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Saturday, May 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

En Banc Rehearing in Fatal Traffic Stop Case

(CN) - A police officer who shot a man in the head during a traffic stop because he tried to drive away with him in the car will deny excessive force claims before the full 9th Circuit, the court said Monday.

Anthony Sanchez Gonzalez had drawn the suspicion of the Anaheim Police Department at 2 a.m. on Sept. 25, 2009, when swung his van into a gas station, cutting off a pair of officers in their squad car.

After discovering that the van was once involved in a narcotics stop, Officers Daron Wyatt and Matthew Ellis followed it out of the station and observed it weaving within its lane.

The officers then initiated a stop, and 21-year-old Gonzalez allegedly reached for something as they approached the van from opposite sides. Ellis said Gonzalez seemed to be hiding a plastic baggy in his right hand. When Gonzalez refused to open his right hand, Wyatt entered the van from the passenger side and punched him in the head and face. Gonzalez struggled and managed to shift the van into gear while Ellis hit him in head three times with a flashlight. Wyatt said that Gonzalez pushed the accelerator and slapped his hand away when he tried to stop him.

The van moved forward about 50 feet and Wyatt pulled his gun and shot Gonzalez point blank in the head. Gonzalez died a short time later.

Gonzalez's family sued for excessive force, but a Los Angeles federal judge awarded the officers and others summary. A divided three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit affirmed in May.

The full court agreed Monday to rehear the case en banc.

Judge Paul Watford did not participate in deliberations or vote in this case, the court noted.

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