Friday, April 12, 2013

Officers Have Qualified Immunity in Case Involving Beating of 64-Year-Old Man

Lord v. Hall, 2013 WL 1297352 (4/2/13) (Col.) (unpub'd) - Officers prevail in this ยง 1983 suit because they beat up the plaintiff so badly he couldn't remember what happened. Affidavits attesting to the plaintiff's peaceful character were too speculative to refute the officers' version of events. The officers stopped the defendant because his truck was like the truck involved in a convenience store armed robbery. One of the 2 robbers was described as 22 years-old, 5 feet six inches tall. When the plaintiff, who was 64 years old and 6 feet, four inches tall, got out of his truck it was obvious he wasn't that robber. But the officers' suspicions were not dispelled because the plaintiff could have been the other robber. Once the officers saw there was no passenger, that might have eliminated suspicion. But by that time the plaintiff had resisted the officers, according to the officers, who said the plaintiff was uncooperative, refused to stay put against the officers' orders, tried to re-enter his truck and resisted the officers' attempts to control him. This established probable cause that the plaintiff was interfering with an armed robbery investigation. One officer pushed the plaintiff into the back of his truck and took him to the ground and kneed his back. The officers tried to grab both of the plaintiff's arms to handcuff him. They hit him 4 times on the shoulder and head before handcuffing him. A witness saw the officers on top of the plaintiff yelling "where's the gun?" and the plaintiff denying he had a gun and being compliant. The officers did not use excessive force. The crime they were investigating was severe, the plaintiff posed an immediate threat to their safety, according to their accounts, and they reasonably perceived the plaintiff was resisting arrest when he tried to re-enter the truck. The witness came too late to counter the officers' version of what happened before the witness came by. An expert's opinion that the officers should have acted differently was irrelevant. Such 20/20 hindsight opinions don't matter with respect to the perspective of officers making split-second judgments on the scene. "Perhaps the officers could have behaved differently to avoid injuring an innocent man, but qualified immunity allows for all but unreasonable mistakes."