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Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals rules that Georgia police officer who allegedly tased suspect fleeing routine traffic stop while suspect was on top of eight foot wall was not entitled to qualified immunity from civil rights lawsuit filed following suspect’s death from broken neck

On August 26, 2021, in Bradley, et al, v. Benton, No. 20-11509, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a U.S. district court decision which denied the defendant police officer’s motion to dismiss a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights case filed by the family of a man who died from a fall after being tased by the defendant in the aftermath of a routine traffic stop. The decedent was a passenger in a motor vehicle which was stopped by the defendant police officer because it had an unusual temporary tag. For unknown reasons, the decedent fled on foot and was chased by the officer, who allegedly tased him as he attempted to scale an eight-foot wall adjacent to an apartment complex. The decedent died from a broken neck. The Eleventh Circuit concluded that the officer had reasonable suspicion to conduct the initial traffic stop and pursue the decedent on foot and reversed the part of the district court’s ruling denying the defendant’s qualified immunity argument on the grounds that the stop and pursuit were not justified. However, the Eleventh Circuit concluded that the use of the taser against a suspect who was at an “elevated height” could properly be found by a jury to constitute the use of deadly force, i.e., force that an officer “knows to create a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily harm, and that the facts of the case did not justify the application of deadly force.