[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday vacated [opinion, PDF] a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] that denied immunity to a New Mexico police officer who gave no warning before using deadly force. In October 2011 Officer Ray White joined fellow officers at the residence of Samuel and Daniel Pauly, two brothers involved in road-rage incident earlier the same day. White approached the residence from the rear as his fellow officers approached from the front, ordering the Pauly brothers to exit the residence or be prepared for the officers to enter. Daniel Pauly then stepped out of the house, fired two rounds from his shotgun while Samuel pointed a handgun toward White. According to the opinion, White shot and killed Samuel seconds later. The Supreme Court ruled that the facts did not indicate a violation of any established law relating to the use of deadly force even though White fired at Samuel without first warning him to drop his weapon. Although the opinion states White is entitled to immunity, it is silent on whether his fellow officers are as well for questions remain as to whether or not the officers properly identified themselves as law enforcement officials before approaching the residence.
The court’s opinion comes in the midst of public outcry about police accountability. A Minnesota police officer was charged in October in the shooting death of Philando Castile, the same day the city of Cleveland submitted [JURIST reports] a revised use-of-force policy to the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, which is overseeing an agreement by the city to reform their police department. Cincinnati trial judge Megan Shanahan declared [JURIST report] a mistrial on November 12 after the jury declared it was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on murder and manslaughter charges in a case involving the shooting of an unarmed black man, Samuel DuBose, by Officer Raymond Tensing in July. In September the DOJ announced [JURIST report] it would investigate the shooting of Terence Crutcher, a unarmed black man killed by a police officer in Tulsa.