Case Law Update: White v. Pauly

White v. Pauly

Two women called 911 to report Daniel as a “‘drunk driver'” on a highway near Santa Fe, then followed Daniel with their bright lights on. Daniel, feeling threatened, pulled over at an off-ramp to confront them. After a nonviolent encounter, Daniel drove to a secluded house where he lived with his brother, Samuel. Officer Truesdale interviewed the women at the off-ramp and obtained Daniel’s license plate number. The dispatcher identified the brothers’ address. Truesdale was joined by Officers White and Mariscal. The three agreed there was insufficient probable cause for arrest, but decided to speak with Daniel. White remained behind in case Daniel returned. Truesdale and Mariscal drove separately, less than a half mile, to the address, without flashing lights. They approached the house in a covert manner, found Daniel’s pickup truck, and spotted two men moving inside the residence. They radioed White, who left the off-ramp to join them. At approximately 11 p.m., the brothers became aware of their presence and yelled, “‘Who are you?'” and “‘What do you want?'” Mariscal and Truesdale laughed and responded: “‘Hey, (expletive), we got you surrounded. Come out or we’re coming in.'” Truesdale shouted: “‘Open the door, State Police, open the door.'” Mariscal yelled: “‘Open the door, open the door.'” The brothers heard, “We’re coming in” and did not hear the officers identify themselves. They armed themselves and yelled, “We have guns.” Truesdale positioned himself behind the house and shouted “‘Open the door, come outside.'” White, walking toward the house, heard “We have guns,” drew his gun and took cover behind a stone wall. Mariscal took cover behind a truck. Daniel fired two shotgun blasts from the back door while screaming loudly. Seconds later, Samuel opened a window and pointed a handgun in White’s direction. Mariscal fired at Samuel but missed. “‘Four to five seconds'” later, White shot and killed Samuel. In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court denied the officers summary judgment on the defense of qualified immunity. The Tenth Circuit affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated. Officer White did not violate clearly established law. The Court declined to consider whether a reasonable jury could infer that White witnessed the other officers’ deficient performance and should have realized that corrective action was necessary before using deadly force because neither lower court addressed that argument. The Court expressed no opinion on whether Truesdale and Mariscal are entitled to qualified immunity.