Tale of Two Cases: Supreme Court Rules For Officer In Texas Shooting As Two Officers Are Arrested In Lousiana Shooting

Derrick+Stafford+and+Norris+Greenhouse+Jr.The Supreme Court has reversed the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in a police shooting case where a police officer who fired six times at the car of a fleeing arrestee. The Court found that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity in a civil suit. The ruling comes as prosecutors filed charges against two Louisiana officers in the Fifth Circuit in the shooting death of a 6-year-old autistic boy. Thirty-two-year-old Derrick Stafford of Mansura and 23-year-old Norris Greenhouse Jr., of Marksville each is charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. Bond has been set at $1 million for each officer. The father has not been told that his son was killed.

Some accounts say that the shooting occurred after a chase and that, after reaching a deadend, Stafford may have backed up toward the officers who opened fire. However, those accounts do not jive with the new report from a videotape that Stafford may have been surrendering at the time of the shooting (even assuming that he had engaged in the effort to flee).

jeremy-mardis_020fa825b5c778a15900ea12f495c74d.nbcnews-ux-600-700This week it was revealed that body camera video showed the father, Chris Few, with his hands up in the air and not posing any threat to the officers when they opened fire — seriously wounding Few and killing Jeremy Mardis. The shooting occurred in Marksville, Louisiana where the two men were working secondary jobs as marshals. Notably, the case shows how small this community is. District Attorney Charles A. Riddle recused himself in light of the fact that one of his top assistant prosecutors is the father of Greenhouse.

The earlier Fifth Circuit case originated in Texas where Tulia, Texas, police officer Chadrin Lee Mullenix fired six times at a car of a fleeing arrestee, Israel Leija Jr. Leija had fled after a police officer approached his car at a drive-in restaurant to arrest him. Leija drove at speeds between 85 and 110 miles per hour during the chase and called the Tulia police dispatcher to day that he had a gun and would shoot at officers if they didn’t give up the chase. The police set up spike strips at three locations, including at Cemetery Road beneath an overpass. Mullenix drove to the Cemetery Road overpass and asked a dispatcher if his supervisor wanted him to shoot at the car. It is not clear if he heard his supervisor’s advice to wait to see if the spikes worked. Mullenix fired when the car a killing Leija. The Fifth Circuit ruled that Mullenix’s actions were objectively unreasonable and Mullenix was not entitled to qualified immunity.

The Supreme Court reversed and found that Mullenix had acted amid a “hazy legal backdrop” of excessive force cases involving car chases. The Court found that prior cases “have not clearly established that deadly force is inappropriate to conduct like Leija’s” and that “never found the use of deadly force in connection with a dangerous car chase to violate the Fourth Amendment, let alone to be a basis for denying qualified immunity.” Justice Sotomayor filed a dissent that noted that Mullenix “puts forth no plausible reason to choose shooting at Leija’s engine block over waiting for the results of the spike strips.”

The Texas case contained obviously distinguishing facts that the suspect had made threatening calls and was driving at a high rate of speed to evade police. The Louisiana case reportedly involved a man with his hands up at the time of the shooting. The Louisiana case is also now a criminal matter but will likely soon be also a civil case by this grieving family.

41 thoughts on “Tale of Two Cases: Supreme Court Rules For Officer In Texas Shooting As Two Officers Are Arrested In Lousiana Shooting”

  1. It looks like black officers with a white victim in Louisiana. So of course charges were quickly filed.

  2. I truly wonder when people are going to realize that we live in a police state? These types of incidents only serve to prove that the law nor the government are on your side.

  3. Nick: Is a kudo kind of some judo thing?
    You are right about the civility on the blog. I enjoy reading here on a daily basis and yakking. Or barking. I like it when we discuss and do not dis.

    I read the per curiam decision from the Supreme Court on this use of force case on the speeding car, a while ago. I think it is a poorly written opinion. It is available on Scotusblog.

  4. The month of November has been the most civil 10 days I have seen since coming here over 3 years ago. Kudos to all.

  5. Paul:

    The allegation is that the officers had already shot the bull, but they gut shot it instead of properly euthanizing it, reasons unknown.

    Yantis stepped forward to correctly euthanize the bull, was jerked backward by an officer, his rifle discharged, ricocheted, and then the officers believed he fired upon them purposefully and opened fire.

    There are a lot of questions that need to be answered. I have a dread of succumbing to mob rule, the anarchy of the internet. I’ve been burned so many times when the “correct narrative” initially reported turns out to be totally fabricated, so now I’m cautious and always want an investigation to take place.

    No matter what, a tragedy occurs and they need to get to the bottom of it.

  6. Totally (but not quite) off topic but I hope someone will take this information and run with it.

    Here are ALL the Dun and Bradstreet Reports/Screenshots that PROVE Thomas Deegan’s case! Download them; enlarge them; share them widely! SEE HOW THEY ARE STEALING FROM US, MILKING US DRY

    I’m clueless as to how to present this information in a simple way so people will get it, but it critically needs to be gotten.

