Woman injured in Empire State Building shooting sues, speaks out
(CBS News) A North Carolina woman injured last summer during a wild shootout outside Manhattan's iconic Empire State Building is suing the New York Police Department. She was hit by a stray bullet fired by a police officer. The lawsuit charges police were "grossly negligent."
"I was just crossing the street," 32-year-old Chenin Duclos said. "I wasn't doing anything wrong and quickly life changed."
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She was one of nine innocent bystanders wounded by police gunfire in broad daylight on one of Manhattan's busiest streets.
The officers were targeting a man who had just shot and killed his co-worker nearby.
Duclos -- who was hit in the hip -- is now seeking unspecified damages from the city. Her lawsuit charges that the officers "failed to follow and to exercise proper police tactics and procedures" and that they "escalated the situation into a dangerous and deadly confrontation."
"I feel bad that they were in that situation, too, that they have to make those choices so quickly and rapidly and, you know, but we count on them for that," Duclos said.
Wednesday, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly responded to the lawsuit, saying "it's certainly unfortunate that this woman and other people were struck, but I don't see the officers having reasonable recourse but to do what they did."
Amy Marion, one of Duclos' attorneys said, "They didn't say, 'If you need any help with your medical bills let us know, we will help you. We will assist you.' None of that was done."
Duclos is now undergoing physical therapy on a weekly basis.
"There needs to be some change because I experienced something, as well as eight other people on that street that hopefully doesn't happen again," she said.
Watch Michelle Miller's full report in the video above.
Weighing in on the case, CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former NYPD deputy commissioner, said, "I think the way I see it, the way anybody in the New York City Police Department would see it, the way the highest court in New York State would see it, and they've gone on record saying a police officer reacting, making split-second decisions, for instance, when somebody murders somebody on the street, as in this case, and then pulls out a gun and points it and attempts to fire the gun at that officers, when they're making those split-second decisions, it's very hard if not totally unfair to try to second-guess that with the 20 things that they woulda, coulda, shoulda might have done a year later."
Trial attorney and legal analyst Rikki Klieman, whose husband is a former NYPD commissioner, said she said the case can be seen from both sides. She explained, "I think the side that John advocates, which is the side my husband would advocate which is to say, 'Look, these police officers did the right thing under the circumstances. Circumstances were very stressful.' On the other hand, this is a well-written, well-thought-out complaint by a very good lawyer who has a history of looking at civil rights violations on the part of police officers and corrections officers. She says these police officers did 19 separate acts of negligence, and then she says that their training had 16 points that were also negligent. So this is not just some, 'Let's say that the police are negligent.' She's going to show how they were negligent. Ultimately, this case will settle."
For Miller and Klieman's entire analysis of the case, as featured on "CTM," watch the video in the player above.
"CTM" co-host Norah O'Donnell noted the lawsuit cites a 2008 Rand Corporation study that finds NYPD officers weren't trained in the recommended ways, including using more Tasers and sensitizing officers to the sound of gunfire. Asked why the NYPD hasn't implemented that, Miller said, "I think that using a Taser on a person who pulls a gun on you and fires it after someone's murdered someone on the street is a little bit like bringing a knife to a gun fight. The Rand Corporation lives in a lovely place out in Santa Monica near the beach where they can think big thoughts and charge big money. But the fact is, when you got a homicide on the street and someone pulls a weapon on you, you've been through 104 hours in the academy of firearms training, 64 of those [on] tactics alone, you qualify twice a year."
Asked if he doesn't have sympathy for the victims, Miller said, "We have to separate these two issues. One is (Duclos) deserves whatever help and financial assistance the city should give her, including damages, but to get there by claiming gross negligence on the part of two police officers, confronted by a man with a gun. ... The law is quite clear on that, you can't question cops on split-second decisions if they're basically doing what they're supposed to do."
Klieman said, "You cannot, however, you can question their training and supervision. What the plaintiff is going to do is get an expert to say in another police department in an urban area where you have a live shooter, what is the appropriate training and I guarantee you that this lawyer is going to find a good expert to say that in light of the Rand Corporation study that the training should have been changed. Remember this, these two officers, who are not bad people, who are not bad guys, who really did a good thing by killing the shooter, ultimately these two officers are from the 46 Precinct from the Bronx. They may react faster, the plaintiff would say, when they're doing a detail around the Empire State Building. They're used to a different kind of workplace."
Miller countered, defending the NYPD training in light of their overall record. "You have to look at the bigger picture, which is the statistics show that New York City police officers fire their weapons less than any other police department in any other major city statistically. The statistics also show when New York City police officers fire their weapons, they fire the weapons fewer times in each incident."
Miller and Klieman agree the state should have already offered a settlement in this case.
Miller said, "I think (a settlement) should have happened in the first 90 days. When they filed their notice of claim, the city should have stepped up and done the right thing rather than put these cops in this position."
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