Police in South Carolina have fired their weapons at 209 suspects in the past five years, and a handful of officers have been accused of pulling the trigger illegally but none has being convicted, reports The State. In South Carolina, it remains exceedingly rare for an officer to be found at fault criminally for shooting at someone. In an unusual turnaround, prosecutors last year filed charges for use of excessive force against three white officers in the shootings of black drivers. Only one went to trial, and resulted in a hung jury.
The public – including juries – puts trust in police and expects that officer training teaches them how to use force properly. When the suspect is armed, it's difficult to say a shooting wasn't justified. The officer is defending himself or others from someone who wants to get away at all costs or, in rare cases, hurt an officer intentionally. When someone is carrying a weapon, it doesn't mean someone else is in mortal danger. There is supposed to be an imminent threat for an officer to fire a weapon legally. This is where much of the public debate centers, even though each case is different. “If you're in a gunfight, what else are you going to try?” said Mike Lanier, deputy director of the state's police academy. “The alternatives are very limited.”