The US Supreme Court has decided to hear a case centering around liability for an officer-involved shooting in which the officers are accused of provoking the violence that occurred.
On October 1, 2010, Members of the LA County Sheriff’s Department’s “COPS HIT” (Community-Oriented Policing Services High-Impact Team) reportedly entered a backyard shack where Angel Mendez, 30, and Jennifer Garcia, 27, were living. Mendez and Garcia were not suspected of any crime, but the department had reportedly received a tip that an AWOL parolee might be found in the vicinity of the shack.
The COPS HIT officers reportedly smashed through the door of the backyard shack, without knocking, identifying themselves, or even calling out.
One deputy reportedly saw Mendez holding a gun, which later turned out to be a BB gun. Two of the officers fired fifteen bullets into Mendez and Garcia. Garcia, who was five months pregnant at the time, was shot in the back. Mendez lost his leg because his the gunshot wounds.
LA County and the two deputies appealed a $4 million award to Mendez and Garcia. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the COPS HIT deputies violated Mendez and Garcia’s rights when they entered the shack without a warrant, and the 9th Circuit’s provocation rule, which revokes legal immunity from members of law enforcement who use force, in cases where the officers provoked violence.
The Los Angeles deputies’ union welcomes the high court’s decision to hear Los Angeles County v. Mendez and consider the 9th Circuit’s provocation rule, which the union says endangers cops:
The attorneys for the County of Los Angeles and the deputies aptly summed up the dangerousness of the rule: “The Ninth Circuit’s ‘provocation’ rule puts the lives of officers at mortal risk by imposing civil liability for a reasonable use of force. An officer who has not used excessive force but who has nevertheless otherwise violated an individual’s constitutional rights must refrain from defending himself even if his life is threatened or be held financially liable…”