The Supreme Court on Monday sided with a Texas state trooper who shot and killed a 24-year-old man who fled police in his car after he was told he was being arrested.
That officer, Chadrin Lee Mullenix, shot at a car driven by Israel Leija, Jr., in order to “disable it,” according to the Supreme Court. Despite having received no training in the tactic, and being told to “stand by” to see if spikes in the road stopped the car, Mullenix shot at Leija’s vehicle six times, anyway, and ended up killing him in the process.
In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Leija’s family couldn’t sue Mullenix because the officer had “qualified immunity” from litigation. That immunity stemmed from the fact that no court had found behaviour like Mullenix’s to be unconstitutional, according to the high court.
The decision prompted a scathing dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who contended that her colleagues failed to address the question of how Leija’s car should have been stopped and instead focused on just whether it should have been stopped. In her dissent, Sotomayor noted that Leija told his superior officer right after the shooting, “How’s that for proactive?” (He was apparently responding to criticism that he didn’t take initiative.)
“The glib comment does not impact our legal analysis,” Sotomayor said.
he comment seems to me revealing of the culture this court’s decision supports when it calls it reasonable — or even reasonably reasonable — to use deadly force for no discernible gain and over a supervisor’s express order to ‘stand by,'” she wrote. “By sanctioning a ‘shoot first, think later’ approach to policing, the Court renders the protections of the Fourth Amendment hollow.”
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