Seventh Circuit Holds Police Officer's Use Of Deadly Force Was Reasonable

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has held that a Janesville, Wisconsin police officer's use of deadly force was reasonable, thereby affirming the district court's granting of summary judgment in the officer's favor. Garrett Henning was shot by Officer Timothy O'Leary after resisting arrest. The court first stated that "Deadly force, which O'Leary employed in this case, is reasonable where an officer has reasonable cause to believe that the suspect poses a danger of serious bodily harm, such as when the officer believes the suspect has a weapon or has committed a violent crime." The court went on to state that "Here, there can be no doubt that O'Leary had the requisite reasonable cause. In the tense struggle that followed Henning's refusal to submit to the officers' attempts to handcuff him, Peterson's gun got loose, and at least two officers believed Henning had his hands on or near it. Police officers cannot be expected to wait until a resisting arrestee has a firm grip on a deadly weapon and completely freed himself from officers trying to subdue him before taking action to ensure their safety. Nor can they be required to take a less deadly shot where none is available that would not place someone else also in jeopardy." Finally, the court held that plaintiff offered no real evidence in opposition to the motion, stating "The Hennings dispute the officers' characterization of the events, but they offer no real evidence to contradict it. . . Yet, minor inconsistencies are not unusual - indeed exact, step by step recall of this incident by three different officers would be unusual. Absent something else, the Hennings really offer nothing to corroborate their version of the events - certainly not enough to get them to a jury. The plaintiff must present affirmative evidence in order to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment." The Seventh Circuit panel was comprised of Judges Easterbrook , Posner and Evans.