OKLAHOMA CITY – Today, the ACLU of Oklahoma joins the law firm of Maples Nix & Diesselhorst, P.L.L.C. challenging the application of qualified immunity in the killing of Brian Simms, Jr. by off-duty Oklahoma City police officer, Paul Galyon.
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, even though he was off duty and working private security for an event venue on the night he killed Brian.
“I just miss him. I want to touch him. I want to hold him,” said Ms. Murrey. “I’m tired of them killing our children.”
The Supreme Court created the first version of qualified immunity more than 50 years ago, giving people the right to sue state government officials for violating their constitutional rights and holding them accountable. But in the years since, the court has drastically expanded that defense, excluding police officers and shielding them from accountability, even when they maliciously violate people’s right.
“Officer Galyon acted neither reasonably nor in his official capacity when he shot Brian at least nine times and killed him,” 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.”
The District Court’s decision and the killing of Bryan Simms Jr. are the very reason millions of people have taken to the streets to protest police violence. It is a reminder of the systemic racism Black people face daily. And it is another example in the long list of reasons why the criminal legal system needs to change.
“In the wake of the countless Black lives lost at the hands of police, we’re demanding justice,” said Megan Lambert, ACLU of Oklahoma staff attorney. “As long as police officers believe they can act on racism and fear with impunity, these senseless shootings will continue. We will continue to hear about people like George Floyd, Brianna Taylor, Terrence Crutcher, Isaiah Lewis, Brian Simms, Jr., and so many countless others.”