Submitted: January 11, 2018
from United States District Court for the Eastern District of
Arkansas - Pine Bluff
LOKEN, GRUENDER, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.
City of Monticello, Arkansas, police officer Ray Singleton
appeals after the district court denied his request for
qualified immunity at summary judgment in this 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 action alleging he used excessive force against
following facts are undisputed. In the early morning hours of
December 12, 2010, Thompson was walking to his home in
Monticello, Arkansas. He was drunk, but he was accompanied by
another adult male, Carl Tyson, Jr., as well as his teenaged
nephew, Tajah Hicks. Singleton saw Thompson, Tyson, and Hicks
from his police cruiser, and ordered them to stop. Tyson and
Hicks stopped, but Thompson continued walking. Singleton
exited his cruiser and walked in front of Thompson, taking a
semi-circular route so as to position Thompson between
himself and his cruiser. He drew his taser on Thompson, who
then stopped walking. After pulling his taser, Singleton
twice ordered Thompson to walk back to the cruiser. At first,
he did not comply, and simply stood still. Then, Singleton
ordered, "let me see your hands." After Thompson
showed his hands, Singleton again directed him to walk back
to his cruiser. Thompson dropped his arms to his sides,
placed his hands behind his back but underneath his coat,
turned around, and started walking toward the cruiser. After
taking approximately five steps, he turned back around to
face Singleton, raised his left arm to point toward a nearby
residence, and said, "You know what? That's my house
right over there." At that point, Singleton tased
Thompson, who fell to the ground. Thompson's head struck
the pavement, rendering him unconscious. When another officer
arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, Singleton said,
"He [was] refusing to go back and do what I told him to
do[. T]ased him and I think he hit his head when he
taser recorded these events from the moment it was
unholstered, and the parties offer divergent descriptions of
what that video depicts. In Singleton's view, the video
shows that Thompson failed to fully comply with his order
that he show his hands, was being belligerent, demonstrated
resistance, and turned around in an "aggressive
manner," causing Singleton to justifiably fear for the
safety of both men. According to Thompson, the video shows
that he fully complied with Singleton's order that he
show his hands, started to walk back to the cruiser in
accordance with Singleton's order that he do so, and
innocently turned around to tell Singleton he lived nearby
and to point at his house. Thompson does not remember the
incident, but denies being aggressive. He admits he was
intoxicated and being disagreeable.
its obligation to take the taser video and all other facts in
the light most favorable to Thompson, the district court
summarized the facts as follows:
Officer Singleton initiated a stop of three men who were
walking on the side of the road at night. Mr. Thompson was
suspected of committing a minor, nonviolent crime late at
night. After the stop was initiated, two of the men obeyed
Officer Singleton's commands to stop. One man, Mr.
Thompson, did not obey Officer Singleton's first command.
Officer Singleton then pulled out his taser, and Mr. Thompson
stopped walking. Mr. Thompson then complied with Officer
Singleton's commands by extending his arms, showing his
palms, and walking towards Officer Singleton's patrol car
as directed. At this point, Officer Singleton knew that Mr.
Thompson did not have a weapon in his hands.
Mr. Thompson then placed his hands under or inside his coat
while he was walking. Officer Singleton did not instruct Mr.
Thompson to take his hands out of his coat or to otherwise
show his hands a second time. Mr. Thompson then turned
towards Officer Singleton with both hands visible and outside
of his coat-a disputed fact the court must resolve in favor
of Mr. Thompson at this stage-and raised one arm to point
towards his house. Officer Singleton then utilized his taser
without warning and without providing any additional
instructions to Mr. Thompson.
district court reasoned that, viewing the facts in the light
most favorable to Thompson, "Officer Singleton
intentionally tasered, without warning, an individual who was
stopped for a nonviolent misdemeanor offense and who was not
resisting or fleeing arrest while the individual's hands
were visible." The district court then explained that,
because there remained genuine issues of material fact, it
could not conclude that Singleton's use of the taser was
objectively reasonable as a matter of law, and denied his
request for qualified immunity. Singleton appeals.
we lack jurisdiction to review the denial of a motion for
summary judgment, because it does not constitute a final
order. However, under the collateral order doctrine, we may
conduct a limited interlocutory review of a district
court's order denying summary judgment on the basis of
qualified immunity." Edwards v. Byrd, 750 F.3d
728, 731 (8th Cir. 2014) (internal citations omitted);
see also Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 530
(1985). Our jurisdiction "extends only to abstract
issues of law, not to determinations that the evidence is
sufficient to permit a particular finding of fact after
trial." Edwards, 750 F.3d at 731 (quoting
White v. Smith, 686 F.3d 740, 753 (8th Cir. 2012)).
"More precisely, we have jurisdiction to consider the
'purely legal' issue of whether the facts, taken in
the light most favorable to [Thompson], support a finding
that [Singleton] violated [Thompson's] clearly
established constitutional rights." Langford v.
Norris, 614 F.3d 445, 455 (8th Cir. 2010). Our review is
thus "limited to determining whether all of the conduct
that the district court deemed sufficiently supported for
purposes of summary judgment violated the plaintiff's
clearly established federal rights." Edwards,
750 F.3d at 731 (quoting White, 686 F.3d at 753).
"Accordingly, we accept as true the facts that the
district court found were adequately ...