Qualified immunity for police when subject’s active resistance to be arrested led to taser


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According to Chance Beroid’s complaint, he alleged that Officers Christopher LaFleur, Ferroll Leblanc and Naquan Senegal were dispatched to his parents’ house after receiving a call from his fiancée about an argument the two were having. After the situation settled down, Beroid’s fiancée left, and he remained at his parents’ house where he intended to stay for the evening. Beroid alleged that the officers remained outside for thirty to forty-five minutes before approaching the door a second time.

Beroid’s mother answered and was asked if he was still home. He came to the door and Officer LaFleur ordered him to grab his shoes and to come with them because there was a warrant for his arrest. He denied the existence of a warrant and refused to go with the officer. He retreated further into the house. Beroid alleged that the officers then barged into the house and attempted to grab him by the shirt. His shirt slipped off which prompted him to step a few feet further into the house.

Beroid alleged that moments after entering the house and without warning, Officer LaFleur shot him with a taser which forced him to drop to the ground. Once on the ground, Officer LaFleur demanded that Beroid put his hands behind his back. Officer Senegal told him that if he did not comply with Officer LaFleur’s instruction he would “light him up again.” As Beroid was handcuffed he explained that the charges underlying the warrant were dropped and repeatedly asked what the charges were for and from what year.

Officer LaFleur eventually responded that he did not know the details about the charges but that the warrant was confirmed by the Jennings Police Department. Beroid was taken to the Sherriff’s Office where he met with EMT personnel to be treated for the injuries he sustained during his arrest. He alleged that he overheard the officers tell the EMT personnel that he had been “fighting” and that he overheard conversation between the officers corroborating “a false version of the incident.”

Beroid sued all three officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his Fourth Amendment right “to be secure in his person from unreasonable seizure through excessive force” and his “constitutional right under the Fourteenth Amendment to bodily integrity and to be free from excessive force by law enforcement.” The District Court dismissed the case. The 5th affirmed.


Beroid argues that Officer LaFleur shot him with a taser without warning and without attempting to use de-escalation skills, negotiations, or commands. He adds that Officers Senegal and Leblanc stood idly by. He contends that this violated his Fourth Amendment rights because the officers acted unreasonably excessively.

To prevail on an excessive force claim under the Fourth Amendment, Beroid must establish (1) an injury (2) which resulted directly and only from a use of force that was clearly excessive, and (3) the excessiveness of which was clearly unreasonable. See Ratliff. Any force found to be objectively unreasonable necessarily exceeds the de minimis threshold, and, conversely, objectively reasonable force will result in de minimis injuries only. See Byrd. Beroid claimed he suffered burn marks on his arm and back from being tased as well as anxiety and other psychological injuries and psychiatric distress. His injuries are cognizable only if the officers’ use of force was unreasonable.

Beroid argues that Officer LaFleur acted unreasonably when he tased him because at that point in time he was not aware that he was under arrest because officers did not use the precise phrase “you are under arrest” and he was not warned that he would be shot with a taser. Our cases involving the use of a taser to effectuate an arrest focus on whether the officers faced active resistance. See Cloud. In Poole, we determined that the use of a taser during an arrest was reasonable because the plaintiff verbally and physically resisted arrest.

We also have caselaw emphasizing that reciting “you’re under arrest” is not necessary to put a suspect on notice that he is being arrested and resistance can be met with reasonable force. In Tucker, we concluded that even though the officers did not utter the words “you are under arrest,” lights and sirens coupled with being told to put his hands behind his back were enough to put the plaintiff on notice that he was being arrested.

By contrast, there are a number of cases where we have determined excessive force was used when officers tased a suspect offering only passive resistance or no resistance at all. See Darden – video evidence showed that the plaintiff was not resisting and was instead complying with officers during arrest therefore use of a taser was excessive force and Newman – use of a taser was unreasonable because the plaintiff’s behavior did not rise to the level of “active resistance.” This is not such a case.

We hold that Beroid has not pleaded facts establishing excessive force. First, he argues that he was never told that he was under arrest, but his complaint alleges that Officer LaFleur told him to grab his shoes because there was a warrant for his arrest. This was sufficient to put Beroid on notice that he was being arrested.

Next, he argues that Officer LaFleur violated his Fourth Amendment right when he shot him with a taser without warning even though he was not committing a crime, was unarmed, and was not actively resisting arrest. We disagree. Beroid was on notice that he was being arrested therefore his refusal to comply and his subsequent retreat into the house was active resistance. As we have repeatedly held, the use of a taser is a reasonable level of force when a suspect is resisting arrest. Thus, Officer LaFleur’s use of force was reasonable in this situation.

Beroid also argues that Officers Leblanc and Senegal violated his constitutional rights when they stood idly by and otherwise made no attempt to use other, less forceful tactics to arrest him. However, Officers Leblanc and Senegal did not deploy their taser and given that there were no constitutional right violations for them to be aware of and protect, they are also not liable under the theory of bystander liability.