Can a Cop Shoot Someone in the Back?

Can a Cop Shoot Someone in the Back?

  • The Fee Is Free Unless You Win®.
  • America's Largest Injury Law Firm™
  • Protecting Families Since 1988
  • 20 Billion+ Won
  • 1,000+ Lawyers Nationwide

Free Case Evaluation

Tell us about your situation so we can get started fighting for you. We tailor each case to meet our clients' needs.
Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances.
Our results speak for themselves

The attorneys featured above are licensed in Florida. For a full list of attorneys in your state please visit our attorney page.

Can a Cop Shoot Someone in the Back?

Police officers are trained to shoot fleeing persons only as a last resort and if there is imminent danger. Shooting someone in the back is generally unlawful, especially if they are unarmed and non-violent. While some officials say a cop can shoot someone in the back in some circumstances, victims and their families could bring legal claims if using deadly force was unjustified. 

Using unnecessary force can destroy a victim’s life in one split second and cause devastating physical and psychological injuries and even death. You could qualify for compensation if you got hurt in a police shooting or lost a loved one and believe that the officers used excessive force. Contact us today to discover your rights and legal options in a free consultation. 

Recent Incidents of Individuals Shot in the Back by Police Officers

In 2022 alone, there have been several incidents where police officers shot individuals in the back, including the following.

Unarmed Black Man Fatally Shot During Traffic Stop

26-year-old Patrick Lyoya, a Congolese refugee, was shot in the back of the head by a police officer during a traffic stop. Lyoya was attempting to run away at first and then got into a scuffle with an officer who subsequently shot him. The officer was later charged with second-degree murder.

29-Year-Old Man Fatally Short in Houston

In April 2022, a 29-year-old Black man, Jalen Randle, was fatally shot in the back of the neck by a Houston police officer. Police spokespersons said officers tried to pull over a vehicle with Randle, wanted on three felony warrants, in the passenger seat. However, the driver did not stop until police blocked the car’s path. When Randle exited the car, a police officer shot him. A lawyer for Randle’s family said he only had seconds to raise his hands. 

Man Shot Dozens of Times in Akron

In June 2022, police officers in Ohio killed Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black man. Officers tried to pull Walker over for a traffic offense, but he failed to stop his vehicle, resulting in a car chase. When Walker jumped out of his car, police officers pursued and shot him multiple times. A medical examiner later determined that Walker was shot 46 times, with some of the bullets entering his back. A gun was found in Walker’s car but not on his body.

Fatal Shooting of a 23-Year-Old Man in San Bernardino

In July 2022, police officers in San Bernardino, California, fatally shot fleeing 23-year-old Black man Rob Marquise Adam. The officers believed that Adam carried a gun and shot him in the back as he ran away from them. Police recovered a gun at the scene. However, Adam’s family maintains that he was holding a cell phone at the time of his shooting.  

Scroll down for more

Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

Morgan & Morgan

  • When Can Cops Shoot Someone in the Back?

    Police officers frequently make split-second decisions in precarious and rapidly changing conditions. Recently, the legality of police officers shooting suspects in the back has become hotly debated. 

    According to 10 CFR § 1047.7, police officers are generally allowed to use lethal force if:

    • They have probable cause to believe that a person poses an imminent threat of severe bodily harm or death to the officers or other persons.
    • The suspect threatens officers with a weapon.
    • The suspect is fleeing from a dangerous crime that involved inflicting serious harm. 
    • Using deadly force is necessary to arrest or prevent the escape of an armed or dangerous individual.

    Before shooting, officers should give a warning, if feasible. 

    Deadly force must not be used against an unarmed, non-violent individual running away from officers. However, if an armed and violent felon is fleeing from a crime scene, police officers may legally shoot them in the back. 

    Whether a cop is justified in shooting a suspect generally depends on the facts and circumstances of the case. If you or a loved one was shot in the back by a cop, you could have legal recourse. An experienced personal injury attorney from Morgan & Morgan could help you get the compensation you deserve.

