Edson V. City Anaheim

In Edson v. City of Anaheim (1998) 63 Cal.App.4th 1269, a suspect was shot and killed by a police officer while the officer was attempting to make an arrest. Although the suspect was allegedly just out running an errand for his wife, he engaged the police in a high-speed vehicle chase.

The suspect then exited his vehicle and ran into a motel parking lot. The suspect ran to the top of the stairs onto a balcony. The police yelled for the suspect to stop and put his hands up. The suspect ignored the commands and continued to run throughout the motel balcony. The suspect then stopped in front of a room and reached into his waistband. At this time, one of the officers believed the suspect was reaching for a gun. The officer shot and killed the suspect.

The officer testified that if the suspect had stopped at any point, or had obeyed any of his commands, the arrest would have been made without the shooting. The question before the court was whether or not sufficient facts were presented to prove that the officer used unreasonable force under the circumstances.

The Court first explained that a police officer “may use reasonable force to make an arrest, prevent escape or overcome resistance and need not desist in the face of resistance.” See Edson at p. 1272, 1273. The Court further analyzes the distinction between a police defendant and a private citizen. The Court stated as follows:

“Unlike private citizens, police officers act under color of law to protect the public interest. They are charged with acting affirmatively and using force as part of their duties, because ‘the right to make an arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it.’ (Graham v. Connor (1989) 490 US 386, 396)”