Kelsay v. Ernst

Kelsay v. Ernst, 933 F.3d 975 (8th Cir. 2019)
What happened:

Melanie Kelsay was at a swimming pool in Wymore, Nebraska with her three children and Patrick Caslin, a family friend.  Police arrived pursuant to a witness call alleging Caslin had assaulted Kelsay.  Kelsay was uninjured, and denied that any assault had taken place.

But she would not go home unharmed.

As she waited by the pool for her husband to pick her up, Kelsay overheard her 13-year-old-daughter arguing with the woman who had summoned the police.  Officer Ernst grabbed Kelsay’s arm as she began walking towards her daughter, but Kelsay insisted that she needed to check on the situation.  Ernst released her arm, and then slammed Kelsay onto the parking lot in front of her children.

Kelsay complained of an intense pain in her shoulder, and that she was no longer able to move her arm.  Officers refused her pleas to take her to the hospital, instead forcing her into handcuffs.  Kelsay, the alleged assault victim officers had been dispatched to protect, was taken to jail and charged with disturbing the peace and obstructing government operations.  When she finally did receive medical attention, an x-ray revealed that Officer Ernst’s takedown maneuver had fractured her collarbone.   She required extensive surgery, including the insertion of a plate and several screws into her shoulder.

The Eighth Circuit denied Kelsay the right to bring her claim to trial on the basis of qualified immunity, ruling that existing case law had not clearly established that an officer “was forbidden to use a takedown maneuver” to arrest someone who was walking away.

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