On June 17, 1994, O.J. Simpson was asked to surrender in connection with the murder of his ex-wife and her friend, Ronald Goldman. Instead of showing up at the police station, he fled and led authorities on a wild chase across L.A.’s freeways that was broadcasted live on television around the world. The car chase started in Orange County and ended in his Brentwood driveway.
During the chase, Simpson talked to his mother, and detective Tom Lange who was heard almost begging O.J. to surrender and give up the gun he was supposedly holding to his own head.
He endearingly called him ‘Juice’ and kept telling him how so many people loved him. He was comforting him and asking him to throw the gun out the window because he ‘was scaring’ them.
Simpson never stopped and didn’t surrender the gun. The several police cruisers following him never even tried to surround him or stop him. They did not blow his tires with a pike strip, which would have been easy to do. They never shot at the car even if they knew he was armed and possibly dangerous.
They treated him with kid gloves and some say with great humanity. They probably were too afraid to go after the Juice, considering that it was televised and people were cheering him along the way. Thousands of people encouraged their favorite footballer to break the law and resist arrest. Strange social phenomenon if you ask me when you consider that he was being charged with murdering two people.
On June 18, 2010, Caroline Small, a 35-year-old mother of 2 who was suffering from PTSD, dissociative disorder and a drug and alcohol problem, was spotted sitting in her car in the parking lot of a shopping mall in Glynn County, Georgia by a bystander who decided to call the police because he suspected she was doing drugs.
Small who was not in her right mind, saw the cops arrive and her reaction was to drive away. A slow pace chase followed. It never exceeded 35 mph and her tires were blown out by spike strips right away.
It was a very noisy 20 minute slow motion pursuit. She ended up pinned by two cruisers and a utility pole. One of her tires had been blown when she came out of the mall and the others shortly after, and she was riding on her rims. She had no room to get out and was rendered immobilized.
Small was in a state of panic and continued pressing on the accelerator, but could hardly budge except for a few inches. When you watch the video of the event, the sound of the sirens is deafening and enough to send anyone’s head spinning. It must have been crazy scary for this woman not being of sound mind.
On the dashcam video, Georgia State Patrol Trooper Jonathan Malone is seen running behind Caroline’s vehicle to reach the driver’s door and assess the situation. But he quickly backs away after seeing Glynn County officers Sgt. Robert C. Sasser and Officer Michael T. Simpson with their service weapons pointed directly at him, while aiming at Small’s head.
Malone pleaded with the officers to let him get Small out of the vehicle.
“Let me get out there and get her out,” Malone calls out, according to the GBI audio transcripts.
“Hold on, hold on,” one unknown officer responds.
“If she moves the car, I’m going to shoot her,” Simpson says.
Seconds later, Sasser and Simpson shoot Carole Small in the head. No direct verbal warning is heard ahead of time.
After the shooting, Sasser and Simpson can be seen and heard discussing their killing skills. One of them even mentions to a witness that he saw her head explode.
She was unarmed and they were close enough to the car to know this. In doubt, they could have simply waited and retreated.
What made me sick to my stomach is the fact that an EMT showed up at the scene, but was dismissed by Simpson who concluded Small was dead without even checking her vital signs. Small was still alive and getting medical help right away might have saved her life. She never regained consciousness and passed away within a week.
Right after the incident, Chief Doering went into damage control mode after reviewing the dash cam video and witness statements. He told the press that his officers had behaved properly because their lives were in danger. The headline was ‘’Woman shot trying to run down police.’’
In June 2012, Nathan Williams and William J. Atkins filed a wrongful death suit against the two officers and Glynn County with Keith Small as the adult representative of Caroline Small’s minor child.
A Glynn County grand jury heard evidence in the case and issued a presentment saying it found no reason to charge Simpson and Sasser. There was no vote on an indictment.
Defense lawyer Steven G. Blackerby said that Small had committed the felony crimes of aggravated assault for driving toward officers and of attempting to elude officers.
He also said that Small committed aggravated assault when Officer Jason Dixon, who was parked beside the road, took cover behind his car.
The lawyers played patrol car videos showing Small’s 1991 Buick slowly weaving back and forth across the road on the rims of her flattened tires. Malone was seen trying to get to the driver’s side of Small’s car to pull her out but, in his deposition, he said that he was trying to get help from another officer when Simpson and Sasser decided to shoot.
Blackerby argued that Sasser and Simpson made a split-second decision and that they didn’t know whether Small had a weapon or what her intent was. They suspected she had been using drugs and there may have been a needle in the car, he said.
“So they thought she might stab them with a needle?” the judge asked.
Blackerby asserted that Small was trying to escape through a gap between Sasser’s car and Malone’s patrol car when the two officers, who were standing in the gap, opened fire.
Sasser said he believed Small was attempting to steer toward the gap, and that her car lurched straight forward into his car as the bullets pierced her windshield.
They asserted that Simpson had warned Small. Simpson’s statement on the tape said, “If she moves again, I’m going to shoot her.”
The county’s lawyers had characterized that as a warning, but Atkins said there was no way Small could have heard the statement from inside her car with sirens blaring.
“We can’t credit the warning if she can’t hear it,’’ he said.
He addressed the legal standard that officers can use deadly force if they reasonably believe they are in danger.
Atkins said Small would have had to overcome the laws of physics to get through the gap and that the reasonable thing for Sasser and Simpson to have done if they were afraid of being run down was to get out of the way.
The officers created the risk and then used deadly force, and then showed they were not in fear by not moving, he said.
Atkins said that the officers showed a reckless disregard for Small’s right to life by not giving her first aid as she sat mortally wounded slumped and gurgling in her car. He also brought up another statement heard on tape: “I hit her right between the eyes. She’s dead.”
“Is it too much to ask to put her head back so she’s not swallowing her own blood?’’ Atkins asked.
It’s apparently what the troopers finally did after one noticed that Small was still bleeding.
He also said that Glynn County violated its own internal affairs policy by putting Sasser and Simpson back on the job before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation completed its investigation of the shooting.
A federal judge dismissed the case last September.
Atkins declared that the main purpose of the police internal affairs investigation was to excuse the officers’ conduct.
The investigation of the incident cleared them of any wrongdoing. Both cops remain employed as police officers in Georgia and were never disciplined.
Police shootings are generally protected by law not only if a reasonable threat existed, but if the cop involved perceived a threat. But in this case, it is obvious that there was no threat whatsoever. The cops were reckless and it qualifies as plain and simple police brutality.
O.J. Simpson was too high profile for the cops to use force. It would have created a media nightmare for them. Caroline Small was an easy case to swipe under the carpet. It is unacceptable and hard to believe that the two officers were not removed from the force.
We need a police reform and poor Caroline Small cannot be forgotten. She died in vain, but maybe the outrage felt by her unjust death will create a wave of interest to force the adoption of more safeguards to avoid similar tragic deaths.
UPDATE: Officer Michael T. Simpson has since died of brain cancer.