Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's assertion that the two NYPD officers "had absolutely no choice" but to fire 16 rounds to kill gunman Jeffrey Johnson outside the Empire State Building on Friday is supported by several weapons training experts and criminologists. "The fact that they didn't empty their weapons shows great restraint, maturity and professionalism," one told the Post. But the nine bystanders who were struck with the officer's bullets or "fragments" likely have legal cases against the city that could result in "six figure" payouts.
Weapons training expert Kenneth Cooper notes that it would have taken about 2.5 seconds for the officers to react to Johnson as a threat, another 2.5 seconds to interpret the threat, and another 1.5 seconds to draw their arms. “It’s not like in the movies," Cooper says. "The fact that seven of those rounds hit the guy that was trying to kill them is pretty amazing."
Geoffrey Alpert, a criminologist specializing in the use of police force at the University of South Carolina, told the Times, “The rule of thumb is that you do not put civilians in the line of fire, but the rule of thumb is also that you don’t let a murderer get away.”
According to the AP, three of the nine injured bystanders were hit with whole bullets, while the rest were struck with "fragments" acting as shrapnel. Michael Cardozo, the city's corporation counsel and head of the Law Department, noted to the Times that while he was "sympathetic" towards the bystanders, the “Officers put their lives on the line every day and these officers certainly did that.”
Famed attorney Sanford Rubenstein told the Post, "Yes, there's exposure to the city here," if the plaintiffs can prove that police could have avoided the collateral damage. Lawyer Richard Cardinale added, "The payouts could number in the six figures."
82-year-old Garnold King, a former police officer, sued the city and won a $250,000 settlement after he was injured by police gunfire during a wild shooting outside Sylvia's in 2005. "Every one of them is going to sue," he told the Times. "The City of New York has money."