“Mr. Huff Alleges That The Officers Did Not Identify Themselves at Any Time Prior to The Shooting …
From Magistrate Judge Reid Neureiter’s Report and Recommendation yesterday in Huff v. City of Aurora (D. Colo.) (the ultimate decision will be in the District Judge’s hands, though such Magistrate Judge Reports and Recommendations are generally quite influential):
This lawsuit arises from an incident that occurred on October 10, 2019 at the Aurora home Mr. Huff shared with his wife, young daughter, and brother, George. That day, a man named George Bejar-Gutierrez, whom the brothers allowed to stay at the residence, stole George Huff’s vehicle to drive to a methadone clinic. When Mr. Bejar-Gutierrez eventually returned, he was under the influence of methadone and George Huff’s car was damaged. A confrontation, initiated by Mr. Bejar-Gutierrez, ensued, which prompted a passerby to call 911. Officers Doorgeest, VanDyk, and Vaughan of the Aurora Police Department (“APD”) were dispatched to the scene, where they met with the Huff brothers, who explained what had happened. The officers informed the brothers that neither would be charged with any crime, and Andrew Huff gave them his cell phone number for any future communications.
Mr. Bejar-Gutierrez, who had fled before officers arrived and then proceeded to threaten the Huff brothers throughout that day and into the evening, eventually placed his own call to the APD, and met with Officers Ord, Marrero, and Oviatt at around 7:00 p.m. at a different Aurora residence. Mr. Bejar-Gutierrez told these officers that the Huff brothers assaulted him and that Andrew Huff had a firearm. Mr. Huff alleges that Mr. Bejar-Gutierrez was a convicted felon who had previously been arrested for giving false information to the APD.
At 11:30 p.m., Officers Ord, Marrero, and Oviatt, without any advance notice to Mr. Huff, went to Mr. Huff’s home. They parked around the corner and, wearing all black clothing, proceeded to “creep” through neighboring yards towards Mr. Huff’s residence. When Mr. Huff, who was smoking outside, saw these unidentified individuals advancing upon his home, he believed that Mr. Bejar-Gutierrez was following through on his earlier threats. He ran inside and retrieved a shotgun. He was facing the window with both hands by his side. His left hand held the shotgun by the barrel—his finger was not on the trigger and the gun was pointed at the ceiling. About 30 feet away, Officer Ord drew his weapon and, as he yelled, “Put your hands up, put your hands up!”, fired five shots at Mr. Huff. Mr. Huff, who was diving away from the window as Officer Ord opened fire, was shot in rectum and severely injured. Another round entered the room where his daughter lay sleeping.
Officer Ord attempted to justify his actions by exclaiming that Mr. Huff “came into the window with a gun,” and afterwards stated, “They are racking up in the garage,” when, in fact, Mr. Huff, bleeding profusely on the floor, was merely calling 911 for help. Mr. Huff was charged with multiple felonies, all of which were ultimately dismissed. The second is a claim for municipal liability brought against the City for its allegedly unconstitutional policies, practices, and customs.
The Magistrate Judge reasoned that Huff had adequately stated a Fourth Amendment claim:
“To state an excessive force claim under the Fourth Amendment, plaintiffs must show both that a seizure occurred and that the seizure was unreasonable.” “[A]pprehension by the use of deadly force is a seizure subject to the reasonableness requirement of the Fourth Amendment.” In assessing an excessive force claim under the Fourth Amendment, “the question is whether the officers’ actions are objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation.” The inquiry “requires careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case.” In conducting this analysis, the Court must “consider the factors the Supreme Court clearly set forth in Graham v. Connor.” These three factors are “(1) ‘the severity of the crime at issue,’ (2) ‘whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others,’ and (3) ‘whether [the suspect] is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.'” …
The first Graham factor, “the severity of the crime at issue,” is inconclusive at this stage.
Understandably enough, the Amended Complaint does not state what Mr. Bejar-Gutierrez told officers when he met
Article from Reason.com