Supreme Court Rules Police Can Be Sued For Shooting Victims Fleeing “Seizures”

Courtesy of Creative Commons

04/15/21 By Wesley Days

In a 5-3 majority, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, Mar. 25, that police who resort to shooting can be sued for use of excessive force, this includes when a target, successfully or unsuccessfully, flees the scene. 

The case involves an incident that dates back to 2014. 

Alberque, New Mexico, resident Roxanne Torres, was shot twice in the back after police officers shot thirteen rounds of ammunition, when she left a parking lot as police reached her vehicle to question her about a neighbor with an arrest warrant. Torres believed the officers approaching her vehicle were not law enforcement officials, rather carjackers. Suffering from a methamphetamine withdrawal at the time, she sped away from police and officers began to fire. Police later apprehended Torres. 

Torres sued the police department for use of excessive force, arguing that the shooting was in violation of the Fourth Amendment,which protects Americans against unreasonable seizures. The police claim the shooting was not a seizure since the gunfire apprehended her. 

However, Chief Justice John Roberts and four of his Supreme Court colleagues, including Justices Sonya Sotomayor and Brett Kavanagh, disagreed. “An arrest even if the arrestee eludes custody, the officers would introduce a single test for all types of seizures: intentional acquisition of control.” the Chief Justice wrote in the majority opinion. 

Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch dissented. Justice Gorsuch wrote the dissenting opinion, which calls the move by his colleagues in the majority, illogical. 

Justice Barrett did not participate in the case since arguments were made prior to her confirmation to the court.