Trinell King drove his girlfriend's car to take a friend, Donavan Brown, when an officer from the Warrior Police Department overtook him because the car did not have a license plate.
King, who is black, had neither proof of insurance nor a driver's license on that September day in 2015, but gave the official a photo ID.
Brown, on the other hand, gave the wrong name, and while the officer was back in his police vehicle, King Brown said that, according to court records, he should be honest with the officer in a case involving the incident. Brown told King that he had pending warrants and a gun. He would run.
Brown got out of the car and ran, and the officer ordered King to get out at gunpoint, handcuffed him, and put him in the back of the police car. King fully cooperated and told the officer that Brown had a gun. Even the responding officers in court rulings agreed that King would cooperate fully.
King was soon surrounded by numerous white officers, one of whom said in a statement that King was "extremely cooperative from the start" and "willing to give them information without really asking."
King's only crime was driving without insurance or a license, not something the warrior police usually arrest someone for, officials said in statements, but he was handcuffed while officials tried to force him to catch the armed man who was the scene was running.
"For him (ie for King), you don't want to help us, we'll throw – we'll hit you with this charge, you'll start persuading us, we'll be f – about you," said King, an officer said him while testifying in a deposit.
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Officers repeatedly threatened King that if he did not help, they would "overtake" him.
King said he was "nervous" and "scared" – he felt "threatened". He believed his life was in danger, according to court records, and after nearly two hours of coercion, he agreed to go through a dangerous stabbing operation to catch Brown. Deputy police officers denied that they had forced King to help them with the stabbing operation, and said it was his idea to do so based on these records.
"With the negotiations, the threats, everything they told me if I don't cooperate, they'll charge me and they'll surprise me. So on the streets it means it can mean anything. It can mean being shot. It can mean being anything. My life – "King said in a dismissal.
An officer who followed the plan called Brown and put a cell phone on King's ear while he was handcuffed. King told Brown what he was told: the police had let him go. He could come and collect Brown. The police told King to drive his girlfriend's car, pick up Brown, and drag him over again.
Once again, an officer said to King: "If you are over us, we will get over you," the court documents said.
After King Brown picked up, the officials decided to pull him before talking about it. Brown drew his gun and told King that he had to "shoot" the officials, according to court records.
"King couldn't stop the car before Brown started shooting and the officers returned the fire," King's lawyers wrote in a lawsuit.
King, who was not given a bulletproof vest, was hit by bullets five times and there were 20 bullet holes in the car. Brown was shot 13 times, but remarkably, both survived. An officer was shot, but protected by a vest. King underwent multiple operations, but lost the use of one arm.
King's case is an example from Alabama of how legal immunity law prevents some who have been harmed by law enforcement from seeking relief in court. Qualified immunity, a controversial doctrine established by the Supreme Court precedent, protects government officials who have been sued in their individual capacity unless their actions violate established precedents.
King sued, but a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the case in 2017 before he was brought to trial for qualified immunity and a three-judge panel of the U.S. District 11 Court of Appeals in a June 5 ruling also found that officials were protected by qualified immunity.
(What is Qualified Immunity?)
Despite the judgments, witnesses said that the officers' actions were inappropriate.
Daniel Busken, a retired chief of police and law enforcement adviser, testified for King in a statement that officials should have known that they would endanger King's life.
Busken said the police "knew, or should have known, that their plan to force Mr. King to take part in Brown's capture poses a significant threat to Mr. King's security … and an unpredictable situation for Mr. "King" because Brown "Was a desperate man in a desperate situation that had shown how desperate he was."
Another officer said in a statement that he knew of no plan to protect the king's life or that the department had ever carried out such an stab.
"Still, the accused were planning to trick five vehicles and seven armed officers, all of whom wanted to aim their guns at Brown," King's lawyers wrote in an appeal.
The judges ruled that King could not bring his case to a jury to decide whether the officials should be held accountable for nearly losing his life – not because his case was unfounded, but because of the controversial jurisprudence qualified immunity
King's lawyers have appealed the 11th Circuit Panel decision to the entire 11th Circuit Court, urging all Circuit Judges to reconsider and allow the case to be heard by a jury.
