With the disputed facts of an officer-involved shooting not yet resolved, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed a request by multiple Indianapolis Metro Police Department officers for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds.
On Christmas Eve in 2017, Alhadji F. Bayon attempted to rob a gas station in Indianapolis and fled the scene in an SUV. Officers learned of the attempted robbery over their police radios, and a high-speed pursuit ensued through residential areas.
To stop Bayon’s vehicle, an officer executed a maneuver with his car that resulted in the suspect’s SUV spinning and crashing into a tree in the front yard of a home.
Using a loudspeaker, officer Robbin Myers ordered Bayon to exit the vehicle multiple times. Bayon did not immediately comply, and the officers indicated that he took several minutes to exit the vehicle.
What happened after Bayon’s vehicle crashed remains in dispute.
Bayon testified in his deposition that he was dazed from hitting his head during the collision and that he struggled to open the door of his SUV due to injuries. He was eventually able to force the door open and exit the vehicle, he said.
On the street, Bayon said he saw 10 to 15 police officers and heard two conflicting commands: one to put his hands up and another to show identification. Bayon claimed he reached toward his back right pants pocket for his wallet, but the officers responded to his movements by shooting him.
Three bullets hit Bayon and he fell face-first to the ground. Once he was on the ground, the officers approached him and rolled him over.
Bayon stated that once he was rolled, one of the officers said, “Oh, my God, he doesn’t have a weapon.”
The officers presented a different version of events.
Following Myers’ orders to exit the vehicle, police reported that it took Bayon approximately five minutes to exit the SUV. Prior to his exit, Myers observed the vehicle rocking back and forth and thought Bayon could be digging around for something inside.
After Bayon finally exited the vehicle, officers said they saw him take several aggressive steps toward Myers. Each officer also claimed to have seen him reach for something in or near his waistband.
Specifically, Myers said she saw Bayon reach down and lift up his T-shirt, where she saw a black, hard object with a ribbed handle that she believed was a gun. Another officer also claimed to have seen Bayon lift his shirt and reach for a black object in the waistband of his pants. He also claimed to have heard other officers yell “gun” before shots were fired.
After rolling Bayon over, an officer pulled “a car jack handle, about 2 feet long” out of his pant leg.
When asked why he did it, Bayon told Myers that he “wanted to die.” In his deposition, Bayon stated he did not recall making that statement.
Bayon alleged the shooting was unreasonable and violated his Fourth Amendment rights. The officers moved for summary judgment, asserting that their use of force was justified and that, in any event, they were entitled to qualified immunity because their conduct did not violate clearly established law.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana determined the record presented a genuine issue of material fact for a jury to decide.
Relying on Strand v. Minchuk, 910 F.3d 909 (7th Cir. 2018), the district court concluded that “[a] reasonable jury could find that, when the officers shot Mr. Bayon, he was ‘subdued and complying with the officer[s’] orders.’” Because the facts underlying the officers’ qualified immunity argument were in dispute, the district court denied the officers’ motion for summary judgment.
An appeal then ensued, but the 7th Circuit dismissed the appeal brought by officers Marshall Berkebile, Matthew York and Myers. Comparing and contrasting the instant case to Siler v. City of Kenosha, 957 F.3d 751 (7th Cir. 2020), the 7th Circuit concluded it lacked the jurisdiction in this case.
“Although the officers suggest otherwise, they ‘are not asking us for review of an abstract question of law, but rather they seek a reassessment of the district court’s conclusion that sufficient evidence existed for [Bayon] to go to trial.’ Stinson v. Gauger, 868 F.3d 516, 526 (7th Cir. 2015); see also Jones v. Clark, 630 F.3d 677, 680 (7th Cir. 2011),” Judge Kenneth Ripple wrote for the court. “… These issues present the ‘uncertainties and unresolved material questions of fact’ that must be resolved by a factfinder before liability can be assessed.”
The case is Alhadji F. Bayon v. Marshall Berkebile, et al., 21-1125.