Aguirre v. City of San Antonio, No. 17-51031 (5th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
Jesse Aquirre's family filed a 42 U.S.C. 1983 action alleging that the San Antonio Police Department violated Aguirre's constitutional rights by causing his death through the use of excessive force. The district court granted summary judgment to the individual officers based on qualified immunity and to the City of San Antonio.
The Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the officers in regard to the excessive force claims. The court weighed the Graham factors and concluded that the first Graham factor—the severity of any crime of which Aguirre was suspected—weighs in favor of it being unreasonable and excessive for the officers to hold Aguirre in the dangerous maximal-restraint position for five and a half minutes, and there are at very least genuine disputes as to the second two Graham factors—whether Aguirre posed a safety threat to officers or others or was resisting the officer's efforts to remove him from the highway and hold him safely until the police wagon arrived. The court explained that these disputes of material facts alone are enough to preclude a finding of summary judgment that the force used by the officers in holding Aquirre in a hog-tie position was constitutionally reasonable. Under Graham and its progeny, the court concluded that it is unreasonable for an officer to use injurious force against a non-resisting, non-dangerous individual who is not suspected of a serious crime, which the court must assume occurred here under Aguirre's version of events. The court also concluded that the summary judgment evidence indicates that a reasonable officer in the officers' position would have known that applying the maximal-restraint position to Aguirre and holding him in this position for an extended period posed a substantial risk of causing his death or serious bodily injury. Therefore, a reasonable jury could find that the officers' use of force constituted "deadly force." Accordingly, the officers are not entitled to summary judgment based on qualified immunity.
However, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiffs' deliberate indifference claims. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' municipal liability claim; rejected plaintiffs' claims against the City under the Texas Tort Claims Act; and granted the motion to supplement the record and denied the motion to take judicial notice as moot. The court remanded for further proceedings.