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Laguna granted qualified immunity in excessive-force case

Lawyer for 73-year-old who claimed serious injury when officers entered her home plans to appeal decision.

September 19, 2013|By Bryce Alderton

A Laguna Beach police detective did not use excessive force or violate a Los Angeles County woman's civil rights when he searched her home as part of an investigation of a crime, a U.S. District Court judge has ruled.

District Judge Beverly Reid O'Connell granted qualified immunity to the city of Laguna Beach and police Sgt. Robert Rahaeuser in a Los Angeles courtroom Aug. 30, according to a copy of the ruling provided by Laguna Beach City Atty. Phil Kohn.

O'Connell granted the city's request for pre-trial summary judgment on two claims: that Rahaeuser used excessive force when he handcuffed 73-year-old Marilyn Injeyan and that he violated her civil rights by threat, intimidation or coercion when he searched her Rowland Heights home June 4, 2011.

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Summary judgment is a procedural device used in civil litigation to avoid an unnecessary trial.

Injeyan's attorney, Peter Williamson, said he will appeal the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

"I'm appalled at [O'Connell's] ruling," Williamson said. "To downplay the severity of injury my client suffered is contrary to well-established law in the 9th Circuit."

Police had gone to Injeyan's home to investigate any involvement her son might have had in a June 2011 incident in Laguna Beach, court records said.

In that case, an unidentified man in a black ski mask threw butyric acid into an apartment. Residents evacuated the neighborhood and a police officer was sent to the hospital with burning skin, eye irritation and trouble breathing.

Injeyan's son, who is in his 40s, has not been charged in connection with the alleged crime, Williamson said.

Rahaeuser and Det. Natalie Leal went to Injeyan's Rowland Heights home at 6:30 p.m. June 4, 2011 with a search warrant, the ruling said.

Injeyan, who was not armed, reported seeing bright lights and weapons pointed at her, according to the ruling.

Injeyan, a retired schoolteacher, said someone grabbed her arms from behind and forcibly lifted them while pulling them behind her back, the ruling said.

She later learned Rahaeuser grabbed her arms, according to court records.

Rahaeuser said Injeyan's arms were raised in the air when he guided them to the small of her back, and 10 seconds elapsed from the time he entered the house to when he handcuffed her, the ruling said.

Injeyan was so terrified that she urinated on herself.

Injeyan's son, Vahan Injeyan, was in the home, and police handcuffed him as well, Williamson said.

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