CA4: Choking out and killing a mentally ill man who only vaguely threatened himself was excessive force

“This appeal arises from a tragic incident that led to the death of Joshua Lawhon, an unarmed mentally ill man. Invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Virginia state law, Lawhon’s mother, as administrator of his estate, brought this action against the police officers and paramedics whose assertedly improper actions cost her son his life.” They created a ruse to take him down from behind, and he died from the use of force. “In addition to applying the Graham factors, we also take into account the severity of the injuries in our determination of whether officers used excessive force. … Here, Lawhon suffered the most severe injury possible — death. There is no doubt that continuing to apply force to a secured unarmed man, to effectuate a seizure for which the individual’s own benefit provides the only justification, constitutes excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. …” Qualified immunity denied. Lawhon v. Mayes, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 33823 (4th Cir. Nov. 15, 2021).

The police had probable cause for appellant’s arrest when the victim identified him in a lineup and when they located clothes in his home matching the victim’s description of the perpetrator’s dress. Commonwealth v. Bishop, 2021 PA Super 222, 2021 Pa. Super. LEXIS 674 (Nov. 15, 2021).*

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