Parish: Rapides

Police Department(s):

· Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and Southern Poverty Law Center filed an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on behalf of Mr. Wesley Pigott and his two children, who were minors at the time of the incident. In April of 2020, Mr. Pigott pulled into an empty parking lot with his children after being followed by an unmarked vehicle for several miles. Without identifying himself as law enforcement and upon stopping his vehicle behind Mr. Pigott’s parked vehicle, Paul Gintz, an officer, immediately pulled out his gun, lodged the barrel into the back of Mr. Pigott’s head, and threatened to kill Mr. Pigott, as the children watched in terror.

The Pigotts filed suit against the officer for violation of their constitutional rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”). The Pigotts asserted that Officer Gintz had no objective basis for seizing them at gunpoint, as neither Gintz nor any other law enforcement officer witnessed the Pigotts do anything more than commit a traffic infraction. Significantly, a traffic infraction in no way justifies an officer immediately brandishing a gun at the occupants of the vehicle that committed the infraction. Indeed, doing so constitutes excessive force—continuing to do so for minutes without justification only further exacerbates the unlawfulness of the seizure.

The district court dismissed the Pigott’ claims against Officer Gintz on summary judgment, finding that Gintz subjected the Pigotts to a reasonable seizure and that qualified immunity and the lack of third-party records supporting their emotional injuries barred the excessive force claim. Following the dismissal of their suit, the Pigotts appealed.

On appeal, the Pigotts first argue that qualified immunity is prohibited from consideration in federal civil rights cases because the original text of Section 1983—the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act—barred defendants in civil rights lawsuits from asserting these types of defenses. The Pigotts also contend that, even if qualified immunity applies, the district court erred in finding the seizure at gunpoint for minutes reasonable and holding that third-party records were required to support their testimony concerning the psychological injuries they experienced as a result of the encounter. At bottom, the lower court ignored key material facts showing that the Pigotts fully complied with Gintz, did not resist or attempt to flee the scene, and did no more than commit a traffic violation. Additionally, the court ignored that an internal investigation resulted in the discipline of Gintz for the way he handled this encounter and that another officer who arrived on the scene never used force, quickly dispelled any suspicion, and apologized to the Pigotts. Against this backdrop, holding the Pigotts at gunpoint for minutes was objectively unreasonable.

The Defendant-Appellee in this case is:

· Paul Gintz

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