Gonzalez v. City of Anaheim

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Procedure
  • Date Filed: 03-31-2014
  • Case #: 11-56360
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: En Banc. Circuit Court Judge Clifton for the Court; Circuit Court Judges Bea, Berzon, Gould, Graber, McKeown, Siverman, and Tallman; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Circuit Court Judge Trott; Dissent by Chief Judge Kozinski
  • Full Text Opinion

Summary judgment for an excessive use of deadly force claim should not be granted if, based on the totality of the circumstances, a jury could reasonably rule for either party.

Officers Daron Wyatt and Matthew Ellis, of the Anaheim Police Department, first came into contact with the late Adolph Anthony Sanchez Gonzalez around 2 a.m. in 2009. The officers pulled him over due to suspicious driving and approached from both sides. Gonzalez would not show the officers his hands, and eventually raised them up to his mouth, as if to swallow something. Gonzalez resisted the officers’ commands and attempts to restrain him. Officer Wyatt got in the passenger side door. Officer Ellis soon lost his hold on Gonzalez through the driver’s window, and Gonzalez sped off in the car, while Wyatt remained in the passenger seat. After attempts to control or stop either Gonzalez or the car, Wyatt shot Gonzalez in the head. Gonzalez’s mother and daughter claim that the officers used excessive deadly force in violation of the Fourth Amendment and deprived them of a familial relationship with Gonzalez in violation of their Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights. As to the first claim, to determine whether an officer’s use of force is reasonable one must consider the totality of the circumstances, “the severity of the crime at issue,” whether, if practical, a warning was given before the use of deadly force, whether the suspect was “actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight,” and, most importantly, “whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others.” The court held that a jury could reasonably find that the officers used excessive force, and reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment for the defendants. In order for the plaintiffs to succeed on the second claim, they must prove “that the officers’ use of force shocked the conscience.” This standard was not met. AFFIRMED IN PART AND REVERSED IN PART; REMANDED

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