Thomson v. Salt Lake County (10th Cir. 2009) 584 F.3d 1304

Deployment of PSD; Excessive Force; Qualified Immunity

Police officers responded to a call that the decedent, who had a gun, threatened his wife. The deputy released his police dog in an effort to locate the decedent in the neighborhood and he shot the decedent when he refused to put his weapon down as instructed and instead aimed the weapon at the officers. Plaintiffs claimed that the excessive force violated the decedent’s Fourth Amendment rights. The court, however, found that the use of the police dog under the circumstances did not rise to the level of deadly force and did not constitute unconstitutional excessive force. Also, the fatal shot was not excessive force because it was reasonable for the deputy to believe that the decedent was an immediate threat to the officers or to others in the neighborhood. The court rejected plaintiffs’ claim that the officers recklessly created the need for deadly force. Because there was no constitutional violation, the district court properly concluded that the deputy was entitled to qualified immunity and that the county was not liable for an alleged failure to train. Finally, the state law claims were barred under the Utah Governmental Immunity Act, Utah Code Ann. § 63-30-1 et seq. (2003).