End federal agents’ license to kill – Local police officers should not be able to claim ‘federal’ immunity from prosecution.

USA Today – by James Bovard

Do federal agents need a license to kill in order to protect us?  Unfortunately, federal judges are giving law enforcement agents blanket immunity when they shoot Americans while the agents are on the job. It would be difficult to imagine a greater violation of equal rights under the law or a bigger mockery of due process.  

After Larry Jackson, Jr., of Austin, Texas, was killed by a policeman in 2013, a local prosecutor indicted the policeman on manslaughter charges. Jackson’s family claimed that he had been executed by the policeman but a federal judge granted immunity from prosecution because the policeman “was acting in his capacity as a federal officer.” The ruling in the Austin case could extend federal immunity from prosecution for shootings to “hundreds, if not thousands, of state and local police officers who participate in federal task forces,” the Washington Post noted.

Federal officers have been involved in 33 killings so far this year. The Justice Department almost never prosecutes federal agents for shootings in the line of duty, and the feds have invoked the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution to block state and local prosecutions of federal agents in recent decades. The ruling in the Austin case “raises the question of when, if ever, a federal law enforcement officer can be charged with a crime for killing someone in the line of duty,” the Post noted.

The best-known case of immunity for federal officers involves Lon Horiuchi, the FBI sniper who in 1992 gunned down 42-year-old Vicki Weaver as she stood in a cabin doorway in Ruby Ridge, Idaho holding her 10 month-old-baby. Horiuchi previously shother husband, Randy Weaver, who was outside the cabin and under indictment on a federal firearms charge. A confidential Justice Department report condemned Horiuchifor taking a shot with a high-powered rifle through a cabin door when he believed someone was standing behind it. But other Justice Department and FBI officials warned that permitting Horiuchi to be prosecuted would have “an enormously chilling effect on federal operations, especially law enforcement.” A local prosecutor indicted Horiuchi on manslaughter charges anyhow.

But federal judge Edward Lodge ruled in 1998 that Horiuchi could not be tried for killing Vicki Weaver because he was a federal agent on duty, and thus effectively exempt from any jurisdiction of state courts. Lodge focused on Horiuchi’s “subjective beliefs”: as long as Horiuchi supposedly did not believe he was violating anyone’s rights or acting wrongfully, then he could not be guilty. The judge even blamed Vicki Weaver for her own death. Lodge decreed that “it would be objectively reasonable for Mr. Horiuchi to believe that one would not expect a mother to place herself and her baby behind an open door outside the cabin after a shot had been fired and her husband had called out that he had been hit.” Thus, if an FBI agent unjustifiably shoots one family member, the government apparently receives a presumptive right to shoot any other family member who fails to hide.

Prior to Horiuchi killing Vicki Weaver, 14-year-old Sammy Weaver and a family friendencountered a team of three undercover U.S. marshals who had taken up a “defensive position” not far from the Weaver’s residence; one of the marshals fatally shot Sammy. According to the friend, Sammy was leaving the scene when he was shot.

Even though the marshals’ statements and testimony on the conflict were riddled with contradictions, the Marshals Service gave its highest valor award to the marshal who killed the young boy and the other undercover marshals who provoked a firefight (in which one marshal was killed).

Judges tend to presume that killings by federal agents are immune from prosecution even though agencies are notorious for covering up the confrontations. As the Postnoted, “details about shootings involving federal officers tend to be particularly closely held.” It took the Post almost two months to simply learn the name of a man killed during a recent FBI pornography raid in Chester, Penn.

It is absurd to presume that police are guilty any time they shoot a private citizen during a confrontation. But it is equally absurd to presume that all law enforcement agents are sacrosanct and all their killings justified. America is at risk of becoming a two-tiered society: those whom the law fails to bind and those whom the law fails to protect.

James Bovard is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy and a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.


7 thoughts on “End federal agents’ license to kill – Local police officers should not be able to claim ‘federal’ immunity from prosecution.

  1. seems to me they .. yes they, made this a shoot first and ask questions later kind of interaction

    and now they are just waking up to that fact , and so are we

  2. Given that ALL towns, cities, counties, states and federal institutions / agencies are CORPORATIONS and ALL employees of such are CORPORATE employees one must ask oneself …..how is it they have jurisdiction / authority over anyone? Answer: they do not! It would be like someone working for McDonalds arresting you or tasing you or shooting you! Even if we had ‘government’ in place still one would have to ask oneself …..how is it government can claim to have jurisdiction/authority over anyone? Answer: they do not! No one ‘represents’ me…….man has been defrauded for millennia ……

  3. “…..judges are giving law enforcement agents blanket immunity when they shoot Americans…”

    Yes, we’ve noticed this, and it’s probably why a judge caught a few bullets in her driveway a couple days ago. I didn’t hear anyone crying about it, either.

    1. its ironic dont you think.. when they know the reasons for why its coming back to bite them , yet they continue , now its possible someone has taken it to the judicial level by bringing the pain to the judges desk , and rightfully so ..why should they be immune to what they have created .. i say give it to them in SPADES!!

      they should feel the pain of their own creation .. soon quick and hard

  4. I’d like to see how well they do, claiming immunity from a bullet .. because thats what the outcome is from all this crap

  5. They may be immune from justice in the corrupt legal system, but they’re not immune to vigilante justice. I think they realize that, since that murdering, cowardly bastard Lon Horiuchi seems to have been keeping a rather low profile ever since Ruby Ridge.

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published.