Did cops burn a man alive to save him?

February 25, 2021

Cops burn a man alive and violate procedure, yet qualified immunity rescues them

In Vietnam, soldiers destroyed villages to save villages. Now, some cops have burned a man alive to prevent him from being burned alive.

Don’t Use Your Tasers

Three Arlington, Texas police officers were called to a home where a suicidal man had doused himself with gasoline. The cops had been trained to NOT tase someone in those circumstances because a spark could ignite the gasoline. A third officer on the scene had even warned the other two cops to NOT fire their tasers for that exact reason. The cops were also close enough to subdue the man without using weapons. But two of the cops fired their tasers anyway.

Burn a man alive

A spark ignited the gasoline consuming the man in flames. The house burned to the ground. The man died after several days of agony.

A court case followed. The man’s family claimed that the cops violated both their rights and (as you just read) proper procedure.

This should have been an open-and-shut case. The Fourth Amendment prohibits excessive force during searches and seizures. Two of the police involved violated their training. Testimony from both the family and the police provided ample evidence to prove the charges.

Still, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the case on the grounds that the cops had qualified immunity.

Checks & Balances

I want to point out two things…

  1. Despite being imperfect, courts usually do more to protect our rights than legislatures do
  2. This is an issue where legislatures are proving to be better than courts

Courts invented the doctrine of qualified immunity. Now, legislatures are taking action to reverse qualified immunity and related problems.

This is how checks and balances are supposed to work. Sometimes the court checks the legislatures and sometimes the legislatures check the courts. We’ve recently reported progress in Colorado. We’ll have more to share soon!

But most of this legislative reform is happening on the state level, which is why we’re pushing to end qualified immunity at the federal level. Please join us if you haven’t done so already…

Help us end qualified immunity

Also, please help us recruit more people! Please contribute or start a monthly pledge.

Jim Babka, President
Agenda Setters by Downsize DC

Today’s Action: End qualified immunity