Pauly v. White, No. 14-2035 (10th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
In 2011, Samuel Pauly was shot to death through the window of his New Mexico home by one of three state police officers investigating an earlier road rage incident on Interstate 25 involving his brother. His father, on behalf of Samuel Pauly’s estate, filed a civil rights action against the three officers, the State of New Mexico Department of Public Safety, and two state officials, claiming defendants violated his son’s Fourth Amendment right against the use of excessive force. The officers moved for summary judgment, asserting qualified immunity. The district court denied their motions, and they appealed. Taking the facts as the district court determined them, in the light most favorable to plaintiff estate, the issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review was: whether an officer outside someone’s home in the dark of night with no probable cause to arrest anyone and behind the cover of a wall 50 feet away from a possible threat, with no warning shot a man pointing his gun out of his well-lighted window at an unknown person in his yard while the man’s brother fired protective shots in the air from behind the house, a reasonable jury could find that one of the officers was not in immediate fear for his safety or the safety of others. The Court concluded that any objectively reasonable officer in this position "would well know" that a homeowner has the right to protect his home against intruders and that the officer had no right to immediately use deadly force in these circumstances. The Court therefore affirmed the district court's denial of summary judgment to the officer.