Police Shoot Murder Suspect in "Rear Torso"

I read in the Olympian yesterday an article reporting that police had shot to death murder suspect John C. Vu.  The article explained: “A deputy saw Vu and yelled at him to stop, but Vu continued to flee. The deputy fired one shot from his .223-caliber rifle about 3:30 p.m., striking Vu in the rear torso – likely because he was running from the deputy, [Sheriff’s Deputy] Chamberlain said.”

I had to think for a minute what “rear torso” meant.  Why was it that the police did not want to say that the deputy shot Vu in the back?  The law seems pretty clear that if the police goes to arrest a murder suspect and the suspect refuses to stop after being warned, than that officer is entitled under RCW 9A.16.040 to shoot the fleeing suspect.  It was once the law of this country that police officers could shoot any fleeing felon until the U. S. Supreme Court ruling of Tennessee v. Garner.  In that case the court prohibited the use of deadly force unless “the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.”

But despite the law, I guess it did not seem very good to say that the police officer shot a man “in the back”.  Vu was a gang member with a felony warrant out of California.  The odd thing about the article is that when it later describes how John C. Vu was wanted for murder, the article describes how Vu killed the man by a inflicting a “gunshot wound to his back.” Shouldn’t the reporter have used the same terminology to describe both shootings?

Is this “rear torso” a phrase we can expect to see in the future?  When I googled the phrase “in the rear torso” + “shooting” or “shot”, this article was pretty much the only instance of when such a phrase was used.

2 Responses to “Police Shoot Murder Suspect in "Rear Torso"”

  • Diane:

    “Rear torso”? Why don’t the newspapers call them on these euphemisms? Because the papers are simply publishing the press releases with little work. An objective journalists should have caught this nonsense. I hope that “rear torso” doesn’t become part of police nomenclature.

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Steve Graham is a criminal defense lawyer, and he splits his time between Spokane and Seattle, Washington. Visit his website by clicking: www.grahamdefense.com
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