King v. Hendricks Cnty. Comm'rs

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
Citation954 F.3d 981
Docket NumberNo. 19-2119,19-2119
Parties Matthew KING, individually and as Representative of the Estate of Bradley King, deceased, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. HENDRICKS COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, et al., Defendants-Appellees.
Decision Date31 March 2020

954 F.3d 981

Matthew KING, individually and as Representative of the Estate of Bradley King, deceased, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
HENDRICKS COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, et al., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 19-2119

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

Argued January 9, 2020
Decided March 31, 2020


Daniel J. Canon, Daniel J. Canon, PSC, Jonathan C. Little, Jessica Ann Wegg, Attorneys, Saeed & Little, LLP, Indianapolis, IN, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Caren L. Pollack, Zachary J. Stock, Attorneys, Pollack Law Firm P.C., Indianapolis, IN, for Defendants-Appellees.

Before Wood, Chief Judge, and Easterbrook and Barrett, Circuit Judges.

Wood, Chief Judge.

954 F.3d 983

Bradley King, a 29-year-old resident of Hendricks County, Indiana, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, was killed by a police officer on November 29, 2016, during an encounter at his home. Two Hendricks County reserve deputies went to the Kings’ family home to perform a "welfare check" after Bradley called 9-1-1 and requested help. Matters then spun horribly out of control, though what precisely happened is disputed, aside from the fact that Bradley wound up dead. The only living eyewitnesses are the officers involved.

The evidence developed for purposes of the defendants’ motion for summary judgment was as follows. The deputies, Jason Hays and Jeremy Thomas, testified that upon their arrival, Bradley came out of the house, walked toward them, and pulled a ten-inch knife out of his shorts pocket. Hays and Thomas backpedaled, drew their service firearms, and yelled at Bradley to stop and drop the knife. Bradley disregarded their commands and kept moving forward. Then, with the knife in his left hand, left arm raised in front of him so that the blade was pointing toward the officers, he started running at Hays. When Bradley was approximately eight feet away, Hays fired one shot. It proved to be fatal. According to the autopsy, the bullet grazed Bradley’s left upper arm and entered his chest, directed "left to right, downwards, and slightly front to back." A large knife, which Bradley’s father identified as one from the Kings’ kitchen, was recovered from the ground near Bradley’s left hand. An examination of the knife did not reveal any latent fingerprints.

Bradley’s father, Matthew King, disputes the officers’ account. He asserts that Bradley was never violent, even when suffering a psychotic episode, and would not have charged at the police with a knife. King urges that circumstantial evidence, including but not limited to the bullet trajectory, the lack of fingerprints on the knife, and the fact that Bradley was right-handed and thus probably would not have held the knife in his left hand, substantially undermines the deputies’ account. King contends that his son’s killing was unwarranted and unlawful.

In the aftermath, King brought federal civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Hays, the Hendricks County Commissioners, the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Department, and the Sheriff. He also brought federal claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Rehabilitation Act against the Commissioners and the Sheriff’s Department, as well as state civil rights and tort claims. The district court granted summary judgment to all defendants on the federal claims and declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims. The court concluded that there was no genuine dispute of material fact for trial; that Hays’s actions did not violate Bradley’s rights under the Fourth Amendment; and that the institutional defendants did not violate the ADA and Rehabilitation Act. King appealed the district court’s judgment on the federal claims, and we now affirm.

I

We review the district court’s grant of summary judgment de novo .

954 F.3d 984

Daza v. Indiana , 941 F.3d 303, 308 (7th Cir. 2019). Summary judgment is appropriate when there is no dispute of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). At the summary-judgment stage, we construe all facts in the record and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Daza , 941 F.3d at 308. But this does not extend to drawing inferences that are supported by only speculation or conjecture. Id. We may affirm summary judgment on any ground supported by the record, as long as the parties adequately presented the issue before the district court and the nonmoving party had an opportunity to contest it. De Lima Silva v. Dep’t of Corr. , 917 F.3d 546, 558 (7th Cir. 2019).

