Cruz v. City of Anaheim

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Evidence
  • Date Filed: 08-28-2014
  • Case #: 12-55481
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Chief Judge Kozinski for the Court; Circuit Judge Clifton and Senior District Judge Rakoff
  • Full Text Opinion

A judge must examine all evidence in the record, including circumstantial evidence, in determining the consistency and credibility of a police officer’s story.

A confidential informant reported to the Anaheim police several times regarding Ceasar Cruz’s (“Cruz”) illegal activities, including that he carried a gun, as well as his vehicle and location information. Following the Anaheim police’s traffic stop of Cruz, Cruz attempted to escape, but eventually followed officers’ commands and began exiting his vehicle. Four officers claimed they saw Cruz reach for his waistband as he exited his vehicle resulting in them opening fire on Cruz. Cruz’s relatives sued Anaheim claiming wrongful death. The case came to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit after the district court granted summary judgment for all defendants. Due to factual discrepancies, this court determined that the district court erred in its ruling. Cruz’s behavior and gesture would justify opening fire; however, as it turned it out, Cruz did not even have a gun in his waistband. A reasonable jury could have found that someone without a gun in his waistband would not have been reaching there. The officers’ testimony was the only evidence relied on by the district court. The court stated that under Scott v. Henich, "a judge must carefully examine all the evidence in the record…to determine whether the officer’s story is internally consistent and consistent with other known facts; this includes circumstantial evidence that, if believed, would tend to discredit the police officer’s story.” The circumstantial evidence concerning whether Cruz actually did reach for his waistband and the reliability of the officers’ testimonies caused this court to reverse the summary judgment as to some of the officers and affirm as to another. AFFIRMED AS TO BROWN; REVERSED AND REMANDED AS TO ALL OTHER DEFENDANTS.

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