ALBANY — New York City police officers were justified in shooting at an armed suspect on a Harlem street in 2005, a shootout that injured a mother and daughter playing nearby, New York’s highest court ruled Tuesday.
The officers had probable cause to open fire on the armed man, because he had shot at them, the court said in a 4-3 decision that threw out a negligence lawsuit filed by the woman. The suspect died in the shootout.
“It is uncontroverted that all of the officers who fired at the suspect did so when they had a clear view of him, and all testified that they did not see any bystanders in the area while firing,” Judge Eugene Pigott Jr. wrote in the majority opinion.
The victims’ attorney Barry Gutterman claimed — and photos supported — that at least eight innocent people were nearby during the shooting. Two of the officers acknowledged not looking to see if there were any people around, at least until afterward.
Harlem resident Tammy Johnson, her 18-month-old daughter, another couple and their child were playing ball outside with on the sidewalk in May 2005 with when police chased the suspect onto the street and opened fire.
Johnson’s elbow was shattered by a police bullet as she lay atop her daughter behind an SUV, one of two vehicles parked between her and the suspect, according to her attorney. She is facing a second elbow reconstruction surgery.