(CN) – Police officers who hogtied an allegedly mentally ill man who stopped breathing and ultimately died are entitled to qualified immunity, the 5th Circuit ruled.
In July 2007, Nayeem Khan ran around inside a Winn-Dixie store screaming that people outside were trying to kill him.
The store’s security guard subdued Khan before the police arrived and placed him in handcuffs, but Khan resisted when the police attempted to escort him out of the Winn-Dixie.
The officers then hobbled Khan’s legs and linked the leg irons and handcuffs into a four-point restraint, also known as a “hogtie.”
Almost immediately, Khan stopped breathing. The police removed the handcuffs and administered CPR until an ambulance arrived, but Khan died in the hospital later that night.
Khan’s parents, Abdul and Hajera Khan, sued Newell Normand, the Sheriff of Jefferson Parish and 10 deputies in the Eastern District of Louisiana alleging that their use of excessive force led to their son’s death.
On appeal, the 5th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling that the use of a four-point restraint was not excessive.
Per curiam, the panel wrote, “We hold that Khan’s treatment did not violate a clearly established right.”
The 5th Circuit has addressed the police use of hog-tying twice before, but in both cases the arrestee was left face down for an extended period of time.
In contrast, “Khan was not left face down in the four-point restraint for an extended period of time. Moreover, Khan remained under constant supervision, which allowed the officers to remove the handcuffs and administer first aid quickly after he stopped breathing,” the court said.
Addressing U.S. Circuit Judge Emilio Garza’s dissent, the panel said, “The dissent contends that the officers’ decision to remove Khan from the store at closing time created the need for force and was objectively unreasonable given Khan’s fear of people outside trying to kill him. In hindsight, one could argue that Khan would not have panicked again had he remained in the store, away from those he feared were trying to kill him. Yet the officers on the scene did not enjoy our ’20/20 vision of hindsight.’
It concluded: “Although this is a tragic incident, police officers must often make split-second decisions, and qualified immunity shields them from subsequent second-guessing unless their conduct was objectively unreasonable under clearly established law. Consequently, the defendants are protected by qualified immunity even if their conduct constituted excessive force.”