Latest QI News

Qualified immunity continues to make news nationwide. Here is the latest roundup.

KOCO News, OK, reports that the ACLU and its partners will challenge an Oklahoma City police officer’s claim to qualified immunity in the 2013 death of Brian Simms, Jr.

Simms was asleep in his car waiting for friends outside a concert. He was killed by one of the security officers who approached his vehicle. The officer claimed he shot Simms because Simms was reaching for a gun when he woke up.

However, attorney Jacob Diesselhorst, who is set to argue the case, said: “[The officer] did not identify himself as a police officer, he didn’t give Brian any lawful orders, he just started shooting . . . Qualified immunity has never been meant to be absolute immunity; it’s never been meant to give officers carte blanche to do whatever they deem advisable.”

Read the entire article here.

In Colorado, where QI was struck down in 2020, a federal appeals panel agreed that Keith Sanders, a Montrose County sheriff’s sergeant, is not immune from a lawsuit for siccing a police dog on suspect Eric Tyler Vette. 

Colorado Politics reports: “A three-judge panel . . . agreed with a lower court’s denial of qualified immunity to Keith Sanders…the panel determined Eric Tyler Vette did not appear to be a threat to anyone at the time of the alleged attack, nor was Vette trying to flee in that moment.”

Read the entire article here.

In a different Montrose—Montrose, New Mexico—Kimberly Beck, the mother of a man who was killed by a park ranger, is turning her pain into protest. And hopefully policy. 

Last March, Beck’s son, “Charles “Gage” Lorentz, was fatally shot by a ranger at the Carlsbad Caverns. The ranger shot Lorentz for driving too fast on the way to meet up with a friend.  

To honor the one-year anniversary of Lorentz’s death, Beck and her family are organizing a march to advocate for police reform. The reform they demand includes ending qualified immunity. 

Per the Montrose Press: “What the family is pushing for is positive change .  . . [Beck’s family] are ‘firm believers in our law enforcement officers who protect and serve,’ but the ‘shoot first — qualified immunity later’ mentality must change . . . ”

Qualified immunity is under review in New Mexico. HB 4, which seeks to end QI in the state, is currently in the hands of the NM Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Read the entire Montrose Press article here.

Fresno, California: Police body-cam footage released on March 5 details the 2017 death of Joseph Perez at the hands of police officers. 

Perez was suffering a mental breakdown when he was suffocated by Fresno officers. His death is reminiscent of the murder of George Floyd. Perez can also be heard pleading “I can’t breathe” in the footage.

The coroner ruled Perez’s death a homicide. However, the Fresno Police Department stood by the officers. They claimed that “…the law enforcement officers’ actions were justified and within policy,” The Fresno Bee states. Now, Perez’s family is suing for damages.

According to Neil Gehlawat, an attorney representing Perez’s family, “The case represents the need to end qualified immunity for law enforcement officers.”

Read the entire article here.