Skip to comments.Shoot First and Think Later
Posted on 04/04/2018 8:29:28 AM PDT by Kaslin
"Why'd you shoot me?" Amy Hughes, screaming and bleeding, asked Officer Andrew Kisela after he fired four rounds at her through a chain link fence. Thanks to the Supreme Court, a jury will not get a chance to consider that question.
In a case that illustrates how hard it is to hold police officers responsible for using excessive force, the Court on Monday ruled that Kisela is protected by "qualified immunity" from civil liability for the injuries he inflicted on Hughes in May 2010. The decision, as Justice Sonia Sotomayor observed in a dissent joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, "tells officers that they can shoot first and think later."
Kisela, an officer with the University of Arizona Police Department in Tucson, was responding to a "check welfare" call about a woman who was hacking at a tree with a kitchen knife. Arriving at the home that Hughes shared with Sharon Chadwick, he saw Hughes emerge from the house with a kitchen knife in her hand and approach Chadwick, stopping about six feet from her.
Hughes, who talked to Chadwick but did not seem angry, was holding the knife at her side, with the blade pointing away from her housemate. Chadwick, who later described Hughes as "composed and content," said she never felt she was in any danger.
Kisela and the two other officers with him nevertheless drew their guns and ordered Hughes to drop the knife. It is not clear whether she heard the commands.
Chadwick said it seemed to her that Hughes did not understand what was happening, an impression shared by Kisela's colleagues. The cops, although in uniform, never verbally identified themselves as police officers, and the whole encounter was over within a minute.
Kisela, who later said he was trying to protect Chadwick, opened fire immediately and without warning, hitting Hughes with all four bullets. She survived but easily could have been killed.
Neither of the two other officers at the scene resorted to deadly force. Kisela could have used his Taser instead of his gun. He could have repeated the command to drop the knife. He could have at least warned Hughes that if she did not comply he would fire.
At the moment she was shot, Hughes had committed no crime and was not menacing anyone. After Hughes sued Kisela under a federal law that allows people to recover damages for violations of their constitutional rights, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit concluded that "a rational jury...could find that she had a constitutional right to walk down her driveway holding a knife without being shot."
Kisela appealed to the Supreme Court, which did not address the question of whether he had used excessive force. Even if he did, seven justices agreed, Kisela cannot be held liable because the 9th Circuit's precedents, as of May 2010, had not clearly established that shooting Hughes violated her rights.
While none of the 9th Circuit's cases addressing excessive force involved circumstances exactly like these, that does not mean Kisela had no way of knowing that what he did was unlawful. "Because Kisela plainly lacked any legitimate interest justifying the use of deadly force against a woman who posed no objective threat of harm to officers or others, had committed no crime, and appeared calm and collected during the police encounter," Sotomayor writes, "he was not entitled to qualified immunity."
The Supreme Court's conclusion to the contrary is part of a pattern. In a recent California Law Review article, University of Chicago law professor William Baude notes that the Court almost always sides with government officials in qualified immunity cases, which makes judges less likely to let people sue them.
As illustrated by criminal cases in which juries let cops off the hook for outrageous conduct, giving victims of excessive force their day in court hardly guarantees justice. But preventing juries from hearing cases like these guarantees injustice.
Cops get away with just about anything. If they shoot you on a whim you’re totally screwed even if you survive the shooting. So what’s new?
Thus, it becomes that the officers should and must be held to a higher standard than regular citizens.
Had this been a "normal" citizen who shot this lady up, there would be enormous jail time handed down.
But having a bronze badge is a "get out of jail free card" for those who wear it, apparently. At least according to the Ninth Circus and most of the Supreme Court.
I kind of worry about this kind of thing, I have serious hearing loss and even with hearing aids I can’t make out what people are saying sometimes. Now, I have some common sense though, in this exact situation I’d think ‘oh, they’re upset about the knife’ and I’d drop it.
What worries me is having a couple of cops draw on me and they’re yelling at me buy it sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher and I have nothing in my hands and I have no idea what they want me to do.
Amy Hughes apparently doesn’t own a dog.
“After Hughes sued Kisela under a federal law that allows people to recover damages for violations of their constitutional rights,”
Let me note that said federal law does NOT apply in the 4th judicial circuit (Virginia, North Carolina, W. Virginia, etc.) to any except descendants of former slaves.
That is the judge-made rule in that circuit.
Hence, if you are hispanic, pacific islander, native american, white, asian, etc., you do NOT have the right to sue state officials for violating your civil rights.
That’s despite the legislative intent, as shown by the congressional debate over that law, that it was intended to apply to everyone.
(That’s the loophole which allowed a federal judge to throw out most of the suits by the Duke lacrosse players against Nifong et al — they were the wrong ethnicity and were not covered by the “federal” law).
Kisela could have used his Taser instead of his gun.
Any videos of a taser working through a chain link fence?
The article is not just a touch one sided. Complying with commands by an armed person or officer results in a choice of act with deadly force or comply. It does not lend itself well to let’s call in a mediator or what do you mean “Do it now!”
In what world are LEOs licensed to kill just because a command is not obeyed?
Maybe he if he held the taser through the fence link hole, not directly at the fence link?
Qualified immunity makes police officers our rulers.
It must be abolished.
Every officer must be subject to the very same laws as the citizenry, including civil law/tort.
” Do it now!
Making the police our rulers?
There MUST be a legitimate threat before deadly force is used. Not just a plausible possibility.
That is the standard which every citizen is held to. And that is the standard which every officer should be held to as well.
The unstated message here is that:
1. Every encounter with the police is a potentially lethal event.
2. The police are personally unaccountable for their criminal and negligent actions.
3. Every citizen should be (and note my choice of words here) IN FEAR FOR THEIR LIVES whenever the police aim a weapon at them or their loved ones.
In any world where you have a force representing the “enforcement power of the state” called to an incident it is the state that wins that moment. In this nation we have courts to determine if the state was right or wrong in it’s assessment of the situation. If the matter is exacerbated because you are armed and fail to cooperate in moving the matter to the courts, your misfortune is collateral not central to the issue. That was pretty clear in the ruling in this case.
Easy one. In the LEOs' world of course
The problems is that they are NOT held to the same standards as an ordinary citizen, but are basically held to no standard at all.
I thought to even get to the SC a trial had to go down SOMEWHERE!
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