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Killing a citizen to prevent suicide

Updated: Aug 19, 2019

That's exactly what Shelby County, Tennessee law enforcement did and asked the United States 6th Circuit Court of Appeals to grant them immunity for doing so. Seriously. Judge Sutton wrote the unanimous opinion from the Court and said, well .....no.


A fellow who was clearly distraught was encountered by police after he had injured himself with a knife by cutting his wrists. Police ordered him to drop the knife and he placed it to his throat in response. So they shot him, multiple times. He later died from the gunshot wounds.


Not only did the police not admit their mistake and simply pay his widow for her loss, they sought to have the case dismissed arguing that she had no claim because they were entitled to qualified immunity. Qualified immunity protects law enforcement and other state officials if the law is not clear that that their actions were wrong. Judge Sutton spent little time on such nonsense and denied their appeal. You can read the opinion here.


Our take: It might be a good idea for lawyers defending these claims consider what these routine motions are actually saying on behalf of their clients. In this case, Shelby County and the police officers were saying that they weren't clear that officers couldn't shoot a man in order to keep him from committing suicide. Hmmm......... Not sure I would call 911 in Shelby County.


Disclaimer: This post is not intended as legal advice nor an in depth analysis of the opinion mentioned. It is a broad overview of the opinion rendered by the Court. Readers are invited to read the opinion for themselves and any underlying litigation.