Jean-Baptiste v Gutierrez

In any situation reasonableness must be definitive. What the circumstances are, the seriousness of the offense, and the danger an offender may take on innocent citizens or fellow officers.

Officer Gutierrez was on patrol in Lake City, Florida, where he was employed. During the shift a lookout was issued for red Neon occupied by two black males who were suspects in an armed robbery. A short time later Officer Gutierrez saw the vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed passing under a red traffic light on the shoulder of the roadway. Officer Gutierrez turned on his emergency equipment and a short high speed chase began. The Neon went through several other traffic lights and subsequently crashed into a wall. Erlis Jean-Baptiste and Sidney Jean took a bush bond into a residential area and Officer Gutierrez began a foot chase.

A witness who had been working on a residence saw where the two ran and motioned to Officer Gutierrez. The suspects ran into two other officers in the area who also gave chase, running the suspects back to Officer Gutierrez. As they approached Officer Gutierrez saw one of them carrying an unknown object which he thought was a firearm. Officer Gutierrez gave pursuit again chasing the two around a house where Jean-Baptiste went over a fence. At that time Officer Gutierrez was cognizant of a shed there. He turned and saw Jean-Baptiste holding a firearm 8 to 10 feet away. Officer Gutierrez fired fourteen rounds at Jean-Baptiste striking him eight times. Six times in his legs, once in his foot, and the one into his testicles. Jean-Baptiste fell to the ground after the last round. Officer Gutierrez went to Jean-Baptiste and saw the gun was laying a foot or two away. Officer Gutierrez called for help and reloaded his firearm. He then secured the crime scene. Jean-Baptiste survived but, was confined to a wheel chair.

An investigation was initiated. Statements made by Officer Gutierrez and Jean-Baptiste left no doubt that Jean-Baptiste was in possession of a firearm. Furthermore, Officer Gutierrez fired without verbal warning. In dispute were where Jean-Baptiste's firearm was located and why Officer Gutierrez discharged his firearm so many times. Officer Gutierrez stated that Jean-Baptiste was pointing the firearm at him and signaling that he would shoot. Officer Gutierrez stated the he fired repeatedly because Jean-Baptiste did not stop pointing the firearm at him and only stopped when Jean-Baptiste went down after his last round.

Jean-Baptiste stated he did not point the gun at the officer nor, did he intend to shoot the officer. The firearm did not have a round in the chamber. He stated Officer Gutierrez's first or second shot was to the groin. So, the following shots were maliciously and sadistically administered.

At the crime scene a 9mm auto was found with the safety disengaged and partially cocked. No cartridge was in the chamber but, the magazine contained 12 rounds.

Jean-Baptiste was indicted for burglary with assault or battery while armed, kidnapping with a weapon, aggravated battery with a deadly weapon or firearm, armed carjacking, unlawful possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, unlawful possession of a firearm by a violent career criminal, and aggravated assault on an officer. The firearm charges were dismissed prior to trial.

At trial Jean-Baptiste was convicted of all charges relating to the crimes he committed other than assaulting Officer Gutierrez.

Immediately thereafter, Jean-Baptiste filed a complaint against Officer Gutierrez alleging excessive force to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In the complaint he alleged that he fell to the ground after the first round and that Officer Gutierrez continued to fire without cause.

Officer Gutierrez moved for summary judgment based on qualified immunity. Officer Gutierrez's argument was that he re-acted as any reasonable person would do under those circumstances would. Deadly force was necessary as he feared for his life and that of others. He tendered into evidence statements by a co-defendant, other police officers, Jean-Baptiste's statement, crime scene reports and forensic reports.

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