In C.V. v. City of Anaheim, published May 25, 2016, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part a district court's grant of summary judgment to a group of police officers. The officers responded to a 911 call of a drug dealer, possibly armed with a shotgun, loitering in a parking lot. They encountered two men. One raised his hands in response to police commands. The other held the barrel of what appeared to be a shotgun (but turned out to be a BB gun that resembled a shotgun). The officers' accounts differed on whether the man picked the gun up or was holding it when police arrived. The man did not drop the gun in response to police commands. After about a second, one of the officers shot the man, without warning him. The man died from the shooting. His survivors and estate sued the officers under 42 U.S.C. section 1983, and also brought California law claims of negligence and wrongful death. The district court granted summary judgment as to all claims. It ruled that the shooting officer's actions were reasonable under the 4th Amendment, and that the officers were alternatively entitled to qualified immunity. It also ruled that the officers' actions were objectively reasonable, and that the officers were therefore entitled to summary judgment under the state law claims.
The 9th Circuit found triable issues of fact on whether the officers' actions were reasonable under the 4th Amendment and under the state law claims. A reasonable jury could conclude that the shooting officer acted unreasonably by coming across the man holding the long gun by the barrel, without moving the gun or making a move toward the trigger, and shooting him without giving him a warning or reasonable time to comply with their orders. But because the law concerning the officers' actions under the circumstances did not clearly establish that their acts were unreasonable, they were entitled to qualified immunity. The court therefore affirmed summary judgment on the section 1983 claims. But since qualified immunity does not apply to California law claims of negligence, the 9th Circuit reversed the grant of summary judgment as to those claims.