writing for the court Tuesday, Justice Samuel Alito discussed the chase in detail before concluding that "it is beyond serious dispute that Rickard’s flight posed a grave public safety risk, and ... the police acted reasonably in using deadly force to end that risk."

He also rejected the argument that the officers fired too many shots. "Here, during the 10-second span when all the shots were fired, Rickard never abandoned his attempt to flee," Alito said.

The decision applied only to the driver, Alito said, and left open whether a passenger in Allen’s situation could mount a successful case against the officers.

But he said Allen’s presence in the case does not enhance Rickard’s case.

The case is the second in recent years when justices have used video captured by the dashboard cameras in police cruisers to take issue with lower court rulings in favor of complaints that police used excessive force.

story continues below
story continues below

The case is Plumhoff v. Rickard, 12-1117.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.