Jean-Baptiste agreed that Officer Gutierrez reacted in the scope of his authority. However, he argued that Officer Gutierrez went beyond his authority by using deadly force. Jean-Baptiste claimed he did not point the gun at Officer Gutierrez nor had the firearm in battery to fire. Jean-Baptiste also leaned upon the testimony of the eyewitness Perez. Perez on the other hand admitted he could not see what actually took place when Officer Gutierrez fired on Jean-Baptiste.
The district court found for Jean-Baptiste. In its decision it ruled:
The district court denied Officer Gutierrez's motion for summary judgment on the ground that he acted unreasonably by using deadly force after the need for force had subsided. The district court viewed the evidence in the light most favorable to Jean-Baptiste and found that Officer Gutierrez "maliciously and sadistically shot a non-resisting, non-fleeing (Jean-Baptiste) an additional ten to twelve times from close range after having incapacitated him with an initial shot to the genital-region and after (Jean-Baptiste)'s weapon was no longer within his control." The district court (*8) "concluded that even if the initial use of deadly force was constitutionally permissible, the additional ten or twelve shots fired while (Jean-Baptiste) lay unarmed on the ground in an incapacitated state constituted a Fourth Amendment violation by Defendant Gutierrez." (Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. D.C. Docket No. 1:07-cv-21728-ASG. ERLIS JEAN-BAPTISTE, Plaintiff-Appellee, versus JOSE GUTIERREZ, Police Officer, Miami-Dade Police Department, Defendant-Appellant.No. 10-11129 Non-Argument Calendar UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE ELEVENTH CIRCUIT, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 24870)
Officer Gutierrez appealed to the 11th United States District Court for qualified immunity. The court took into consideration Graham v Connor and reasoned that officers are forced to make split second decisions. Particularly in rapidly evolving events where they must use force and determine the amount of force necessary in the situation they found themselves in. In any situation reasonableness must be definitive. What the circumstances are, the seriousness of the offense, and the danger an offender may take on innocent citizens or fellow officers. Additionally whether a warning may or, may not be issued before the implementation of deadly force and the perspective of the officer. "(t)he only perspective that counts is that of a reasonable officer on the scene at the time the events unfolded." (Garczynski v. Bradshaw, 573 F.3d 1158, 1166 (11th Cir. 2009)
Officer Gutierrez was in a difficult situation. Jean-Baptiste was suspected of committing violent crimes and had run from Officer Gutierrez. Jean-Baptiste was armed and posed a threat to Officer Gutierrez and others. Officer Gutierrez had seconds to make the decision to utilize deadly force. Officer Gutierrez believed that he had stumbled into an ambush and he had to use deadly force because, Jean-Baptiste was armed, had the firearm in his hands, and Officer Gutierrez could not wait to see what Jean-Baptiste's intentions were. "(T)he law does not require officers in a tense and dangerous situation to wait until the moment a suspect uses a deadly weapon to act to stop the suspect." (Long v. Slaton, 508 F.3d 576, 581 (11th Cir. 2007).
On the issue of the number of rounds fired by Officer Gutierrez the court found in Crenshaw v. Lister, 556 F.3d 1283, 1293 (11th Cir. 2009) that officers may use force until the offender is secured and does not pose a threat. Officer Gutierrez utilized force until Jean-Baptiste no longer posed a threat. Officer Gutierrez could not trust that Jean-Baptiste would not try to hurt him under these circumstances.
The 11th circuit ruled that the district court's decision that Officer Gutierrez acted maliciously and sadistically were subjective beliefs and were irrelevant to qualified immunity. Officer Gutierrez used reasonable force in dealing with Jean-Baptiste. Jean-Baptiste failed to prove to the court otherwise. Officer Gutierrez was entitled to qualified immunity. The 11th circuit reversed the lower court's decision and awarded Officer Gutierrez qualified immunity.