Fifth Circuit Reverses the District Court and Grants Officers Qualified Immunity

In the excessive force case, Tucker v. City of Shreveport,  the Fifth Circuit reversed the District Court and granted the Shreveport police officers involved qualified immunity.

Tucker v. City of Shreveport – Background

Gregory Tucker filed suit under 42 U.S.C. §1983 against police officers and the City of Shreveport, alleging excessive force in his arrest after being pulled over for a broken brake light. Tucker contended that the police officers’ conduct in forcing him to the ground and then beating him to place him in handcuffs violated his federal and state constitutional rights, as well as Louisiana tort law. The district court denied summary judgment to the officers based on qualified immunity.

Fifth Circuit Ruling

In the opinion of the Fifth Circuit, it was noted that the district court determined that the Shreveport police officers were not entitled to qualified immunity solely for the reason that Tucker’s position was such that the video footage did not show whether the defendant officers ceased striking him as soon as he became still enough to be handcuffed. However, the Fifth Circuit noted that Tucker never alleged that the defendant officers continued to strike or kick him in any way. The Fifth Circuit noted that Tucker never asserted a claim involving use of force after he was subdued.

Insofar as any force used before he was subdued, the district court noted that the law was not clearly established that the officers should have known that they could not strike Tucker when neither restrained or subdued in order to obtain his compliance. Thus, the Fifth Circuit determined that summary judgment should have been granted to the officers based on qualified immunity relative to the force used against Tucker, both before and after he was subdued and “on the ground”.

The Court noted that Tucker failed to dispute the defendant officers’ testimony that he was pulling his arms from their grasp and failed to put them behind his back. Further, his active struggle could be interpreted by the officers as a form of physical resistance and that the law was not clearly established that such use of force could not be used by the officers.

Tucker v. City of Shreveport, 19-30247 (5 Cir. 5/18/21); 998 F.3d 165.