Johnson v. City of Philadelphia, No. 15-2346 (3d Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
On April 22, 2012, Philadelphia Police Officer Dempsey was on solo patrol in a radio car in North Philadelphia, armed with a baton, a taser, and a handgun. Around 2:00 a.m. and again at 5:30, Dempsey received a call that a naked man was standing in North Mascher Street. Dempsey and other officers responded, but found no one. At 6:00 a.m., a passing motorist informed Dempsey of a naked man at the corner of North Mascher and Nedro Avenue. Dempsey radioed in the information, drove to the intersection, and saw a naked man (Newsuan), standing in front of a residence. Accounts diverge as to what happened next. Ultimately Newsuan, high on PCP, attacked Dempsey, slammed him into multiple cars, and tried to remove Dempsey’s handgun. Dempsey shot and killed Newsuan. The district court entered summary judgment, rejecting excessive force claims by Newsuan’s estate under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Third Circuit affirmed. Regardless of whether Dempsey unnecessarily initiated a one-on-one confrontation with Newsuan that led to the subsequent fatal altercation, Newsuan’s violent attack on officer Dempsey was a superseding cause that severed any causal link between Dempsey’s initial actions and his subsequent justified use of lethal force.