In the wake of the Michigan Supreme Court’s pinnacle decision in Odom v. Wayne County, 482 Mich 459 (2008), which I briefed and argued, the Michigan Court of Appeals had yet to address the difficult case involving serious consequences of police activity. In Gentry v. Deputy Daniel Carmona and Wayne County, another case I briefed and argued, the Court of Appeals finally had to address the question of state immunity in a police shooting case. The deputy sheriff claimed he acted in good faith in shooting the suspect / arrestee in the back, because the deputy’s partner hollered that he thought the plaintiff was going for his weapon during a violent altercation which was initiated by the plaintiff. Not surprisingly, the trial court focused on the conduct of the officer and not the propriety of his discretionary decision to employ potentially deadly force under the “good faith / bad faith” analysis clarified in Odom. The Court of Appeals reversed. As I had urged during oral argument, it does not matter whether or not the suspect actually went for the deputy’s weapon; all that matters is that the deputy that made the decision to draw his weapon and employ deadly force heard his partner yell that he thought the plaintiff was trying to disarm him. The deputy then had to make a split-second, life or death decision to employ that force he deemed necessary to avert greater harm. Thankfully, the Court of Appeals got the Odom standard right and applied it to this case. This is a very significant decision for law enforcement officers and provides further guidance and clarification on the perimeters of acceptable conduct in use-of-force settings.
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