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Tuesday, 01 September 2020 17:57

Was Lethal Force Permitted in the Shooting of Jacob Blake?

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On August 23, the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin led to nationwide outrage and unrest. 

As an investigation into the incident persists, Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul refuses to answer whether officers were aware before the shooting that Blake had a knife in his possession.

“We’re not commenting on that detail at this point in the investigation. Mr. Blake stated to investigators that he had a knife in his possession and there was one that was found on the driver’s floorboard,” Kaul said. “This is an ongoing investigation and we are not commenting on facts that may be disputed as this case moves forward.” 

When is police use of lethal force permitted? 

The use of lethal force can be defined as, “force which a reasonable person would consider likely to cause death or serious bodily harm.” Its use may be upheld only in situations of extreme necessity, when all efforts of lesser force fail. For example, in the context of defending important federal or nuclear assets, according to the United States Department of Energy, an officer is permitted to employ lethal force if one or more of the following circumstances arise:

  1. Self-Defense: when an officer reasonably believes lethal force is necessary to prevent imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death
  2. Serious (attack) (threat) (crime) against persons- when an officer reasonably believes lethal force is necessary to prevent the exertion of    actions promising serious bodily injury or death (ex: the use of explosives to destroy an occupied building)
  3. “Nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices”- when an officer reasonably believes lethal force is necessary to halt sabotage, theft, or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons
  4. “Special nuclear material”- when an officer reasonably believes lethal force is necessary to halt sabotage, theft, or unauthorized use of nuclear material from a certain site or from a shipment where quantities of Category II or greater are reasonably believed to exist
  5. “Apprehension”- when an officer reasonably believes lethal force is necessary to prevent an individual from committing an offense included in incidences (1) through (4) above; or, appears to be escaping with a weapon or explosive with the intention of causing serious bodily injury or death to the officer unless immediately apprehended

The International Association of Chiefs of Police defines use of force as the “amount of effort required by police to compel compliance by an unwilling subject.” However, a single agreed-upon definition of use of force does not exist. An officer must assess each unique situation, and what means of force are necessary in order to regain control. 

If you believe law enforcement has violated your rights, contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney is paramount. Our veteran lawyers will fight to prove your innocence.

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