The family of Samuel Pauly, shot to death by a State Police officer in 2011 in Pauly’s house in Glorieta, is pleased that a wrongful death suit over the shooting can proceed despite a U.S. Supreme Court decision that found the officer didn’t violate “clearly established” law when he fired the fatal shot without calling out a warning, according to the family’s attorney.
“This is not the ruling we would have chosen,” said Lee Hunt of Santa Fe, the Pauly family’s attorney, referring to Monday’s Supreme Court opinion. “But the Paulys will still have their day in court and demonstrate why they think they were wronged.”
“From our side, we’re pleased the case goes forward,” said Hunt on Tuesday.
The high court found that Officer Ray White was entitled to “qualified immunity” from civil liability because he didn’t violate any established federal law.
But the Supreme Court didn’t take a position on whether two other officers also at the shooting scene have immunity and also left open the possibility that a case could still be made against White, based on how factual disputes about his role in the shooting play out.
Officers went to Pauly’s house after a road-rage incident on Interstate 25 involving Pauly’s brother late the night of Oct. 4, 2011. Nobody was hurt in the interstate incident.
White arrived at the rural Glorieta scene a couple of minutes after the two other State Police officers, Kevin Truesdale and Michael Mariscal.
The other officers shouted to Pauly and his brother, Daniel, who were both inside, that they had the house surrounded after the brothers had called out, “Who are you?” and “What do you want?”
Truesdale has said he also yelled “State Police, open the door,” but Daniel Pauly has maintained that the brothers had no way of knowing who was outside their door and that they thought the visitors might be people connected to the earlier road rage incident on I-25 involving Daniel.
Daniel Pauly said he fired two warning shots out the back of the house and yelled, “We have guns,” which White heard as he approached the house.
The Santa Fe District Attorney’s Office has said evidence shows that Samuel Pauly also fired a shot toward officers. He was killed by a gunshot fired by officer White, who had taken cover behind a stone wall.
The Supreme Court ruling noted that officers agreed after responding to the 911 call about the road-rage incident that there was no probable cause to arrest Pauly but decided to go to his house to get his side of the story, to “make sure nothing else happened” and to find out whether he was drunk.
See the Journal’s full story on the Supreme Court opinion here: