'Grossly disproportionate force' precludes qualified immunity

Cantu v. City of Dothan, 2020 WL 5270645 (11th Cir 2020)

Robert Earl Lawrence found a dog wandering in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Lawrence picked up the dog and took it to the county animal shelter. The shelter attendant asked Lawrence to complete a form and provide identification. He declined, citing his desire for privacy. When the attendant told him the shelter would not accept the dog without completion of the form, Lawrence said he would just leave the dog at the gate.

Sergeant Woodruff overheard Lawrence and followed him out to the parking lot, noting his license plate. She asked for his driver license once he was seated in the car. Lawrence declined to provide a driver license and they argued for several minutes. Lawrence’s girlfriend recorded the encounter. After further argument, Lawrence gave Sergeant Woodruff his “Affidavit of Identity” that declared him to be “Flesh and blood of living Man.”

Sergeant Woodruff called for backup. She asked Lawrence, “Do you know how foolish you sound?” Sergeant Woodruff made fun of Lawrence’s teeth, saying, “You’re so smart, you got half your teeth in your mouth.” The court, having heard the recording of the encounter, observed that the event was one in which “you can see the bad luck tumbling, as if the devil himself had shaved the dice.” Lawrence got out of the car. Sergeant Woodruff told the dispatcher Lawrence was “off his meds,” further agitating Lawrence.

Officer Rhodes arrived to assist. After speaking with Sergeant Woodruff, Officer Rhodes told Lawrence to turn around, intending to handcuff him. Lawrence struggled and Sergeant Woodruff joined in the tussle. Officer Rhodes briefly held Lawrence against the car, but he escaped and ran around the car. Officer Rhodes fired a TASER® device at Lawrence with no effect, then grabbed Lawrence and again pushed him against the car. Officer Rhodes handed the TASER device to Sergeant Woodruff who twice fired it in drive-stun mode into Lawrence’s stomach. He recoiled, but was not incapacitated. Lawrence grabbed for the TASER, perhaps to push it away or perhaps to control it and use it against the officers. The video recording does not clearly indicate one way or the other.

Story continues at https://www.police1.com/legal/articles/grossly-disproportionate-force-pr...