Supreme Court blocks lawsuit against Ariz. police officer

The high court on Monday blocked a lawsuit against Police Cpl. Andrew Kisela who shot a Tucson woman four times in May 2010

The high court on Monday blocked a lawsuit against Police Cpl. Andrew Kisela who shot a Tucson woman four times in May 2010

By a 7-2 vote, the court tossed out a lawsuit by a Tucson woman who was shot four times in her front yard because she was seen carrying a large knife.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a University of Arizona Police Officer.

The court's decision came without ordering full briefing or argument, a rare step indicating that the majority thought the case easy to decide.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that Kisela's conduct was unreasonable and the court should not shield him from liability.

The decision sends the wrong signal to police, Sotomayor wrote.

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An attorney for Hughes, Northwestern University professor David M. Shapiro, called the ruling a "disappointing outcome with troubling implications for police accountability".

Kisela and three other officers were called to Hughes's house after a neighbor called 911 to report that Hughes was in the yard hacking a tree with a kitchen knife and acting erratically. They were joined by Officer Lindsey Kunz. When she began to walk toward Sharon Chadwick, police yelled for her to drop the knife. They repeatedly told Hughes to drop the knife, but Chadwick claims she only heard the command given twice in quick succession.

Ms. Chadwick later said she didn't feel threatened by her roommate. Chadwick went to her vehicle to get the money, closely followed by Hughes. She didn't and Officer Andrew Kisela shot her four times, hitting her in the stomach, hip, arm and knee. Hughes was not suspected of a crime, she said, nor did she raise the knife in anyone's direction. Other witnesses said Hughes was holding the knife at her side, with the point down and the edge of the blade facing backwards, according to court documents. Ms. Hughes still suffers pain and negative effects from the shooting.

"But not Kisela", she said. But a district court judge disagreed, saying the force used by Kisela was not "objectively unreasonable in light of all the relevant circumstances".

Former Solicitor General Theodore Olson, an attorney for the family members, appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that the lower court opinion would "cut the heart out of a vital federal statute". That means the Supreme Court found that there was no precedent that would have alerted Officer Kisela that opening fire-in what he said was an effort to protect Chadwick-amounted to unconstitutionally excessive force since the officer gave "clear and fair" warnings.

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Although the officers did not know it, the two women were roommates.

However, McCaleb says the city will abide by the court's decision.

The court announced in its weekly order list issued Monday that they have denied writs of certiorari-or requests to review-filed in the cases of Jeffrey Lee and Ryan Gerald Russell. "For even assuming a Fourth Amendment violation occurred-a proposition that is not at all evident-on these facts Kisela was at least entitled to qualified immunity". "Kisela had mere seconds to assess the potential danger to Chadwick", the court said.

The Supreme Court's decision to not hear the case caps a civil lawsuit that had been running since 2004.

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