El v. City of Pittsburgh, No. 18-2856 (3d Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Pittsburgh Lieutenant Kacsuta saw brothers Beyshaud and Will leaving a store and thought that Beyshaud was holding synthetic marijuana, which reportedly was being sold from the store. She followed them, calling for backup. The brothers subsequently obeyed her direction to sit down. Will gave her his identification, then emptied his pockets. They did not have synthetic marijuana, but Kacsuta thought they had made an underage tobacco purchase. Beyshaud was 18 but did not have identification. Will’s identification confirmed he was over 18. Five officers, including Warnock and Welling, arrived. A dashboard camera recorded subsequent events. Kacsuta tossed Will's identification to the ground. Beyshaud reached for it, but Kacsuta stepped on it. The brothers complained that they were being harassed. Will took one or two steps toward Kacsuta and Warnock. Welling grabbed Will and slammed him into the wall, then on to the pavement. Beyshaud stood and attempted to punch Welling. Warnock deployed his taser, causing Beyshaud to fall to the ground. The brothers did not resist as six officers handcuffed them. They were convicted of disorderly conduct and harassment. The brothers sued Pittsburgh and police officers under 42 U.S.C. 1983.
The Third Circuit reversed the denial of summary judgment on the excessive force claim against Kacsuta, who did not have an opportunity to intervene in Welling’s use of force. The court affirmed the denial of summary judgment to Welling. Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Will, a jury could conclude that Welling’s use of force was objectively unreasonable, even taking Will’s disorderly conduct into account. Welling knew that Will was unarmed and outnumbered. The court dismissed, for lack of jurisdiction, Warnock’s argument concerning state law claims.