Officer Michelle Peele was working off-duty security at Rosa Linda's Restaurant on New Bern Avenue when, she said, Nyles Arrington tried to steal her personal vehicle and drove right toward her. She fired her weapon, killing Arrington. Peele was not indicted, but the Raleigh Police Department fired her, claiming she had violated the department's policy on deadly force.
"We don't want officers shooting at people in moving vehicles unless there is absolutely no other choice," said the police department's attorney, Dawn Bryant, during testimony on Monday before a civil service commission that must decide whether to reinstate Peele.
The police department's policy on deadly force was established in 2003 and reiterated in a 2004 memo from police Chief Jane Perlov to all officers. It strictly prohibits officers from firing into a moving vehicle unless they are in imminent danger. The fear is that shooting a driver will cause him to lose control of the car and put others at risk.
Peele, department attorneys said, should have known about the policy.
"Shooting into a car does not stop that deadly threat," she added. "The car is still moving. The threat is still real."
Last month, Peele testified that she shot Arrington because the car was coming at her and her friend, Lindsay Banning. She said she felt she had no option but to fire at him.
"In my opinion, based on the magnitude of policy violation and the results of that violation, termination was appropriate and the correct option in this case," testified Raleigh police Maj. Mike Teem.
George Jaime, a bouncer working at Rosa Linda's on the night in question, testified that Peele was beside, not in front of the car, and was never in danger of being hit.
"As soon as her hand reached for the door, the car started moving and made a sharp right turn," Jaime testified. "And when the car started moving, she shot him."
Peele's supporters said Monday that they still believe her termination from the police force was unjust and that now the city is attempting to destroy what was once a promising law-enforcement career.
"Yes, there was an undeniable and continuous disrespect, disregard for the officer in a way that I never thought I'd see in a department I used to work at," said John Midgette with the Police Benevolent Association. "I think certain city officials should be ashamed of themselves and the way they conducted themselves, up to this point."
After more than 12 hours of testimony, the commission recessed without making a decision on the case. Another day of testimony is scheduled for Nov. 16
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