Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Denies Immunity in Civil Rights Action Filed by Parents of Teenager Shot and Killed by CHP Officer


In Adams v. Speers, eighteen year-old Alan Adams was pursued by numerous Merced County Sheriff's Office deputies, after running numerous stop signs. Paul Speers, a CHP officer, picked up the chase on his radio, and before his assignment ended picked up a friend, and without advising law enforcement vehicles of his identity or his intentions, pulled his car out and tried, but failed, to ram Adams' vehicle. Speers then continued on in the chase and proceeded to the front of the police procession. Finally, Speers crashed his car into Adam's vehicle and pushed it into an embankment. Officers surrounded Adams' vehicle, and one officer used his baton to break the driver's side window in an attempt to extract Adams from the car. Before the officer could act, Speers, without any warning, drew his service weapon and fired six rounds, killing Adams.

The deceased teenager's parents filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C section 1983, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, and wrongful death. Per the standard set forth in the United States Supreme Court case, Saucier v. Katz, the district court first determined that if all facts were viewed in favor of the Adamses, Speers had violated the Fourth Amendment. The court stated that it was unreasonable for a police officer to seize an unarmed, nondangerous suspect. The court determined that per the second Saucier step the actions of Speers were no reasonable, therefore the district court denied him qualified immunity. The Ninth Circuit found the district court's judgment was "impeccable," and therefore upheld the judgment in its entirety.

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