Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito ruled that police can fire upon a fleeing driver after a high-speed chase. / Stephan Savoia, AP
WASHINGTON - Aided by video from police cruisers, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that police did not use excessive force when they shot and killed a driver and his passenger during a high-speed chase from Arkansas to Tennessee in 2004.
The ruling continued a long line of decisions in which the conservative-leaning court has sided with law enforcement officials on issues such as searches and arrests. Already this year, the justices have ruled that defendants can lose their gun rights after committing an act of domestic violence, drivers can be stopped based on anonymous tips, and homes can be searched over the objections of a tenant.
In the case of Donald Rickard, who led West Memphis, Ark., police on a 100-mph chase across state lines into Memphis, Tenn., a decade ago, all nine justices decided that police did not violate his constitutional rights by firing into his getaway car, killing him and his passenger, Kelly Allen.
Their decision was made easier after viewing grainy videos produced by cameras mounted on the dashboards of police cruisers. In the videos, Rickard's Honda leads police on a chase, putting other motorists at risk, and then seeks to flee even after cornered at gunpoint.
The lawsuit charging that six officers used excessive force was brought by Rickard's daughter. Two justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, did not endorse all of the reasoning, such as whether all 15 shots fired at the car were justified or whether police did not violate Rickard's rights under the 4th Amendment.
But the overall opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito was unanimous. "The officers here shot at Rickard to put an end to what had already been a lengthy, high-speed pursuit that indisputably posed a danger both to the officers involved and to any civilians who happened to be nearby," Alito said.
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