The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today reversed federal district Judge James Moody and said two Little Rock police officers had acted constitutionally in tasing a mother and handcuffing her son in a dispute at a Little Rock high school.
Moody had dismissed complaints against the police chief and the officers in their official capacity, but said the suit personally against Officers Hubert Bryant and Chris Oldham could proceed.
Dedra Rudley sued for herself and minor child over her arrest in an altercation at J.A. Fair High School in 2014. When a meeting with the principal over her son’s grades grew hostile, the principal directed an officer to take Rudley out of the building. (He contended, and she disputed, that she’d thrown a book at the principal.) Some of the resulting altercation was recorded on Bryant’s taser, which he discharged three times. Oldham arrived and handcuffed the son, who had a broken clavicle. The situation was “combative and chaotic” Judge Moody observed, such that it wasn’t sufficiently clear the officers had acted reasonably in use of force and thus the case should go to trial.
The 8th Circuit disagreed and reversed Moody. It said the officers were entitled to immunity for their actions that day. It said, among others, that Rudley had behaved in such a way that an officer could reasonably take action to avoid an escalation of the confrontation. Oldham, too, could have reasonably believed the minor son could have presented a threat.