Foreseeable Police Shootings
Forthcoming in Columbia Law Review Online (2019)
39 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2019
Date Written: July 19, 2019
Though officer-involved shootings are common, shooting victims rarely prevail in civil rights actions. The Supreme Court has ruled for officers who shoot in an ever-expanding set of circumstances. Jennifer and Angel Mendez were asleep on a futon when Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies searching for a wanted parolee entered their home and fired fifteen rounds, causing severe injuries. But the Mendezes’ civil rights action did not result in an officer-friendly outcome. They obtained a $4-million damages award. Following a Supreme Court remand, the Ninth Circuit held that when officers entered their home “armed and on alert,” without a warrant, consent, or other justification, the shooting that followed was foreseeable. The Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable home entries is, under circumstances like the entry in Mendez, a clearly established right. This essay updates Los Angeles v. Mendez: Proximate Cause Promise for Police Shooting Victims. Following this introduction, Part II summarizes the Ninth Circuit’s opinion on remand, and describes how lower courts have applied it. Part III considers how Mendez might impact future civil rights actions arising out shootings in an individual’s home or curtilage. In this context, it examines the tragic shooting of Stephon Clark and the foreseeable consequences of Sacramento police officers’ entry into Clark’s driveway and backyard.
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