Shoot at bank robbers?

Posted on 2014-08-03
Last Modified: 2014-08-13

Two people go into a bank and rush out with the loot.
As they are speeding away in a car, are the police allowed to shoot at them?

Question by:SunBow
    LVL 24

    Author Comment

    1) key to question should be 'life threatening'.
    1a) police
    1b) public

    2) nature
    2a) are they armed
    2b) vehicle at speed is life threatening

    There are those who claim police should neither shoot NOR pursue, as that would encourage thief to drive more recklessly, further endangering public life. But this is a judgement call by those participating, not armchair general, or backseat driver. Yet there'll be, or should be local rules of engagement.

    Rather than think of big shoot out in front of bank, think of the OJ car chase on freeway, where murder suspect was supposedly armed, no shots fired.

    This specific case of bank robbery does not say they are armed, and bank robberies often exclude presence of weapons - ignore TV and movies, all it takes is a note to teller "gimme money" and teller instructed by company to give, yield without resistance. Robber thus flees quickly without need to be concerned about weapons, just outrunning. Bank robberies are known to have high conviction rate, like over 90% caught within 48 hours. So like some other situations, while interest is to subdue, goal is to first attempt to reach point of negotiation with no harm to anyone.

    So is it stands, robbers are not on foot, but in a vehicle, during time of higher traffic, pedestrians, and speeding => life threatening. There may be mothers with children about to push a baby carriage at a street crossing. As one can argue that as life threatening, my vote would go for yes, reduce that threat where possible. A quick counter would be concerning shots gone astray being more likely to produce collateral damage, so it remains one of those 'depends on', and add that pursuit is justified, with restraint being the order of the day. We'd have to be in their shoes, officers on scene, to make a call either way. Maybe a quick ask "are they armed?" etc. A visual scan on pedestrians, traffic, heading - are they running stop lights, are they headed for freeway, how reckless is the driving.

    One could argue they can try to shoot out tail light for ID or tire to reduce speed or driver only, but I suggest that'd all be discouraged. Still, the longer it takes to apprehend, the more likely it is that culprits will cause harm. Suppose person on patrol is in front of speeder, holds up one hand "Stop!" and they continue on, threatening officer who has gun in other hand.

    Suppose robbers abandon vehicle and take off on foot. Now what?

    Suppose a bank guard or police officer was nearby, maybe exiting a restroom as robbers about to leave bank or enter getaway car. Officer identifies self, says "freeze!" And they won't. Suppose one says she is pregnant?

    So far, I doubt there'd be shooting, not over money or property, at this stage where no harm done.

    Suppose this is occurring near city border?

    Suppose this is or was happening in Albuquerque?
    LVL 82

    Accepted Solution

    It did happen in Stockton, California recently.  The bank robbers had hostages when they left the bank which was already surrounded by police officers.  No shots were fired at that time.   Shortly after the bank robbers drove away with the hostages, the bank robbers started shooting at the police.  Then the police started shooting back.  By the time it was done, 2 bank robbers were dead along with 1 hostage, 14 police cars had bullets holes in them along with many buildings along the path of the chase.!buPOqd
    LVL 24

    Author Comment

    <sad> simple serial robbery, like prior example, gone awry and 'escalating'. Kidnapping. Here hostage taking, human shield, potential car jacking by gang members, one or more at-large. From short jail term of sheltered further gang training it leads to death penalty case. As we said, "California law allows" - the processing, rules can vary depending on location. Some would have robber who slips during getaway sue victim for improper maintenance. Passersby sue police for not feeling as well after hearing shots. Police sued for trying to apprehend. <ugh>. For equal time we should probably do separate thread for comment on when police go too far. But first, for me, I choose to do RIP moment of silence now for dead hostage. <quiet>
    Misty Singh
    LVL 24

    Author Comment

    then again:
    Two Jackholes Try To Rob A Liquor Store, One Shoots And Kills The Other - By Brian Carey - July 20, 2014
    After the shooting, the rifleman fled the scene on foot. He was apprehended and held by some good citizens.
    LVL 24

    Author Closing Comment

    TY - Done

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