Wiley v. City of Columbus, No. 21-3615 (6th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Thomas called 911, stating that he believed he was overdosing from cocaine. Law enforcement officers customarily secure suspected drug overdose scenes before paramedics enter. Officer Pinkerman knocked on the door, which burst open. Thomas ran into the lawn, disobeying officers’ commands. When Thomas fell, Pinkerman fell on top of him. Thomas actively resisted. Four officers handcuffed Thomas and signaled to paramedics to approach. Thomas was kicking and dropping his weight, so the officers laid him down and called for a hobble strap to prevent him from kicking paramedics. Officer Shaffner applied his knee to Thomas’s lower back/hip area. Stephens had his knees against Thomas’s shoulder. Thomas was kept in this position for approximately 90 seconds while waiting for a hobble strap. Officers noticed that his breathing slowed and rolled Thomas onto his side. Paramedics administered Narcan to increase his respiratory rate and deemed Thomas to be in stable, non-life-threatening condition; minutes later he went into cardiac arrest. Thomas arrived at the hospital in critical condition. A drug screen detected marijuana, cocaine, and opiates. Thomas died of “anoxic encephalopathy” resulting from cardiac arrest.
Thomas’s estate alleged that his cardiac arrest was caused by “forcible restraint that precluded adequate breathing.” The Sixth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment rejection of the estate’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims. The estate cannot establish that Thomas had a clearly established right against the type of force that was used; the officers are entitled to qualified immunity.