The lawyers argue that the officials violated his constitutional protection. The June 5 ruling culminated in tensions between peaceful demonstrators and the police, some of whom reacted with tear gas and so-called rubber bullets.
The judges, in their opinion, wrote that "even if the king's testimony is true and all reasonable conclusions are in his favor, there is no evidence that the officials have threatened him with false accusations" – because the official did not say charged what he could be if he didn't follow her plan.
"As for the alleged physical violence threats, the evidence is similarly thin," the judge wrote. "If the officers had told King," help us or we'll fuck you "(or something like that), King would have a more convincing argument, but he didn't say that."
"Instead, King testified that the officials had told him:" (If) you don't want to help us, we'll throw – we'll hit you with this charge, you'll start over and over again we'll take care of you . I don't know where you can get your car back, ”wrote the judges.
King's lawyers, citing the 11th Circle, argue that the case should be heard by a jury of King's colleagues and that the all-white judges on the jury are "good people with good intentions", but that they are not in are able. Contact with "the shared experiences of people, particularly black Americans, and the reasonable conclusions they would draw from the entirety of the evidence presented".
"Suffice it to say that black and other colored Americans, as well as a significant number of whites and other Americans, because of their different life experiences, would come to a different outcome than the panel, so the founders insisted that the seventh amendment requires legal action through a jury and not a jury that does not have the same life experience, ”wrote King's lawyers.
King told APR that he had no choice and was forced to risk his life to help the officers he had worked with from the start.
"I cannot believe that the courts gave the officials who made me help them obtain their suspect immunity after they forced me to follow their plan to catch him. They knew that he was armed and dangerous. While I was waiting, they put on their bulletproof vests and let me pick him up without any protection, "King said in a statement." I had done everything I could to work together and even told them his name that he had a gun and warrants against him, but then they forced me to help them catch him. "
"I had no choice because they made it clear that if I didn't follow their plan, they would hurt me," King continued. "There was no doubt about that. I was a black man, surrounded by all those white bulls that threatened me. How can judges sit there and say what a jury would think about it? "
Spurred on by the death of George Floyd, a black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, protesters and advocates for reform of the criminal justice system are calling for an end to qualified immunity, which they believe will allow the police to take responsibility for that To avoid harm to the public.
On June 19, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed a series of law reform reforms in honor of June 19, including a way for Coloradans to sue the police in a state court if their rights were violated. The Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity Act states that "qualified immunity is not a defense of liability".
Colorado is the first state to pass a law that prohibits qualified immunity as protection for civil servants. However, state law cannot prevent these officials from claiming qualified immunity if a case is brought before a federal court rather than a state court.
This could change if the US Supreme Court decides against such protection. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court missed the opportunity to rule on the matter.
It was the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1967 Pierson v Ray case that established qualified immunity as a doctrine to protect against frivolous lawsuits, and over the years the courts have expanded protection and the doctrine still has its supporters.
Democrats have pushed for extensive police reforms, including an end to qualified immunity, after Floyd's murder, but many Republicans argue that doing so would result in frivolous lawsuits and prevent people from becoming law enforcement officers.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a series of police reforms in a largely partisan vote on June 25, but the Trump administration is threatened with a veto and the measure receives little support from Republican lawmakers, of whom only three have broken their ranks and are in favor have voted the house bill.
Democrats rejected a GOP proposal in the U.S. Senate, saying that the bill had not gone far enough to effectively halt the bill and keep the matter pending, with protests against police brutality in large parts of the country.
Birmingham lawyer Rip Andrews, one of King's lawyers, told APR in a statement that he hopes the entire 11th circuit will look at the case in the current context.
"Qualified immunity has so far prevented Trinell from spending his day in court before a jury. Win or lose – a day that the Seventh Amendment is said to guarantee, ”said Andrews. "Now his only chance is the hope that the entire eleventh circle will read his story in the context of our time and agree to hear his calling."