Driving under the influence of alcohol can be dangerous for the driver, passengers, and others on the road. Most drunk driving fatalities involve injuries sustained in a motor vehicle crash. However, a woman suspected of drunk driving was recently shot dead by police after she rammed into a police car.
Police officers in Torrance, California received multiple reports of a suspected drunk driver. The driver was reportedly driving on the wrong side of the road, weaving back and forth across lanes. Police responded at about 2:30 in the afternoon and found a dented gray vehicle continuing down the road, with music blasting and airbags deployed.
The vehicle continued driving erratically. Officers were reportedly concerned because students from the local schools would be walking home. Torrance police officers put on their lights and sirens to get the driver to stop; however, the driver did not respond. After a few minutes of pursuit, the police attempted a PIT maneuver near a gas station to try and stop the vehicle. Officers then surrounded the suspect with police cruisers to immobilize the vehicle. A couple of the officers got out of their vehicles to approach the driver.
However, the driver reportedly hit the gas, smashing into two of the police vehicles. Two officers opened fire, firing about 15 shots into the vehicle. Bystanders in the area caught the shooting on video and posted it to social media. An ambulance was called, and emergency medical personnel attempted to save the driver. The driver, 36-year-old Michelle Shirley, of San Diego, was pronounced dead at the hospital.
This is not the first time a police officer shot and killed an unarmed individual suspected of driving under the influence. In 2015, a police officer in Paradise, California fatally shot an unarmed driver after a high-speed crash. Andrew Nicholas Thomas, 26, was allegedly fleeing from police when his Toyota 4Runner lost control, flipping over onto the side. As Thomas climbed out of the vehicle window, Officer Patrick Feaster fired once, hitting Thomas in the neck.
After an investigation, the Butte County DA Mike Ramsey said they would not pursue criminal charges against the officer. The DA found the police officer's actions “unintentional and possibly negligent, but not criminally so.”
The practice of police shooting at vehicles is highly controversial. An investigation by KPCC in Pasadena tracked the use of force by sheriff's deputies in Los Angeles County. In almost every incident where a driver or passenger was shot by deputies, the individual was unarmed. As a result, the LA County Sheriff's Department changed its policy, limiting firearm discharge to situations where the individual is imminently threatening the officer or another person with deadly force by means other than the moving vehicle.
At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her legal career to defending individuals facing drunk driving charges in the East Bay. With over 30 years of DUI defense experience, Lynn Gorelick understands what it means to fight for you. Contact the local East Bay DUI defense attorney who will stand up for your rights, so you can keep a clean record and stay out of jail.