(CN) – The 9th Circuit on Friday revived excessive-force claims against police officers who shot and killed an intoxicated Oregon teenager after he had threatened to kill himself with a pocketknife.
Washington County Sheriff’s Deputies Tim Mateski and Mikhail Gerba killed 18-year-old Lukus Glenn just four minutes into the late night altercation near Portland in 2006. Glenn had arrived home drunk, violent and suicidal, breaking windows and threatening to slice his own throat with a pocketknife.
Hoping to calm her son, a recent high school graduate with no police record or history of trouble, Hope Glenn called the police. Lukus’ parents allegedly told responding officers that their son was a threat only to himself and then followed the officers’ orders to return inside their home. The grandmother also tried to intervene, but officers ordered her back inside as well.
As the officers yelled commands like, “drop the knife or you’re gonna die,” Lukus cried: “Tell them to stop screaming at me” and “Why are you yelling?”
Seconds later, Officer Andrew Pastore discharged all six rounds of a beanbag shotgun at Lukus. The teen took one or two steps toward his house as the beanbags hit him, and Mateski and Gerba then fired their semiautomatic weapons at him. They fired 11 bullets, eight of which hit Lukus.
“Lukus bled out and died on his grandmother’s porch shortly after he was shot,” the ruling states.
Hope Glenn sued Gerba and Mateski in federal court, claiming excessive force under the Fourth Amendment and wrongful death under state law. She also sought to hold Washington County liable under Monell v. Department of Social Services. U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman granted summary judgment for all the defendants, finding the officers immune because their actions had been reasonable.
The 9th Circuit disagreed in a unanimous reversal Friday from Portland. A three-judge panel of the federal appeals court said that there were too many unanswered questions in the case to justify summary judgment.
“There are material questions of fact about Lukus’ and the officers’ actions that preclude a conclusion that the officers’ rapid resort to deadly force was reasonable as a matter of law,” Judge Raymond Fisher wrote for the panel.