COPS’ ‘KNOCK AND SHOOT’ LEAVES INNOCENT MAN DEAD
Officer pounded on door, fired 6 times when victim opened it
It is permissible for police officers upset over an alleged speeding violation to use SWAT tactics to surround an apartment at 1:30 a.m., violently pound on the door of an innocent man’s residence and gun him down when he opens the door.
That apparently is the conclusion of both district and appellate courts in the case Young v. Borders, which now has been presented to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Multiple interests have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the case, which was brought against law enforcement officers who shot and killed Andrew Lee Scott. Amy Young, John Scott and Miranda Mauck filed the wrongful death claim against Gary Borders, sheriff of Lake County, Florida, and his deputy, Richard Sylvester.
The facts are undisputed, according to 11th Circuit Court of Appeals judges Ed Carnes, Gerald Tjoflat, Frank Hull, Stanley Marcus, William Pryor, Adalberto Jordan and Julie Carnes.
The appeals court, the most recent to rule in favor of the officers, cited “qualified immunity,” which is generally granted to law enforcement officers for doing their job.
The Rutherford Institute detailed the facts of the case: “On July 15, 2012, Deputy Richard Sylvester spotted a speeding motorcycle while on patrol in Lake County, Florida. Sylvester pursued the motorcycle in his patrol car but lost sight of it. Subsequent reports caused Sylvester to believe that the motorcyclist might be armed, was wanted by another police department, and had been spotted at a nearby apartment complex. Arriving at the complex around 1:30 a.m., Sylvester and three other deputies began knocking on doors close to where a motorcycle was parked, starting with Apartment 114, where a light was on inside. Apartment 114 was occupied by Andrew Scott and Amy Young, who were playing video games and had no connection to the motorcycle or any illegal activity.
“Assuming tactical positions surrounding the door to Apartment 114, the deputies had their guns drawn and ready to shoot. Sylvester, without announcing he was a police officer, then banged loudly and repeatedly on the door, causing a neighbor to open his door. When questioned by a deputy, the neighbor explained that the motorcycle’s owner did not live in Apartment 114. This information was not relayed to Sylvester. Unnerved by the banging at such a late hour, Andrew Scott retrieved his handgun before opening the door. When Scott saw a shadowy figure holding a gun outside his door, he retreated into his apartment only to have Sylvester immediately open fire. Sylvester fired six shots, three of which hit and killed Scott.”
The noted Second Amendment Foundation said in its brief asking the court to take – and reverse – the outcome, that the 11th Circuit ruling suggests “Americans should reasonably expect to be shot dead by police for possessing guns in their homes.”
That notion, wrote SAF attorney Alan Gura, “sets a new record for hostility to the Second Amendment.”
“If the Second Amendment means anything, it means that the police must respect people’s ability to keep guns for self-defense – not shoot them dead over it,” he continued.
“Yet the decision greenlights the notion that any American who keeps arms might for that reason alone be subjected to summary, consequence-free extra-judicial killing in his home by agents of the state. … This decision not only contradicts the people’s right to be secure in their homes against unreasonable seizures, but is incompatible with a legal system that holds the right to keep and bear arms to be fundamental.”
SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan M. Gottlieb said the case “screams” for Supreme Court review.
“Who among us would not take precautions when answering a pounding on our door in the middle of the night? After all, this is the United States, not a police state.”
The Rutherford Institute also filed a brief.
“Although 26-year-old Andrew Scott had committed no crime and never fired a single bullet or lifted his firearm against police, he was gunned down by police who were investigating a speeding incident by engaging in a middle-of-the-night ‘knock and talk’ in Scott’s apartment complex,” the institute said.
“Government officials insist that there is nothing unlawful, unreasonable or threatening about the prospect of armed police dressed in SWAT gear knocking on doors in the middle of night and ‘asking’ homeowners to engage in warrantless ‘knock-and-talk’ sessions,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute.
“However, as Andrew Scott learned, there’s always a price to pay for saying no to such heavy-handed requests by police. If the courts continue to sanction such aggressive, excessive, coercive tactics, it will give police further incentive to terrorize and kill American citizens without fear of repercussion.”
Mark Joseph Stern, at Slate, pointed out Sylvester had failed to identity himself as a law enforcement officer, had no warrant and no reason to suspect that Scott or his girlfriend had committed any crime.
“He did not attempt to engage with Scott at all after he opened the door; he simply shot him dead.”
He described “qualified immunity” as a “constitutionally dubious doctrine” that bars individuals from suing the government for violating their rights unless those rights were clearly established.
A minority dissent in the 11th Circuit argued Scott was innocent and posed no threat.
Judge Beverly Martin wrote: “Under no standard was it reasonable for the police to kill Mr. Scott when he answered the knock at the door to his home. He was not suspected of any crime (much less a violent crime) and he was standing inside his own house without threatening them.”
The officers were not, she said, on a “knock and talk.”
“There was no talk here. This was a knock and shoot.”
WND reported Martin’s dissent was joined by Charles Wilson, Robin Rosenbaum and Jill Pryor.
The tragedy happened in literally two seconds, the judges wrote.
“Mr. Scott began opening his door inward at medium speed while holding his gun pointed safely down at the ground. At no point did Mr. Scott raise his gun or step outside of his home. To the contrary, as soon as Mr. Scott saw Deputy Sylvester – a shadowy figure hiding outside the door, clutching a pistol – Mr. Scott began retreating inside and closing his door.
“This seems like a normal enough response, but Deputy Sylvester says he viewed Mr. Scott’s retreat as an attempt to ‘get a position of cover [behind the door] where he can engage me.’”
Sylvester fired six shots, of which three struck and killed the victim, who “never even chambered a round.”