Vielma v. Gruler
Victims of a nightclub shooting and their estates brought a § 1983 action against the city and a city police officer alleging violations of due process and Fourth Amendment rights, unlawful detention, and failure to train employees. The District Court granted the Defendants’ motion to dismiss. The victims and estates appealed the decision.
The Court found that the Due Process Clause did not impose an affirmative duty on police officers working security detail at a nightclub to enter the building upon hearing gunshots to attempt to disarm the shooter. The court further held that civilian individuals were not entitled to affirmative assistance of government even when such aid may have been necessary to secure life, liberty, or property interests of which government itself could not have deprived the individual.
The opinion of the Court held that police officer outside the nightclub was entitled to qualified immunity from the claim that he violated substantive due process rights of nightclub patrons by failing to immediately enter nightclub upon hearing gunshots in effort to neutralize shooter. There was no existing caselaw addressing active-shooter threats, and the officer did not exhibit deliberate indifference to medical needs or affirmatively prevent others from rendering life-saving aid.
The victims and estates failed to allege an obvious need for specific training, as required to bring an action against the city, and failed to allege that the city's failure to train was the cause of the alleged constitutional violations. However, the Court did not agree that city and officers were entitled to attorney's fees and costs as sanctions for allegedly frivolous appeal.