In November of 2005 a black Nissan was reported to have been driving erratically in Waukesha. The police located the vehicle a short time later backed up into some bushes adjacent to a city street with an unresponsive female’s legs sticking her legs out of the driver side window. For most people this would be an indication that someone was having a medical emergency such as a stroke, a seizure or severe alcohol intoxication. For police officer James Hoffman (now Lt. Hoffman) this was an oppertunity to take some life altering and potentially lethal shots with the department’s new “SL6 Baton Launcher” which appears to have come from the US Military.
Phillips was inside the car, leaning across the front seats and not responding to demands that she step out and away from the vehicle. At some point, though, she rolled to her stomach and stuck her legs out the driver’s door.
Officer James Hoffman fired a warning shot at the open door from the department’s new SL6 baton launcher, a gun that fires a rubber projectile the size of a small juice can with the force of .44 magnum revolver. It left a baseball size dent in the door.
He later moved to the side and fired at Phillips’ legs from about 40 feet away. She screamed out and grabbed her leg but did not leave the car or crawl back in and close the door. Hoffman fired three more shots that hit Phillips. After the fourth strike, she slumped out onto her knees, then stood up and moved away from the car.
The court found that the force was unreasonable under the circumstances, which included the fact that Phillips was very drunk, did not actively resist and was not in position to drive the car when she was shot in the legs.
The court also found that the use of an SL6 baton launcher was at the “high end” of the less-lethal force spectrum and amounted to a “significant intrusion” on Phillips’ Fourth Amendment rights, which guard against unreasonable searches and seizures.
The injuries from Hoffman’s wild decision to shoot this small woman, later determined to be passed out drunk, cost Ms. Phillips 30 stitches and a lifelong 6 inch scar on her leg. It cost Waukesha taxpayers 6 years worth of legal costs and eventually a $125,000 court settlement. I will assume no discipline came from this brutal attack as the person giving the commands on scene that night was none other than Lt. Russel Jack who is now Chief of this PD.
Photos obtained via Waukesha CopBlock FOIA