United States District Court, N.D. California
ORDER DENYING IN PART AND GRANTING IN PART
DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT RE: DKT. NO.
Gonzalez Rogers United States District Court Judge
January 3, 2018, decedent Sahleem Tindle
(“Tindle”) was shot and killed by a Bay Area
Rapid Transit (“BART”) police officer. Plaintiffs
herein are Yolanda Banks-Reed, the decedent's mother;
S.A.T. and S.I.T., the decedent's minor children, who are
represented in this action by their guardian ad litem, Ciara
Turner; and the decedent's estate. Plaintiffs'
complaint alleges four causes of action against defendants
BART, BART Chief of Police Carlos Rojas, and BART police
officer Joseph Mateu III for: (i) violations of the Fourth
and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1983; (ii) violation of
California Civil Code section 52.1 (the Bane Act); and (iii)
before the Court is defendants' motion for summary
judgment, which came on for hearing on October 22, 2019.
Having carefully considered the papers submitted, the
arguments of the parties at the hearing, the admissible
evidence, and the pleadings in this action, and for the
reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is hereby
Denied as to the Fourth Amendment claim,
including qualified immunity, and as to the state law claim
for wrongful death, and Granted as to all
initial facts of this incident are not materially in dispute:
On January 3, 2018, at approximately 4:39 p.m., Sgt. Mateu
was on duty at the West Oakland BART Station when two loud
“pops” were heard. Bystanders ran into the BART
station and sought cover. Sgt. Mateu asked what had happened,
and a bystander shouted, “They're shooting.”
Sgt. Mateu ran out of the station and towards the gunfire. As
he ran, Sgt. Mateu spoke into his radio, “Shots fired
at West Oakland.” Seconds later, Sgt. Mateu reached the
sidewalk where Tindle and another man, Rayvell Newton, were
engaged in a physical struggle. As he approached, Sgt. Mateu
shouted, “Let me see your hands! Let me see your hands,
now! Both of you! Both of you! Let me see your hands!”
The parties take different positions as to what transpired
version: When Sgt. Mateu arrived on the scene, he saw Tindle
on the ground, lying on his left side, with a gun in his left
hand. Despite Sgt. Mateu's repeated commands, Tindle did
not surrender. Less than two seconds later, Tindle rolled
over onto his knees, with his back to Sgt. Mateu, and lifted
up his left elbow. Sgt. Mateu concluded that Tindle had
transferred the gun to his right hand. Tindle then turned
towards Newton, still with his back to Sgt. Mateu and both of
his hands concealed. One second later, Tindle moved his empty
left hand into view of Sgt. Mateu. A fraction of a second
later, Sgt. Mateu fired the first shot. Within a half second,
he had fired two more shots. He then stopped to reassess the
threat, and after seeing the gun fall from Tindle's right
hand and land on the ground, he ceased firing.
version: When Sgt. Mateu arrived on the scene, Newton was on
his knees, leaning over Tindle, who was lying on the ground.
Newton had his hand on Tindle's hand, in a mutual
struggle for the gun. Tindle then rolled onto his knees, with
his back to Sgt. Mateu. The two men continued to struggle,
with Tindle hunched over on his knees and Newton reaching
over Tindle's neck for his hands. Sgt. Mateu ordered,
“Let me see your hands!” two more times. Newton
did not comply. Tindle, by comparison, raised his left arm,
which was his only free arm, in an attempt to surrender. Sgt.
Mateu immediately fired three shots at Tindle in a single
body camera footage from Sgt. Mateu is consistent with each
party's version of the facts in some respects but is
unclear in others. The footage confirms that Sgt. Mateu
repeatedly shouted, “Let me see your hands, ”
namely, five times during the course of the
incident. Further, the footage shows that when Sgt.
Mateu reached the sidewalk, Newton was on his knees,
struggling with Tindle, who was lying on his left side.
However, the exact position of Tindle's hands,
Newton's hands, and the gun, at the moment Sgt. Mateu
arrived on the scene, are not clear based on the angle and
quality of the video. Moreover, the footage confirms that
Tindle rolled from his left side onto his knees, with his
back to Sgt. Mateu and his hands out of view of Sgt. Mateu
and the body camera, while he continued to struggle with
Newton. In addition, the footage shows that Tindle raised his
empty left hand a split-second before Sgt. Mateu shot him.
judgment is appropriate when “there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
“A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is
genuinely disputed must support that assertion by . . .
citing to particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits, or declarations, stipulations . . .
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials,
” or by “showing that materials cited do not
establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or
that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to
support the fact.” Id. 56(c)(1)(A), (B). Thus,
summary judgment is mandated “against a party who fails
to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an
element essential to that party's case, and on which that
party will bear the burden of proof at trial.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
moving party defendant bears the burden of specifying the
basis for the motion and the elements of the causes of action
upon which the plaintiff will be unable to establish a
genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The
burden then shifts to the plaintiff to establish the
existence of a material fact that may affect the outcome of
the case under the governing substantive law. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
summary judgment context, the court construes all disputed
facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Ellison v. Robertson, 357 F.3d 1072, 1075 (9th Cir.
