Ninth Circuit: UC Davis Student May Sue Police Over ‘Pepperball’ Incident
July 12, 2012
by Azhar Majeed
The Los Angeles Times reports that the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that a former student at the University of California, Davis may go forward with his lawsuit against UC Davis police, as well as police officers of the City of Davis, for hitting him in the face with a "pepperball." The student, who suffered the incident while attending a street party in April 2004, had to undergo several surgeries after injuring his eye, additionally lost his athletic scholarship, and was forced to drop out of college. The Ninth Circuit's decision upholds a federal district court's finding, at the summary judgment stage, that the officers are not entitled to qualified immunity because "the law at the time of the incident should have placed the defendants on notice that the shooting of the pepperballs under the circumstances was an act of excessive force."
Of course, most readers are likely aware that UC Davis has had more recent problems owing to police use of pepper spray against students, namely in a response to campus protests last fall that drew headlines across the country. In light of that incident, the former student's suit for the 2004 episode is even more interesting, and worth following.