by Max Brantley
On the claim that the officers unlawfully entered Ellison’s apartment, the district court reasoned as follows: “Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Ellison, it cannot be concluded as a matter of law that an objectively reasonable basis existed for the officers to believe that they needed to enter the apartment because
Ellison or someone else within the apartment needed immediate aid.” The district court also said “[i]t is clear that entering a home without a warrant, absent consent or exigent circumstances, violates a clearly established right.”
On the claim that Lesher used excessive force when she shot and killed Ellison, the district court concluded:The case has dimensions beyond the killing of Ellison, father of one former and one current Little Rock police officer. It's part of several cases in which attorneys Michael Laux and Flint Taylor have asked the Justice Department to consider as part of a pattern and practice of excessive use of force by Little Rock police.
Simply put, the facts, when viewed in the light most favorable to Ellison, indicate that Ellison, a 67 year old man, was standing in his own home when he was killed by Lesher, after she and McCrillis unlawfully entered his apartment and ignored his requests for them to leave. Although he was refusing to lie on the ground as the officers directed, the four officers, two male and two female, did not try to physically subdue him and it is undisputed that he was making no attempt to flee. Lesher also never warned him that she had a gun and would shoot if he did not drop his cane. As a result, a reasonable jury could find that Lesher used deadly force against a person who did not pose an immediate threat of serious physical injury or death to them.
The district court further ruled that Lesher was not entitled to qualified immunity, because “existing case law made it sufficiently clear to a reasonable officer that a suspect cannot be apprehended by use of deadly force unless that individual poses a threat of serious physical harm.”
“The Fourth Amendment generally requires a warrant before police may enter a residence…
...and while there are exceptions to the warrant requirement in exceptional situations, ‘mouthiness’ of a resident is not one of them.”