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Police officers immune from prosecution where they reasonably believed suspect had a gun and posed a serious threat of physical harm

Where the suspect's conduct gave the officers probable cause to believe he had a gun and posed a threat of serious physical harm, the district court erred by denying the defendants-officers qualified immunity on the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment excessive force claim. The court initially noted that it had jurisdiction to review the officers' appeal of the order denying qualified immunity, and because the defendant-City's appeal was "inextricably intertwined," it also had jurisdiction to review the City's appeal. The court then held that the district court failed to conduct the required "individualized analysis" of the officers' conduct and instead observed that their "aggregate conduct could be found to violate the Fourth Amendment." While an individualized analysis did "not make a difference on these facts," it was still required. The individualized analysis indicated that each officer "actively participated in the use of force." The plaintiff's claims were based on the premise that the officers shot her son, Bynum, 23 times (with 80 shots fired) to "prevent his escape." However, the testimony revealed that the officers fired because, "after Bynum repeatedly made a shooting gesture, they thought he had a gun and considered him a threat." Under the totality of the circumstances, the officers had "probable cause to believe Bynum threatened their safety." Thus, "the use of deadly force was constitutionally permissible," and the officers were entitled to qualified immunity. The district court also erred by denying the City summary judgment because there was no constitutional violation on which to base municipal liability. Reversed.


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