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Officer didn’t use excessive force during arrest

Where a man was actively resisting arrest and the officers reasonably believed he was reaching for a weapon, it was not unreasonable to place plaintiff on the ground to employ a device that immobilized his legs.

Background

Dedric Lattimore, brought this case alleging defendant, officer DeAvies, used excessive force against him when he was taken into custody for suspected shoplifting. DeAvies has filed a motion for summary judgment.

Force

In considering a claim of excessive force, courts “focus on the facts and circumstances of each case, taking into account ‘the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.’”

Here, while plaintiff was suspected of committing a non-violent crime, the other factors weigh in DeAvies’ favor. Officer DeAvies developed a reasonable perception that plaintiff posed a safety risk to all the officers based on plaintiff’s behavior. The third factor also shows the officer’s objective reasonableness as plaintiff was both actively resisting the officers’ attempt to place him in the cruiser and actively attempting to exit the cruiser to evade arrest.

Also the force DeAvies used to detain and arrest plaintiff was objectively reasonable as a matter of law. The officers had probable cause to believe that plaintiff had committed a shoplifting offense based on the reports from the store’s security guard. When the officers attempted to detain plaintiff so that they could investigate the shoplifting, plaintiff continually resisted the officers. Plaintiff also appeared intoxicated to the officers. At times during the interaction with plaintiff, the officers suspected plaintiff was reaching for a weapon, which provided further reason for them to detain him. 

The officers thus reasonably decided to place plaintiff in the cruiser so that they could contain him and continue their investigation, but they were unable to accomplish that because plaintiff actively resisted being placed in the cruiser. DeAvies therefore, reasonably found it necessary to place plaintiff on the ground to employ a hobble device that immobilize plaintiff’s legs after he continued to resist being placed in the cruiser. Upon examination of the totality of the circumstances, DeAvies used an objectively reasonable amount of force to accomplish plaintiff’s lawful detention and arrest.

Immunity

Defendant is also immune from liability because his actions during the encounter with the plaintiff did not violate a clearly established right. The clearly established law at the time of the incident permitted law enforcement officers to use both verbal commands and physical control as reasonably necessary to detain or arrest when the subject resists the officer’s lawful authority. As such, DeAvies is entitled to qualified immunity.

Battery

In Virginia, a battery is “an unwanted touching which is neither consented to, excused, or justified.” Since DeAvies was justified in using reasonable force to execute his lawful duties, plaintiff’s battery count must also be dismissed.

Defendant’s motion for summary judgment granted.

Lattimore v. DeAvies, Case No. 1:21-cv-01165, Sept. 6, 2022. EDVA at Alexandria (Hilton). VLW 022-3-396. 8 pp.

VLW 022-3-396

Virginia Lawyers Weekly