Tatum v. Robinson, No. 16-1908 (8th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff filed suit against an Arkansas state police officer, alleging that the officer used excessive force by pepper spraying and choking him in the course of arresting him for taking eight pairs of shorts from a department store. The district court denied the officer qualified immunity. The Eighth Circuit held that a jury could find that the officer used an unreasonable amount of force when he pepper sprayed plaintiff. In this case, the officer used force on a non-resisting, non-fleeing individual suspected of a completed, non-violent misdemeanor. The court explained that, while some use of force was reasonable here, it was not reasonable to immediately use significant force. The district court erred in concluding that plaintiff's right not to be pepper sprayed was clearly established. The court also held that defendant unreasonably used excessive force by choking plaintiff, and plaintiff's right to be free from such force was clearly established at the time. Therefore, the district court correctly denied qualified immunity on the chocking claim. The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.