CA6: Misidentification and 24 days in jail for wrong man not shown to be pattern for city liability

“‘Benny’ Lopez of Traverse City sold heroin to a confidential informant working with the Traverse Narcotics Team in northern Michigan. ‘Benjamin’ Lopez of Grand Rapids did not. Yet officers arrested Benjamin, not Benny, for this crime. The wrong Lopez languished in jail for 24 days due to this identification error. Benjamin Lopez brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that various state actors unreasonably seized him in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Lopez, however, has since settled with the officer who misidentified him as Benny. He now pursues claims only against a supervisor, Detective Sergeant Randy Graham, and the Traverse Narcotics Team itself. But § 1983 does not allow Lopez to hold Graham or the Team liable for the other officer’s mistake. And Graham reasonably believed that the officer intended to arrest Benny from the Traverse City area. Lopez also failed to show that the Team had a history of making similar misidentifications. So despite our sympathies for Lopez’s predicament, we must affirm the grant of summary judgment to these two defendants.” Lopez v. Foerster, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 8591 (6th Cir. Mar. 29, 2022).*

Qualified immunity denied. “Accepting the Estate’s version of events, as we must at this stage, Knibbs was shot inside his own home while holding a loaded shotgun that was not aimed at Deputy Momphard. There is no record evidence that Knibbs, while holding his shotgun, made any furtive movement towards Deputy Momphard that would indicate his intent to cause physical harm. Further, as noted above, it is debatable whether Deputy Momphard was readily recognizable as a law enforcement officer in the middle of the night on Knibbs’ unlit porch. These contested material facts, when viewed in their totality, bear a strong resemblance to our previous rulings in Cooper, Hensley, and Betton–all of which held that a police officer used unconstitutionally excessive force in shooting a man holding a firearm on his own property who was neither pointing the weapon at the officer nor giving some other indicator of an immediate intent to harm.” Knibbs v. Momphard, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 8446 (4th Cir. Mar. 30, 2022).*

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