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Seventh Circuit Upholds Dismissal of Police Excessive Force and Supervisory Liability Suit Brought by Veteran Illinois Prison Guard

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of excessive force claims against an Illinois police chief.

Illinois Department of Corrections guard David Backes is a veteran of the Persian Gulf War who suffers for post-traumatic stress disorder.

On October 17, 2006, Backes left his house after arguing with his wife, Sara. He called Sara several times from his vehicle, suggesting at least once that he might commit suicide. Sara called police. The dispatcher reported that Backes was suicidal, on medication and had access to weapons.

Backes decided against suicide – but didn't tell anyone – parked, took a powerful sleeping pill and fell asleep. Police found Backes, motionless in his vehicle.

After a two hour standoff with the sleeping man, the Emergency Response Team was called in. They eventually shot "pepper balls" through an open window, removed Backes from the vehicle and took him to a hospital.

Backes and his wife brought federal suit for excessive force and violation of several state law claims. The district court granted summary judgment to all Defendants. The Backes' appealed only the supervisory liability claims against Police Chief Dustin Sutton and the Village of Peoria Heights.

The Seventh Circuit upheld the grant of summary judgment, finding that "Chief Sutton was not personally involved in the operation in a way that would lead to liability under § 1983." See: Backes v. Village of Peoria Heights, Ill., 662 F.3d 866, 869 (7th Cir.2011).

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Related legal case

Backes v. Village of Peoria Heights, Ill.