EDWARD SIALOI; KELLI SIALOI; FOLENI SIALOI; GAYLE PASI; LAGO SIALOI; LIUA SIALOI; HARDY TEO FALEALILI; TAPILI SOFA; G. S., a minor, by his father and guardian ad litem, Foleni Sialoi; T. O.S., a minor, by their father and guardian ad litem, Lago Sialoi; T. A. S., a minor, by their father and guardian ad litem, Lago Sialoi; T. R. S., a minor, by their father and guardian ad litem, Lago Sialoi; B.F., a minor, by his father and guardian ad litem, Hardy Teo Falealili; ESTATE OF SEPTEMBER SIALOI, by her husband and successor in interest, Sialoi Sialoi, Jr., Plaintiffs-Appellees,
CITY OF SAN DIEGO; ALLEN SLUSS; BRADLEY PHELPS; JOSEPH KRAWCZYK; DAVID ROHOWITS; ANTHONY REESE; MICHAEL HALL; EDWARD KASZYCKI; COREY STASCH; MIGUEL GARCIA; MICHAEL HAYES; WADE IRWIN; SCOTT SMITH; KELVIN LUJAN; JOHN CARROLL; WAYNE DOEDEN; TAMMY CLENDENEN; TYLER BIGBIE; RICHARD SLADE; DAVID HWANG; JONATHAN BAMBAD; SIGNORINO, Officer; TENENBAUM, Officer; DOES, 1-30, Defendants-Appellants
and Submitted, Pasadena, California February 5, 2016.
from the United States District Court for the Southern
District of California. D.C. No. 3:11-cv-02280-W-KSC. Thomas
J. Whelan, Senior District Judge, Presiding.
panel affirmed the district court's denial, on summary
judgment, of a motion for qualified immunity brought by San
Diego police officers in an action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 and state law alleging, among other things, unlawful
arrest and detention, illegal search, and excessive force.
panel first held that it has jurisdiction to consider this
appeal, but that its jurisdiction was limited to deciding
only the question whether, taking all the facts in the light
most favorable to the plaintiffs, the defendants were
entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law.
panel held that taking the facts in the light most favorable
to the plaintiffs, once officers discovered that an item held
by one of the suspects was a mere toy, rather than a handgun,
the officers violated clearly established law and acted
wholly unreasonably in using extreme force to disrupt a
peaceful birthday party for a seven-year-old girl, and in
searching the family's apartment without a warrant or
consent. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district
court's denial of qualified immunity in all respects.
Riley (argued), Deputy City Attorney, Jan I. Goldsmith, City
Attorney, Office of the San Diego City Attorney, San Diego,
California, for Defendants-Appellants.
R. Marrinan (argued), Law Offices of Michael R. Marrinan, San
Diego, California, for Plaintiffs-Appellees.
Stephen Reinhardt, Richard A. Paez, and Milan D. Smith, Jr.,
Reinhardt, Circuit Judge:
October of 2010, officers with the San Diego Police
Department responded to a report that two armed black males
had been seen in the parking lot of an apartment complex.
When they arrived, the officers, armed with assault rifles
and eventually numbering over twenty, encountered not two
armed black males but a large Samoan family celebrating the
birthday of a seven-year-old girl. The officers detained the
members of the family (handcuffing the vast majority of them,
including numerous adolescents) and then searched each of
them for weapons. Finding nothing incriminating, the officers
then searched the family's apartment without a warrant or
consent. Again finding nothing incriminating, the officers
left without removing a single family member from the scene
or filing any charges.
plaintiffs filed this action against the officers involved in
the incident, as well as the City of San Diego, alleging
various claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and California
law, including unlawful arrest and detention, illegal search,
and excessive force. The defendants moved for summary
judgment on the ground of qualified immunity, and the
district court granted the motion with respect to the City
but denied it with respect to the officers. The officers then
appealed the denial of their motion for summary judgment. We
affirm the district court.
Saturday, October 2, 2010, the Sialoi family gathered in
front of the apartment belonging to Sialoi Sialoi, Jr. and
his wife, September Sialoi, to celebrate the birthday of
seven-year-old plaintiff T.R.S. The family held a barbecue
during which no alcohol was served or consumed. Around
10:22pm that evening, the manager of the apartment complex
called 9-1-1 to report that two black or Samoan adult males
had been ducking down around the apartment complex, as if
waiting for someone. He reported that one carried a handgun,
the other a shotgun. Two minutes later, he called back to
provide additional information: the men were black, not
Samoan; one had bushy hair and was wearing a brown Tshirt,
and the other was wearing a long-sleeved shirt with a hood.
