(CN) – The Alaska Supreme Court threw out immunity for a cop accused of twice Tasering an 11-year-old girl he chased down for traffic violations on her ATV.
J.N. attracted police attention in July 2003 while she was driving an all-terrain vehicle recklessly through the streets of Kotzebue with another young passenger and running several stop lights.
After Officer Lee Virg-In signaled the girl to stop by using his lights and siren, she tried to drive away and then fled on foot.
When Virg-In caught up with her, J.N. said she had stopped running. Nevertheless, she claimed the officer used his Taser, catching the probes on her jacket and then grabbing J.N. by the elbow as he shocked her on the shoulder.
J.N.’s mother, Sandra Russell, sued Virg-In and Kotzebue for excessive force and negligent supervision and training. The trial court granted summary judgment to Virg-In and the city on the basis of qualified immunity, ordering Russell to pay their attorneys’ fees.
On Friday, however, the Alaska Supreme Court overturned the decision.
“We conclude that it was error to grant Officer Virg-In qualified immunity on summary judgment because if a police officer used a Taser multiple times on an 11-year-old girl who was suspected of traffic violations, was compliant, and was not posing a threat to the officer or others, that conduct would be so egregious that any reasonable officer would have known that the conduct was an excessive use of force,” Justice Dana Fabe wrote for the court.
The 32-page ruling notes that there is a factual dispute as to whether J.N. was actually compliant and had stopped trying to flee.
“This, and perhaps other disputed material facts, must be resolved at trial before the egregiousness of Officer Virg-In’s conduct and his entitlement to qualified immunity can be determined,” Fabe wrote.