Police Shot Woman Holding Cell Phone And Federal Judge Blocks Her Civil Rights Lawsuit
An Orange County woman shot as many as six times in June 2012 by police, who claimed they thought the cell phone she held was a handgun, has lost her civil rights lawsuit inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana.
U.S. District Court Judge Josephine L. Staton this week formally granted the pre-trial, summary judgment request by lawyers representing the City of Orange, Orange Police Department as well as officers Brian Chambers, Charles Lange and Trent Hardeman.
In the wee hours of June 23, 2012, Olivia Ann Reil--distraught from a argument with her boyfriend who hadn't told her he loved her during the year they'd dated--was collecting personal items from inside a parked Toyota pickup truck near the intersection of Sycamore and Spruce when she noticed bright lights behind her vehicle.
People she could not see because of the lights demanded that she drop her weapon--commands she didn't understand because she held a cell phone.
Two of the cops, Chambers and Hardeman, opened fire just as Lange yelled, "It's a cell phone."
Lange did not shoot.
Between four and six bullets struck Reil in the left arm, left thigh and abdomen, and fractured bones, according to court records.
In her lawsuit, the plaintiff claimed the officers' use of potentially deadly force had not been reasonable.
But Staton decided to block a future jury from hearing the case after siding with the police, who'd responded to a 911 call about a woman holding a gun. She also believed that Reil frightened the officers by walking toward the light to see who was issuing commands.
It didn't help Reil's cause that her own police training expert, Dr. Ron Martinelli, was unable to determine if the officers' conduct had been unreasonable.
"The defendants did not breach any duty they owed to the plaintiff," opined Staton, a 2010 appointee by President Barack Obama.. "Officers Chambers and Hardeman had a reasonable belief that [Reil] was about to shoot at them given the previous 911 call, her stance upon exiting the vehicle with an object clasped in her hands, and her unimpeded advancement toward them while still holding the object in a gun-like manner despite being repeatedly told to drop the weapon."
A prior investigation by Tony Rackauckas' Orange County district attorney's office determined in March that there was "significant evidence" justifying the shooting, including the fact that the victim--a convicted robber--had been legally intoxicated as well as on felony probation at the time of the incident.