U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit
Civil Rights — substantive due process
A police officer is not liable for the battery of one suspect against another.
“[W]e conclude that Officer Rodriguez did not disregard a known or obvious risk so much as he made a difficult decision that balanced legitimate competing dangers, both to himself and the men he detained. Indeed, it is not clear what Officer Rodriguez should have done differently to avoid McDowell’s injury. Certainly, he might have paid more attention to Morandi, and issued another warning for him to stop (assuming McDowell is correct that no second warning was issued). But that would have afforded other suspects the opportunity to get up while the officer was preoccupied, and in any event it likely would not have made a difference. Once Morandi disobeyed his first command, simply repeating the order might actually have undermined Officer Rodriguez’s authority. He could have tased Morandi, but that might have exposed him to at-tack from the other suspects. Physically positioning himself between Morandi and McDowell would have been a particularly bad idea, because he then would necessarily be turned away from one (or both) of them. And of course, encouraging McDowell to flee or defend himself would have been absurdly irresponsible. Officer Rodriguez had only a matter of seconds to decide among these and many other options. Even if he chose poorly — and we express no opinion on that point — his snap judgment did not rise to the level of a constitutional tort.”
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, St. Eve, J., Tinder, J.