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The Eleventh Circuit Grants Qualified Immunity to Officer using a Taser on a Suspect following a Tra

In 2014, Livingston Manners was involved in an altercation with and arrested by City of Hollywood police officers. Manners filed suit in federal court claiming two 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights violation claims. Manners v. Cannella, 891 F.3d 959 (11th Cir. 2018). Specifically, Manners alleged that Officers Ronald Cannella and Karrie Sabillon used excessive force in arresting him; a § 1983 claim against Officer Cannella for malicious prosecution; and a common-law false arrest claim. The Court held that the Officers had probable cause to arrest Manners and, therefore, did not violate clearly established constitutional law during his arrest. Accordingly, the officers were entitled to qualified immunity from Manners’ civil rights claims.

Around 3 a.m. on June 24, 2014, Manners was commuting to work when Officer Cannella drove past Manners while on patrol. Shortly thereafter, Officer Cannella witnessed Manners run a stop sign through his rearview mirror. Officer Cannella made a U-turn and followed Manners. After a few blocks, Officer Cannella activated his emergency lights and sirens. Manners admitted that he saw Officer Cannella behind him and that the officer’s lights and sirens were on. However, the record was undisputed that Manners did not stop when he saw Officer Cannella behind him. Manners further admitted that he knew that the vehicle was a police car, that a police officer was instructing him to stop, and that the lights and sirens meant he was required to stop his car. Manners eventually stopped at a gas station and claimed that his delay in stopping was because he was afraid and wanted to find a well-lit area with possible video surveillance.

A silent video recording of the entire incident at the gas station was taken from surveillance cameras. Officer Cannella could be seen at Manners’ driver’s side door, and while Officer Cannella looked in the backseat, Manners stepped out of the vehicle. Officer Cannella informed Manners that he was under arrest. In response, Manners asked Officer Cannella to hurry up so that he could get to work and Officer Cannella said “[y]ou’re going to jail.” As Officer Cannella attempted to place Manners under arrest, a physical altercation ensued.

Officer Cannella grabbed Manners’ wrist and Manners attempted to sit and fall backwards. Officer Cannella then appeared to fall on top of Manners and Manners claimed that he was punched three times. The video surveillance showed Officer Cannella flip Manners onto the ground and attempt to pin Manners down. Manners, in turn, shoved Officer Cannella. Officer Cannella then flipped Manners onto his stomach to bring Manners’ arms together behind his back. Manners began to flail his arms and roll on the ground. Manners is also seen bringing his leg up and onto Officer Cannella’s upper back, and grabbing and holding Officer Cannella’s wrists for an extended period. Officer Sabillon arrived at the scene and Manners was finally subdued. Manners ultimately went to trial on charges of battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting a police officer without violence; he was acquitted of both counts by a jury and filed suit against Officers Cannella and Sabillon.

In holding that the Officers were entitled to qualified immunity, the Court determined that probable cause existed to arrest Manners when Manners failed to heed a stop sign and/or timely pull over after Officer Cannella activated his emergency lights and siren. The Court also determined that the officers had not used excessive force. Specifically, a reasonable officer could have concluded that Manners, a “larger individual, who ... actively resisted Cannella’s efforts,” “posed an immediate threat” so that tackling and punching Manners was necessary. Therefore, the Court granted the Officers’ motion for summary judgment as to all claims.

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