Amarillo, TX - A wrongful death suit in a three year-old local officer-involved shooting still stands, according to a recent federal ruling.
Yesterday (Aug. 7), Judge Mary Lou Robinson denied a motion to dismiss a civil suit against Department of Public Safety Trooper Chad Mullenix in the shooting death of Israel Leija, Jr.
According to court documents, Tulia police officers attempted to arrest Leija on a warrant for a parole violation on March 23rd of 2010. Leija fled, leading police and state troopers north up I-27 from Tulia to Randall County just outside Canyon.
Court documents state Leija had twice called Tulia Police on his cell phone and claimed he had a gun and would kill the pursuing officers if they didn't call off the chase. It was later determined that Leija did not, in fact, have a gun.
The chase at times reached 110 mph, and DPS had set up a roadblock and spike strips ahead of his path at the overpass at Cemetery Road and I-27. As Leija neared that point, DPS Trooper Chad Mullenix fired six shots at the vehicle, striking Leija himself four times.
Leija lost control of his vehicle and rolled several times. He was pronounced dead on scene. Court documents show that toxicology results showed alcohol and cocaine present in his system at the time of death.
Leija's family then filed criminal charges against Mullenix, but a Randall County grand jury ultimately rejected those charges.
The family then filed a civil suit against the DPS as a whole and Mullenix as an individual.
Mullenix moved to have the civil suit against him dismissed on grounds of "qualified immunity," which is a defense for government officials acting within the parameters and functions of their position.
Judge Robinson denied that motion after a DPS investigation concluded that Mullenix's actions were not justified.