  7. Tom Nash – a person should be allowed to shot his own bull. That has got to be a Constitutional right.

    1. Paul C.- Given that the dispatcher called Mr. Yantis and informed him of the accident, the deputies should not have been taken by surprise when he showed up with a rifle.
      I’m wondering if the dispatcher notified the deputies that Mr. Yantis would be coming to deal with the bull.
      As Karen S. said, a lot of speculation at this point, and only 2-3 family members have spoken publically about this.
      There may have been other witnesses, given that traffic was backed up on the 2 lane highway because of the accident.

  8. Paul C.- This incident was initially described as a “shootout” between the rancher and the deputies.
    Mr. Yantis’ rifle was fired at least once, according reports. His nephew thinks it may have discharged as the deputy grapped him.
    The deputies fired multiple rounds….at the bull, and then at Mr. Yantis.

  9. I heard their body cams were on. Let’s hope so. And for the sake of transparency, the evidence needs to be made public.

    These officers must have no idea how to euthanize a bull. I can’t understand the “volley of shots” unless the bull was charging and they missed. It only takes one well placed shot, and the animal shouldn’t suffer.

    What I really want to know is what was the reasoning for grabbing Yantis in the first place. That is so dangerous, to grab someone who is preparing to fire.

    1. Karen S.- a lot of unanswered questions remain.
      I hope that the investigation does not drag on for months. This is a small county, and there is a lot of anger at this point.

  10. Karen S.- Mr. Yantis’ nephew stated that the deputies had fired numerous times at the bull, only to wound it. He said there was a volley of shots he heard just as he and Mr. Yantis approached the scene.
    I also read that the dash cam was not on, but it was not known if their bodycams were recording.
    The sheriff dept. and the Idaho State Police are not commenting, pending the results of the investigation.
    The ISP is conducting the investigation. Their conclusions may not be satisfactory to many, given problems with previous investigations. (See “Who polices the Idaho State Police” by Cynthia Sewell, June 11, 2015)

  11. People become cops to help people or to bully people.

    It is the duty of the cavalier, overpaid elected and appointed officials to reject the latter.

    The culpability rests with the officials who fail to assume responsibility and to execute their duties.

    There is no excuse.

  12. Just to clarify, everything that I wrote is just the preliminary information coming out about what happened in Idaho. I have not heard the police officers’ side of the story yet. It needs to be investigated so we can determine wrongdoing, if any, and to try to learn how to prevent such a tragedy from occurring again.

  13. BarkinDog:

    That was always my understanding on the guidelines for deadly force re police chases.


    My sister in law lives in Idaho, but in another area. It is my understanding that Yantis’ family is alleging that he was called to put down his bull, who was injured when he escaped his pen and was hit by a car. The bull had a broken leg, maddened by pain and fear, and needed to be euthanized. It was going after first responders. He was told to bring his rifle to the scene and euthanize his animal. When he arrived, the police had come to the same conclusion, and had attempted to euthanize the bull incorrectly.

    In order to kill a horse or bull with a gun, you are to image (or actually draw, if you are upset or shaky) a line between the animal’s ears and his opposing eye, creating an “X” in the center of his forehead. Then you are to stand close enough that you will be sure with your shot, and shoot in the middle of the X. It is vitally important that you shoot in this area, or your could easily cause the animal unnecessary suffering. Nowadays, it is more rare for anyone to have to shoot his own animal, although one of our rancher friends had to shoot a longhorn that was goring another cow and went after him, as well.

    The allegation is that the bull was gut shot. So I have to wonder why it was shot in this area. Did it spin or turn right as they were shooting? Why wasn’t the animal promptly shot correctly? I suspect that the officers had no idea how to properly euthanize an animal.

    It is alleged that Yantis was disgusted with this state of affairs, and stepped forward to shoot his bull. For some reason, an officer grabbed him and jerked him back. Was he going to shoot with officers behind the target, in an unsafe area? Houses behind the target? Why was he grabbed? Was he angry and the officer thought he was going to shoot the cops? In any case, the rifle discharged and ricocheted. There is some debate as to whether that ricochet struck another officer.

    The officers then opened fire on Yantis. It is alleged that they mistakenly thought he was shooting at them, and returned fire.

    The family further alleges that at that point, the officers ignored the bull and let it exsanguinate on the highway, ignoring the pleas of the family to put it out of its misery. The family was handcuffed and prevented from staying with Yantis, who died. His wife had a heart attack at the scene, as you mentioned.

    The police department has not yet released their explanation, because it is currently under investigation.

    It sounds like a preventible accident. But we need to hear more from the police department. The offices were wearing body cameras, but their dash cam was not turned on. So there is at least some video of the incident.

    Council is a rural horse and cow town, and Yantis was well known.

  14. KCF, I will stand corrected if wrong, but I think bettykath is part of an oldtimers contigent, including a Guest Blogger or two, that believe OJ was innocent. You have no idea! Well, maybe you do.

  15. Seems all the rumors in this case are being shot down. Are police so confident they will always be protected that they did this with a camera rolling? Keep in mind this is an area where often there is no police training required.

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