Latits v. Phillips, No. 15-2306 (6th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Ferndale Officer Jaklic stopped Latits for turning the wrong way onto a divided boulevard after midnight. Latits opened his glove box to retrieve his registration. Jaklic testified that he saw bags that he suspected to contain marijuana, which Latits attempted to move. A dashboard video shows that Jaklic pointed his gun at the ground for about 30 seconds, then pointed it, point-blank. Jaklic broadcast that he was pursuing a fleeing vehicle. Three officers joined the chase. Department policy prohibits more than two cars from pursuing a fleeing car without special permission. Latits can be seen steering away from Jaklic’s car in a vacant parking lot but Jaklic broadcast that Latits “tried to ram my vehicle,” Latits fled, entering a highway. The chase continued through two red lights in an uninhabited area. Officer Wurm twice collided with Latits’s car, causing Latits to lose control. Phillips rammed Latits’s car, which stopped, then slowly moved forward. Latits’s and Jaklic’s cars collided at low speed. Phillips ran toward Latits’s car from behind. Latits started reversing away with Phillips following; gunshots are heard on the recording. Phillips could see that no cars or persons were immediately behind Latits. Latits, struck by three bullets, died. Less than four minutes passed from Latits driving away from Jaklic until the shooting. Phillips violated multiple department procedures and was terminated. In a 42 U.S.C. 1983 suit, the court granted Phillips summary judgment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Phillips’s use of deadly force was objectively unreasonable and violated the Fourth Amendment, but then-existing precedent did not clearly establish the objective unreasonableness under these circumstances; Phillips is entitled to qualified immunity.