Police using deadly force rarely convicted

The police officer’s bullet is still in Tramaine Miller’s neck.

The officer who shot him, because he mistook Miller’s cell phone for a gun, was acquitted at trial and is no longer on the force.

The police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., has prompted demands nationwide for an aggressive prosecution of the officer. But, in Atlanta, it’s often difficult to obtain a conviction against a police officer. Sometimes it’s even difficult to obtain an indictment.

“Obviously everybody was very disappointed that you can shoot an unarmed man and get away with it,” said Mawuli Mel Davis, the attorney representing Miller in a civil suit. “Tramaine Miller is now disabled — that one encounter disabled him. He lives a life of constant pain. You can still see the bullet protruding under the skin in the back of his neck.”

Miller was leaving a relative’s apartment and had locked himself inside his car as Officer Reginald Fisher, working an off-duty security job, approached. Fisher used his baton to smash Miller’s window and then, seeing the cell phone, shot Miller in the face.

Former DeKalb District Attorney J. Tom Morgan, who defended Fisher at trial, said the only officers he knows of going to jail in metro Atlanta in a shooting case were those involved in the killing of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston in a botched 2006 drug raid.

“Officers have to decide whether to shoot in a matter of seconds,” Morgan said. “Tragedies and mistakes are made but that doesn’t make them a crime.”

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