(CN) – The 7th Circuit cleared the path for trial in the excessive force case against an Indiana police chief who allegedly yanked a driver from his car and threw him to the ground, breaking his hip and bruising a lung, after the man suffered a diabetic episode that led to a car crash. The chief said he was “angry” because he thought the driver was drunk.
Frank McAllister sued Burns Harbor Police Chief Jerry Price, claiming the police chief broke his hip and bruised a lung removing him from his car. McAllister spent 21 days in the hospital as a result of the injuries.
He had suffered a diabetic episode while driving, causing him to hit two cars in Burns Harbor, Ind. Nobody was injured.
Price was dispatched to the scene with the warning that a drunk driver may have caused the collisions.
When Price arrived, he told McAllister, who was still in his car, to turn off the engine. McAllister said his hypoglycemic state of shock rendered hum unable to comply with the request.
A witness testified that Price pulled McAllister from the car by his left arm, “threw” him to the ground with his knee in McAllister’s back, and then handcuffed him.
Price claimed he was “angry” because he thought he was dealing with a drunk driver.
A bystander said he saw McAllister convulsing on the ground and reminded Price to check for a medical alert necklace. When the police chief discovered the diabetic condition, he released McAllister and was “no longer angry or forceful,” according to the ruling.
A federal judge refused to grant Price qualified immunity, saying “no reasonable officer could have thought it was acceptable to forcibly remove a man from his car who was physically unable to obey commands, who was in the midst of convulsions, and to throw him to the ground.”
The federal appeals court in Chicago affirmed.
“McAllister has introduced evidence sufficient for a jury to infer that his injuries were caused by Price’s use of force,” Judge Joel Flaum wrote.
The court added that Price, who received extensive DUI training, should have known that McAllister was having a medical emergency and wasn’t drunk.
“While we are hesitant to second-guess the snap judgments made by law enforcement … Price’s mistaken belief that McAllister was intoxicated was unreasonable,” Flaum wrote.
A jury trial will be held in Hammond, Ind.