Lal v. California

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Rights § 1983
  • Date Filed: 03-31-2014
  • Case #: 12-15266
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Judge Callahan for the Court; Circuit Judge M. Smith and Senior District Judge Hellerstein
  • Full Text Opinion

Ninth Circuit upholds qualified immunity in officer involved shooting where "suspect posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others." Further, qualified immunity "does not become less if [the] assailant is motivated to commit 'suicide by cop.'"

Kamal Lal ("Lal") was shot and killed by California Highway Patrol ("CHP") officers at the conclusion of a high speed chase. His wife, daughter, and estate filed this case, bringing claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California law. Lal led CHP officers on a 45 minute high speed chase before losing control of his vehicle and stopping in a ditch alongside the freeway. When Lal exited the vehicle, he was instructed by officers to put his hands in the air. Lal complied momentarily, but then shouted for officers to "just shoot me, just shoot me." Lal then tried to seriously injure himself by smashing a large rock against his head and by attempting to impale himself on a four-foot pole. Lal proceeded to walk toward two CHP officers with a football sized rock over his head. He was instructed to drop the rock or they were going to have to shoot. Lal continued to advance and when he was within a few feet of the officers, the two officers shot Lal eight times. Plaintiffs' brought claims under §1983, alleging that the officers violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and "California law for negligence, wrongful death, and assault and battery." The district court granted summary judgment for defendants' on the basis of qualified immunity. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reviewed whether under the totality of the circumstances, "the suspect posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officers of others." The Court held the district court's conclusions to be sound and determined that under the circumstances, Lal "posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officers, and that, even if he did not, a reasonable officer could have thought he did." Further, the Ninth Circuit held that "a police officer's immunity does not become less if his assailant is motivated to commit 'suicide by cop.'" AFFIRMED

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