Lake County, FL — A disturbing precedent has just been set in a federal appeals court which ruled in favor of police who knocked on the wrong door at 1:30 am, failed to identify themselves, and then repeatedly shot the innocent homeowner until he died.
The homeowner, 26-year-old Andrew Scott had committed no crime when officers came to his home that night on July 15, 2012. Police were actually in search of a person they witnessed speeding on a motorcycle when they began banging on Scott’s door.
Deputy Richard Sylvester was the officer who saw the speeding motorcycle while on patrol. Sylvester initiated a pursuit but lost sight of it after the motorcycle sped off. For some reason, Sylvester believed the motorcycle driver was armed, might be wanted by another police department, and had been spotted at a nearby apartment complex, according to the police reports.
Sylvester, along with three other deputies, arrived at the apartment complex and began knocking on doors close to where the motorcycle was parked. They started with apartment 114 which was occupied by Scott and his girlfriend Amy Young who were playing video games and had zero connection to the motorcycle, the driver, or any illegal activity at all.
According to a press release from the Rutherford Institute, assuming tactical positions surrounding the door to Apartment 114, the deputies had their guns drawn and ready to shoot. Sylvester, without announcing he was a police officer, then banged loudly and repeatedly on the door, causing a neighbor to open his door. When questioned by a deputy, the neighbor explained that the motorcycle’s owner did not live in Apartment 114. This information was not relayed to Sylvester.
Clearly troubled by someone pounding on his door at 1:30 am Scott grabbed his legally owned pistol and went to open the door. When he opened the door, he was immediately startled by the shadowy figures aiming guns at him and retreated into the apartment. At this point, Sylvester immediately opened fire on the retreating man, firing six shots, three of which struck Scott, killing him.
“Drew and I loved each other and he died protecting me,” said Young.
A lower court ruled in favor of Sylvester and blamed Scott for legally protecting his own home with a pistol against overzealous and apparently trigger-happy cops who failed to identify themselves as such.
Scott’s family appealed the lower court’s ruling only to be shut down again. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled in favor of the police, yet again, that Sylvester was protected by “qualified immunity,” reasoning that the use of excessive force did not violate “clearly established law.”
The decision was split, with four judges dissenting with the majority’s ruling. In a strongly worded dissent from the judges, they noted the dangerous nature of this precedent.
First, under no standard was it reasonable for the police to kill Mr. Scott when he answered the knock at the door to his home. He was not suspected of any crime (much less a violent crime) and he was standing inside his own house without threatening them. Second, the police were not engaged in a permissible “knock and talk” when they killed Mr. Scott. Their aggressive tactics crossed far over the line from a consensual visit into a warrantless raid. When it upheld these rulings by the District Court, the panel (and now a majority of this Court) gave a pass to dangerous, unconstitutional police actions in a way that makes it more likely that tragic police shootings will continue to occur.
“Government officials insist that there is nothing unlawful, unreasonable or threatening about the prospect of armed police dressed in SWAT gear knocking on doors in the middle of night and ‘asking’ homeowners to engage in warrantless ‘knock-and-talk’ sessions,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “However, as Andrew Scott learned, there’s always a price to pay for saying no to such heavy-handed requests by police. If the courts continue to sanction such aggressive, excessive, coercive ‘knock-and-shoot’ tactics, it will give police further incentive to terrorize and kill American citizens without fear of repercussion.”
In the land of the free, those who claim they have sworn to protect you, can come to your house and kill you, and face no consequences. This is why police in America kill more citizens than anywhere in the rest of the world. This is why people protest. This is why people are angry.