Gonzalez v. City of Anaheim

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 05-13-2013
  • Case #: 11-56360
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge O’Scannlain for the Court; Circuit Judges Trott; Dissent by Circuit Judge Clifton
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the totality of the circumstances, an officer trapped within a moving vehicle with a suspect attempting to flee the scene of a lawful stop is reasonable in his use of deadly force if the threat is severe, immediate, and the suspect is actively resisting arrest.

After being nearly hit by a vehicle weaving within its lane, driven by Adolf Gonzalez, Officers Wyatt and Ellis pulled him over. Each officer saw Gonzalez attempt to conceal a baggy, presumably, containing drugs. Gonzalez did not comply with the officer’s requests to turn off the vehicle and not move his hands. Force was used including, striking Gonzalez three times on the arm with a flashlight, an attempt to apply a carotid restraint to gain control of Gonzalez’s arms, punching Gonzalez in the head and face, and striking Gonzalez in the back of the head with a flashlight three times. Gonzalez got the vehicle into gear and pulled away at a rapid pace with Officer Wyatt inside of the vehicle. At which point Officer Wyatt shot Gonzalez in the head. Gonzalez died shortly thereafter. Gonzalez’s family brought claims for violations of Gonzalez’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable and excessive force and their Fourteenth Amendment right to familial association. The district court granted summary judgment for the officers, holding that officers may use a reasonable amount of force to gain compliance. The Ninth Circuit affirmed holding the force used was not excessive. Applying the factors from Graham v. Connor, the panel found all weighing in favor of the officers. These factors include (1) the severity of the offense (2) the immediacy of the threat posed to the officers and (3) whether the offender was “actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.” The panel found that even if the van was traveling at a slower speed than stated by the officers the life of the officer in the vehicle was still threatened and deadly force was acceptable under the totality of the circumstances. AFFIRMED.

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