Nuzzo v. Devine (Connecticut 2020) 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 189832

Excessive Use of Force

Subject was mentally ill and intoxicated, as well as armed with a range bag full of weapons, so subject’s family called LE for assistance. LE arrived, found subject lucid and nonthreatening, but drunk, and cautioned him against driving while intoxicated. Subject then came to believe that he was in imminent danger and threatened suicide, cutting his wrist with a large knife which left blood splatters on the floor. Family called LE again, and LE was able to hear subject in the background threatening to burn the house down. When LE arrived, subject crawled out a window onto the roof of the house. LE found a bloodied knife and a trail of blood that led to a sword sticking out of the ground (at that time, LE did not have a context for these findings). LE summoned back up as they believed subject to be at large in an area that was relatively rural, but was only a short distance from a school where children would be soon arriving. Subject was watching all of this and continued to text threats to his wife. After several hours, subject re-entered the house and called LE to say he wanted to surrender. LE told him to leave the house without weapons while staying on the phone with LE. Subject came out and was in the front yard but refused to drop to the ground as demanded. Handler saw that subject had something in his right hand and deployed his PSD. Almost simultaneously, another handler on scene deployed his PSD. Both PSDs engaged, but subject rolled onto his stomach and had his hands under his body. One PSD was removed, but the other remained until subject was handcuffed and secured.

The court believed the testimony of the officers over that of the subject (version above) based on subject’s state of mind and the physical evidence of the bites (placement indicated that at least one bite was when subject was standing, which confirms LE’s version). Applying Graham v. Connor, the court held: “…I conclude that the facts as proven do not establish that the police used excessive force. In light of what the police knew about (subject), the fast-moving sequence of events, and what (handlers) reasonably believed when they instructed their dogs to secure (subject), it was not objectively unreasonable for them to believe that the deployment of the dogs was appropriate to ensure the apprehension of (subject) and without increasing a risk of injury to police officers. Nor was the length of time that the dogs were deployed on (subject) objectively unreasonable. One of the dogs (…) was very promptly disengaged from (subject). The other dog (…) remained with a bite hold for a longer time but not an unreasonably long time in light of what (handler) perceived to be ongoing resistance from (subject).”