Chief’s Counsel: U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Ninth Circuit’s Provocation Rule

In a recent case, County of Los Angeles v. Mendez, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the “provocation rule” developed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1994. The provocation rule provided individuals shot by police with an additional vehicle through which to bring an action for an alleged excessive use of force.

County of Los Angeles v. Mendez

The Ninth Circuit case that led to the creation of the provocation rule involved two deputies who were assigned to a task force established to locate a wanted parolee named Ronnie O’Dell. O’Dell, who was classified as armed and dangerous, was spotted entering a grocery store. The deputies also received a tip from a confidential informant that a man fitting O’Dell’s description had been seen in front of a local residence. One group of deputies searched the main house O’Dell was believed to be at, while other deputies searched the back of the property where there was a shack. Unbeknownst to the deputies, Angel Mendez and his girlfriend Garcia lived in the shack and were sleeping inside the structure. The deputies, who did not have a search warrant, opened the door of the shack without announcing their presence. Mendez rose from the bed, holding a BB gun. A deputy yelled “Gun!” and the other deputies opened fire, shooting both Mendez and Garcia several times. The original object of the search, O’Dell, was not found in the shack or elsewhere on the property.