  • You Could File an Injury or Wrongful Death Claim 

    Injured individuals and the families of those killed due to police brutality generally have legal recourse when police officers use excessive force. An officer may have used unreasonable force if the victim:

    • Did not pose a significant threat to law enforcement officers’ safety or the safety of the general public 
    • Did not commit a serious crime and was unarmed
    • Did not actively resist arrest

    However, when assessing a police officer’s liability, courts generally do not review incidents with the 20/20 vision of hindsight. Courts tend to make allowances for police officers that are often expected to make split-second decisions in potentially dangerous, life-threatening, and uncertain situations. Therefore, suing law enforcement can be tricky. 

    The Obstacle of Sovereign Immunity

    The legal doctrine of sovereign immunity can be a considerable obstacle for victims and families hoping to sue law enforcement. Most states provide immunity to cops, protecting them from personal injury lawsuits. However, if an officer acted in bad faith or used excessive and unjustifiable force, sovereign immunity may be waived, giving victims the right to sue. 

    Filing a Police Misconduct Complaint

    Each state and local municipality has specific rules for reporting police misconduct. As a first step, you may be required to file a report with the responsible police department, which could trigger an internal investigation or criminal charges. Moreover, before filing a lawsuit, your local government may require you to file a Notice of Claim. 

    Failing to follow the rules, regulations, and deadlines specific to your jurisdiction can sink your case. Therefore, victims of police misconduct and their families should seek legal advice before taking action. A skilled attorney from Morgan & Morgan can help victims develop a strategy and avoid mistakes that could jeopardize their right to compensation. 

    Proving Your Claim

    If you or a loved one were harmed due to police misconduct and are looking for justice, you will have to prove your legal claim with the relevant evidence. In particular, your evidence must show that the police officer’s use of deadly force was unreasonable, given the circumstances. Evidence that could prove your claim can include:  

    • CCTV camera footage 
    • Law enforcement body camera recordings
    • Statements from eyewitnesses
    • Medical reports documenting gun wounds to the back and other injuries
    • Testimony from expert witnesses

    A Morgan & Morgan police brutality attorney can help to gather and organize the evidence required to prove your claim. 

    How a Morgan & Morgan Attorney Could Help

    Working with an experienced and determined lawyer can be crucial if you want to stand up to law enforcement. Unlike other personal injury lawsuits, suing a government entity or employee can be tricky. Moreover, law enforcement agencies are known for protecting their own and may try to cover up misconduct. 

    Our dedicated attorneys leave no stone unturned in uncovering the unlawful use of deadly force. We can:

    • Determine whether you have a claim 
    • Discover your options for filing a complaint of misconduct or lawsuit
    • Gather evidence to prove unlawful police behavior 
    • File a Notice of Claim and lawsuit on your behalf
    • Value your damages
    • Work for you on a “no-win-no-fee” basis
    • Represent your interests aggressively at a trial
  • How Can Using Excessive Force Violates Civil Rights?

    Deadly force can be warranted in some situations. However, if law enforcement officers violate your civil rights or the rights of your loved one, the law is on your side. Various laws can come into play when individuals suffer harm due to excessive force:

    U.S. Code: Title 18 

    U.S. Code: Title 18 makes it illegal for an individual “acting under color of any law” to deliberately deprive an individual of a right protected by the Constitution or United States laws. Excessive police force violates an individual’s right to be free from unreasonable seizures.  

    Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

    The Civil Rights Act gives all U.S. citizens equal rights and prohibits discrimination. However, according to Mapping Police Violence, Black people are 2.9 times more likely to get shot by police than White people. You could have a legal claim you experienced excessive police violence due to your race, color, religion, or nationality.

    The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) 

    The ADA protects disabled individuals from police misconduct and discrimination. Police officers must not use excessive force when arresting a disabled person. Disabled persons who suffered harm due to unjustified use of force by a police officer could file a civil lawsuit and recover compensation. 

