Officers’ taser video establishes entitlement to qualified immunity says 5th Circuit.

Harris v. Serpas No. 13-30337 (5th Cir. March 12, 2014)

This is an excessive force case where the 5th Circuit affirmed a trial courts grant of summary judgment of 5 police officers on the basis of qualified immunity.

The police officers arrived at  Harris’s home after his former wife called 911 when she feared Harris had overdosed on sleeping pills.  Harris had not committed a crime and the officers were not there to arrest him. The officers carried two tasers that included small camera devices, which recorded audio and video.

After entering the locked house the officers found Harris, who raised a knife into a stabbing position and advanced towards them.  After failed taser attempts, the officers utilized their sidearms and killed him.  Harris’s surviving children filed suit but the trial court granted the officer’s summary judgment based on qualified immunity.

The 5th Circuit held the use of deadly force was not unreasonable given that video evidence from the tasers established Harris indeed had a knife in a stabbing position at the instant of the fatal shot. It also affirmed the dismissal of the City since no policy, custom or practice leading to a violation was presented.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel: Justices King, Clement, and Graves Circuit Judges. Opinion by Justice Graves. Attorney for Appellant – Richard L. Root,Attorney for Appellee – Sharonda R. Williams, New Orleans, LA

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