Submitted: November 15, 2016
from United States District Court for the District of South
Dakota - Rapid City
COLLOTON, BEAM, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.
GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.
Randall Ehlers brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against Officers Jim Hansen and Scott Dirkes of the Rapid
City Police Department and Trooper Robert Rybak of the South
Dakota State Police for unlawful arrest and excessive force.
Hansen, Dirkes, and Rybak appeal the district court's
order denying their motions for summary judgment on the basis
of qualified immunity. For the following reasons, we reverse.
December 21, 2010, Randall Ehlers ("Ehlers") and
his wife, three adult children, and several friends attended
a Rush hockey game at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid
City, South Dakota. Mrs. Ehlers and her son Derrik Ehlers
were at a table in the hospitality area when the table was
jostled and beer spilled on Mrs. Ehlers. Some confusion
ensued, and Civic Center staff asked Mrs. Ehlers to leave and
escorted her out of the area. The Ehlers children began to
yell profanities at the staff, and they were also instructed
to leave. An altercation between the children and security
personnel occurred shortly thereafter. Rapid City Police
responded, and officers ultimately arrested several of the
Ehlers children and a family friend.
Ehlers was advised of the confrontation involving his family,
and he proceeded outside. At the time, Officer Hansen was in
the process of arresting Derrik Ehlers and was about to place
him in the police car. Ehlers approached Hansen, asking
Hansen questions regarding his son's arrest. Officer
Hansen told Ehlers to step back to the curb and pointed
towards the Civic Center, but Ehlers stepped closer to Hansen
and asked more questions about his son. Officer Hansen
pointed to the Civic Center again, stating that before he
counted to three Ehlers should be on the far sidewalk. At
this time, Officer Dirkes pulled up in his patrol car. Dirkes
testified that Officer Hansen instructed him to arrest
Ehlers, and Dirkes's dash camera picked up audio of
Hansen saying, "Take this guy, he's not
listening." Ehlers finally complied with Hansen's
instructions and proceeded to walk towards the Civic Center.
camera video shows that Dirkes approached Ehlers and
instructed him twice to put his hands behind his back. When
Ehlers ignored him and continued to walk toward the Civic
Center, Dirkes executed a spin takedown, taking hold of
Ehlers's neck and shoulder to bring him to the ground.
Ehlers landed on his back with his arms in the air, and
Dirkes turned him over onto his hands and knees. Dirkes
pushed Ehlers's head down and shouted for him to put his
hands behind his back. Another officer approached and put his
right knee on Ehlers's left shoulder, took Ehlers's
left arm, and placed Ehlers face down on the ground. A third
officer took Ehlers's right leg and placed it across the
back of his left leg, then pressed him into the ground by
lifting and pressing the left leg toward Ehlers's back.
Trooper Rybak then approached, took Ehlers's left arm
from underneath his body and then allegedly pushed the arm
forward and locked Ehlers's elbow before bringing it
behind him to handcuff him. Ehlers alleged that he suffered
shoulder and knee injuries, including a damaged rotator cuff.
Dirkes prepared his taser for drive stun and put the prongs
against Ehlers's lower back, warning Ehlers that he was
going to use the taser. The audio recording picked up someone
saying "let him have it, " but the taser initially
did not fire when Dirkes attempted to engage it because the
safety switch was on. Dirkes released the safety switch and
the taser discharged. Although Dirkes claims that he moved
the prongs off Ehlers at the last moment, Ehlers claims that
the taser did shock him. Ehlers was then handcuffed and
arrested for resisting arrest and obstructing a police
brought unlawful arrest and excessive force claims against
Hansen, Dirkes, and Rybak under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The
defendants moved for summary judgment on the basis of
qualified immunity, and the district court denied the
motions. Hansen, Dirkes, and Rybak appeal.
authority under the collateral order doctrine to hear an
interlocutory appeal of a denial of qualified immunity.
Shannon v. Koehler, 616 F.3d 855, 861 (8th Cir.
2010). However, we are limited to reviewing the denial of
summary judgment only insofar as it concerns questions of
law, not factual disputes. Jones v. McNeese, 675
F.3d 1158, 1161 (8th Cir. 2012); see Shannon, 616
F.3d at 861. Accordingly, "[w]e review a district
court's qualified immunity determination on summary
judgment de novo, viewing the record in the light
most favorable to [the plaintiff] and drawing all reasonable
inferences in [his] favor." Shannon, 616 F.3d
at 861-62 (quoting Langford v. Norris, 614 F.3d 445,
459 (8th Cir. 2010) (alterations in original)).
determine whether the defendants are entitled to qualified
immunity, we ask two questions: "(1) whether the facts,
viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff,
demonstrate the deprivation of a constitutional or statutory
right; and (2) whether the right was clearly established at
the time of the deprivation." Jones, 675 F.3d
at 1161 (quoting Parrish v. Ball, 594 F.3d 993, 1001
(8th Cir. 2010)). The court may consider these steps in any
order, see Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236
(2009), but "[u]nless the answer to both of these
questions is yes, the defendants are entitled to qualified
immunity." Krout v. Goemmer, 583 F.3d 557, 564
(8th Cir. 2009). In order to be clearly established,
"[t]he contours of the right must be sufficiently clear
that a reasonable official would understand that what he is
doing violates that right." Anderson v.
Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987). While prior cases
need not have expressly ...