2004). If the plaintiff “produces direct evidence of a
material fact, the court may not assess the credibility of
this evidence nor weigh against it any conflicting evidence
presented by” defendants. Mayes v. WinCo Holdings,
Inc., 846 F.3d 1274, 1277 (9th Cir. 2017).
“[C]redibility determinations, the weighing of the
evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from facts
are jury functions, not those of a judge.” George
v. Edholm, 752 F.3d 1206, 1214 (9th Cir. 2014)
(alteration in original) (quotation omitted). Thus
“where evidence is genuinely disputed on a particular
issue- such as by conflicting testimony-that issue is
inappropriate for resolution on summary judgment.”
Zetwick v. Cty. of Yolo, 850 F.3d 436, 441 (9th Cir.
2017) (internal quotation marks omitted).
Excessive Force Claim
first move for summary judgment on plaintiffs' Fourth
Amendment excessive force claim, on grounds that Sgt. Mateu
used objectively reasonable force and is entitled to
qualified immunity. Plaintiffs maintain that Sgt. Mateu's
use of force was patently unreasonable, that material fact
questions preclude summary judgment on whether his actions
were objectively reasonable, and that viewing the facts in
the light most favorable to plaintiffs, it has been clearly
established that his use of force was a constitutional
violation. The Court first considers whether a genuine
dispute of material fact exists, and if so, proceeds to the
qualified immunity analysis.
Reasonableness of Force
Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees
citizens the right “to be secure in their
persons” against “unreasonable seizures.”
Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989);
Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 7-8 (1985).
“[T]here can be no question that apprehension by the
use of deadly force is a seizure subject to the
reasonableness requirement of the Fourth Amendment.”
Garner, 471 U.S. at 7.
Fourth Amendment claim of excessive force requires an
examination of “whether the officers' actions are
‘objectively reasonable' in light of the facts and
circumstances confronting them, ” which “requires
a careful balancing of the ‘nature and quality of the
intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment
interests' against the countervailing governmental
interests at stake.” Graham, 490 U.S. at
396-97 (citations omitted). “The strength of the
government's interest in the force used is evaluated by
examining three primary factors: (1) ‘whether the
suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the
officers or others,' (2) ‘the severity of the crime
at issue,' and (3) ‘whether he is actively
resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by
flight.'” Glenn v. Washington Cty., 673
F.3d 864, 872 (9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Graham, 490
U.S. at 396). Of these factors, the Ninth Circuit has held
that the most important is “whether the suspect poses
an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or
others.” Chew v. Gates, 27 F.3d 1432, 1440
(9th Cir. 1994).
test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is not
capable of precise definition or mechanical application . . .
[and] requires careful attention to the facts and
circumstances of each particular case[.]”
Graham, 490 U.S. at 396 (citing Garner, 471
U.S. at 8-9 and Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559
(1979)). “The calculus of reasonableness must embody
allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced
to make split-second judgments-in circumstances that are
tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving-about the amount of
force that is necessary in a particular situation.”
Id. at 396-97. “[H]owever, the
‘reasonableness' inquiry in an excessive force case
is an objective one: the question is whether the
officers' actions are ‘objectively reasonable'
in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them,
without regard to their underlying intent or
motivation.” Id. at 397. “Because [the
excessive force inquiry] nearly always requires a jury to
sift through disputed factual contentions, and to draw
inferences therefrom, [the Ninth Circuit has] held on many
occasions that summary judgment or judgment as a matter of
law in excessive force cases should be granted
sparingly.” Smith v. City of Hemet, 394 F.3d
689, 701 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting Santos v. Gates,
287 F.3d 846, 853 (9th Cir. 2002)).
parties agree that Sgt. Mateu's use of lethal force was
“extreme” and “implicates the highest level
of Fourth Amendment interests.” A.K.H. ex rel
Landeros v. City of Tustin, 837 F.3d 1005, 1011 (9th
Cir. 2016). For purposes of summary judgment, the Court
determines whether the government's use of force here was
objectively reasonable as a matter of law. To do so, the
Court considers (a) whether Tindle posed an immediate threat
to the safety of Sgt. Mateu or others, (b) the severity of
the crime at issue, and (c) whether Tindle was actively
resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.
See Glenn, 673 F.3d at 872.
Immediate Threat To Safety
most important factor in the governmental interest analysis
is whether Tindle presented an immediate threat to
another's safety when he was shot. Chew, 27 F.3d
at 1440. Defendants argue that Sgt. Mateu reasonably
concluded that Tindle presented such a threat because Tindle
initially had possession of the gun in his left hand, failed
to comply with Sgt. Mateu's commands to surrender, and
immediately before being shot, turned towards Newton with the
gun in his right hand.
undisputed evidence supports defendants' position.
Namely, the body camera footage confirms that Tindle failed
to comply with Sgt. Mateu's repeated commands and turned
towards Newton just before he was shot. However, at least two
material issues of fact remain in dispute to evaluate this
element. The first is whether Tindle had possession of the
gun in his left hand when Sgt. Mateu arrived on the scene.
Although Sgt. Mateu testified that Tindle had possession of
the gun when he arrived on the scene, later in his
deposition, he testified that both men had their
hands on the gun and were wrestling for control over it.
(Dkt. No. 40-1 (“Mateu Dep.”), 72:1-8, 80:17-25,
82:11-13.) The body camera footage does ...