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Thu Feb 18, 2021, 06:51 PM

5th Circuit Grants Qualified Immunity to Cops Who Ignited a Suicidal, Gasoline-Drenched Man by ...

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The 5th Circuit grants qualified immunity to Texas cops who ignited a suicidal man drenched in gasoline by shooting him with Tasers.



QUALIFIED IMMUNITY

5th Circuit Grants Qualified Immunity to Cops Who Ignited a Suicidal, Gasoline-Drenched Man by Tasing Him

The appeals court concluded that the officers' use of force was reasonable in the circumstances.

JACOB SULLUM | 2.18.2021 2:15 PM

Gabriel Eduardo Olivas doused himself with gasoline, but it was the cops who set him on fire. They were there to help him.

Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled that Jeremias Guadarrama and Ebony Jefferson, the Arlington, Texas, police officers who fired Tasers at Olivas, igniting him and burning his house down, are protected by qualified immunity, a court-invented doctrine that shields government officials from federal civil rights claims unless their alleged misconduct violated "clearly established" law. While Olivas' family argued that Guadarrama and Jefferson used excessive force, a unanimous 5th Circuit panel concluded that their actions were reasonable in the circumstances.

On July 10, 2017, Olivas' son called 911 to report that his father was threatening to kill himself. According to the 5th Circuit's summary, Olivas' son also said his father was threatening to "burn down their house." That assertion contradicts the family's account, which the court was supposed to accept as true in determining whether the officers deserved qualified immunity. The family maintains that Olivas "did not threaten to harm his wife, his son, or anyone else in his home."

Upon entering the house, Guadarrama smelled gasoline. Olivas' wife, Selina Marie Ramirez, directed Guadarrama, Jefferson, and Officer Caleb Elliott to a bedroom, where they found Olivas "leaning against a wall and holding a red gas can." According to the family's account—which, again, the 5th Circuit was supposed to accept as true in the context of this ruling—Elliott shouted to the other officers, "If we tase him, he is going to light on fire!" Elliott discharged pepper spray in Olivas' face, which temporarily blinded him.

Around the same time, Olivas poured gasoline over himself. According to the 5th Circuit, it is not clear whether that happened before or after Olivas was hit with the pepper spray. The court says Guadarrama and Elliott "noticed that Olivas was holding some object that appeared as though it might be a lighter." Guadarrama "fired his taser at the gasoline-soaked man, causing him to burst into flames." Jefferson also fired his Taser, although he initially denied that he had done so.

"The fire spread from Olivas to the walls of the bedroom, and the house eventually
burned to the ground," the 5th Circuit notes. Olivas was taken to a hospital, where he eventually died from his injuries. The officers thus precipitated the very outcome they were ostensibly trying to prevent.

{snip}

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Reply 5th Circuit Grants Qualified Immunity to Cops Who Ignited a Suicidal, Gasoline-Drenched Man by ... (Original post)
mahatmakanejeeves Feb 2021 OP
sinkingfeeling Feb 2021 #1
50 Shades Of Blue Feb 2021 #2
ret5hd Feb 2021 #3
stopdiggin Feb 2021 #4

Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Thu Feb 18, 2021, 06:58 PM

1. Why? Someone needs to explain why they always have immunity.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Thu Feb 18, 2021, 07:00 PM

2. That is beyond sickening!

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Thu Feb 18, 2021, 07:01 PM

3. --ostensibly-- adverb: apparently or purportedly, but perhaps not actually.

yeaaaahhhh...perhaps not actually.

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Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Thu Feb 18, 2021, 09:34 PM

4. the court is suppose to accept the families testimony?

I'll admit I hadn't heard of this. Would have thought the principle was to weigh all evidence and testimony.

According to the family's account—which, again, the 5th Circuit was supposed to accept as true in the context of this ruling—Elliott shouted to the other officers, "If we tase him, he is going to light on fire!" Elliott discharged pepper spray in Olivas' face, which temporarily blinded him.

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