Hemry, et al. v. Ross, et al., No. 22-8002 (10th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Two Yellowstone Park rangers received an alert that a park employee had spotted Michael Bullinger, a fugitive wanted for allegedly shooting and killing three women in Idaho. The report said Bullinger was leaving the park in a white Toyota with a Missouri license plate. But the employee was mistaken—he had instead spoken with Brett Hemry, a man on vacation with his wife, Genalyn, and his seven-year-old daughter. The rangers spotted the white Toyota leaving the park and trailed it. Hemry noticed the rangers and pulled over near a campground sixteen miles east of the park entrance. Waiting for reinforcements, the rangers exited their patrol car and from a distance held the Hemrys at gunpoint until county law enforcement arrived. Once county law enforcement arrived, the rangers moved Mr. and Mrs. Hemry to separate police cruisers. After examining Mr. Hemry’s driver’s license, they set the couple free. The Hemrys sued the rangers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating their Fourth Amendment rights. On a motion to dismiss, the district court denied the rangers qualified immunity for Mrs. Hemry’s false-arrest claim and for Mr. and Mrs. Hemry’s excessive force claims. The rangers appealed. The Tenth Circuit reversed: in the context presented, the Court found the law did not clearly establish this investigative stop amounted to (1) an arrest of Mrs. Hemry without probable cause, or (2) excessive force against the Hemrys.