“Qualified Immunity” Protects Summary Execution by Cop in Florida
Police officers are under no legal responsibility to identify themselves or state their purpose for being on private property before killing armed citizens who confront officers on their own property, ruled the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
That ruling emerges from the killing of Florida resident Andrew Scott, who heard a loud banging on his door late at night, retrieved his licensed handgun, and opened the door with it pointed safely toward the ground. Seeing a dimly lit figure holding a pistol, Scott retreated into his residence, and was fatally shot six times by Deputy Richard Sylvester. The deputy had no warrant to be on Scott’s property, nor did he have probable cause to suspect either Scott or his girlfriend of committing a criminal offense. Sylvester did not identify himself as a police officer. He simply opened fire once he saw that the citizen had armed himself to deal with a dangerous stranger.
According to Judge Frank M. Hull, Deputy Sylvester’s lethal actions are covered by the spurious constitutional doctrine of “qualified immunity” because there was no “clearly established law” forbidding the summary execution of innocent citizens by police officers. Hull also defended the deputy’s unlawful presence on Scott’s property as an application of the “knock and talk” rule, placing the blame for the lethal encounter on the victim who – the judge contends – could simply have declined to open the door.