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County of Los Angeles v. Angel Mendez

Court Type: U.S. Supreme Court
Status: Ongoing
Last Update: March 3, 2017

What's at Stake

Whether the Ninth Circuit’s “provocation rule” that police officers may be held liable for using force when they provoked a threatening reaction with a Fourth Amendment violation is consistent with the Supreme Court’s use of force analysis in Graham v. Connor and subsequent cases?

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies searching for a suspected armed parolee opened the door of a shack, without first knocking, in which Angel Mendez and his pregnant wife were living. Mr. Mendez, who had been resting with a BB gun he used to shoot rats across his lap, arose from the bed when the door opened. Seeing a man with a gun, deputies opened fire, wounding both Mr. Mendez and his wife. The Ninth Circuit held that although the officers reasonably feared for their lives when they saw a man with a gun, they could be held liable because their entry into the shack violated the Fourth Amendment and proximately cause the shooting. Before the Supreme Court, the County and deputies argue that the Supreme Court’s case law under Graham v. Connor and subsequent cases establishes that a police officer’s conduct leading up to a use of force cannot be considered in evaluating the constitutionality of a use of force. In an amicus brief, the ACLU and ACLU of Southern California argue that determining whether a police use of force violates the Fourth Amendment requires examining the “totality of the circumstances,” including officers’ actions preceding the use of force, and that examining the officer’s conduct leading up to a use of force is consistent with best practices in police training and policy that emphasize de-escalation and other techniques to avoid uses of force.

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