II

A

King first asserts a claim against Hays individually under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a violation of Bradley’s Fourth Amendment rights. Section 1983 authorizes private suits to redress deprivations of constitutional rights by state actors. The Fourth Amendment assures the right to be free from unreasonable "seizures," a category that includes a law enforcement officer’s use of deadly force against a free citizen. Tennessee v. Garner , 471 U.S. 1, 7, 105 S.Ct. 1694, 85 L.Ed.2d 1 (1985). Whether use of deadly force constitutes a constitutionally reasonable seizure is an objective inquiry and must be "judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight." Graham v. Connor , 490 U.S. 386, 396, 109 S.Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989).

Other circuits have concluded that "the level of force that is constitutionally permissible in dealing with a mentally ill person," such as Bradley, " ‘differs both in degree and in kind from the use of force that would be justified against a person who has committed a crime or who poses a threat to the community.’ " Gray v. Cummings , 917 F.3d 1, 11 (1st Cir. 2019) (quoting Bryan v. MacPherson , 630 F.3d 805, 829 (9th Cir. 2010) ). "Consequently, a subject’s mental illness is a factor that a police officer must take into account in determining what degree of force, if any, is appropriate." Id. (citing Estate of Armstrong ex rel. Armstrong v. Village of Pinehurst , 810 F.3d 892, 900 (4th Cir. 2016) ; Champion v. Outlook Nashville, Inc. , 380 F.3d 893, 904 (6th Cir. 2004) ); see also Vos v. City of Newport Beach , 892 F.3d 1024, 1034 (9th Cir. 2018) ("These indications of mental illness create a genuine issue of material fact about whether the government’s interest in using deadly force was diminished."). We agree with our colleagues that officers often should approach persons known or suspected to have a mental-health problem differently from the way they handle those whom they suspect of criminal activity.

But we also heed the Supreme Court’s admonition that "[t]he calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments—in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving—about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation." Graham , 490 U.S. at 396–97, 109 S.Ct. 1865 ; see also Kisela v. Hughes , ––– U.S. ––––, 138 S. Ct. 1148, 1152, 200 L.Ed.2d 449 (2018) ; Williams v. Ind. State Police Dep’t , 797 F.3d 468, 473 (7th Cir. 2015). "This is true even when, judged with the benefit of hindsight, the officers may have made ‘some mistakes.’ " City & Cnty. of San Francisco, Cal. v. Sheehan , 575 U.S. 600, 135 S. Ct. 1765, 1775, 191 L.Ed.2d 856 (2015) (quoting

954 F.3d 985

Heien v. North Carolina , 574 U.S. 54, 61, 135 S.Ct. 530, 190 L.Ed.2d 475 (2014) ).

"When addressing the use of deadly force, the court considers whether a reasonable officer in the circumstances would have probable cause to believe that the [person] poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others." Sanzone v. Gray , 884 F.3d 736, 740 (7th Cir. 2018). If the person of interest threatens the officer with a weapon, deadly force may be used, because the risk of serious physical harm to the officer has been shown. Id . This is so even if a less deadly alternative is available to the officers. Plakas v. Drinski , 19 F.3d 1143, 1149 (7th Cir. 1994). And this is so whether or not the targeted person suffers from a mental illness—the critical consideration is whether he or she poses an immediate threat to the officers or others.

Here, there is a potential issue of fact. If we accept the defendants’ account of the critical events—that is, Bradley pointed a large knife at them, disregarded their repeated commands to drop the knife, and then charged at Hays—then Hays’s use of deadly force was constitutionally reasonable. On the other hand, if Bradley did not pose an immediate threat of serious harm to the officers, then deadly force was unlawful. But the existence of a possible issue of fact does not, by itself, prevent summary judgment. We must examine the record to see whether King has proffered sufficient evidence to permit a rational factfinder to find in his favor. See Singer v. Raemisch , 593 F.3d 529, 533 (7th Cir. 2010). If so, then summary judgment is inappropriate, but if the opponent of summary judgment offers "only speculation or conjecture" that raises a "metaphysical doubt," then there is no job for a factfinder to perform. Id.

