Wenzel v. Storm, No. 17-2028 (8th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
After Gary Wenzel was shot and killed by a police officer, Wenzel's family filed suit against the officer, alleging a claim under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for excessive force. The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of summary judgment based on the officer's claim of qualified immunity. The court held that, given the officer's knowledge of Wenzel's reputation of being aggressive and violent towards law enforcement officers, it was reasonable for the officer to believe that Wenzel posed an immediate threat of serious physical harm to him, notwithstanding the fact that the officer could see that Wenzel's hands were empty and the later-discovered fact that Wenzel was unarmed. In this case, a reasonable officer on the scene would have viewed Wenzel's indisputably aggressive approach as a precursor to a physical altercation, and the officer was required to make a split-second decision in an unpredictable and dangerous circumstance.