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Empire State Shooting Victims May Sue NYPD

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on August 28, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Victims of Friday's Empire State Building shooting may soon sue the NYPD, after police confirmed all nine bystanders were hit by police gunfire, Reuters reports.

But it's not entirely clear how the bystanders' potential legal claims will fare in court.

In Friday's incident, a man fired from his job a year ago shot and killed an ex-coworker on a busy Manhattan sidewalk before pointing his weapon at police officers. The officers opened fire.

Police fired 16 shots and killed the gunman, ABC News reports. But bullets and shrapnel ricocheted off the concrete sidewalk and other objects like concrete planters.

Six of the bystanders in the Empire State Building shooting were hit by shrapnel or fragments, police said. Three others were hit by bullets. All were taken to hospitals for treatment, and as of Monday, all but three bystanders had been released, according to Reuters.

Though none of the bystanders' injuries were serious, they may still have reason to sue the NYPD. In prior police shootouts, bystanders hit by accident have sued, with different results:

  • Some win large settlements. Wilson Ramos got $6 million from the city in 2009 after an NYPD officer accidentally shot him in the head during a shootout with a robbery suspect, The New York Times reports. Ramos was left paralyzed.
  • Others get nothing. A stray NYPD bullet accidentally hit Tammy Johnson in the elbow during a shootout in 2005. But the state's highest court granted officers immunity, because "they were in pursuit of an armed individual who opened fire on them on a public street, endangering the lives of the officers and the public," according to the Times.

Because Friday's gunman also opened fire on a public street, the Empire State Building shooting victims' legal claims could potentially end as Johnson's NYPD lawsuit did. An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to advise the bystander victims on the best way to proceed.

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