Former Lt. David O’Dea has filed a lawsuit against the Tacoma Police Department, for allegedly terminating him for not shooting to kill a man who assaulted other officers.
In August 2016, O’Dea responded to a scene after hearing radio calls request a supervisor. When O’Dea arrived to the scene, he saw three officers surrounding a parked vehicle. The driver was sitting in the vehicle with a hoodie over his head and the doors locked.
The driver reportedly wouldn’t get out of the vehicle, ran into the patrol car and attempted to drive away from the scene. A few minutes later, he was hit with a stun-gun shot, pulled out of the vehicle and arrested. While he suffered minor injuries, he didn’t have any gunshot wounds. That’s because the shots O’Dea fired hit the car.
During an interview, O’Dea said other officers were behind the vehicle and he didn’t want to risk shooting them.
“I began shooting at the vehicle in an attempt to stop the assault,” he explained. “I could not shoot at the driver. Had I shot at the driver of the vehicle, they (the officers) would have been in my line of fire.”
“My conclusion is if you hurt somebody the department will rule that as within policy so as to limit the liability it has in any civil action,” O’Dea added. “If nobody gets hurt, the department disciplines the officer. I believe what I did that day was not only in my best interest and in the best interest of the suspect — he’s alive today — but also in the best interest of the department.”
The police department investigated O’Dea’s actions for 10 months. He was eventually fired in June 2017. The city said that he was terminated because he violated department policies regarding the use of deadly force.
The department’s policy lists a variety of different options for different situations. One point that will likely be argued in the lawsuit explains how officers should respond to dangerous individuals in moving vehicles.
“Deadly force should not be used against a subject in a moving vehicle unless it is necessary to protect against imminent danger to the life of the Officer or others,” the policy states.