Arizona Police Excessive Force Case Reinstated

A previously dismissed excessive force lawsuit against a University of Arizona police officer was reinstated Monday by a federal appeals court.

Amy Hughes will have another opportunity to pursue her civil rights claims against the officer who shot her four times while she carried a knife and walked toward another bystander.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the summary dismissal of the lawsuit against Corporal Andrew Kisela saying the evidence did not support a finding that his actions were reasonable.

In May 2010, Kisela and another officer were called to a report that a woman was hacking a tree with a large knife.  Hughes emerged from her house with a large kitchen knife and Sharon Chadwick stood outside near the driveway. Hughes began to walk to Chadwick, who said she near felt Hughes was a threat, according to the court.

As Hughes approached her, officers drew their guns and ordered her to drop the knife. They were separated from Hughes by a chainlink fence and yelled several times for her to drop the knife, but she did not. Kisela fired four shots through the fence. Each shot struck Hughes and she fell at Chadwick’s feet, but survived the shooting.  All this took place in less than one minute, according to the court.

Chadwick said Hughes was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was taking medication. The two lived together and Chadwick had managed her behavior in the past. Chadwick speculated that Hughes would have given her knife to police if asked, but was not given the opportunity, the opinion states.

“The application of qualified immunity [for Kisela] in this case will depend upon the facts as determined by a jury,” the appeals court held. While Hughes may have been acting erratically, a jury could find that Hughes “had a constitutional right to walk down her driveway holding a knife without being shot,” wrote Judge William Sessions III, a visiting judge from Vermont.

Joining in the ruling were Judges Ronald Gould and Marsha Berzon.

Case: Hughes v. Kisela, No. 14-15059


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