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Cops given pass for shooting innocent man in his own apartment

There was no warrant and no reason to suspect the apartment resident in Lake County, Florida, of a crime. But police officers who said they were investigating a speeding motorcyclist, to which the man had no links, pounded on the door at 1:30 in the morning.

When Andrew Scott, 26, answered the door, carrying a weapon for defense because of the vigorous knocking at an unlikely hour, an officer shot and killed him.

Now, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has given the officer a pass for the killing, prompting an outraged dissent from four justices on the panel.

The judges contend the outcome “makes it more likely that tragic police shootings will continue to occur.”

The warning, written by Justice Beverly Martin and joined by Charles Wilson, Robin Rosenbaum and Jill Pryor, said: “Andrew Scott and his girlfriend were in their home playing video games late one night when police arrived outside. The police had no warrant and no reason to suspect Mr. Scott or his girlfriend had committed any crime. The officers acknowledge both of these things to be true.

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“Even so, the police tactically surrounded the home’s only exit, drew their guns, repeatedly slammed on the door without identifying themselves as law enforcement, and then shot and killed Scott when he opened the door, as he was stepping back into his home,” they wrote.

The four judges found problems with the majority’s ruling that the police officers’ actions were justified.

“First, under no standard was it reasonable for the police to kill Mr. Scott when he answered the knock at the door to his home. He was not suspected of any crime (much less a violent crime) and he was standing inside his own house without threatening them. Second, the police were not engaged in a permissible ‘knock and talk’ when they killed Mr. Scott.”

The judges continued, “When it upheld these rulings by the district court, the panel (and now a majority of this court) gave a pass to dangerous, unconstitutional police actions.”

Constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, noted government officials “insist that there is nothing unlawful, unreasonable or threatening about the prospect of armed police dressed in SWAT gear knocking on doors in the middle of night and ‘asking’ homeowners to engage in warrantless ‘knock-and-talk’ sessions.”

“However, as Andrew Scott learned, there’s always a price to pay for saying no to such heavy-handed requests by police. If the courts continue to sanction such aggressive, excessive, coercive ‘knock-and-shoot’ tactics, it will give police further incentive to terrorize and kill American citizens without fear of repercussion,” said Whitehead, author of “Battlefield America: The War on the American People.”

The judges who voted to give cops a pass for the killing were Ed Carnes, Gerald Tjoflat, Frank Hull, Stanley Marcus, William Pryor, Adalberto Jordan and Julie Carnes.

They concluded, in the shooting by officers from the Lake City police, that, “No clearly established federal law gave clear and fair notice that Deputy [Richard] Sylvester’s conduct was unlawful.”

“The dissent does not cite any Supreme Court, binding 11th Circuit, or Florida Supreme Court case that would have put Deputy Sylvester on fair and clear notice that the time and manner of his approach on July 15, 2015, was illegal.”

The Rutherford Institute detailed the facts of the case: “On July 15, 2012, Deputy Richard Sylvester spotted a speeding motorcycle while on patrol in Lake County, Florida. Sylvester pursued the motorcycle in his patrol car but lost sight of it. Subsequent reports caused Sylvester to believe that the motorcyclist might be armed, was wanted by another police department, and had been spotted at a nearby apartment complex. Arriving at the complex around 1:30 a.m., Sylvester and three other deputies began knocking on doors close to where a motorcycle was parked, starting with Apartment 114, where a light was on inside. Apartment 114 was occupied by Andrew Scott and Amy Young, who were playing video games and had no connection to the motorcycle or any illegal activity.

“Assuming tactical positions surrounding the door to Apartment 114, the deputies had their guns drawn and ready to shoot. Sylvester, without announcing he was a police officer, then banged loudly and repeatedly on the door, causing a neighbor to open his door. When questioned by a deputy, the neighbor explained that the motorcycle’s owner did not live in Apartment 114. This information was not relayed to Sylvester. Unnerved by the banging at such a late hour, Andrew Scott retrieved his handgun before opening the door. When Scott saw a shadowy figure holding a gun outside his door, he retreated into his apartment only to have Sylvester immediately open fire. Sylvester fired six shots, three of which hit and killed Scott.”

The dissent pointed out that officers could not identify the motorcycle that was speeding, and they just assumed that the vehicle, and another identified in a nearby jurisdiction as carrying an assault and battery suspect, were the same. A third motorcycle was one found in front of the victim’s apartment complex.

The tragedy happened in literally two seconds, the judges wrote.

“Mr. Scott began opening his door inward at medium speed while holding his gun pointed safely down at the ground. At no point did Mr. Scott raise his gun or step outside of his home. To the contrary, as soon as Mr. Scott saw Deputy Syulvester – a shadowy figure hiding outside the door, clutching a pistol – Mr. Scott began retreating inside and closing his door.

“This seems like a normal enough response, but Deputy Sylvester says he viewed Mr. Scott’s retreat as an attempt to ‘get a position of cover [behind the door] where he can engage me.'”

Sylvester fired six shots, of which three struck and killed the victim, who “never even chambered a round.”

The two “clear constitutional violations” included “the reflex shooting and killing of Mr. Scott,” and “the aggressive police tactics that led to this tragedy far exceeded the scope of a consensual, information-gathering ‘knock and talk,'” the dissent said.

The dissent wrote the consequence of the ruling is that “core constitutional rights” are weakened.

A lawsuit brought by Scott’s parents and girlfriend was rejected because of the immunity approved by the court for the officer who killed him.

“Police State USA: How Orwell’s Nightmare Is Becoming Our Reality” chronicles how America has arrived at the point of being a de facto police state, and what led to an out-of-control government that increasingly ignores the Constitution. Order today!