Fed Court Says Race Soldier Clayton County Cops are Entitled to Immunity After Throwing Grenade onto Sleeping Black Woman
From [HERE] and [HERE] IT WAS JUST BEFORE DAWN when 18 police officers poured out of an armored truck and an unmarked white van at the Laurel Park apartment complex on the outskirts of Atlanta. A few days earlier, a confidential informant reported seeing “a brown skinned black male” with “a small quantity of a green leafy substance.” The 22-year-old suspect, paroled for forging a check, lived in a small ground floor apartment with easy access. But the police didn’t plan on taking any chances.
Jason Ward and his high-school sweetheart Treneshia Dukes were asleep, naked, in the apartment when an explosion went off and their bedroom window shattered. Ward leapt up toward the broken glass. Dukes started running. In the dark, she crashed into a closet door before stumbling into the bathroom and balling up in the tub. “I just started crying and I’m praying like, ‘I’m not going to die like this, this is not how I want to die,’” she later testified. Seconds later, a man wearing a mask stormed the bathroom and held a gun to her face, instructing her to lie on the floor. “If you move I’m going to blow your fucking brains out,’” Dukes recalled him saying. It was then she noticed skin hanging off her arm and blistering patches of pink flesh on her brown legs.
The masked man noticed her skin, too. He told Dukes to sit up and signaled to a man in plainclothes to inspect her. “The guy came in there,” recalled Dukes, just starting to realize she was dealing with the police, not armed assailants, “and he looked at me and he looked back at the other guy and was like, ‘Y’all done fucked up.’”
Dukes had been hit by a flashbang, a $50 device used by the police to disorient suspects, often during drug raids. First designed nearly 40 years ago to help military special forces rescue hostages, flashbangs create a stunningly bright burst of light and an ear-splitting boom that temporarily blind and deafen anyone standing within a few feet of them. Last week, French special forces used flashbangs as part of a dramatic operation to free hostages held at a kosher supermarket in Paris. But when these modified hand grenades explode on the human body, they can cause severe injury or death. The flash powder burns hotter than lava. Dukes suffered second-degree burns across her body.
In the end, after storming the apartment and throwing three flashbangs, the police found about a tenth of an ounce of marijuana.
Such aggressive use of flashbangs has become common among today’s militarized police forces. The Clayton County police, who burned Dukes, deployed flashbangs on about 80 percent of their raids in the year prior to her injury, according to police records.
Yesterday the the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit decided Dukes cannot sue because the officers are protected by immunity from litigation.
Judge William Pryor Jr. [racist suspect in photo] wrote the opinion, ruling that, even though the officer used excessive force, he is entitled to qualified immunity. Pryor also wrote that the officer's supervisor enjoys qualified immunity.
"Deployment of the flashbang constituted excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment," Pryor wrote. "And the suspected crime that prompted the search was possession and sale of marijuana." Pryor wrote that the officer "deployed a dangerous device into a dark room for a de minimis return." A flashbang grenade is designed as a nonlethal explosive device that creates a blinding flash of light with an intensely loud bang to disorient suspects.
The officer is protected by qualified immunity because "his violation was not clearly established in law when he acted," Pryor wrote. "The record does not support a reasonable inference" that the officer intentionally threw the flashbang onto the woman, Pryor wrote.
Pryor was joined by Judge Robin Rosenbaum and District Judge Ursula Ungaro from the Southern District of Florida, filling in. They upheld Judge Eleanor Ross of the Northern District of Georgia in granting summary judgment to the police.
Dukes will appeal, according to her attorney, Mario Williams of Williams Oinonen.
"With utmost respect, the 11th Circuit erred because it does not take clearly established law to figure out, with obvious clarity, that no reasonably competent officer trained in the deployment of flashbangs would ever look through a bedroom window, at 5:30 a.m. and see a bed 3 feet from that window, yet nevertheless throw a flashbang onto the bed with two adults laying asleep," Williams said. "And no reasonably competent officer, under those same facts, would blindly throw a flashbang through a bedroom window at 5:30 a.m."
Williams also disagreed with Pryor's reasoning based on an absence of proof that the officer had an intent to do harm to a bystander.
"The U.S. Supreme Court has reminded all courts, time and time again, that the analysis is an objective one of which subjective intent plays no role," Williams said.
The case is Dukes v. Deaton, No. 15-14373.