    Other laws and protections may apply if you were injured by excessive force or brutality. An attorney can clarify the laws applying to your specific case.

  • Victims Could Receive Compensation 

    If you or a loved one suffered harm due to an unlawful shooting by a police officer, you could be entitled to compensation, including but not limited to: 

    • Medical costs
    • Awards for physical and emotional anguish
    • Income loss
    • Humiliation

    In wrongful death claims, damages can include funeral and burial expenses and loss of income and services from the deceased.

  • Can I Sue a Police Officer for Using Deadly Force?

    You could sue a police officer if they used excessive force when the situation did not warrant it. For example, a cop can shoot someone in the back if the individual is armed, dangerous, and poses a significant threat. However, shooting a non-violent and unarmed person in the back would likely count as excessive force.

    What Qualifies as Excessive Force?

    Excessive force describes using more physical force than necessary to detain or arrest an individual. The use of excessive force by police officers falls under unreasonable seizures, which is prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. Therefore, a police officer could be held accountable for using excessive force in a traffic stop, detention, or arrest. In addition, cops who fail to prevent their colleagues from using excessive force may also be liable.  

    However, individuals filing personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits against officers or government entities typically face significant hurdles. If you believe you have a claim, a personal injury lawyer from Morgan & Morgan can clarify your options.

  • How Much Time Do I Have to File a Lawsuit Against a Police Officer?

    Every state sets its own deadline for injury claims, called the statute of limitations. While some states, like Florida and Utah, give injured victims four years to bring a claim, others only allow one year for filing an injury lawsuit. Most states fall somewhere in between and give victims two years to bring a claim. 

    However, the timeframe to sue a police officer or law enforcement department may be shorter than the statute of limitations in your state. Multiple factors can affect your deadline to file a suit, such as the type of wrongful conduct and your state laws. For example, to file a civil claim against a police department, you may be required to first file a Notice of Claim within 60 or 90 days of the incident. Failing to observe your state’s deadlines usually means losing your legal right to pursue compensation. 

    The sooner you consult with an attorney to understand your rights and obligations, the better. Our attorneys can handle your claim from beginning to end and ensure you do not miss any critical deadlines. 

  • Our Lawyers Fight Hard for Victims of Police Brutality

    Holding law enforcement officers accountable for an unlawful shooting can be complex and challenging. However, you do not have to fight for justice and compensation alone. Morgan & Morgan’s experienced and tenacious attorneys can fight for you and could help you get the justice and compensation you deserve. 

    When we take your case, you pay nothing unless and until we recover compensation for you. If you or a loved one suffered harm at the hands of a trigger-happy police officer, act now and contact us for a free and confidential case review.

Scroll down for more Load More

How it works

It's easy to get started.
The Fee Is Free Unless You Win®.

Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances.

  • Step 1

    your claim

    With a free case evaluation, submitting your case is easy with Morgan & Morgan.

  • Step 2

    We take

    Our dedicated team gets to work investigating your claim.

  • Step 3

    We fight
    for you

    If we take on the case, our team fights to get you the results you deserve.



Customer Story

“I was in a difficult situation when I was injured by a faulty product. I was hesitant to seek legal help but with the help of Morgan & Morgan, they made the process easy. They took immediate action and got me the compensation I deserved. I couldn't have done it without them. I highly recommend their services.” Estate of Patricia Allen v. RJ Reynolds, et al. | 2014

Client success
stories that inspire and drive change

Explore over 55,000 5-star reviews and 800 client testimonials to discover why people trust Morgan & Morgan.

Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances. Based on Select nationwide reviews

  • Video thumbnail for 5l3q2e67j8
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for yfe952tcop
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for z1bqwg9hkl
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for s5nb3hnvkv
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for t4elibxene
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for 5nr9efxqj3
    Wistia video play button
  • Video thumbnail for e8s1x6u5jp
    Wistia video play button