U.S. Ninth Circuit partially rules for Sacramento Sheriff in case were persons not suspected of crimes were detained for questioning

On Friday, July 7, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling that said the Sacramento County Sheriff was justified in detaining the parent, not suspected of any wrongdoing, of a juvenile who threatened a mass shooting. The suspect, Ryan Bernal, had sent text messages threatening a mass shooting at Vista Del Lago High School on March 5, 2018. 

The same ruling also said the sheriff's violated the rights of the suspect's father, who was video recording the treatment of his wife, the mother of the suspect. 

During their investigation, Sacramento County Sheriff Deputies, who were assisting the Folsom Police Department, contacted the suspect's parents, Celia and William Bernal, at their residence. The Bernal's were called by a deputy sheriff who said their son was at his grandmother's residence but did not give that address saying they did not know if the call was legitimate.

Six deputies arrived at the Bernal residence, and as Ms. Bernal attempted to leave in a vehicle, a deputy sheriff placed her in a so-called "twist lock" hold. After Ms. Bernal was placed in the twist-lock hold, Mr. Bernal loudly objected and demanded she be released as he was recording the detention on his cell phone. 

Mr. Bernal was subdued by deputies and handcuffed. The Bernals filed a lawsuit claiming excessive force violated their Fourth Amendment rights. 

The circuit ruling upheld Eastern District Court Judge Morrison C. England's grant of summary judgment to the Sacramento Sheriff's Department on claims by Ms. Bernal but reverses the judgment as to the claim by Mr. Bernal. District Court Judge James V. Selna of the Central District of California, sitting by designation, authored the opinion.

Mr. Bernal reportedly had a gun pointed at him, had his legs kicked out, had his head turned beyond the natural range of motion, and had his head slammed into the hood of a vehicle.

The ruling concluded saying, "For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment as to Celia and reverse as to William. Because we reverse the district court’s grant of summary judgment on William’s Fourth Amendment claims, we reinstate William’s pendent state law claims." 

Eventually, the Bernals directed law enforcement to the grandmother's house, where Ryan Bernal was taken into custody by Folsom Police. Ryan Bernal pled guilty to a misdemeanor violation of  Penal Code §422 by willfully threatening “to commit a crime which will result in death or great bodily injury to another person, with the specific intent that the statement.”

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