SAN DIEGO (CN) – The Ninth Circuit on Wednesday found that San Diego sheriff’s officers who riddled a young Marine with bullets after a slow-speed car chase eight years ago did not violate his civil rights.
Robert Medina was shot 37 times on Nov. 16, 2006, after a slow-speed chase through Oceanside, near Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. Medina had fought with his wife and Highway Patrol officers followed him as he drove erratically on Interstate 5.
Medina refused to pull over and swerved to avoid hitting a spike strip put down by sheriff’s Officer Mark Ritchie. Other officers thought Medina was trying to hit Ritchie and radioed in an attempted assault with a deadly weapon.
The officers eventually forced Medina’s truck to the dirt side of the freeway and Ritchie ordered him to get out of his truck. Officers said he refused, and aimed the truck at Ritchie, trying to run him over, and they opened fire.
Medina’s wife, Jennifer, filed the civil rights case in 2008. U.S. District Judge Cynthia Bashant – the third judge to preside over the case – denied the county’s motion for summary judgment in November 2014. The county appealed five days later.
In the unpublished, 7-page ruling Wednesday, U.S. Circuit Judges Richard Tallman and Morgan Christen were joined by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly of Illinois in finding CHP and sheriff’s officers did not violate Medina’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they killed him with dozens of bullets.
“Taking the facts in a light most favorable to plaintiffs, the evidence shows that the officers who fired shots at Medina had probable cause to believe that, at that point, he posed a threat of serious physical harm to the officers,” the panel wrote.
Because the officers did not violate Medina’s civil rights, the county cannot be held accountable for policies that would instruct officers to shoot and kill Medina, the judges said, granting summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity.
Jennifer Medina was represented by Anton Gerschler and Dena Acosta.
Gerschler said they are considering other appellate options.
The county was represented by county counsel Ricky Sanchez, who did not return an email request for comment.