Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

U.C. Davis officers Barragan, Chang and Garcia denied qualified immunity

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Case: NELSON v. CITY OF DAVIS, 10-16256 (9th Cir. 7-11-2012)

What happened: Police officers were attempting to disperse a large party at an apartment complex. Instead of giving the partygoers clear instructions about where to go, they instead decided to fire paintballs filled with pepperspray material into the crowd of students awaiting orders from the police. One of the students was struck in the eye, suffered serious injuries and lost his athletic scholarship.

Decision: No qualified immunity for the officers. The pepperball attack violated the Fourth Amendment.


After the shooting, Nelson, his father, and a number of his companions who were present at the incident, filed incident reports with the Davis and U.C. Davis police forces. Despite their efforts, James Hyde, Chief of the Davis Police Department, approved of the decision not to accept the complaint for the Davis Police and did not conduct an investigation into the use of force. Calvin Handy, Chief of the U.C. Davis Police Department, authorized an internal investigation into the use of force, but relied solely on the written reports provided by the officers, which did not disclose that anyone had been seriously injured. On the basis of these reports he concluded that all policies had been followed. After the complaints filed on Nelson’s behalf failed to result in a serious investigation into the use of force at the apartment complex, Nelson filed suit in district court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging, among other things, a violation of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizure. In addition to officers Barragan, Chang and Garcia, the officers involved directly in the shooting, Nelson sued Hyde and Handy for their actions in ratifying the unconstitutional conduct of the officers. Neither the students nor the officers identified which of the officers shot the projectile which hit Nelson.

Written by Burgers Allday

July 13, 2012 at 6:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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