Campus Cop Went Too Far in Shooting, Judges Told

     (CN) — A University of Arizona Police Department corporal used excessive force when he fired four shots at a mentally ill woman carrying a knife, the woman’s attorney told the Ninth Circuit on Monday afternoon.
     Amy Hughes sued Andrew Kisela, then a corporal in the University of Arizona Police Department, in 2011 following the shooting.
     Kisela and Alex Garcia, an officer-in-training, responded to a call in 2010 reporting a woman stabbing a tree with a knife near the University of Arizona campus.
     When they arrived at the scene, they found Hughes walking in the yard of her home with a 12-inch kitchen knife in her hand. Kisela and Garcia were joined at the scene by a third officer, Lindsay Kunz.
     According to court records, the officers repeatedly told her to drop the knife. When she did not comply, Kisela fired four shots through a chain-link fence surrounding the home, hitting Hughes.
     The two other officers did not fire at Hughes.
     After she was hospitalized for her injuries, it was disclosed that Hughes had a history of mental illness.
     The Pima County Attorney’s Office found Kisela did not use excessive force against Hughes because she was near another woman, Sharon Chadwick, at the time she had a knife in her hand.
     U.S. Senior District Judge Frank Zapata agreed, finding Kisela’s use of force was reasonable and that he had immunity for his actions.
     Vince Rabago, an attorney for Hughes, told a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit that the case was a classic “shoot first, ask questions later situation.”
     Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon said Zapata’s decision was “very cursory.”
     Rabago said that the case was a study in contradictions, adding: “The court considered an allegation that Ms. Hughes had been screaming before the incident, which was not known.”
     Circuit Judge Ronald Gould asked Rabago how Hughes was holding the knife during the incident.
     “The only evidence that suggested it pointed upwards was from [Kisela’s] self-serving statement,” Rabago said. “If you look at the totality of statements he did make that day, there’s a certain lack of credibility.”
     Berzon cut Rabago’s answer short.
     “We aren’t here for that,” she said.
     Rabago then argued that Kisela could have used a Taser instead of a gun during the incident, if he was concerned about Chadwick’s safety.
     “Officer Kisela already viewed it as looking at an armed suspect,” Rabago said. “Immediately upon seeing the knife without any further evidence, he draws the gun and yells ‘Knife.'”
     Robert McCright, an assistant attorney general for Arizona, argued that Kisela had to take the totality of the circumstances into consideration during the incident.
     “All he knows is she was using a knife on a tree,” Berzon replied.
     “The point is that this is what he came into the encounter with, the idea that there was a woman with a knife,” McCright said. “This is not a butter knife. It may be a knife from a kitchen, but it has a big long blade.”
     McCright told the panel that all three of the officers pulled their guns.
     “If she were a fine person, you would think she’s being defiant, she must have something in mind,” Berzon said. “The fact that she does not drop the knife has a different significance.”
     McCright agreed.
     “In this case the immediate threat is there,” he said.
     According to news reports, Kisela was fired by the police department for secretly recording a conversation between two police dispatchers in 2011. Kisella was barred in 2014 from working as a police officer in Arizona.
     
     

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