This case is about whether an officer should be granted qualified immunity in a 42 USC 1983 civil suit alleging excessive use of force when a SWAT-trained Maine State Trooper shot an killed an armed civilian after a prolonged standoff. Citing Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989) and Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223 (2009) and applying the two-pronged Qualified Immunity analysis, the court specifically held:
Even if we assume arguendo that Hamilton’s action was contrary to a consensus of controlling authority, we are satisfied that an objectively reasonable officer standing in Hamilton’s shoes would have thought it appropriate to deploy deadly force against an armed man who, after a nearly three-and-one-half-hour
standoff in which he was repeatedly warned to drop his weapon, persisted in pointing a loaded semi-automatic firearm narrowly above the heads of three officers and within easy firing range.
Bruce’s Two Cents: This opinion was written by Judge Selya who, in my opinion, is one of the most articulate judges sitting on a Circuit Court bench today. If you want a good refresher on Qualified Immunity, this is a good case to read. The significant facts also make this an interesting case from a SWAT perspective, with a detailed analysis of the reasonableness of a SWAT member shooting a suspect based on a reasonable belief that the suspect posed a significant threat of serious bodily harm to other officers.
*Tip for those who have never a decision by Judge Selya before: have a dictionary handy!