Erickson v. City of Lakewood (Colorado 2020) 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 175459

Excessive Force; Bystander Liability; Conspiracy; Monell Liability

911 call from roommate stating subject was crawling around in the attic, had been drinking alcohol and possibly smoking marijuana and may have a warrant out for his arrest. Prior to arrival, it was confirmed that subject had 3 outstanding misdemeanor warrants, none of which involved violence. Subject also had no violent criminal history. The 911 caller did not report any violence. The LE on scene came up with a plan to apprehend subject using PSD Finn. LE first tried texting and calling subject, telling him to come out or a K9 would be deployed. Subject claimed he did not get any of these messages as he was asleep. As LE entered the residence, they made loud announcements for subject to come out. There was no response to this either. Finn was then deployed with LE following Finn. Finn entered subject’s bedroom and when human LE got in the room, they saw Finn had subject by the neck. Handler attempted to pull Finn off instead of giving a verbal command; the other LE officers restrained subject’s hands, rendering subject unable to attempt to dislodge Finn. Finn was pulled off, but then his collar came off and he re-engaged subject on the neck. Subject had significant and permanent injuries.

Subject alleged excessive force when 1) Finn was released and 2) when LE failed to immediately release Finn from subject. Subject sued not only the handler but all the officers who were present. The court held that the officer who called and texted subject and the two officers who restrained subject’s hands had sufficient time and opportunity to intervene to release Finn and therefore the excessive force claim against them was allowed to go forward. A claim that they conspired to use excessive force was also allowed to go forward. However, a Monell liability claim was dismissed because subject could not show that the department failed in their duty in any way or that the policy regarding PSDs was deficient.