Knoxville Officer Who Shot Unarmed Man in Back Can’t Claim Immunity

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A Knoxville Police Department officer who shot an unarmed parolee in the back as he was running away and, again, after he fell to the ground cannot escape a federal civil rights lawsuit, an appellate court has ruled.

The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals earlier this month upheld a ruling by Chief U.S. District Judge Tom Varlan in which Varlan refused to grant KPD Officer David Gerlach immunity from a $3 million civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of the slain parolee’s son.

The ruling clears the path for a trial in the July 2014 shooting death of parolee Ronald E. Carden and reinforces the findings of a USA TODAY NETWORK-Tennessee investigation that used autopsy results to debunk the initial account by officials that Gerlach was locked in a life-and-death struggle when he shot Carden six times.

The autopsy showed all six shots were fired into Carden’s backside and three of those were fired after Carden had been felled by the initial round of bullets. Five of the shots were fired from a distance of more than three feet.
Shooting unarmed, fleeing felon a legal no-no

Like Varlan, the appellate court ruled the law is clear – shooting an unarmed suspect who is running away is the very definition of excessive force. Gerlach, the court concluded, should know that as a police officer and cannot claim immunity.

“Gerlach contends that the case law at the time of the encounter did not clearly establish that his use of deadly force would have been unjustified, even under the circumstances found by the district court,” the appellate court opinion stated. “About that, however, he is mistaken.

“Because it was clearly established at the time of the shooting that the police may not fire on a fleeing suspect who does not pose a threat of serious physical harm, the denial of qualified immunity was proper,” the opinion continued.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 2711 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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  • Forrest Carlton Lackey

    There’s this thing called personal responsibility. It’s something a lot of cops and their supporters, who often claim to be conservative and christian, say they have and wish they would see more of.
    Having a badge means more accountability, not less.
    No, he shouldn’t have run from you.
    But murder was not the right answer.
    You should have resorted to a non lethal take down.
    As spider man was told, great power means great responsibility. As the Bible says, to him whom much is given, much more will be asked. So the fact our tax dollars go to arm and train you to handle this situation means we can be pissed when you over react and shoot somebody. He maybe in the wrong, but he wasn’t an actual threat. It’s not about you and your ego’s take on your authority.
    It’s about as morally bank rupt as me, a big man, walking into a store. A little girl punches me in the balls, and I send her to the hospital.
    Or shoot her.
    Naturally that’s what Jesus would do, instead of smack her hand, give her a spanking, or better yet, get her mother and have her grounded. (in this case grounded means prison).