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Shaw v. City of Selma

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

March 7, 2018

EDWARD SHAW, as Personal Representative of the estate of Ananias Shaw, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CITY OF SELMA, an Alabama Municipal Corporation, CHIEF WILLIAM RILEY, in his official and individual capacity, OFFICER DESMOND WILLIAMS, Defendants-Appellees.

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama D.C. Docket No. 2:16-cv-00007-WS-M

          Before ED CARNES, Chief Judge, BLACK, Circuit Judge, and MAY, [*] District Judge.

          ED CARNES, CHIEF JUDGE

         A Selma Police officer shot and killed Ananias Shaw, who was coming toward him with a hatchet. Shaw's estate brought 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims for excessive force and false arrest and state law tort claims against Officer Desmond Williams, former Selma Police Chief William Riley, and the City of Selma. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants and the estate has appealed.

         I.

         A.

         In the middle of the afternoon in early December 2013, Selma Police received an emergency call about a disturbance at a Church's Chicken restaurant. Shaw, a 74-year-old mentally ill man, had attempted to enter the restaurant but was turned away by its general manager. Officers Daniel Boone, Ronald Jones, and Desmond Williams responded to a dispatch about the incident.

         The dispatch directed the officers to the Church's Chicken with the call "disorderly conduct in progress." The dispatcher relayed the suspect's description to the officers and informed them that Shaw had been at the restaurant the Sunday before "armed with a knife."

         Jones was already in the area near the Church's Chicken. After he spotted Shaw, who matched the dispatched description of the disorderly suspect, Jones radioed for the other officers to join him. The three of them found Shaw inside an abandoned laundromat down the street. Most of the events of the next two minutes were recorded by Williams' body camera.[1]

         Boone, who was familiar with Shaw, went inside the building "to talk" with him and coax him out. Williams walked up to the building at roughly the same time. As he approached, Jones (who also knew Shaw) warned Williams that Shaw would "fight you in a minute."

         Once inside, Boone asked Shaw to go outside the laundromat and speak with him, but Shaw refused. Shaw then bent down and picked up a hatchet. Boone drew his gun in response and started backing out of the building. Shaw, holding the hatchet, followed him.

         As Boone exited the laundromat, the officers firmly and clearly told Shaw several times to "put the axe down."[2] Once Shaw was outside, Williams drew his gun, and Jones pulled out his baton. Shaw began slowly walking away from the building in the direction of the restaurant. The officers followed him down the street with their weapons drawn. Between Shaw's curses at them, they repeatedly instructed him to put down the hatchet. Shaw ignored them and continued walking away, hatchet still in hand.

         The four continued making their way down the street, walking past some houses. Shaw slowed down and moved onto the front lawn of one of those houses, stopping beside a parked car. Williams, following closely, raised his pistol and ordered Shaw to put down the hatchet twice more. Shaw stopped walking, turned, and began moving slowly towards Williams. As he approached, Shaw shouted for Williams to "Shoot it! Shoot it!" As he did so, Shaw's right arm and the hatchet were outside the frame of the video.

         By the time he was less than five feet away from Williams, Shaw, while holding the hatchet, yelled "Shoot it!" one more time. Williams immediately fired a single shot at Shaw's chest, and Shaw fell.[3] The video shows that when the shot was fired Shaw was close to Williams and moving closer. A short time afterwards, the paramedics pronounced Shaw dead at the scene.

         In the two minutes or so between Williams' arrival at the laundromat and the shooting, the officers told Shaw to ...


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