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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today

In Jamie Becker v. Zachary Effriechs (SD Ind., Hussman, Jr., MagJ), a 16-page opinion, Judge Manion writes:

Jamie Becker sued Evansville, Indi-ana police officer Zachary Elfreich under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, al-leging Officer Elfreich used excessive force in arresting him in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Becker claimed Of-ficer Elfreich used excessive force because, after Becker had surrendered, Officer Elfreich pulled him down three steps and placed his knee on his back while allowing a police dog to continue to bite him. Officer Elfreich moved for summary judgment, arguing he was entitled to qualified immunity be-cause his conduct did not constitute excessive force or, alter-natively, that it did not violate clearly established constitu-tional law. The district court denied Officer Elfreich’s motion for summary judgment. Officer Elfreich appeals, interlocuto-rily, arguing that he is entitled to qualified immunity. We con-clude that based on the record, Officer Elfreich has not estab-lished that he is entitled to qualified immunity. We affirm and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. * * *

When Evansville police attempted to arrest Jamie Becker, Officer Elfreich released his police dog under the belief that Becker was hiding in the house. However, two seconds later, Officer Elfreich discovered Becker had been descending the stairs to surrender with his hands above his head. Nonethe-less, Officer Elfreich continued to allow the police dog to bite Becker, while pulling him down three steps and placing his knee on his back and handcuffing him. And Becker suffered serious bodily injury as a result of the dog bite. While it is un-clear from the record whether Axel presented a substantial risk of serious risk bodily harm (and thus deadly force), the force was clearly at the more severe end of the force spectrum. A jury could reasonably find such force was excessive. Fur-ther, because it was clearly established at the time of Becker’s arrest that no more than minimal force was permissible to ar-rest a non-resisting, or passively resisting, suspect, Officer Elfreich was not entitled to qualified immunity on this record. For these and the forgoing reasons, we AFFIRM and REMAND for further proceedings consistent with this opin-ion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on May 12, 2016 11:25 AM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions