Why a father helps the NM Civil Rights Act » Albuquerque Journal

“On a dark and rainy night in October 2011, Samuel Pauly was shot and killed through the window of his rural New Mexico home by one of three state officers investigating a previous traffic incident.”

This is the first line of a 10th Court of Appeal decision describing the night my son was shot by state police and changed the life of our family forever.

Sam Pauly

I have long been a law enforcement attorney, proud gun owner, and a firm believer in the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution. When my son Sam Pauly was taken from us by a police bullet almost 10 years ago, I learned that our rights are not as protected as I thought.

Before my son was killed, I believed that one of those constitutional rights was that the police would be held accountable if they used excessive force and killed a person. I believed that the legal system would not unfairly protect officials who lived unjustified lives. At least I thought we would be brought to justice and my fellow citizens could decide what justice was due. This turned out to be untrue. Our case has never been brought before a jury.

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My legal odyssey eventually ended with the United States Supreme Court ruling that the police officer who shot my son could not be held accountable as no case had found this particular behavior – the shooting of a person who According to the facts of this case, stood in her house – was unlawful. The Supreme Court decision was not that the officer had the right to kill my son, but that the officer had not been properly informed that he did not have the right to kill my son.

“Qualified immunity” protected the officer.

Qualified immunity was a foreign concept to me when my son was killed. However, during our litigation, it became a symbol of a culture that police officers should protect at all costs. I firmly believe that the abuses by police officers that have been observed in our country are due in part to the legal protection of qualified immunity that has given officers a free passport to avoid accountability. It protects the officers and tells them to shoot first and think later.

The New Mexico Civil Rights Act, recently passed by the New Mexico House of Representatives, will lift the shield of qualified immunity and create accountability for law enforcement officers who violate rights. Personal experience is powerful in demonstrating how blind law enforcement support can lead to abuse, killing people, and destroying families.

New Mexicans deserve justice when abuse by police and other government actors destroys their lives. You deserve a process where members of the community can hold bad actors accountable. Accountability increases public safety and the likelihood that the police will use excessive force. And it will give a fair result if the police go too far. It is time in New Mexico to end the abuses heralded by qualified immunity.

I didn’t want to be a lawyer to end qualified immunity and advocate justice for victims of police violence, but the role fell on my shoulders when my son Sam Pauly was killed by police violence. I don’t want what happened to my son that rainy night in October to happen to someone else’s child. With the passage of House Bill 4 comes security and a justice system that protects New Mexicans who have been wrongly harmed by police violence. That’s why I support the New Mexico Civil Rights Act.

Daniel Pauly lives in Santa Fe. His son Sam Pauly was killed by State Police gunfire on October 11, 2011 at his home in Glorieta, east of Santa Fe, after his brother was involved in a night-time driving dispute on Interstate 25 that resulted in no injuries. One point of contention is whether responding officers approaching Glorieta’s house have identified each other as police. The brother, who said he feared intruders or someone from the traffic incident, fired warning shots from the back door, and an officer shot and killed Sam Pauly.

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