Hinds County v. BurtonAnnotate this Case
A drug task force was attempting to execute a search warrant on a suspected drug house when gunfire broke out. Several men were standing in front of the house as the taskforce arrived, and, according to the officers, at least one of those men started shooting at the officers and their vehicles. One of the police officers, who was riding in the bed of a pickup truck, stood and returned fire. Ronnie Burton was standing with the man or men who allegedly were shooting at the police, but he did not fire the shots. Instead, he began to run before the shooting started. At some point a bullet struck Burton. The bullet passed through his right shoulder and was never found. Burton did not actually see anyone shoot, and he admitted that he could not identify exactly when he was shot, where he was when he got shot, what caliber of bullet hit him, or who shot him. He conceded that it was possible that one of his armed companions at the house could have fired the shot that hit him, but Burton believed the police shot him. The police officer who returned fire testified that the one person he shot at was not Burton but a man shooting at the police vehicles. Burton did not produce any witnesses or other evidence to contradict the testimony of the officers. Because he was caught fleeing the scene and in possession of a weapon, Burton was arrested. He was released shortly thereafter, when it was determined that he was not the shooter. Burton sued the law enforcement entities that made up the task force as well as the officer who fired his weapon. The Circuit Court rejected the defendants’ claims of Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) immunity, and found in favor of Burton on most of his claims, awarding him $350,000 for his injuries. Because the Supreme Court found that defendants were immune under the MTCA, it reversed the circuit court and rendered judgment in their favor.