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Qualified Immunity Restored in Excessive Force Appeal

A pair of Indianapolis cops are seeing their qualified immunity restored after judges in the Chicago-based US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit ruled they had no guidelines to follow in dealing with a suspect who died on their watch. Terrell Day claimed to be short of breath after running away from mall security when he was caught shoplifting. But he was cleared by paramedics and released back into police custody before expiring in the shopping center’s parking lot a short time later. A district court judge agreed with the three-hundred-pound man’s family that cops used excessive force in the arrest.

Despite a raft of brutality decisions involving handcuffs going against cops in the 7th Circuit, judges there saw it otherwise on appeal. They said that because none of those cases specified a suspect’s right to be freed from restraints on medical grounds, cops couldn’t know that they were violating that right. They cited a two-pronged test for qualified immunity and Fourth Amendment search and seizure rules on reasonable use of force, saying in part that the heart condition that contributed to Day’s death was only discovered upon the man’s autopsy.