Winzer v. Kaufman County, No. 16-11482 (5th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Dispatchers received calls about a man on a rural street, shooting a pistol and yelling “everyone’s going to get theirs.” Dispatchers relayed descriptions of a black male wearing a brown shirt. Officers arrived and observed a suspect matching that description, who fired at them, then disappeared into the trees. The suspect re-appeared 100-500 yards away. The officers advanced but again lost sight of the suspect. They began ordering him to drop his weapon and come out. After a few minutes, the officers spotted a figure on a bicycle, wearing a blue jacket, not a brown shirt, over 100 yards away. All of the officers claim the rider was armed. The rider was Gabriel, not the suspect. His father, Henry, claims that Gabriel was “unarmed” and did not move his hands in any way that might have suggested that he was reaching for something. An officer yelled “put that down!” Officers fired 17 shots within seconds of spotting Gabriel. Hit, Gabriel fled. While Henry was attempting to help Gabriel in their yard, officers advanced. Henry stated that the only gun they had was a toy, which he tossed toward the officers. When the officers attempted to cuff Henry and Gabriel, both resisted. Officers tased them. EMS pronounced Gabriel dead at the scene.
In the family's civil rights suit, the court granted the officers summary judgment on limitations and qualified immunity defenses. The Fifth Circuit affirmed that claims against two officers were time-barred but reversed in part. With respect to qualified immunity, the district court erred in excluding Henry’s affidavit. Genuine issues of material fact remain with respect to whether the use of deadly force was objectively reasonable.