A man who claims he was injured after he asked Alexandria police not to handcuff him during a compliant arrest because he’d had recent rotator cuff surgery that limited his shoulder mobility may proceed with a federal lawsuit against the officers, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Thomas Salyers was arrested on a warrant for failure to appear at a child support hearing after Alexandria police officers Kyle Williams and Cody Antrim saw him walking with his father on a sidewalk near his home. After officers stopped him, they let him finish his cigarette and agreed to Salyers’ request to wait until his children were out of view before arresting him.
Salyers knew one of the officers, and as they talked, he told them about his recent surgery and said he didn’t think he could be cuffed behind his back. Officers said he had to be cuffed, and when he was, Salyers complained he was hurt. He claims subsequent exams found he required more than $100,000 in corrective shoulder surgery.
Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Indiana ordered summary judgment in favor of the Alexandria Police Department on Salyers’ excessive force claim, but ruled the officers were not entitled to summary judgment on his excessive force and state law negligence claims.
“The record before us reveals that Salyers specifically reminded Officer Williams that he had recently undergone shoulder surgery and asked that he not be handcuffed behind his back. It further reveals that Officer Williams confirmed that (Salyers) had a preexisting shoulder injury and instructed Officer Antrim to be gentle in effectuating the arrest. Given the specificity of Salyers’s complaint and the officers’ acknowledgement its authenticity, it is clear that they were put on notice of a preexisting injury regardless of whether Salyers continued to complain of pain during or after the handcuffing. Accordingly, they were obligated to consider his injury, along with other relevant circumstances, in determining whether cuffing him behind his back was appropriate.”
Barker ruled “a reasonable jury could conclude that the officers’ decision to handcuff Salyers behind his back was objectively unreasonable in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The record reveals that Salyers was arrested for a minor nonviolent offense … that the officers perceived no risk of safety or threat of injury (foregoing a “pat-down” and allowing him to finish his cigarette while they waited for his children to go inside), and that Salyers specifically told them of his preexisting shoulder injury before asking that he not be cuffed behind his back. Thus, under the prevailing case law in this circuit and others, a reasonable Officer could have concluded that placing Salyers’s arm in handcuffs behind his back would inflict pain and discomfort, which was unnecessary in light of the circumstances.”
The case is Thomas M. Salyers v. Alexandria Police Department, 1:15-cv-265.