Home Immunity Kansas Police Officer Who Killed Innocent Man in Crash Denied Qualified Immunity

Kansas Police Officer Who Killed Innocent Man in Crash Denied Qualified Immunity

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from only-officer-who-fired-a-shot department

Crushing is really heinous. People angry at the video game somehow believe they are justified in trying to end their opponents’ lives, literally. Toxic subhumans who can’t stand losing turn to second-hand murder for revenge. Absolutely heinous behavior that plays into the warrior mentality of law enforcement who shoot first, handcuff the corpse and later.

In this case, hailing from Wichita, Kansas, the crush performed on behalf of a really shitty Call of Duty player has at least some silver linings. The first is that the author, the “serial swatter” Tyler Rai Barriss, was sentenced to twenty years in prison for his participation in this violent tragedy.

The second silver lining is that the only officer to shoot the victim, Wichita resident Andrew Finch, was denied qualified immunity. He will continue to face a lawsuit filed by Finch’s family, alleging multiple constitutional violations.

The events leading up to Finch’s murder by Wichita PD officer Justin Rapp are almost as gruesome as the deadly result. This is taken from the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [PDF] allowing the family lawsuit to continue:

At 6:10 p.m. on December 28, 2017, a City of Wichita duty officer responded to a call. The caller said his mother hit his father with a gun. The duty officer tried several times to connect the caller to 911, but the call was repeatedly dropped. Seven minutes later, the caller gave his number to the officer, who relayed the information to 911 dispatchers in Sedgwick County. At 6:18 p.m., a 911 dispatcher contacted the caller. This time, the caller told the dispatcher that he shot his father in the head and was holding his mother and brother at gunpoint in a closet. He gave the dispatcher an address in a residential area of ​​Wichita. The dispatcher passed alerts to officers that the caller had shot his father and was holding his mother and brother at gunpoint. The dispatcher also reported that the caller was threatening to set the house on fire and kill himself.

The reality of the situation is that the call was made by Tyler Barriss, a resident of Los Angeles. The call was made on behalf of a Call of Duty player who was angry about an in-game online altercation with Andrew Finch.

Officers, understandably, thought they were dealing with an ongoing hostage situation and an armed suspect. As many as 10 officers converged on the address, approaching the house from several sides. Officer Rapp arrived and took up a watch position about 45 feet from the front door of the house. He hadn’t been on the scene long before he decided it was time to pull the trigger.

Rapp had only been in his position for about forty seconds when Finch opened his front door. Finch opened the screen door and stepped onto the porch. An officer on the east side of the residence turned on his rifle light and instructed Finch to raise his hands and step off the porch. Jonker shouted “show your hands!” At the same time, officers east of the house shouted more orders. Jonker then shouted “walk over here!” Officers later testified that they could not understand the commands given by Jonker from the north side. None of the officers identified themselves as police officers.

This lack of identification might have been excusable if it had happened during the day. But by this point in December, the sun had long since set when officers arrived (a little after 6 p.m.). Confused and attempting to respond to multiple, seemingly conflicting orders from several different officers, Finch did something that caused Officer Rapp to shoot him: he moved his hands.

On the north side, an officer saw Finch reach back with his right hand and place it on the front door handle. Jonker saw Finch lower his hand then begin to raise his hands in response to commands. But Jonker was mainly focused on the east side officers, not Finch. Rapp saw Finch grab the right side of his hoodie and lift it up, making a move that looked like a gunshot. Rapp thought Finch was not complying with commands and possibly armed. He testified that he thought he saw a gun in Finch’s hand.

About ten seconds after Finch first opened the door and stepped onto the porch, Rapp fired a single shot from his rifle, hitting Finch in the chest. Finch fell backwards into the residence, where he died within minutes. He was unarmed.

Constable Rapp was the only officer (out of nearly a dozen) to open fire. He was later cleared of any wrongdoing by the Wichita PD internal investigation.

But the exemption by his employer means nothing here. He claimed his shot was fully justified by the nature of the situation and Finch’s movements. The lower court disagreed, saying many facts were still under discussion.

The district court found that a reasonable jury could find that (1) Rapp fired when he could see Finch’s hands were empty, (2) Rapp’s claim that Finch made a threatening move was fake and (3) Rapp couldn’t see Finch’s hands. movements clearly due to darkness and distance, as well as many other facts. Thus, he concluded that a reasonable jury could also conclude that Rapp did not reasonably believe that Finch posed a threat.

The footnote attached to this paragraph also indicates that a jury might conclude that Finch’s movements were not threatening, but rather logical responses to the bizarre situation he found himself in when he walked through his front door.

The district court found that a reasonable jury could conclude: (1) Finch was confused but attempted to comply with officers’ orders and his movements did not indicate hostile or threatening action; (2) the people yelling at Finch were not immediately recognizable as police; (3) Finch simply moved his arms when the officers gave him several orders; (4) Finch’s movements did not suggest he was attempting to draw a gun; (5) Finch was never told to keep his hands up or that he would be shot; (6) an officer could see that Finch was not actively resisting orders; and (7) Rapp was unaware that Finch was trying to get into the house when Finch was shot.

The court agrees that all of this should be considered further. A closer look may show that Rapp’s actions were unreasonable, a violation of Finch’s rights. And the violation here was not moot. It was clearly established.

Certainly, there are no cases with facts identical to these. But “[w]We do not believe that it takes a court ruling on identical facts to make it clear that it is unreasonable to use lethal force when force is completely unnecessary to subdue a suspect or to protect officers, the public or the suspect himself. Taken together, the cases cited by the district court establish that an officer, even when responding to a reported dangerous situation, cannot shoot an unarmed, non-threatening suspect.

And, at this point in the case, that’s enough to keep Officer Rapp from getting out of this trial prematurely. Whether or not a jury will rule in favor of Finch’s survivors remains to be seen, but at least this ruling makes it clear that it takes more than unspecified fears about officer safety to justify lethal force…at least in cases similar to these.

Now for the somewhat disappointing coda:

The Wichita Police Department has promoted the officer who pulled the trigger on the nation’s first deadly ‘swatting’ call, a move the mayor and two city council members say could undermine efforts to restore confidence in Kansas’ largest police department.

Justin Rapp’s June 25 promotion to Detective comes amid ongoing lawsuits and a Netflix docuseries that focused one episode on the set. Rapp shot and killed Andrew Finch, an unarmed 28-year-old father, in December 2017 after a California serial prank reported a fake murder and hostage situation at Finch’s address.

Acting Police Chief Lem Moore told the Wichita Eagle that the shooting did not “disqualify Rapp from the promotion.” It’s probably true, but [gestures at the mayor and council members’ comments] perhaps not the best idea when the officer still faces a federal trial — one in which he was twice stripped of qualified immunity.

Filed Under: 10th circuit, andrew finch, justin rapp, kansas, qualified immunity, swatting, tyler rai barriss