Lee County, AL - Dashcam video was just released showing the officer-involved shooting of Michael Davidson. The video highlights how tough it can be to make split-second life-or-death by officers, and there are no winners in cases like this.
The incident occurred in March 2014 when Opelika Police Officer Phillip Hancock responded to a call of an erratic driver. Officer Hancock observed that Michael Davidson's vehicle and a semi were pulled over on the side of the road after being involved in a collision, and Officer Hancock stopped to see what was going on.
Davidson's vehicle was parked on an incline, making it difficult for him to open his door. As Davidson was struggling to push his door open, he had his right hand reaching behind be back by his waistline. Davidson's right elbow can be seen pulling up as he makes the motion of pulling something out from his back waistline.
"Let me see your hands," Officer Hancock ordered.
Michael Davidson then suddenly hopped out of the car while bringing a black object around in front of him, and joining the object with his left hand.
Davidson was completely unaware that anybody witnessing the event would have seen him pulling a black object from the area of his back waistline, and then by bringing the object up to his other hand, he gave off the appearance of drawing a pistol. The object was later determined to be a wallet.
Davidson then quickly put his hands up just as Officer Hancock was firing.
Officer Hancock fired two shots, hitting Davidson once in the abdomen. The officer stopped shooting as soon as he had time to react to Davidson's hands being up.
You can see the shooting below. Note: We edited the footage for length. You can see the full video on our Youtube Channel.:Michael Davidson survived the shooting. Two months after the shooting, Davidson filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming unlawful action by Officer Hancock.
While Michael Davidson did nothing wrong besides being unaware how his actions would appear, and he didn't deserve to be shot, the U.S. District Court ruled that the shooting was legally justified.
Even though Davidson's actions were later determined to be innocent, a reasonable officer in the same situation would have believed that, in that moment, Davidson was drawing a gun. The court examines the incident through the eyes of the officer at the time, not in hindsight.
Davidson appealed the decision to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals who affirmed the lower court's decision; the shooting was legally justified. While the Court did call the shooting a disastrous mistake, the way that Davidson drew out his wallet and brought it in front of him, to his other hand, made it appear that he was deploying a firearm.
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