Davinian Williams, an unarmed man, was shot and killed by a Jacksonville Sheriff's Officer during a routine traffic stop in the Arlington area of Jacksonville, according to a report on News4Jax. The officer fired seven shots at Williams, six of which hit their target. Williams was pulled over for what the officer described as erratic driving, which is a common justification police officers give to stop a vehicle. The area was known for drug trafficking, another common justification. Williams was described by police as a "career criminal" due to his long Jacksonville arrest history. Despite all these factors, he had no weapon on him or in his vehicle and showed no aggression towards the officer. The officer claims he ordered Williams to stop "fidgeting" and, when he failed to comply, opened fire. Powder cocaine and crack cocaine were found in Williams' socks, likely the reason he was "fidgeting."
While the officer has been placed on paid administrative leave while the shooting is being investigated, likely nothing will come of the killing on the officer's end. Police officers are given extreme deference in their decision making and they only have to be in fear for their safety to exercise deadly force. They do not have to see a weapon of any kind. Their decision to use force only hinges upon fear. Looking at the factors surrounding the shooting, when the officer pulled Williams over, the first thing the officer probably did was run the tags on his vehicle. From this information he would find out to whom the vehicle is registered and could then run a background check. Before the officer even approached the vehicle, he potentially knew the owner's Jacksonville criminal history. Police often use a victim's prior arrest record to establishing the "fear" necessary to justify a homicide by an officer, and in some cases rightly so. You must not forget that police officers are still human, and when pulling someone over in a high crime area, and with the knowledge that the person they are about to confront has a criminal record, they are likely already on edge.
So what is the takeaway from a story like this? The officer was a three year veteran of JSO, not a very long time as a cop. Williams was seen "fidgeting" in the car. Was he going for a gun, hiding crack, or just nervous? It doesn't matter, because now he is dead. All the officer had to establish was that he thought Williams was going for a weapon, and he is now justified to use force. And cops shoot to kill. Of the seven shots fired, six hit Williams. If you are ever pulled over, regardless of your criminal history, but especially if you have a record, always comply with the officer's orders. If you have nothing to hide, then nothing should come of it. And even if you are breaking the law, as Williams was by possessing illicit drugs, no arrest is worth your life. The officer cannot just search your car without a reason. Officers will often cite the odor of marijuana in the car as a reason to search a vehicle. If a Jacksonville police officer asks if he or she can search your car, you are allowed, under our Constitution, to say "no".
If you or a loved one ever gets into a situation like this, comply with the officer, and call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Criminal Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.