Tousis v. Billiot, No. 22-2211 (7th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
The DEA placed a tracking device on Tousis’s car. On June 2, agents believed that Tousis would go to Turner’s Aurora home to procure drugs. They watched Tousis enter Turner’s garage carrying a bag, and then leave carrying the bag, which had changed in appearance, suggesting a drug transaction. The Sheriff’s Department attempted a traffic stop. Tousis fled; the tracking device showed 115.2 miles per hour on I-88. Agent Billiot, driving an unmarked car, followed Tousis off the highway. Tousis was then driving at normal speeds, but taking evasive actions. At a red light, Billiot activated his emergency lights and siren, and pulled in front of Tousis’s car, 10-25 feet away. Billiot grabbed his firearm, exited his car wearing a DEA vest, and ran toward Tousis’s car, shouting commands.
As Tousis moved the car forward, with nothing between Billiot and Tousis’s car, Billiot fired a single shot. The bullet struck the steering wheel; a fragment hit Tousis in the neck as he was maneuvering his vehicle away from Billiot. Tousis’s car then accelerated and struck a light pole. Tousis died. Officers recovered 300 grams of cocaine from Tousis’s car.
In a suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court denied Billiot qualified immunity. The Seventh Circuit reversed. The material undisputed facts demonstrate that Billiot fired the fatal shot fearing for his own safety and for that of the public if Tousis resumed his reckless flight. There was no precedent warning Billiot that his actions amounted to excessive force.