An FBI agent invoked the qualified immunity (QI) in the Ulises Valladares case. The family of the late Valladares is appealing this QI decision. Specifically, an appeal court’s decision to grant QI to the agent who killed Ulises Valladares. Despite the decision, his family refuses to back down.
As the Star Tribune reports, Ulises Valladares was bound and blindfolded when he was fatally shot by an FBI agent in 2018. Ironically, the agent was there to rescue Valladares. He was a kidnapping victim, held against his will. The agent told investigators he thought he was shooting the kidnapper. Instead, his bullet hit the hostage. According to Click 2 Houston, Valladares later died from the injuries.
Valladares’ family sued the agent. On his part, the agent claimed QI. At first, a federal judge sided with the Valladares family. He stated that this was “an illegal act” on part of the agent. However, on appeal, a court ultimately granted QI to the FBI agent who killed Ulises Valladares. A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court handed down the ruling.
The Valladares family is unsatisfied with the decision. They are challenging the court’s ruling. They seek justice for their loved one.
“We have officers shooting and killing bound, blindfolded, unarmed people by themselves and they get qualified immunity? That’s not right,” said Randall Kallien at a news conference. Kallien is a civil rights lawyer. He’s representing Ulises Valladrares’ family.
The case of Ulises Valladares highlights a key argument in the QI debate. On one hand, defenders of the doctrine claim that QI is necessary because public officials, like FBI agents, shouldn’t worry about lawsuits on the job. Valladares was a hostage in a tense kidnapping situation. Thus, the FBI agent was in a life-and-death situation. Because of that, he had to make a split-second decision. Tragically, the agent’s decision cost Valladares his life. Still, defenders feel the agent deserves QI.
However, QI’s detractors see it differently. Judges and juries, they say, have a specific duty. And that duty is to uphold the Constitution. Ulises Valladares’ family sued because the agent violated their loved one’s constitutional rights. Valladares shouldn’t have died. When a cop violates someone’s rights, regardless of the situation, they must be held accountable in court. But thanks to qualified immunity, it’s difficult for victims of police misconduct or their loved ones to find justice.
Hopefully, the family of Ulises Vallandares will get another chance at finding justice.