Using Patrol Car as a Weapon

Should a police officer use a patrol car as a weapon? Joe Vargas, a retired police captain of Anaheim Police Department makes the case.

On March 18 at about 2:30 p.m. in Tulsa, Okla. officers encountered wanted fugitive Madison Dixon.

According to police spokesperson Leland Ashley, Dixon exchanged gunfire with officers while fleeing out of a vehicle. As she ran down the sidewalk, one of the patrol officers used his vehicle to run over Dixon. She was transported to the hospital where she was pronounced dead shortly after arrival.

The Tulsa Police Department released the patrol dashcam video of the encounter on Thursday, March 23.

The video is violent and graphic and has generated discussion on social media. Most people support the officer, but some are critical of his split-second decision.

Here are some things to consider as you question the officer’s decision, reported Vargas for Behind the Badge OC.

 

 

Dixon was wanted for a series of crimes where she had not hesitated to use a firearm.

She was a suspect in a crime during which she shot a driver. According to the Tulsa Police Department, she was a passenger and shot the driver in the head. The driver managed to drive away before he was involved in a collision. He is expected to survive.

During a theft from a Best Buy store, she discharged a firearm while fleeing from the location.

 

At a Walgreens drug store, she and a male suspect approached a woman in a car and attempted to carjack her. When she was too slow to move, Dixon shot her in the arm and fled along with the male suspect.

Dixon was attempting to steal a license plate at an AMC movie theater parking lot when she was confronted by witnesses. She fled and brandished a firearm.

She was a dangerous suspect involved in a violent crime spree.

Dixon exchanged gunfire with officers as she fled on foot.

When officers attempted to stop the pickup truck she was in, Dixon fled. After stopping, she exited the truck and several officers exchanged gunfire with her. No one was hit.

The officer responding in his patrol car saw her running and could see she was armed with a handgun.

Dixon was running alongside a schoolyard.

Whether the officer had time to consider the elementary school near where the incident took place is unknown. The shots fired potentially could have gone downrange toward the school.

Dixon also could have entered the school property itself.

Dixon was an immediate threat to the community and that threat had to be neutralized.

Had Dixon somehow got away, she could have carjacked a passing vehicle or even entered a home. The danger to innocent members of the public would have been tremendous.

The officer risked his life to protect the public.

As you watch the video, anyone can clearly see Dixon was armed. It would not have taken much for her to have shot through the windshield at the officer. The officer took a great risk at getting that close to an armed and dangerous suspect.

The use of the vehicle as a weapon is determined by the circumstances and threats perceived. It would appear to me the officer in this case made the right decision given the circumstances.

The City of Tulsa is safer because of that decision.

– Joe Vargas is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at jvargas@behindthebadgeoc.com.

Editors Note: This piece was originally published in Behind the Badge OC March 25, 2017.

(Feature image is screenshot from Fox 23 newscast)

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