No Immunity for Cop Who Shot Thief 12 Times

     (CN) – A California Highway Patrol officer who shot a woman 12 times after a high-speed chase lacked a “legitimate law enforcement objective,” the 9th Circuit ruled Wednesday.
     Police had been in pursuit of Karen Eklund after she stole a car in San Francisco at 2 a.m. on March 23, 2006. They eventually cornered her in a cul-de-sac with weapons drawn.
     Yelling “fuck you” at the officers, Eklund rammed her vehicle into a police cruiser. CHP officer Stephen Markgraf, the only cop on the scene to fire, emptied his weapon into the passenger-side window. He fired 12 shots at Eklund before another officer told him to stop, the court found.
     Eklund’s daughters, who were 12 and 10 at the time, sued Markgraf, and a jury awarded them $30,000 each in damages. Markgraf then moved for judgment as a matter of law based on qualified immunity, but the Northern District of California denied the motion.
     A three-judge panel of 9th Circuit reversed in 2011, finding that Markgraf had made a legal “split-second decision in dealing with someone who had just led police on a dangerous high-speed chase.”
     The federal appeals court later withdrew that ruling, however, to reconsider the case. A new three-judge panel rejected Markgraf’s claim for qualified immunity Wednesday, finding that he had “acted with the purpose to harm unrelated to a legitimate law enforcement objective.”
     The jury had “reasonably found that Markgraf shot Eklund with a purpose to harm unrelated to the legitimate law enforcement objectives of arrest, self-defense, or defense of others,” according to the ruling.
     “Markgraf argues that we should disregard the jury’s finding and analyze, objectively, whether he could have acted with a legitimate objective,” Judge N. Randy Smith wrote for the court. “However, the verdict precludes us from hypothesizing about whether Markgraf could have believed that a legitimate law enforcement objective existed.”

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