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This case arises from an incident that occurred around midnight on January 31, 2019, in Greenwood, Mississippi. Gianni Williams was driving home when Officer Jerry Williams of the Greenwood Police Department observed him turn without signaling. Officer Williams followed Gianni to his residence. When Gianni exited his vehicle, Officer Williams commanded Gianni to stop and lay on the ground.
Gianni initially protested, but finally complied when Officer Williams unholstered his taser and approached. Officer Williams then straddled Gianni’s back and attempted to handcuff him. Gianni tried to pull away, and Sergeant Kevin Hayes, who had just arrived at the scene, came over to assist. After the officers succeeded in handcuffing Gianni, they hoisted him to his feet and tried to walk him to the patrol car.
Gianni continued to yell and resist. One officer unholstered his taser and held it to Gianni’s back, warning Gianni that officers would tase him if they had to. A few seconds later, Gianni cried out in pain and yelled, “They shot me with their taser gun.” After continuing to resist for several more seconds, Gianni finally allowed officers to place him in the back of a patrol car.
As a result of the incident, Gianni was charged and convicted of disorderly conduct, failure to signal, no driver’s license, no proof of motor vehicle liability insurance, and possession of marijuana. Gianni sued the City of Greenwood, Chief of Police Ray Moore, Officer Williams, and Sergeant Hayes under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his Fourth Amendment rights. The district court granted Appellees’ motion for summary judgment as to Gianni’s federal claims and dismissed them. Gianni timely appealed. The 5th affirmed.
First, Gianni asserts that Officer Williams and Sergeant Hayes violated his Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force while attempting to handcuff him and escort him to the patrol car. To establish an excessive force claim, plaintiffs must show that they suffered an injury that resulted directly and only from a clearly excessive and objectively unreasonable use of force. See Bartlett.
Several factors guide our analysis when evaluating these claims, including (1) the severity of the crime at issue, (2) whether the suspect posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and (3) whether the suspect was actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight. See SCOTUS Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989).
Here, factor three is most relevant. Our precedent explains that a suspect’s active resistance to arrest justifies an enhanced degree of force, including the use of a taser. See Cloud – (holding that an officer did not violate a constitutional right when the officer tased a defendant resisting handcuffing) and Collier (concluding that an officer acted reasonably when he pushed an arrestee onto the hood of his police cruiser after the arrestee resisted the officer’s attempts to handcuff him by pulling his hand back and turning away from the officer).
There is no question here based on the video that Gianni resisted arrest. Moreover, Gianni failed to raise a fact issue as to whether the officers’ response was objectively unreasonable under Fifth Circuit precedent. Though Gianni asserts that Officer Williams repeatedly tased him until he was in the police car, the video plainly shows that Gianni was tased only once. Additionally, even where the video is inconclusive, Gianni presented no evidence to support his assertion that officers struck his side or back; his deposition alleged only one act related to the throat.
Accordingly, at most the record shows that Officer Williams (1) tased Gianni once after he continued to resist arrest, and (2) pressed his knees into Gianni’s throat while struggling to handcuff him. Given Gianni’s persistent and vigorous resistance to arrest, these actions could not amount to excessive force under Fifth Circuit precedent. Therefore, there was not a material fact issue on this point, and Gianni’s Fourth Amendment excessive force claim fails.
Gianni asserts three additional § 1983 claims: (1) supervisory liability against Chief Moore, (2) bystander liability against Sergeant Hayes, and (3) municipal liability against the City of Greenwood for failure to train and supervise Officer Williams and Sergeant Hayes. But all three claims are predicated on the existence of a constitutional violation. Since Gianni’s evidence does not raise a fact issue as to whether Appellees violated his constitutional rights, these claims fail as well.