Sadly, "the person most likely to rebut the officers’ version of events—the one...

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67 practice notes
  • Durnell v. Holcomb, 3:19-cv-00129-RLY-MPB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
    • May 12, 2020
    ...or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.’ " King v. Hendricks County Commissioners , 954 F.3d 981, 988 (7th Cir. 2020) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12132 ). To establish a violation under Title II of the ADA, the sub-class of Plaintiffs must allege (1)......
  • Robinson v. Sauls, CIVIL ACTION FILE NO. 1:18-cv-131-TCB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • February 24, 2021
    ...plaintiffs seek to draw from the witnesses’ previous failure to observe [the suspect] with a firearm"); King v. Hendricks Cnty. Comm'rs , 954 F.3d 981, 986 (7th Cir. 2020) (finding that the plaintiff could not make anything of the lack of latent fingerprints because it was not "affirmative ......
  • Marski v. Courier Express One, Inc., 19 CV 4132
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • September 29, 2021
    ...construe all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. King v. Hendricks Cty. Commissioners, 954 F.3d 981, 984 (7th Cir. 2020). The non-moving party bears the burden of identifying the evidence creating an issue of fact. Hutchison v. Fitzgerald Equi......
  • Smith v. Finkley, 20-1754
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • August 18, 2021
    ...evidence submitted on the defendants’ summary judgment motion, construed in Smith's favor. 10 F.4th 730 King v. Hendricks Cnty. Comm'rs , 954 F.3d 981, 984 (7th Cir. 2020). That evidence includes videos from the body cameras of three of the officers involved. These videos overlap in time an......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
66 cases
  • Durnell v. Holcomb, 3:19-cv-00129-RLY-MPB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Southern District of Indiana)
    • May 12, 2020
    ...or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.’ " King v. Hendricks County Commissioners , 954 F.3d 981, 988 (7th Cir. 2020) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 12132 ). To establish a violation under Title II of the ADA, the sub-class of Plaintiffs must allege (1)......
  • Robinson v. Sauls, CIVIL ACTION FILE NO. 1:18-cv-131-TCB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • February 24, 2021
    ...plaintiffs seek to draw from the witnesses’ previous failure to observe [the suspect] with a firearm"); King v. Hendricks Cnty. Comm'rs , 954 F.3d 981, 986 (7th Cir. 2020) (finding that the plaintiff could not make anything of the lack of latent fingerprints because it was not "affirmative ......
  • Marski v. Courier Express One, Inc., 19 CV 4132
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • September 29, 2021
    ...construe all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. King v. Hendricks Cty. Commissioners, 954 F.3d 981, 984 (7th Cir. 2020). The non-moving party bears the burden of identifying the evidence creating an issue of fact. Hutchison v. Fitzgerald Equi......
  • Smith v. Finkley, 20-1754
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • August 18, 2021
    ...evidence submitted on the defendants’ summary judgment motion, construed in Smith's favor. 10 F.4th 730 King v. Hendricks Cnty. Comm'rs , 954 F.3d 981, 984 (7th Cir. 2020). That evidence includes videos from the body cameras of three of the officers involved. These videos overlap in time an......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Policing Under Disability Law.
    • United States
    • Stanford Law Review Vol. 73 No. 6, June 2021
    • June 1, 2021
    ...for persons being brought into custody); Vos, 139 S. Ct. at 2613 (denying certiorari). (143.) See King v. Hendricks Cnty. Comm'rs, 954 F.3d 981, 989 (7th Cir. 2020) ("[W]e may assume without deciding that Title II applies to the officers' interaction with Bradley."); Gray v. Cummings, 917 F......

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