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U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds Immunity for Police after Arrest

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed in July 2012 the District Court’s Western District of Arkansas ruling that the several named sheriff’s deputies, et al., were entitled to qualified immunity after the active arrest of an uncooperative suspect, who then sued them. Appellant Norman Jay Carpenter awoke April 4, 2008, disoriented and staggering. His girlfriend had to go outside, he was so stubborn, to get a 9-1-1 call in. When paramedics arrived he threatened them with a baseball bat.

Police began arriving. Carpenter’s girlfriend told police he had a rifle in the house. Police knocked on the door, Carpenter opened the door querulous. After a brief, angry conversation, he backed into the house, and police followed, wary of the rifle. After words and a struggle, Carpenter was Tased several times, handcuffed and taken into be booked. He went to the hospital after he bailed out and was diagnosed with a stroke.

Carpenter brought suit, a §1983 claim against the participating officers and the sheriff alleging (1) unlawful entry into his house, (2) lack of cause for arrest, (3) excessive use of force, (4) denial of medical care, and (4) failure to properly train the deputies in stroke procedure. District court granted summary judgment for the defendants, concluding Carpenter failed to establish any deprivation of his constitutional rights. Carpenter appealed.

Analyzing de novo, the court of appeals noted, as to charge (1) the “exigent circumstances “ clause to search laws and the existence of those circumstances in the instant case, namely, Carpenter’s actions, and the deputy’s concern that Carpenter had a rifle. As to charge (2), the court noted that there was probable cause for arrest just from the way he treated paramedics. Charge (3), the subject of a dissenting opinion – dissenter reasoned there was triable difference of facts – the court noted uniformity of accounts describing Carpenter’s resistance and the resulting necessary, use of force to affect the arrest. For charge (4), the court found that Carpenter could not establish that the deputies had actual knowledge of his medical needs and deliberately ignored them. As to (5), there were no rights violated so there could be no liability for failure to train. See: Carpenter v. Gage, 686 F.3d 644 (8th Cir. 2012).

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Related legal case

Carpenter v. Gage