HOUSTON – The family of a kidnapping victim killed by an agent in a botched 2018 FBI raid is appealing an appeals court decision that the agent who fired the shot will be able to get qualified immunity.
Ulises Valladares, 47, was blindfolded and bound when he was shot and killed by the federal agent at a home in northeast Houston while a team was trying to rescue him, according to investigators.
At the time of the incident, former Houston police Chief Art Acevedo said two agents were breaching a window of a darkened room at the back of the home where Valladares was being held against his will while another team entered the front of the home. The tool being used to break the window fell inside the home, and one of the agents used the front of his rifle to continue the breach, Acevedo said. Acevedo said Valladares grabbed the agent’s rifle and began pulling it. The agent felt that he was about to lose the gun and fired, hitting Valladares, Acevedo said. Vallardes later died.
READ MORE: Who was Ulises Valladares?
Valladares’ family spoke Tuesday saying their fight for justice is far from over. According to the family, the fight is now against a ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals out of New Orleans that granted qualified immunity to the agent. That immunity is used to protect a government official from a civil lawsuit unless the plaintiff’s constitutional rights were clearly violated.
Despite the court’s ruling that the FBI agent did not violate Valladares’ constitutional right when he was killed, the family is arguing that the shooting was a clear violation of his rights. The court said the agent’s actions were unintentional, but Valladares’ family is saying otherwise.
According to the family, qualified immunity protects bad officers. Valladares’ half-sister said she openly discussed the controversy of qualified immunity with Valladares’ 15-year-old son.
“I think it should be a conversation in many homes because citizens should know what is going on,” she said. “They should know their rights. They should know what kind of misuse of legislation that there is.”
If the court rejects the appeal, the family can continue the process through the Supreme Court.