Once again, the United States Supreme Court has granted legal immunity to an officer involved in deadly shooting. This time, Tulia, Texas police officer Chadrin Lee Mullenix shot and killed 24 year old Israel Leija Jr. during a car chase that took place in March of 2010.
In the shooting, at least four rifle shots were found in Leija’s body. Mullenix has claimed that he was aiming at Leija’s car engine. Obviously, this claim is difficult to dispute because of the high speeds involved in the car chase.
However, there were some factors working against Officer Mullenix. A sergeant on the scene had told Mullenix to stand down and let the road spikes destroy Leija’s tires. Additionally, Leija was found to be unarmed, meaning that there wasn’t a quick need to kill the suspect.
Eventually, the case made its way to the Supreme Court, where it was decided that Mullenix should be granted legal immunity in the case. This represents at least the third time since 2012 that the Supreme Court granted legal protections to police officers who killed civilian suspects.
The majority opinion of the court said, “Put simply, qualified immunity protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.”
However, many people are not satisfied with the decision, saying that police should be more considerate when using deadly force. Others are outraged that very dangerous actions were taken during a car chase when it is nearly certain that the use of road spikes would have led to a more peaceful outcome.
A widespread opinion is that police officers should not try to kill suspects unless they are trying to kill or injure others, or if they have already done so. In this case, Leija hadn’t harmed anybody.
While some people have said that Leija shouldn’t have tried to escape from the police, that doesn’t change the fact that Leija was not trying to hurt anyone. Many believe that the shooting was racist in nature, as Leija was a person of color. Racism was known for being widespread in that Texas town.
Still, it’s clear that the court is supporting a “shoot first, ask questions later” approach, and it could certainly lead to more nasty outcomes in the future.