CA7: Shooting at car fleeing recklessly from detention was reasonable

Shooting at plaintiff’s car was reasonable when he refused to respond to officers who showed up for a shots fired call and then plaintiff fled squealing his tires. Smith v. Adams, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 4066 (7th Cir. Feb. 11, 2020):

We agree with the district court that firing four shots at Smith’s car was reasonable under the totality of the circumstances. Because Adams and Hollins encountered Smith while responding to a 911 call about shots fired and fighting, they reasonably believed that Smith might be armed. When they ordered him to show his hands, he (unlike the two others on the street) ignored them, entering a car instead. Smith asserts that he was only going home and not trying to flee, but officers knew only that he was disobeying orders and possibly armed. When he accelerated so rapidly that the tires squealed, they reasonably believed that he might hit them and fired their guns to stop the car. Smith emphasizes that he was not convicted of attempting to assault the officers, but his intent is irrelevant to whether the officers reasonably believed that they faced death or serious bodily injury-the predicate to using deadly force. See Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 11-12 (1985); Horton v. Pobjecky, 883 F.3d 941, 949 (7th Cir. 2018).

Smith’s arguments that he was not armed and that he was convicted only of low-level offenses are based on hindsight, but only facts known to the officers at the time of the seizure matter in the reasonableness determination. See Graham 490 U.S. at 396; Fitzgerald v. Santoro, 707 F.3d 725, 732-33 (7th Cir. 2013). And they fired only four shots at the bottom of the car; there is no dispute that they did not aim for Smith. See Plumhoff v. Rickard, 134 S. Ct. 2012, 2022 (2014) (firing 15 shots at suspect fleeing in car was reasonable to end risk posed by his reckless driving).

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