CA7: Deadly force to a non-suspect civilian not resisting arrest can be unreasonable

“Viewing all of the facts in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, we find that a reasonable jury could conclude that Garrett violated Steven’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures when Garrett applied deadly force to a non-suspect civilian who was not resisting arrest and did not pose an imminent threat to any officer, bystander, or himself.” Taylor v. City of Milford, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 24829 (7th Cir. Aug. 19, 2021):

To review, three principles are clear: First, officers do not have a right to assault civilians without provocation. Clash, 77 F.3d at 1048. Second, officers may not use unnecessary force when a civilian is already subdued or compliant. Strand, 910 F.3d at 915. Third, a medical emergency impacts the objective reasonableness of a seizure, but an emergency does not “eviscerate” the civilian’s Fourth Amendment rights. Taking these principles together, it has been clearly established that the method and manner of restraint must fit the circumstances of the particular case. See McAllister, 615 F.3d at 879-80. Officers can employ only those means of restraint appropriate in a given situation. This is especially so for lethal force. In other words, it was clearly established by 2016 that an officer who forcibly restrained a civilian who was not a suspect of a crime and who did not pose a threat to those around him, resulting in vomiting and loss of consciousness before the officer released the civilian, violated that civilian’s Fourth Amendment rights.

We acknowledge that the Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s accounts of the events diverge with respect to the facts surrounding the incident, including whether Steven was a threat to himself or others, whether Garrett’s actions served a medical or law enforcement purpose, and whether the force used was objectively reasonable under the circumstances. Each of these material disputes of fact must be determined by the jury, so that the court can properly assess Garrett’s entitlement to qualified immunity.

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