A federal judge in the Northern District of Illinois recently granted summary judgment in favor of three City of Morris police officers. The incident giving rise to the suit began when a woman reported to the Morris police department that her boyfriend had struck her in the face. Later that evening, officers went to his residence to arrest him. Instead of giving up, the man barricaded himself in a bedroom with a chair in front of the door and ignored orders to come out. Several minutes later, he said he was coming out and began opening the bedroom door. At that moment, one officer reached through the partially open door, pulled the man out, and tackled him.
The man—who later pleaded guilty to felony domestic violence—alleged that the tackle was excessive force. The Court disagreed, finding that all three factors for determining whether force used is objectively reasonable, or unconstitutionally excessive, weighed in the officers’ favor. First, the man was wanted for a serious and inherently violent crime. Second, the officers had an objectively reasonable belief that the man posed a threat to their safety because the victim had reported that the man took a knife and slashed her tires after striking her, and the officers saw the slashed tires, which corroborated her statement. Third, the man was resisting and evading arrest. He had barricaded himself in the bedroom and refused to come out. Earlier in the evening, when reached by phone and asked to turn himself in, he responded with profanity and hung up. As to his statement that he was giving himself up, the officers were not obligated to take his word for it given his behavior up to that point. Rather, it was objectively reasonable for them to believe he was still seeking to thwart his arrest.
The man contended that because he suffered a small fracture to his upper arm from the tackle, that was enough to create a question of fact as to whether the force was excessive. The court rejected this argument as well. It relied on recent precedent that force “reasonably calculated to effect a clean takedown” in situations of this nature is not excessive simply because there is an unexpectedly bad outcome or injury. It added that several appellate cases had held that officers who had used a takedown or tackle to subdue a person who was resisting, but posed even less of a potential threat than the man here, did not use excessive force.
The prevailing police officers and the City of Morris were represented by Hervas, Condon, and Bersani P.C. partners Michael Bersani and David Mathues.