Legal Feature


County of Los Angeles v. Mendez: The U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision



May 31, 2017

Continuing a disturbing trend of siding with police in cases of excessive use of force, the United States Supreme Court has reversed lower court rulings that found police liable for recklessly firing 15 times into a backyard shack in which a homeless couple—Angel and Jennifer Mendez—was sheltering. Angel Mendez suffered numerous gunshot wounds, one of which required the amputation of his right leg below the knee, and his wife Jennifer was shot in the back. A unanimous Supreme Court ruled that the Los Angeles County police officers’ use of force against the homeless couple was justified as a defensive action, because Angel’s silhouette was allegedly seen holding a BB gun that he used for shooting rats. The Rutherford Institute filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing that the shooting, which was entirely unjustified and unwarranted, would not have happened had Los Angeles County police officers not first created an untenable, dangerous situation by invading private property without a warrant in pursuit of an alleged parole violator.