Ninth Circuit Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Antioch Police in Excessive Force Lawsuit

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The Antioch Police Department released a statement regarding the lawsuit in a June 28, 2012 shooting where the family of Denny Gonzales claimed civil rights violations, negligence and battery.

The officer involved shooting killed Denny Gonzales who at the time of the shooting reportedly had a 0.24 blood alcohol level and carried a loaded firearm towards police when he was making threats to harm officers.

In October of 2015, Judge Westmore of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, ruled in favor of the City of Antioch on all claims, dismissing this lawsuit.

The family appealed the ruling.

On June 7, 2017, the Ninth Circuit unanimously ruled that Judge Westmore did not err in dismissing the lawsuit in favor of the City.

Here is a copy of the press release:

On June 28, 2012, Denny Gonzales lost his life in the City of Antioch in a confrontation with Antioch Police Department (APD) officers. On that date, Gonzales, a local barber, made numerous statements to the police that clearly indicated he was homicidal, including comments that he was going to kill a police officer and other threats.

Gonzales, who was later found to have been emotionally distraught and significantly intoxicated, was shot and killed when he challenged officers with a firearm in front of his Antioch home.

In 2013, the wife of Gonzales and his young daughter (Plaintiffs) filed a lawsuit against the City of Antioch for claimed civil rights violations, negligence and battery. In October of 2015, Judge Westmore of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, ruled in favor of the City of Antioch on all claims, dismissing this lawsuit.

Judge Westmore found that “a reasonable officer at the scene would have reasonably believed that Mr. Gonzales posed a threat of serious physical harm to him or his fellow officers, justifying the use of deadly force.” Judge Westmore went on to state that “the undisputed evidence shows that the officers acted reasonably under the totality of the circumstances, and the City, therefore, faces no liability for the officers’ conduct.”

Plaintiffs appealed this decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, challenging the ruling by Judge Westmore. The appeal was argued on April 20, 2017, by outside counsel for the City, Noah G. Blechman, Esq., from the McNamara Law Firm  in Walnut Creek. On June 7, 2017, the Ninth Circuit unanimously ruled that Judge Westmore did not err in dismissing the lawsuit in favor of the City.

See Memorandum (http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/memoranda/2017/06/07/15-17291.pdf)

The Ninth Circuit found that “viewing the facts in the light most favorable to appellants (Plaintiffs), no reasonable jury could conclude that the officers’ use of deadly force was objectively unreasonable.” Pg. 2. The Ninth Circuit found that it was undisputed that the “responding officers were confronted with a suspect who had repeatedly threatened to kill a police officer and raised his gun in the direction of officers.” Pg. 3. In addition, the Ninth Circuit found that Plaintiffs did not show sufficient evidence of any negligence on the part of any City employees with regard to their actions or tactics leading up to the shooting.

Per Mr. Blechman, “The Ninth Circuit extensively analyzed this incident from start to finish on this appeal and came to the same rightful conclusion as Judge Westmore, that these officers acted lawfully, appropriately and reasonably in this difficult situation to which they were thrust. While it is clearly unfortunate when any citizen escalates a situation that necessitates the use of deadly force by officers, these involved officers of the City had no choice but to act in self-preservation and to protect fellow officers and the public when Mr. Gonzales came out onto his driveway with the firearm and raised the firearm. The extensive training of the involved officers and the well supervised tactical decisions on that date protected all other citizens as well as possible.”

The City of Antioch continues to extend their deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Denny Gonzales who have suffered from this unfortunate incident. The City of Antioch also wants to praise the actions of those involved officers and supervisors for their efforts which no doubt likely saved the lives the others and maintained public safety on June 28, 2012.

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9 COMMENTS

    • body cams for christ sake. this type of mugging of taxpayer happens way too often. the context doesnt pass sniff test then at trial becomes even more obvious. complete waste of time and money on degenerates looking to cash in.

  1. Whether sober, under the influence of drugs, or intoxicated when you walk out of your home with a gun in your hand ranting and raving and if you lift the barrel of the weapon and point the gun in the Officers direction as a ex-con what do you think will happen? You WILL die!!!! Plain and simple.

    Denny Gonzales knew exactly what he was doing and his decision resulted in his death. It’s very unfortunate but your actions have consequences, sometimes fatal.

    • I think Denny Gonzales is a candidate for the DARWIN AWARD ……. Look it up on Google if you don’t know what it stands for and who are the recipients.

  2. Why would the Attorney Noah G. Blechman, Esq., from the McNamara Law Firm in Walnut Creek. Pursue such a case, was there something more?… Or Hmmmm if the family was awarded one dollar, the City of Antioch would have to pay Attorney Fees, which would amount to tens of thousands.

  3. @Joe – Noah Blechman represented the City of Antioch and defended them. You are correct that if the City had lost, the plantiff’s and their legal team would have been paid. But in this case, Blechman, who is an amazing attorney and works for a very solid law firm that defends cities and others from these types of frivolous law suits.

  4. The ruling is correct. You can’t threaten the police. Wise up, and learn to respect the police.

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