The Supreme Court on Monday, over a strong dissent, gave qualified legal immunity to a University of Arizona Police Department officer who shot a woman four times after she refused to comply with officers and approached her roommate with a knife. The unsigned ruling, which apparently will prevent the officer from being successfully sued, overturned a 2016 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which said that a a rational jury could find that Amy Hughes “had a constitutional right to walk down her driveway holding a knife without being shot,” according to the University of Arizona Daily Wildcat.
The appeals court said the issue of whether the actions of Corporal Andrew Kisela were reasonable should be submitted a jury. However, the Supreme Court majority, citing previous high court opinions on police shootings, said that Kisela is “at least entitled to qualified immunity” from being sued. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, speaking for herself and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said that Hughes “had committed no illegal act, was suspected of no crime, and did not raise the knife in the direction of [her roommate] or anyone else.” Sotomayor said the ruling “sends an alarming signal to law enforcement officers and the public. It tells officers that they can shoot first and think later, and it tells the public that palpably unreasonable conduct will go unpunished.”