743 F.3d 1211 (9th Cir. 2014), 11-16401, Sheehan v. City & County of San Francisco
|Citation:||743 F.3d 1211|
|Opinion Judge:||FISHER, Circuit Judge:|
|Party Name:||TERESA SHEEHAN, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, a municipal corporation; HEATHER FONG, in her capacity as Chief of Police for the City and County of San Francisco; KIMBERLY REYNOLDS, individually, and in her capacity as police officer for the City and County of San Francisco; KATHERINE HOLDER, individually, and in her capa|
|Attorney:||John L. Burris, Ayana Cuevas Curry and Benjamin Nisenbaum (argued), Law Offices of John L. Burris, Oakland, California, for Plaintiff-Appellant. Dennis J. Herrera, City Attorney, Joanne Hoeper, Chief Trial Deputy, Blake P. Loebs and Peter J. Keith (argued), Deputy City Attorneys, San Francisco, C...|
|Judge Panel:||Before: John T. Noonan, Susan P. Graber and Raymond C. Fisher, Circuit Judges. Opinion by Judge Fisher; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Judge Graber. Susan P. Graber (In Part) GRABER, Circuit Judge, concurring|
|Case Date:||February 21, 2014|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit|
Argued and Submitted: January 16, 2013, San Francisco, California
Petition for certiorari filed at, 05/22/2014
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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. D.C. No. 3:09-cv-03889-CRB. Charles R. Breyer, District Judge, Presiding.
This case involves a near fatal tragedy in which police officers attempted to help a mentally ill woman who needed medical evaluation and treatment but wound up shooting and nearly killing her instead. They did so after entering her home without a warrant, causing her to react with violent outrage at the intruders. Fundamentally at issue is the constitutional balance between a person's right to be left alone in the sanctity of her home and the laudable efforts of the police to render emergency assistance, but in a way that does not turn the intended beneficiary into a victim or a criminal.
Teresa Sheehan, a woman in her mid-50s suffering from a mental illness, lived in a San Francisco group home that accommodated such persons. Her assigned social worker, Heath Hodge, became concerned about her apparently deteriorating condition and summoned the police for help in transporting her to a mental health facility for a 72-hour involuntary commitment for evaluation and treatment under California Welfare & Institutions Code § 5150. Hodge deemed Sheehan " gravely disabled," because she was not taking her medication or taking care of herself, and a danger to others, because she had threatened him when he attempted to perform a welfare check on her. When San Francisco police officers Kimberly Reynolds and Katherine Holder arrived on the scene, they entered Sheehan's room, without a warrant, to confirm Hodge's assessment and take her into custody. Sheehan reacted violently to the officers' presence, grabbing a knife, threatening to kill the officers, telling the officers that she did not wish to be detained in a mental health facility and forcing the officers to retreat to the hallway, outside Sheehan's closed door, for their safety. The officers called
for backup, but rather than waiting for backup or taking other actions to maintain the status quo or de-escalate the situation, the officers drew their weapons and forced their way back into Sheehan's room, presumably to disarm, subdue and arrest her, and to prevent her escape (although there do not appear to have been any means of escape available). Sheehan once again threatened the officers with a knife, causing the officers to shoot Sheehan five or six times. Sheehan, who survived, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against the officers and the city, asserting violations of her rights under the Fourth Amendment and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as tort and statutory claims under state law. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants, and Sheehan appealed.
Although a warrantless search or seizure in a person's home is presumptively unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment, our case law recognizes exceptions to the warrant requirement to render emergency assistance or respond to exigent circumstances. We hold that the officers were justified in entering Sheehan's home initially under the emergency aid exception because they had an objectively reasonable basis to believe that Sheehan was in need of emergency medical assistance and they conducted the search or seizure in a reasonable manner up to that point. Officers conducting a welfare search, where the objective is rescue, are expected to err on the side of caution, and under the circumstances of this case the officers reasonably could have believed that Sheehan's situation presented a genuine emergency and that entering as they did was a reasonable means of providing her with assistance.
We nonetheless hold that there are triable issues of fact as to whether the second entry violated the Fourth Amendment. If the officers were acting pursuant to the emergency aid exception, then they were required to carry out the search or seizure in a reasonable manner. Similarly, if they were acting pursuant to the exigent circumstances exception, they were required to use reasonable force. Under either standard, a jury could find that the officers acted unreasonably by forcing the second entry and provoking a near-fatal confrontation. We therefore cannot say that the second entry was reasonable as a matter of law.
We further hold that there are triable issues of fact as to whether the officers used excessive force by resorting to deadly force and shooting Sheehan. The shooting was lawful when viewed from the moment of the shooting because at that point Sheehan presented an immediate danger to the officers' safety. Under our case law, however, officers may be held liable for an otherwise lawful defensive use of deadly force when they intentionally or recklessly provoke a violent confrontation by actions that rise to the level of an independent Fourth Amendment violation. See Billington v. Smith, 292 F.3d 1177, 1189 (9th Cir. 2002). Here, Sheehan has presented a triable issue as to whether the officers committed an independent Fourth Amendment violation by unreasonably forcing their way back into her home, and she has also presented evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that the officers acted recklessly in doing so. She has therefore presented a triable issue of the unreasonable use of deadly force under Billington 's provocation theory.
We hold that the district court properly rejected Sheehan's claims of municipal liability under Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). Sheehan's claim that the city is liable on a failure to train theory fails because she concedes that the police department
employed appropriate training materials to guide police officers' responses to persons they knew to be suffering from mental illness. That the officers may not have followed those policies does not establish that the city was deliberately indifferent to Sheehan's rights. Sheehan's claim that the city is liable for ratifying the officers' allegedly unconstitutional acts fails because there is no evidence that the city adopted or expressly approved the officers' actions.
Turning to an issue of first impression, we join the majority of circuits that have addressed the issue and hold that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to arrests. But we emphasize, as have those other circuits, that the exigencies surrounding police officers' decisions in the field must be taken into account when assessing the reasonableness of the officers' actions. We hold that, on the facts presented here, there is a triable issue whether the officers failed to reasonably accommodate Sheehan's disability when they forced their way back into her room without taking her mental illness into account or employing generally accepted police practices for peaceably resolving a confrontation with a person with mental illness.
Finally, we vacate summary judgment on Sheehan's state law claims and remand for further proceedings.
Teresa Sheehan was a resident of Conrad House, a group home for persons dealing with mental illness located in San Francisco. Residents of the home have private rooms and share common areas, like the kitchen and living room. On August 7, 2008, Heath Hodge, a social worker, attempted to perform a welfare check on Sheehan. When he entered Sheehan's room without her permission, Sheehan told him to get out. She also told him that she had a knife and threatened him.
In light of Sheehan's threat, Hodge cleared the building of other residents. He also completed an application under California Welfare & Institutions Code § 5150 for Sheehan's 72-hour detention for psychiatric evaluation and treatment. He telephoned the police department's nonemergency number and requested police assistance in transporting Sheehan to a mental health facility.
Section 5150 provides a mechanism for mental health professionals or others to initiate a temporary detention of persons who are a danger to themselves or others or " gravely disabled." Section 5150 states in pertinent part:
When any person, as a result of mental disorder, is a danger to others, or to himself or herself, or gravely disabled, a peace officer, member of the attending staff, as defined by regulation, of an evaluation facility designated by the county, or other professional person designated by the county may, upon probable cause, take, or cause to be taken, the person into custody and...
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