OKLAHOMA CITY - The ACLU of Oklahoma legal team joined lead counsel, Jacob Diesselhorst with Maples, Nix & Diesselhorst, PLLC in yesterday's filing at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the application of qualified immunity in Redd v. City of Oklahoma City, et al. This case stems from the killing of Brian Simms Jr. in 2013 by off-duty Oklahoma City police officer, Paul Galyon.
Simms, Jr., 24, died in his car, bleeding to death after being shot at least nine times by an off-duty police officer working as armed, private security during a concert at the Farmers Public Market in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma Medical Examiner’s Office ruled his death a homicide.
The filing in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals follows a seven year battle by Brian’s mother, Charlesetta Murrey, most recently concluding with a federal wrongful death lawsuit against Officer Gaylon at the District Court level. The court granted Officer Galyon qualified immunity.
“The effects of my son’s death still hit me just as hard today as they did the day he was killed,” said Charlesetta Murrey, Simms, Jr.’s mother. “As a mother, it is my job to protect my children. To know he was alone, with no one there to help him will haunt me the rest of my life. No more hugs or kisses. No waking up to him fixing the best pancakes or calling me on the phone. He was the light of my life.”
“Qualified immunity” is a judicially created legal doctrine that shields law enforcement from accountability for misconduct, such as excessive or deadly force. Over the years, the court has drastically expanded the doctrine, but it was never meant to become the near impenetrable defense we see today in such cases as Breonna Taylor, Stephon Clark, Terence Crutcher, and Isiah Lewis. And it was certainly never meant to apply to off-duty police acting in their personal capacity as private security.
“As we said before, Officer Galyon acted neither reasonably nor in his official capacity when he shot Brian at least nine times and killed him while he sat peacefully in a parked car.” said Jacob Diesselhorst, lead counsel with Maples, Nix & Diesselhorst, PLLC. “And yet the District Court shielded him from liability and denied justice to Brian and his family. We will never give up our fight for Brian Simms, Jr. until justice is achieved.”
The ACLU of Oklahoma continues to call for an overhaul of Oklahoma’s policing practices, calling for the elimination of qualified immunity as whole.
“Qualified immunity and the countless other laws that allow Black and Brown people to be murdered and brutalized by police with near impunity urgently need to be addressed. Otherwise, we will continue to see law enforcement be empowered to act in disregard of constitutional rights, whether they are acting in their official police capacity or in a personal one,” said Michael Redman, interim legal director for the ACLU of Oklahoma.
With yesterday’s filing, Ms. Murrey seeks justice not only for her son, but for all people, especially the many young Black men wrongfully killed by law enforcement who are never held accountable because of qualified immunity.