Sluss of the San Diego Police Department was in charge of the
response to the apartment manager's 9-1-1 call. The
sergeant assembled a contact team consisting of " maybe
six officers," and assigned Officer Wayne Doeden a team
of four officers. The officers arrived on the scene four
minutes after the second call from the apartment manager,
and, together, approached the Sialoi party.
the officers arrived, the Sialoi family was drinking coffee,
eating birthday cake, and singing songs. One of the men was
playing a guitar, and some of the women were inside the
apartment with the youngest children. Sergeant Sluss and his
team came around the corner of the apartment building and saw
three teenagers between the ages of 13 and 15, G.S., T.O.S.,
and B.F., playing in the parking lot near the apartment.
Sergeant Sluss reported to dispatch that one of the teenagers
had something in his hand that appeared to be a handgun.
Notably, however, the three teenage boys did not otherwise
fit the description provided by the apartment manager: there
were three of them, not two; all were Samoan, not black; and
none was wearing clothing that matched the apartment
manager's description. The officers arrived with their
guns drawn at the parking lot where the boys were playing.
Some of the officers held AR-15 assault rifles, which the
officers pointed at the three teenagers. A police helicopter
circled overhead. The helicopter operator informed the police
that there were people having a barbecue nearby.
seven police officers first approached 13-year-old B.F., who
had nothing in his hands. They demanded that B.F. get on the
ground, and he complied. One officer put his knee on
B.F.'s neck to hold him down, while the others searched
him for weapons. After finding nothing, the officers next
approached 15-year-old T.O.S. Again, the officers pointed
their guns at him and ordered him to get on the ground.
T.O.S. complied, lying down next to B.F., where the officers
searched him for weapons while pointing their guns at his
head. Again, the officers found nothing. Finally, the
officers approached 15-year-old G.S., who was standing some
distance away between two parked cars in front of the Sialoi
apartment. G.S. was holding a plastic paintball gun in his
hand. When G.S. saw the officers, he immediately dropped the
paintball gun. The officers ordered him to get on the ground,
and G.S. replied that he could not fit on the ground between
the two cars, but he attempted to comply with the
officers' orders anyway. He and several other plaintiffs
called out to the officers, attempting to explain to them
that the paintball gun was not in fact a real gun but merely
a toy. He was then told to crawl out from between the cars to
the driveway, where he was searched. Again, the officers
found nothing. Immediately after G.S. crawled out from
between the cars, an officer walked over and picked up the
toy gun. He held the gun in the air and confirmed that it was
only a toy. At this point, the officers handcuffed all three
teenagers, yanked them off the ground, and placed them in the
back of a police car.
officers then approached the other members of the Sialoi
family, and began to detain, search, and handcuff them,
including two adult women and a thirteen-year-old girl,
T.A.S. By this time, other officers had arrived, increasing
the total number present at the scene to over twenty. The
officers ordered the plaintiffs one-by-one to keep their
hands up and walk to the middle of the parking lot, where
they did a patdown search. Throughout this time, the laser
sights on some of the officers' guns projected red beams
of light on the plaintiffs' bodies as they were searched.
When the search was complete, each plaintiff was handcuffed
and ordered to remain in the middle of the parking lot under
armed guard. The officers placed Sialoi Sialoi Jr. in the
back of the police car with the three teenagers because he
initially refused to put his hands in the air and pleaded
with the officers to stop pointing their weapons at the
children. The officers also pushed Liua Sialoi, who was
pregnant at the time, onto the ground. Edward Sialoi informed
the officers that he had a medical condition and recently had
back surgery. Because of this, he requested that the officers
use two sets of handcuffs. The officers did not comply, and
instead, violently yanked his arm behind him, tearing his
rotator cuff, labrum, and biceps tendon.
everyone outside had been handcuffed and moved to the middle
of the parking lot (or placed in a police car), the officers
ordered anyone inside the apartment to vacate the building.
Kelli Sialoi, Gayle Pasi, T.R.S., and Pasi's
four-year-old nephew exited the building. They were detained
at the curb with the other plaintiffs, but were not
handcuffed. Sergeant Sluss and several other officers then
entered and searched the Sialois' apartment without a
warrant or consent. After the search of the apartment, a
lieutenant arrived and asked the officers if any of the
handcuffed people were " going downtown." Receiving
a negative response, the lieutenant removed September
Sialoi's handcuffs and left. The other officers then
began removing the handcuffs from the other plaintiffs. The
plaintiffs contend that they had been detained for
approximately 30-40 minutes, although the police's
computerized log of the incident indicates that the search
lasted only 17 minutes.
to the computer-aided dispatch report and the deposition of
Sergeant Sluss, the officers were informed a few minutes
after they " started securing . . . the scene" that
the apartment manager had called to say that the people they
had detained were not the suspects that he reported in his
disturbance call. The officers did not attempt to contact the
apartment manager or locate the actual suspects. Later, the
plaintiffs learned that no report was ever written about the