No ‘qualified immunity’ in Phoenix prone restraint lawsuit

Melissa Blasius
3 Min Read

PHOENIX — A federal judge will allow the family of a man who died in Phoenix police custody to move forward with their lawsuit claims of excessive force, failure to intervene, and wrongful death.

Judge Michael Liburdi made the order this week, ruling on the city of Phoenix’s request for summary judgment in the civil rights lawsuit over the death of Ramon Timothy Lopez.

Phoenix officers arrested Lopez, 28, in August 2020. He was accused of minor crimes and was acting erratically both before and during his arrest.

Officers handcuffed Lopez and used a RIPP restraint on his legs, attaching the strap to his handcuffs. This type of restraint is sometimes called hogtying. The judge ruled that the officers had a right to initially arrest and restrain Lopez.

Despite known risks of positional asphyxia, officers kept Lopez in a face-down, prone restraint. The judge even noted Phoenix police policies that required officers to put restrained people on their sides or upright. Instead of following that policy, one officer kneeled on Lopez’s back, and then several officers moved Lopez to the backseat of a police SUV, leaving him hogtied and face down. Just minutes later, Lopez becomes nonresponsive, and he’s later pronounced dead at the hospital.

According to the judge’s order, “A reasonable jury could conclude that the Officer Defendants were deliberately indifferent to a serious risk to Lopez’s safety while [Officer] Mosley kneeled against Lopez after he was RIPP restrained and when they decided to transport Lopez in the manner that they did.”

Lawyers for the city and the Lopez family can either negotiate a settlement or let a jury decide whether the officers are liable in a jury trial.

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Melissa Blasius ,
Investigations , 2024-03-22 01:59:36

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