Decedent, who had a history with LE of mental illness, had engaged in a physical attack against a civilian. LE responded and found decedent. An attempt to engage him was rebuffed by decedent saying nonsensical things. Decedent was escalating and handler felt decedent was going to become violent. Handler attempted a control hold to handcuff him and a fight ensued. At that point, handler popped cruiser door to release PSD. Handler commanded PSD to come to him, but did not order PSD to attack. PSD bit the handler instead of decedent. Handler yelled at PSD to let go, which PSD did. While PSD distracted handler, however, decedent continued to attack handler, punching him in the head at least twice. Handler testified that he was afraid decedent’s punches were going to incapacitate him, allowing decedent access to his firearm and he believed that at least one of the blows may have broken bones in his face. Handler shot and killed decedent. PSD then bit decedent. Handler suffered a black eye and a broken finger.
Court used Graham v. Connor as the standard to determine whether this was a reasonable use of force. 1: “The nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual’s 4th Amendment interests against the countervailing governmental interests at stake.” Court stated that being shot was the highest level of intrusion. 2: Court addressed the Graham factors, finding for LE on each (severity of crime, threat to LE or others and resistance). 3: the court then weighed the “intrusion” of being shot against the Graham factors and concluded that no excessive force was used. The court also held that handler was entitled to qualified immunity on excessive force. On the negligence claim, however, the court stated, “A reasonable juror could conclude that [PSD]’s actions materially increased the danger that [handler] faced, and led to [handler}’s use of deadly force. Although the court believes it unlikely, it cannot rule out that a reasonable juror could find that [handler]acted negligently in shooting [decedent] under those circumstances.” Therefore, the court allowed the negligence claim to move forward.