An Arlington police officer took a substantial and unjustified risk of death when he fired a gun at a dog that was running in front of a woman on the ground, a police expert who analyzed the shooting testified Wednesday at the officer’s trial. .
Based on images captured by officer Ravinder Singh’s body-worn camera, his focus appeared to be the dog, not Margarita Brooks, the woman he saw on the ground. The main reason the shooting was a criminal blunder is that Singh fired when he knew a human being was at low level or in the background of the muzzle of his gun, said the expert, Jonathyn Priest, who worked as a police officer section of Denver for 32 years. Now retired, Priest is a police use of force consultant and law enforcement trainer.
Brooks died and Singh was charged with involuntary manslaughter. A jury is deliberating the August 2019 case this week in the 371st District Court in Tarrant County.
Law enforcement officers who use firearms are trained to be sure of their target and what lies beyond it, Priest testified.
Singh’s main failure was to shoot knowing Brooks was in the background, said Priest, who was subpoenaed to testify by the state. The shooting was neither reasonable nor necessary under the circumstances, Priest testified. Brooks, 30, suffered gunshot wounds to her forearm and chest.
“Have they forgotten her here?” Tim Rogers, an assistant Tarrant County prosecutor, asked about Brooks.
“Very much,” replied Priest.
The shooting was a gross departure from the standard of care and presented a substantial and unreasonable risk to Brooks, the expert testified.
Under Texas law, “a person is criminally negligent with respect to the result of his conduct when he should have known of a substantial and unreasonable risk that a particular result would occur.”
Singh had other options to try to deal with the dog that would not endanger a human, the expert said.
Singh may instead have used pepper spray, a bat, a stun gun, hands or feet, or a loud voice.
“Once that bullet leaves the muzzle of the firearm, there’s no going back,” Priest said.
The projectile recovered from Brooks’ body bore a marking that indicated it ricocheted after hitting a hard, unyielding surface such as the concrete sidewalk next to them before striking Brooks, Priest testified.
Priest testified that this element of the shooting, and that it is not known whether one or two bullets struck Brooks, was not considered in his analysis.
The dog weighed about 40 kg. Singh was called to check on Brooks when a man called 911 to report she was unconscious outside on a blanket. He fired three 9mm bullets from a Glock pistol.
Singh’s dash cam recording of the shooting was played for jurors. The video shows Singh spotting Brooks from a distance and yelling questions when her dog started barking and running in Singh’s direction.
The trial will continue on Thursday.