A Houston police officer could face 99 years in prison for a horrifying road rage incident that occurred last month. Officer Kenneth Caplan cut off a driver and then rolled his window down and fired his gun at her when she passed him, according to Rare. Caplan has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Click2Houston.com reports that the victim is afraid they’re going to go easy on Caplan since he’s a police officer. Given our recent problems with juries letting police officers off the hook — even when the evidence is overwhelmingly against them — she’s got reason to be worried, even though Caplan was off duty when he shot at her.
According to police, the victim must have leaned back when Caplan fired at her. The bullet grazed the left side of her head. She pulled over and called for help, while Caplan fled the scene, and the doctors at the hospital told her that her case was a one in a million chance. Caplan could easily have killed her. Her injuries were likely not an accident on his part; he may have actually intended to kill her.
Alternet published a piece detailing ten ways in which the system is rigged against people killed by cops. The article applies to officers who are on duty at the time of their incidents, and to murder victims, but some things on that list may apply in this case, too. The jury process, for instance, is biased towards police officers. Caplan being off duty may or may not remove that bias. Being a trained police officer, it’s easier to wonder if the woman somehow provoked him into pulling his gun than it would be if he were a civilian.
Also, a conviction in Caplan’s case may well rest on whether anybody’s able to identify independent witnesses. We do tend to hold police officers to a higher standard, which is good, but that can lead to assuming they had a good reason to do what they did, even if they weren’t on duty. Without a lot of independent witnesses, jury bias may not go away.
Precinct 6 of the Houston Police Department sent out a statement condemning Caplan’s actions in the incident, and they cooperated with the investigation. Their statement read, according to Click2Houston:
Kenneth Caplan was not on duty at the time of the incident in which he was involved nor was he displaying any article connecting him to the Harris County Constable’s Office – Precinct 6. The Harris County Constable’s Office – Precinct 6 neither condones nor tolerates the actions taken by Kenneth Caplan that connected him to this incident, and the necessary measures were taken to collect his credentials and remove him from our status.
We can definitely hope that his being off duty helps bring down a conviction. If he’s let off, it will only serve as further confirmation of a huge, glaring flaw in our justice system.
Featured image via screengrab from Click2Houston.com