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Longoria v. Pinal County

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

October 10, 2017

Christian Longoria, a single man, on behalf of himself as son of decedent Manuel O. Longoria, on behalf of all statutory beneficiaries of decedent Manuel O. Longoria; Joshua R. Wallace, as the personal representative of the Estate of Manuel O. Longoria; Manuel Longoria, Jr., a single man; Lynnette Longoria, a single woman; P. C. L., a minor, T. A. L., a minor; K. R. L., a minor; Sanisya Lott, a single woman; T. L., a minor; and A. L., a minor, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
Pinal County, a political subdivision of the State of Arizona; Paul R. Babeu, in his official capacity as Sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona; and Heath Rankin, in his individual capacity as a Deputy Sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued and Submitted June 6, 2017 Pasadena, California

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona D.C. No. 2:15-cv-00043-SRB Susan R. Bolton, District Judge, Presiding


          Joel B. Robbins (argued), Robbins & Curtin PLLC, Phoenix, Arizona; Joseph M. Leal III, Cole & Leal, Casa Grande, Arizona; Darius Bursh, McCain & Bursh PLC, Scottsdale, Arizona; for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

          Nicholas D. Acedo (argued) and Kathleen L. Wieneke, Struck Wieneke & Love P.L.C., Chandler, Arizona, for Defendants-Appellees.

          Before: Stephen Reinhardt and Alex Kozinski, Circuit Judges, and Terrence Berg, [*] District Judge.


         Civil Rights

         The panel reversed the district court's grant of qualified immunity on summary judgment in favor of Pinal County Deputy Sheriff Heath Rankin and affirmed the dismissal of claims brought by family members in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging that Rankin used excessive deadly force when he shot Manuel Longoria in the back and killed him following a car chase.

         The panel stated that it was required to assess Rankin's reasonableness in using deadly force against Longoria, who was unarmed, was surrounded by law enforcement officers, had been shot by bean bag rounds and a taser, and was in the process of putting his hands over his head reflexively or in an effort to surrender. Rankin alleged that when Longoria turned to raise his hands he threatened him or his fellow officers with a "shooter's stance." The panel held that because of the many material, disputed facts in this case, Rankin's credibility or the accuracy of his version of the facts was a central question that had to be answered by a jury. Because there was a material issue of fact as to whether Rankin violated Longoria's clearly established constitutional right, defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity. The panel therefore reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment and remanded for a jury to determine whether Rankin's use of deadly force was lawful.

         The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of Longoria's family-members' § 1983 claims. The panel held that only Longoria's estate could bring a § 1983 for the violation of his Fourth Amendment rights; his family members had no standing to sue on their own behalves.

         The panel reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiffs' wrongful-death claim brought under Arizona Revised Statute § 12-611. The panel held that summary judgment was not appropriate because there was a material dispute of facts as to whether or not Rankin's use of deadly force was reasonable.


          REINHARDT, Circuit Judge

         Pinal County Deputy Sheriff Heath Rankin fired two shots into Manuel Longoria's back and killed him just as he was raising his hands above his head. Rankin's shots followed the use of non-lethal force by police officers from the City of Eloy who were charged with arresting Longoria.

         When Longoria's estate (hereinafter "Longoria") sued Rankin under § 1983, the district court held that Rankin was entitled to qualified immunity and entered summary judgment in his favor. We reverse and remand for further proceedings.[1]


         Distraught over his relationship with the mother of three of his children, Manuel Longoria stole his brother-in-law's car and began driving around the city of Eloy, Arizona. Eloy police officers saw him and initiated a traffic stop, but Longoria fled and led officers on a chase that lasted for more than 70 minutes.

         The Eloy Police Department ("EPD") asked the Pinal County Sheriff's Office ("PCSO") to be on "standby" in case Longoria left Eloy's jurisdiction. PCSO informed its officers that Longoria was driving a stolen vehicle and (mistakenly) that he was armed. PCSO Deputy Heath Rankin and his partner, Deputy J. Rice, joined the pursuit and participated for more than 40 minutes.

         During the chase, Longoria stopped his vehicle and spoke with the pursuing officers several times, but continued to ignore commands to surrender. During one of these stops, Longoria got out of the car and was seen holding and kissing purple or dark-colored rosary beads which he held in his hand. During another, he got out of the car for a brief period and held his wallet behind his back. EPD Detective Salazar saw that Longoria was holding a wallet, not a gun, behind his back and shouted this out to the other officers on the scene. That information was also dispatched on an EPD radio frequency that Rankin was monitoring. Rankin maintains that he did not hear that part of the broadcast.

         Longoria exhibited other erratic behavior. He threw money and various objects out of the vehicle while driving and told officers that he had nothing to live for and wanted to die. Longoria asked officers to give his money to his family members, and at times even joked with officers pursuing him that they would scratch their vehicles if they kept pulling so close to him. While driving, he waved his hand out of the car, sometimes making a gun with his fingers and pointing his fingers at his head as though gesturing for officers to shoot him. EPD Officer Dean reported over the radio that Longoria was simulating a gun with his fingers.

         As Longoria continued to drive, onlookers gathered and he laughed, pointed, waved, and even flashed a peace sign at civilians on the streets.

         Shortly before the chase ended, Pinal County Lieutenant Villegas ordered Rankin and other Pinal County deputies to stand down from the pursuit. Rankin heard this command and initially followed it. Rankin's Sergeant then directed him to form a perimeter at the intersection of Main and Battaglia Streets, which he did.

         A few minutes later, Eloy police officers halted the chase by disabling Longoria's car with a PIT maneuver.[2] Rankin was standing around the corner about a half-block away. After hearing the crash, he abandoned the perimeter, grabbed his assault rifle, and ran towards the scene, followed by his partner Rice.[3]

         While Rankin was sprinting to the scene, Longoria got out of his vehicle and stood facing the Eloy officers with one hand behind his back near the car. Eight officers surrounded him and drew their guns. Longoria initially did not comply with police commands to show his hands. Eloy Sergeant Tarrango shouted for officers to use "less lethal, " or less than lethal, force at least twice. Other Eloy ...

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