The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a police officer who shot and killed a fleeing suspect from a highway overpass. The New York Times says yesterday’s ruling was unsigned and issued without full briefing and oral argument, an indication the majority found the case easy. Dissenter Sonia Sotomayor said the ruling was “a 'shoot first, think later' approach to policing.” The case involved an 18-minute high-speed car chase near Tulia, Tx., in 2010 that started when a police officer tried to serve an arrest warrant on Israel Leija Jr. at a drive-in restaurant. Leija fled on Interstate 27, at speeds between 85 and 110 miles an hour, twice calling the police dispatcher to threaten to shoot at the officers pursuing him.
A state trooper, Chadrin Mullenix, took a position on a highway overpass, where he fired six shots, killing Leija. Leija's family sued, saying Mullenix had used excessive force, and lower courts let the case proceed. The high court majority said Mullenix was entitled to qualified immunity, a doctrine that shields officials from suits over violations of constitutional rights that were not clearly established at the time of the conduct in question.