The New York Police Department attracted yet more scrutiny in September, when police opened fire on an unarmed and seemingly unstable man who was weaving between cars in a busy Times Square intersection. Police missed their target, but shot two women nearby. Now, the city is blaming the officers’ botched shootings on the unarmed man, Glenn Broadnax, who has been charged with assault.
The indictment released on Wednesday accused Broadnax of being “recklessly engaged in conduct which created a grave risk of death.” The two officers who actually pulled the trigger are still being investigated by the district attorney’s office. If he is convicted for the police shooting, Broadnax, 35, could be in prison for up to 25 years.
Broadnax’s attorney told the New York Times he cannot be held responsible for the officers’ actions, since he “never imagined his behavior would ever cause the police to shoot at him.” Indeed, at the time of the incident, many questioned if pulling a gun on an unarmed man in one of the busiest areas in the city was a necessary call. Nor was this the first time New York officers missed their target; in one high profile instance, police also shot nine bystanders while trying to take down a gunman outside the Empire State Building last year.
Because police departments are not required to report deadly shooting statistics, there is little national data on police shootings, and deadly force is officially justified if the officers fear for their lives or for others. Yet stories of police shooting unarmed teenagers, mentally ill people, and even small dogs have incited protests across the U.S.
Officers accused of excessive force, however, rarely face consequences for their actions. One 2007 study found that just 19 of 10,149 complaints of excessive force, illegal searches, racial abuse, sexual abuse and false arrests led to a police suspension of a week or more.