In 2014, two New Mexico state police officers were on their way to serve an arrest warrant at an apartment building when they saw Roxanne Torres—not the person they were serving it to—outside her vehicle and approached her. Here’s what happened next, per Ballotpedia:
The officers approached Torres’ vehicle; Torres entered her vehicle, perceived the officers to be carjackers, and drove the car forward. The officers shot her twice. Torres drove from the scene and was treated at a hospital for her injuries. Torres was arrested and pleaded no contest to three crimes related to the event. Torres filed a complaint against the officers in federal district court claiming excessive force. The district court ruled that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity and that there had been no seizure since Torres left the scene. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. Torres filed an appeal with the Supreme Court.
Defending the act of shooting at someone fleeing from them–who did not know they were police and they were not even there to arrest–as a rightful attempt at “seizure”–brings this case under our purview.
Last month, Restore the 4th officially filed an amicus brief for the Supreme Court in this case, Torres v. Madrid (19-292).
We recommend reading the brief in full, but it comes down to debunking the bizarre argument that a police officer shooting at someone does not constitute an attempt to arrest them–and is in fact a less serious act–even if they’re running away.
The premise that physically attempting to detain someone constitutes an attempt to arrest them, and therefore is limited by all the related rules and protections (including those laid down by the Fourth Amendment) is a core legal precedent that it would be dangerous to disrupt. That is in addition to the injustice it would be for Ms. Torres.
We hope the Supreme Court makes the right ruling.
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