LA County to Face Claims for WeHo Cop Shooting

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – A woman who sued over LA sheriff deputies’ handling of a stabbing incident at an apartment building has batted away the county’s efforts to dismiss her negligence claims.
     Sarah DeLuca made several constitutional claims against Los Angeles County after an incident this past year where officers allegedly shot and killed a man who was fleeing from a knife attack.
     Last week, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee carved out many of DeLuca’s constitutional claims in a ruling that leaves intact claims of negligence, false imprisonment and unlawful arrest.
     As recited in the factual background of the judge’s ruling, Alex McDonald threatened his roommate Liam Mulligan and his two friends Chris Moretti and John Winkler with a knife he had taken from another apartment.
     DeLuca also roomed with McDonald. After hearing a ruckus and going outside to investigate, McDonald told her to go back to her room, according to the ruling.
     As the fight erupted outside, DeLuca tried to contact the police directly and also relayed information to a friend who was outside the apartment with an officer.
     In addition, a resident of the building showed the deputies a picture of McDonald and Mulligan on her cell phone and told them that McDonald was the suspect.
     In the apartment, McDonald attacked Moretti and was wrestled to the ground by Mulligan and Winkler. McDonald then stabbed Mulligan in the neck, according to Gee’s ruling.
     When sheriffs knocked on the door to gain access to the apartment, Mulligan eventually ran to the front door to open it. According to reports, the officers opened fire immediately and Mulligan was shot in the leg by the deputies.
     The officers shot and killed Winkler, who was running behind Mulligan.
     The men were not armed and Mulligan was “not wearing clothes similar to those worn by McDonald, did not have the same appearance or build, and was bleeding profusely,” the ruling stated.
     DeLuca sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department alleging that she was handcuffed and forced to stand in a hallway outside her apartment for almost 30 minutes in full view of Winkler’s “lifeless body.”
     In a July 20 ruling, Judge Gee dismissed DeLuca’s Fourteenth Amendment claim for violation of her due-process rights, and claims of unreasonable seizure and excessive force. The judge also granted a motion to dismiss the sheriff’s department as a defendant and found the county cannot be held directly liable for DeLuca’s tort claims.
     But the court declined to dismiss DeLuca’s claims of negligence, and false imprisonment and unlawful arrest.
     On the latter claims, Gee found that DeLuca had alleged sufficient facts to “state a claim that sheriff’s deputies unreasonably seized DeLuca without reasonable suspicion and without reasonable cause to believe that such seizure was lawful.”
     The individual sheriff’s deputies “are not immune from liability” and therefore “there can be no municipal immunity,” the judge wrote.
     On the dismissed constitutional claims, Gee found that DeLuca had failed to provide supporting evidence to allow her due-process claim to survive dismissal and that DeLuca did not “distinguish” among the officers she claimed had seized her.
     “DeLuca fails to allege sufficient facts to state a claim that defendants’ use of handcuffs constituted excessive force under the circumstances. While the Ninth Circuit has long recognized that excessively tight handcuffing – even absent serious injury – may constitute a Fourth Amendment violation, DeLuca does not provide any facts regarding the nature of her handcuffing,” Gee wrote.
     Gee gave DeLuca leave to amend claims of threats, intimidation or coercion under the Bane Act, and also gave her the opportunity to amend a claim of battery and assault.
     DeLuca has 15 days to amend her complaint.
     Neither LA County Sheriff’s Department nor DeLuca’s attorney Jarrick Goldhamer immediately responded to requests for comment.

%d bloggers like this: