Pigott et al v. Gintz
MEMORANDUM RULING: IT IS ORDERED that the MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [Doc. 29] filed by Defendant Paul Gintz is GRANTED. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Plaintiffs' federal claims arising under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging unlawful seizure a nd excessive force, as well as their claim for punitive damages and any claim for bystander liability, against Deputy Gintz in his individual capacity, are DENIED and DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Plaintiffs' state law claims for assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Signed by Judge David C Joseph on 11/14/2023. (crt,LaCombe, L)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA
WESLEY PIGOTT, ET AL
CIVIL DOCKET NO. 1:21-CV-01015
JUDGE DAVID C. JOSEPH
MAGISTRATE JUDGE JOSEPH H. L.
Before the Court is a MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (the “Motion”) [Doc. 29]
filed by Defendant Paul Gintz (“Defendant” or “Deputy Gintz”). Deputy Gintz seeks
summary judgment with respect to all claims asserted by Plaintiff Wesley Pigott
(“Mr. Pigott”), his daughter, Mya Pigott (“Mya”), and his minor son, K.P. (collectively,
“Plaintiffs”), on grounds he is entitled to qualified immunity. For the reasons that
follow, the Defendant’s Motion is GRANTED.
On the night of April 17, 2020, Plaintiffs drove home from the Oakwing Golf
Club in Alexandria, Louisiana, where K.P. and two of his friends had been fishing. 1
Mr. Pigott drove the group; Mya sat in the passenger seat and K.P. and two of his
friends rode in the bed of Mr. Pigott’s truck. 2 As Plaintiffs approached Highway 28,
Mya asked her father if they could pass by the Rapides Parish Detention Center (the
See Deposition of Wesley Pigott, attached as Exhibit 2 to Defendant’s Motion for
Summary Judgment. [Doc. 29-5, p. 10].
Id. at p. 26.
Page 1 of 37
“Detention Center”) located nearby. 3
Mr. Pigott agreed, driving slowly into the
parking lot of the Detention Center, making a circle, and then driving slowly out. 4
Deputy Gintz was a deputy sheriff with the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office
(“RPSO”) and had served as a corrections officer for the RPSO for approximately
fifteen years. On the night of April 17, 2020, he was serving as the shift supervisor
at the Detention Center and was wearing his duty uniform. 5 At some point during
the evening hours of Deputy Gintz’s shift, Deputy Jessie Sanchez, who was standing
outside of the facility but inside the fence, observed a truck drive slowly into the
Detention Center parking lot and make a circle. 6 Deputy Sanchez testified at his
deposition that “at that time of that night, it was suspicious” to him that a truck had
driven into the parking lot. 7 Deputy Sanchez called Deputy Gintz and told him that
he had seen a vehicle pull into the parking lot and had seen a silhouette of a person
in the back of the truck. 8
Concerned because there had been recent incidents
Id. at p. 32. Mr. Pigott testified that he worked at the Huddle House Restaurant at
the time of the incident, a local restaurant that uses a work-release program to employ
prisoners housed at the Detention Center. Id. at pp. 6–7. In her deposition, Mya explained
that her father’s work with prisoners made her curious about the location of the Detention
Center. See Deposition of Mya Pigott, attached as Exhibit 3 to Defendant’s Motion for
Summary Judgment. [Doc. 29-6, p. 13].
See Deposition of Wesley Pigott. [Doc. 29-5, p. 10].
See Deposition of Paul Gintz, attached as Exhibit 5 to Plaintiffs’ Response to Motion
for Summary Judgment. [Doc. 41-5, p. 90].
Id. at pp. 91-92. See also Deposition of Jessie Sanchez, attached as Exhibit 7 to
Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. [Doc. 29-10, p. 23].
See Deposition of Jessie Sanchez. [Doc. 29-10, p. 23].
Id. at p. 20.
Page 2 of 37
involving people driving onto Detention Center property and throwing contraband
over the fence, Deputy Gintz instructed that the Detention Center be locked down
and ordered correctional officers to perform a head count of all inmates. 9 Deputy
Gintz then exited the Detention Center and arrived in the parking lot as the truck
was pulling away. Although he had been told there was one person in the bed of the
truck, Deputy Gintz observed three individuals in the bed of the truck as it pulled out
onto the highway. 10 At that point, because he did not have keys to a marked police
vehicle and because he thought it would take too much time to retrieve them, Deputy
Gintz, who was in uniform, got into his personal vehicle and followed the Plaintiffs
as they drove away from the Detention Center. 11 Shortly thereafter, Deputy Gintz
called the front desk of the Detention Center and asked for a backup unit. 12
Deputy Gintz followed the Plaintiffs for approximately seven to ten minutes. 13
Deputy Gintz testified that as he pulled up behind the truck at a red light, he
observed that the three persons in the bed of the truck were juveniles. 14 Mr. Pigott
testified that he drove the wrong way down a one-way street to see if the vehicle
See Deposition of Paul Gintz. [Doc. 41-5, p. 93].
Id. at p. 95.
Id. at p. 93.
Id. at p. 104.
Id. at pp. 110-111.
Id. at pp. 95-96.
Page 3 of 37
behind him would continue to follow him. 15 At some point after being followed, Mr.
Pigott voluntarily decided to pull over into an empty parking lot. 16 Deputy Gintz
parked behind Mr. Piggott’s truck and exited his vehicle. 17
The parties dispute what happened next. According to Deputy Gintz, once both
vehicles were parked, Mr. Pigott got out of his truck but was “leaning to his vehicle,”
and had his back to Deputy Gintz. 18 According to Deputy Gintz, because he could not
see Mr. Pigott’s hands, he gave several commands to Mr. Pigott to show his hands,
but Mr. Pigott failed to comply. 19 Deputy Gintz testified that he commanded Mr.
Pigott to turn around but Mr. Pigott continued to not comply. 20 Deputy Gintz testified
that he could not see in the back seat of the truck and did not know who else might
be in the vehicle. 21 Deputy Gintz testified that after Mr. Pigott failed to comply with
several commands, he drew his gun at a “low point,” and testified that it was not until
another law enforcement officer, Deputy Lacaze, arrived in his marked police unit
See Deposition of Wesley Pigott. [Doc. 41-2, pp. 39–40].
Id. at pp. 39-40.
See Deposition of Paul Gintz. [Doc. 41-5, p. 112].
Id. at p. 105.
Id. at p. 111.
Id. at pp. 111-112.
Id. at pp. 105-109, 113.
Page 4 of 37
that Mr. Pigott complied by showing his hands. 22 Deputy Gintz maintains that
throughout this exchange he kept his gun in the “low ready position.” 23
The Plaintiffs’ version of this exchange is different. Mr. Pigott testified at his
deposition that, when the parties stopped in the parking lot, he got out of his truck,
looked back, and saw Deputy Gintz pointing a gun at him, saying, “Get the fuck out
of the truck.” 24 Plaintiffs allege that Mr. Pigott immediately complied by putting his
hands up, and the other occupants of the vehicle put their hands up as well, as follows:
Immediately after Defendant Gintz exited his truck, he pointed his gun
at Mr. Pigott. The first command that Defendant Gintz gave Mr. Pigott
was “get the fuck out of the truck” and to put his hands up. Mr. Pigott
instantaneously obeyed Gintz’s verbal commands. Defendant Gintz
then pointed the gun at the children and told them to get their hands
up, which they instantaneously did. Gintz never identified himself as
After Mr. Pigott and the children complied with Gintz’s commands to
put their hands up, Defendant Gintz moved closer and pointed his gun
at Mr. Pigott’s forehead, between his eyes, from about two feet away.
. . . . Gintz told Mr. Pigott to turn around.
Mr. Pigott turned around as instructed … and was at this point facing
away from Defendant Gintz. As Defendant Gintz approached Mr.
Pigott, he asked Mr. Pigott a series of questions while continuously
pointing the gun at the back of Mr. Pigott’s head as the children
watched. Then Defendant Gintz pressed the barrel of the gun against
the back of Mr. Pigott’s head. ... As Defendant Gintz continued to
Id. at p. 105.
Id. at pp. 106-107. Deputy Lacaze defined “low ready position” as follows: “That’s just
having your weapon ready. It’s not pointed at anyone. It’s just kind of pointed down toward
the ground area just in a ready position. It’s not in your holster, but it’s not pointed at
anyone.” See Deposition of Clayton Lacaze. [Doc. 29-9, p. 27].
See Deposition of Wesley Pigott. [Doc. 29-5, pp. 42-43]. See also Complaint. [Doc. 1,
Page 5 of 37
question Mr. Pigott, Mr. Pigott turned to answer but Defendant Gintz
yelled out, “If you turn around again, I’m going to blow your fucking
head off.” 25
Mya testified that, while Deputy Gintz was pointing his gun at her father, she
went to jump into the back seat of the truck, at which point Deputy Gintz pointed his
gun at her and told her to put her hands up. 26 K.P. testified that Deputy Gintz did
not “point” his gun at him, but rather, that Deputy Gintz’s action was “a swing” of
the gun “at all of us. Told us to keep our hands up.” 27 He testified that the gun was
“swung” in his direction for approximately one second. 28 Deputy Gintz denies that
he pointed his gun between Mr. Pigott’s eyes and pressed his gun to the back of his
Shortly thereafter, Deputy Clayton Lacaze (“Deputy Lacaze”), wearing a body
camera (“bodycam”), arrived on the scene in a marked vehicle. 30 Deputy Lacaze’s
bodycam shows Mr. Pigott and Deputy Gintz standing three-to-four feet apart, with
Mr. Pigott facing away from Deputy Gintz, who is holding his firearm in the “low
ready position” with the barrel pointed towards Mr. Pigott. 31 The driver-side door of
See Memorandum in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment. [Doc. 41, pp. 1112] (internal citations omitted).
See Deposition of Mya Pigott. [Doc. 29-6, p. 62].
See Deposition of K.P. [Doc. 29-7, p. 60].
See Deposition of Paul Gintz. [Doc. 41-5, p. 108].
The body camera video is attached to Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment as
Exhibit 9A. [Doc. 29-3].
See body cam video.
Page 6 of 37
Mr. Pigott’s vehicle was open, and Mya can be seen sitting in the passenger seat. Two
of the three juveniles sitting in the bed of Mr. Pigott’s truck are likewise visible. The
footage then shows that Deputy Lacaze patted Mr. Pigott down while questioning
him about his activities at the Detention Center. 32 After Deputy Lacaze finished
searching Mr. Pigott’s person, Deputy Gintz holstered his weapon, and both officers
questioned Mr. Pigott about driving onto the premises of the Detention Center at
night and unannounced. 33 Deputy Lacaze told Mya that she could put her hands
down, and the officers explained to Mr. Pigott that they previously had problems at
the Detention Center with people driving by and throwing contraband over the
fence. 34 Mr. Pigott acknowledged that his actions at the Detention Center might
seem suspicious, but he assured both officers that he had not engaged in illegal
activity. Deputy Gintz and Deputy Lacaze walked away from Mr. Pigott and engaged
in a discussion between themselves, wherein Deputy Gintz explained to Deputy
Lacaze what had transpired. Deputy Gintz stated that he believed Mr. Pigott’s
story. 35 The Plaintiffs were then allowed to leave the scene.
During this exchange between Deputy Gintz and Deputy Lacaze, Deputy Gintz
explained the manner in which he was informed about the truck entering the property and
driving slowly in a circle; the fact that Deputy Gintz did not have enough time to take a police
vehicle; and his concerns that the truck contained individuals throwing contraband over the
fence. After this discussion is over, Deputy Lacaze and Deputy Gintz allow Plaintiffs to leave
the parking lot. See body camera video.
Page 7 of 37
From the time that Deputy Lacaze arrived on the scene, his body camera
captured approximately eight minutes of footage. 36 Prior to that, Deputy Gintz
testified that he was alone waiting for backup for no more than two to three
minutes, 37 putting the entirety of the encounter in the parking lot at approximately
On April 16, 2021, Mr. Pigott filed suit on behalf of himself and his minor child,
K.P., against Deputy Gintz in his individual capacity, alleging civil rights violations
under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution,
and the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 for excessive force and
unlawful seizure, as well as state law claims of assault, battery, intentional infliction
of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. 38 Mya Pigott
joined the lawsuit as a plaintiff as well. Plaintiffs seek damages, including punitive
damages and attorneys’ fees and costs, for the foregoing violations.
On April 19, 2023, Deputy Gintz filed the instant Motion for Summary
Judgment [Doc. 29] seeking dismissal of all Plaintiffs’ claims on grounds he is entitled
to qualified immunity. Plaintiffs opposed the Motion [Doc. 41]; Deputy Gintz filed a
See body camera video.
See Deposition of Deputy Gintz. [Doc. 41-5, pp. 106-107].
The Plaintiffs’ Complaint contains numerous references to the races of the parties, as
well as a discussion of racial profiling and its effect on black children. But there are no causes
of action alleging racial discrimination and the record is devoid of any facts or reasonable
inferences that would support a racial animus behind the events at issue. The Court need
not address this issue further.
Page 8 of 37
Reply [Doc. 45]; and Plaintiffs filed a Sur-Reply [Doc. 48]. The Motion is now ripe for
LAW & ANALYSIS
Summary Judgment Standard
A court should grant a motion for summary judgment when the pleadings,
including the opposing party’s affidavits, “show that there is no dispute as to any
material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.
R. Civ. P. 56; see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24, 106 S. Ct. 2548,
91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). A genuine dispute of material fact exists “if the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Hefren
v. McDermott, Inc., 820 F.3d 767, 771 (5th Cir. 2016) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986)). A fact is
“material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the
lawsuit under applicable law in the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).
The movant bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine
dispute of material fact but need not negate every element of the nonmovant’s claim.
Hongo v. Goodwin, 781 F. App’x 357, 359 (5th Cir. 2019) (citing Duffie v. United
States, 600 F. 3d 362, 371 (5th Cir. 2010)). If the movant meets this burden, the
burden then shifts to the nonmovant who is required to “identify specific evidence in
the record and articulate the manner in which that evidence supports that party’s
claim.” Johnson v. Deep E. Texas Reg’l Narcotics Trafficking Task Force, 379 F.3d
Page 9 of 37
293, 301 (5th Cir. 2004). However, summary judgment cannot be defeated through
unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation.” Acker v. Gen. Motors,
L.L.C., 853 F.3d 784, 788 (5th Cir. 2017) (quoting Oliver v. Scott, 276 F.3d 736, 744
(5th Cir. 2002)).
In applying this standard, the Court should construe “all facts and inferences
in favor of the nonmoving party.” Deshotel v. Wal-Mart Louisiana, L.L.C., 850 F.3d
742, 745 (5th Cir. 2017); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106
S. Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (“The evidence of the non-movant is to be believed,
and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.”). The motion for summary
judgment should be granted if the non-moving party cannot produce sufficient
competent evidence to support an essential element of its claim. Condrey v. Suntrust
Bank of Ga., 431 F.3d 191, 197 (5th Cir. 2005).
Section 1983 Claims
Plaintiffs allege that the actions of Deputy Gintz constituted an unlawful
seizure and that the force used by Deputy Gintz was excessive and violated their
clearly established right to be free from such force. Deputy Gintz seeks summary
judgment on both claims on the grounds he is entitled to qualified immunity.
The defense of qualified immunity shields government officials performing
discretionary functions from liability for civil damages if their conduct “does not
violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable
person would have known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S. Ct. 2727,
Page 10 of 37
73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982). “The basic thrust of the qualified-immunity doctrine is to free
officials from the concerns of litigation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 685, 129 S.
Ct. 1937, 1953, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (internal quotations and citations omitted). A
qualified immunity defense is thus “an immunity from suit rather than a mere
defense to liability.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231, 129 S. Ct. 808, 815, 172
L.Ed.2d 565 (2009).
When reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court must view all of
the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving parties and draw all
reasonable inferences in their favor. But an assertion of qualified immunity alters
the standard. Once qualified immunity is asserted, “the burden then shifts to the
plaintiff, who must rebut the defense by establishing a genuine fact issue as to
whether the official’s allegedly wrongful conduct violated clearly established law.”
Trammell v. Fruge, 868 F.3d 332, 338 (5th Cir. 2017). Nonetheless, all factual
inferences are to be viewed by the Court in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Brown v. Callahan, 623 F.3d 249, 253 (5th Cir. 2010).
When there is video evidence, a court is not required to favor a plaintiff’s
allegations over the video evidence.” Brown v. Coulston, 463 F. Supp. 3d 762, 769
(E.D. Tex. 2020), citing Hartman v. Walker, 685 F. App’x 366, 368 (5th Cir. 2017)
(citations omitted) (per curiam), citing Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380–81, 127 S.
Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). Accord Trammell v. Fruge, 868 F.3d 332, 338 (5th
Cir. 2017), citing Hanks v. Rogers, 853 F.3d 738, 744 (quoting Curran v. Aleshire, 800
F.3d 656, 664 (5th Cir. 2015) (“a plaintiff’s version of the facts should not be accepted
Page 11 of 37
for purposes of qualified immunity when it is ‘blatantly contradicted’ and ‘utterly
discredited’ by video recordings.”); Terrell v. Town of Woodworth, No. 1:21-CV-04224,
2023 WL 4115769, at *6 (W.D. La. June 7, 2023), report and recommendation adopted,
No. 1:21-CV-04224, 2023 WL 4115879 (W.D. La. June 21, 2023) (“Where there is a
video recording of the events in question, the Court should analyze the video evidence
and reject the plaintiff’s account only where the video evidence so clearly discredits
the plaintiff’s story that no reasonable juror could believe the plaintiff’s version of the
In determining the application of qualified immunity, courts engage in a twostep analysis. First, they assess whether a statutory or constitutional right would
have been violated on the facts alleged. Flores v. City of Palacios, 381 F.3d 391, 395
(5th Cir. 2004). Second, they determine whether the defendant’s actions violated
clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person
would have known. Id. (citations and quotations omitted). “A clearly established
right is one that is sufficiently clear that every reasonable official would have
understood that what he is doing violates that right.” Mullenix v. Luna, 577 U.S. 7,
11, 136 S. Ct. 305, 308, 193 L.Ed.2d 255 (2015) (citations and quotations omitted).
There need not be a case directly on point, but “existing precedent must have placed
the statutory or constitutional question beyond debate.” Id. (citations and quotations
omitted). The two steps of the qualified immunity inquiry may be performed in any
order. Pearson, 555 U.S. at 236, 129 S. Ct. 808.
Page 12 of 37
Fourth Amendment protections attach “whenever a police officer accosts an
individual and restrains his freedom to walk away.” Lincoln v. Turner, 874 F.3d 833,
844 (5th Cir. 2017), quoting Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 16, 88 S. Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d
889 (1968). Warrantless searches and seizures are “per se unreasonable under the
Fourth Amendment – subject only to a few specifically established and welldelineated exceptions.” Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357, 88 S. Ct. 507, 19
L.Ed.2d 576 (1967) (footnote omitted). The rule of Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S. Ct.
1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968) represents “a very narrow exception.” United States v.
Hill, 752 F.3d 1029, 1033 (5th Cir. 2014), citing United States v. Tookes, 633 F.2d 712,
715 (5th Cir.1980).
To analyze the legality of a vehicle stop under Terry, the Court must follow a
two-step process, as follows: (i) the first step considers whether the officer was
justified in stopping the vehicle at its inception; and (ii) the second step examines
whether the officer’s subsequent actions were reasonably related in scope to the
circumstances that justified the stop. United States v. Brigham, 382 F.3d 500, 506
(5th Cir. 2004).
In the context of the first prong, “[p]olice may detain an individual if the officer
has a reasonable suspicion based on specific and particularized facts that the person
is involved in criminal activity.” United States v. Massi, 761 F.3d 512, 521 (5th Cir.
2014), citing Terry, 392 U.S. at 21–22, 27, 88 S. Ct. 1868. See also United States v.
Hensley, 469 U.S. 221, 229, 105 S. Ct. 675, 83 L.Ed.2d 604 (1985). It is well-settled
Page 13 of 37
in the Fifth Circuit that reviewing courts making reasonable suspicion
determinations “must look at the totality of the circumstances of each case to see
whether the detaining officer has a particularized and objective basis for suspecting
legal wrongdoing.” United States v. Pack, 612 F.3d 341, 352 (5th Cir.), opinion
modified on denial of reh’g, 622 F.3d 383 (5th Cir. 2010), citing United States v.
Arvizu, 534 U.S. 266, 122 S. Ct. 744, 750, 151 L.Ed.2d 740 (2002) (internal quotation
marks omitted). In evaluating whether an officer’s suspicion is reasonable, “due
weight must be given ... to the specific reasonable inferences which he is entitled to
draw from the facts in light of his experience.” Pack, 612 F.3d at 352, citing Terry,
88 S. Ct. at 1883. “Although an officer’s reliance on a mere hunch is insufficient to
justify a stop, the likelihood of criminal activity need not rise to the level required for
probable cause, and it falls considerably short of satisfying a preponderance of the
evidence standard.” Arvizu, 122 S. Ct. at 751 (internal citations and quotation marks
omitted). Finally, a Terry “detention must be temporary and last no longer than is
necessary to effectuate the purpose of the stop....” U.S. v. Banuelos–Romero, 597 F.3d
763, 766-67 (5th Cir. 2010), citing Brigham, 382 F.3d at 507.
Because a “seizure” under the Fourth Amendment must be “justified at its
inception,” this Court first must determine when Plaintiffs were “seized” for purposes
of the Fourth Amendment. Hill, 752 F.3d at 1033, citing Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial Dist.
Court, 542 U.S. 177, 185, 124 S. Ct. 2451, 159 L.Ed.2d 292 (2004). A seizure begins
when “all the circumstances surrounding the incident” are such that “a reasonable
person would have believed that he was not free to leave.” INS v. Delgado, 466 U.S.
Page 14 of 37
210, 215, 104 S. Ct. 1758, 80 L.Ed.2d 247 (1984) (citation omitted); United States v.
Mask, 330 F.3d 330, 336 (5th Cir.2003).
Here, the record shows that Mr. Pigott stopped his truck voluntarily, therefore
Deputy Gintz did not conduct a traffic “stop” of the Plaintiffs’ vehicle. At that time,
Deputy Gintz was in his personal vehicle and the Plaintiffs had no reason to believe
they were being pulled over. Rather, Plaintiffs argue – and the Court agrees – that
the seizure of the Plaintiffs began when Deputy Gintz drew his weapon and
commanded Mr. Pigott to get out of his truck, because at that point, Mr. Pigott and
his children were not free to leave. See, e.g., Carroll v. Ellington, 800 F.3d 154, 170
(5th Cir. 2015), citing United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 554, 100 S. Ct. 1870,
64 L.Ed.2d 497 (1980) (a “person has been ‘seized’ within the meaning of the Fourth
Amendment only if, in view of all of the circumstances surrounding the incident, a
reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave”).
Turning now to the first Terry factor, the Court must determine whether
Deputy Gintz had a particularized and objective basis for suspecting legal
wrongdoing by the Plaintiffs at the time of the seizure. Although the Plaintiffs argue
that disputed facts preclude summary judgment on this question, the record shows
that Deputy Gintz had the following information available to him at the time he drew
his weapon and seized the Plaintiffs: (i) during nighttime hours, an unidentified and
unannounced truck had driven slowly onto Detention Center property, made a circle,
and then drove slowly away, during a time period when several individuals had been
Page 15 of 37
arrested for throwing contraband over the prison fence; 39 (ii) Deputy Sanchez
reported seeing the silhouette of one person in the bed of the Plaintiffs’ truck,
however, Deputy Gintz observed three individuals, leading to concerns that the truck
was transporting an inmate or inmates away from the Detention Center; 40 (iii) while
following the truck in his personal vehicle, Deputy Gintz was able to see into the bed
of the truck at a red light and realized that the three persons he had observed in the
back of the truck were juveniles; and (iv) Deputy Gintz saw Mr. Pigott drive the wrong
way down a one-way street, violating La. R.S. 32:78. 41
§ 14:402(E)(5) makes it a crime to introduce contraband into the grounds of a
correctional facility, and because the crime is punishable by a term of imprisonment, violation
of § 14:402(E)(5) is a felony. See State v. Morgan, 238 La. 829, 847, 116 So. 2d 682, 688 (1959).
Plaintiff Mya Pigott testified at her deposition that she saw Deputy Gintz sitting
outside the Detention Center when they drove in the parking lot. Given that it was dark
outside and Mya had never met Deputy Gintz, this claim seems suspect – especially in
consideration of the other testimonial and circumstantial evidence. However, even if true, it
does not create a genuine dispute of material fact.
Even if Deputy Gintz had been sitting outside, there is undisputed evidence that
Deputy Sanchez called Deputy Gintz to tell him he had seen the truck enter the parking lot
and that there was one person in the bed of the truck. Thus, at the time of Mr. Pigott’s
seizure, Deputy Gintz’s observation that three persons were in the back of the truck were
inconsistent with those of Deputy Sanchez and gives credence to Deputy Gintz’s apparent
suspicion that one or more inmates may have been leaving the facility in the bed of Plaintiffs’
truck. See, e.g., United States v. Massi, 761 F.3d 512, 521 (5th Cir. 2014) (the facts leading
to a finding of reasonable suspicion do not have to be based on a law enforcement officer’s
personal observation but can also arise from the “collective knowledge” of law enforcement
entities, so long as that knowledge gives rise to reasonable suspicion and was communicated
between those entities at the time of the stop), citing United States v. Ibarra–Sanchez, 199
F.3d 753, 759 (5th Cir.1999) (“Any analysis of reasonable suspicion is necessarily factspecific, and factors which by themselves may appear innocent, may in the aggregate rise to
the level of reasonable suspicion.”). United States v. Ibarra–Sanchez, 199 F.3d 753, 759 (5th
Cir. 1999). Further, by the time the seizure occurred Deputy Gintz had personally observed
Mr. Pigott drive the wrong way down a one-way street, which ultimately gave Deputy Gintz
reasonable suspicion to effect a traffic stop.
The violation of La. R.S. 32:78 independently provided Deputy Gintz with reasonable
suspicion to conduct a Terry stop.
Page 16 of 37
Given this scenario, the Court concludes that Deputy Gintz has identified
specific and articulable facts that led him to believe that the Plaintiffs were involved
in criminal activity at the time of the seizure. It is undisputed that the Rapides
Parish Sheriff’s Office had recently experienced problems with individuals throwing
contraband over the Detention Center fence. It is further undisputed that, at the
time he got into his unmarked vehicle to follow the Plaintiffs, Deputy Gintz had
conflicting information concerning how many people were in the bed of the truck,
which justifies his initial pursuit of the truck.
Although Deputy Gintz was
subsequently able to confirm that the persons in the bed of the truck were juveniles,
and therefore, it was unlikely they were escaped inmates from the Detention Center,
he still had reasonable suspicion to believe the people in the truck had thrown
contraband over the facility fence. The Court finds that these circumstances, along
with the fact that Mr. Pigott had committed a traffic violation while driving, were
sufficient to create a reasonable suspicion in the mind of Deputy Gintz that the
Plaintiffs had driven on Detention Center property to engage in illegal activity.
Cognizant that “due weight must be given ... to the specific reasonable inferences
which [Deputy Gintz] is entitled to draw from the facts in light of his experience,”
Pack, 612 F.3d at 352, citing Terry, 88 S. Ct. at 1883, the Court finds that Deputy
Gintz’s seizure of the Plaintiffs was reasonable at its inception. 42
Plaintiffs argue that Deputy Gintz observed this traffic violation only after
“follow[ing] Mr. Pigott’s truck at night for several miles” based upon the mistaken belief that
“Mr. Pigott had introduced contraband into the Detention Center by throwing it over the
fence.” [Doc. 41, pp. 19–20]. But the fact that Deputy Gintz was following the Plaintiffs’
truck because of his mistaken belief that they had thrown contraband over the fence is
immaterial to the Plaintiffs’ unlawful seizure claim. See United States v. Sanchez-Pena, 336
Page 17 of 37
The second step under Terry examines whether Deputy Gintz’s subsequent
actions were reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that justified the stop,
or to dispelling his reasonable suspicion developed during the stop. See United States
v. Rodriguez, 802 F. App’x 90, 93 (5th Cir. 2020) (under Terry, “[i]f the stop was
justified [at the outset], [a] court determines in the second step whether ‘the officer’s
subsequent actions were reasonable.’ ”). After considering the allegations in a light
most favorable to the Plaintiffs, the Court concludes that Deputy Gintz’s subsequent
actions were reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that justified the stop.
It is undisputed that – whether Deputy Gintz pointed his gun at the Plaintiffs or held
it in a low-ready position – Deputy Gintz’s gun was raised for mere minutes and was
only “swung” in the direction of the children for a “second.” 43 Deputy Gintz testified
that his gun was unholstered because he was outnumbered and could not see into the
back seat of the truck and therefore did not know how many individuals were inside
the truck. 44 At this point, Deputy Gintz’s use of his weapon was reasonable to protect
his own safety. Once Deputy Lacaze arrived on the scene wearing his body camera,
the remainder of the detention is captured on video. The body camera video shows
that once Deputy Lacaze patted down Mr. Pigott, Deputy Gintz holstered his gun, the
Plaintiffs were told to lower their hands, and Mr. Pigott was given an opportunity to
F.3d 431, 437 (5th Cir. 2003) (“An officer may stop a motorist for a traffic violation even if,
subjectively, the officer’s true motive is to investigate unrelated criminal offenses.”), citing
Whren v. United States, 517 U.S. 806, 812–13 (1996).
See Deposition of Mya Pigott. [Doc. 29-6, p. 62]; see Deposition of K.P. [Doc. 29-7, p.
See Deposition of Paul Gintz. [Doc. 41-5, pp. 105-109, 113].
Page 18 of 37
explain why he had driven onto Detention Center property. 45 Thus, at the point that
Deputy Gintz had backup on the scene, he holstered his gun. Mr. Pigott’s explanation
for his presence at the Detention Center satisfied both Deputy Gintz and Deputy
Lacaze, and the seizure ended with no handcuffing, no arrests, and no injuries. 46 The
entire exchange from the time Deputy Lacaze arrived at the scene until the Plaintiffs
were permitted to leave lasted eight minutes. Under these facts and circumstances,
the Court concludes that the Plaintiffs were not seized for an unreasonable amount
of time, and Deputy Gintz’s actions were reasonably related in scope to the
circumstances that justified the Terry stop. Considering the foregoing, and based on
this Court’s review of the entirety of the record, including the applicable
jurisprudence, the briefing of the parties, the deposition testimony, and the body
camera footage, the Court concludes that Deputy Gintz is entitled to qualified
immunity on the Plaintiffs’ unlawful seizure claim.
The Fourth Amendment “creates a right to be free from excessive force during
a seizure.” Trammell v. Fruge, 868 F.3d 332, 340 (5th Cir. 2017). A plaintiff asserting
a claim of excessive force must demonstrate: (i) the existence of an injury; (ii)
resulting “directly and only from a use of force that was clearly excessive,” and (iii)
the “excessiveness of [the force] was clearly unreasonable.” Ontiveros v. City of
Rosenberg, Tex., 564 F.3d 379, 382 (5th Cir. 2009). The reasonableness of an officers’
See body camera video.
Page 19 of 37
conduct cannot be judged with the benefit of hindsight but must be assessed from the
viewpoint of a reasonable officer on the scene at that very moment. See Graham v.
Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396, 109 S. Ct. 1865, 104 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989). Indeed,
[n]ot every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the
peace of a judge’s chambers ... violates the Fourth Amendment. The
calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that
police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments – in
circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving – about
the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.
Graham, 490 U.S. at 396, cited in Muslow v. City of Shreveport, 491 F. Supp. 3d 172,
184 (W.D. La. Sept. 30, 2020).
Here, Deputy Gintz seeks summary judgment on the Plaintiffs’ excessive force
claim on grounds of qualified immunity.
As stated above, in determining the
application of qualified immunity, federal courts must engage in a two-step analysis.
First, they must assess whether a statutory or constitutional right was violated under
the facts alleged. Flores v. City of Palacios, 381 F.3d 391, 395 (5th Cir. 2004). Second,
courts must determine whether the defendant’s actions violated clearly established
statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.
Id. (citations and quotations omitted). “A clearly established right is one that is
sufficiently clear that every reasonable official would have understood that what he
is doing violates that right.” Mullenix v. Luna, 577 U.S. 7, 11, 136 S. Ct. 305, 308,
193 L.Ed.2d 255 (2015) (citations and quotations omitted). There need not be a case
directly on point, but “existing precedent must have placed the statutory or
constitutional question beyond debate.” Id. (citations and quotations omitted). The
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two steps of the qualified immunity inquiry may be performed in any order. Pearson,
555 U.S. at 236, 129 S. Ct. 808.
In excessive force cases, “the second prong of the analysis is better understood
as two separate inquiries: whether the allegedly violated constitutional rights were
clearly established at the time of the incident; and, if so, whether the conduct of the
defendants was objectively unreasonable in light of that then clearly established law.”
Tarver v. City of Edna, 410 F.3d 745, 750 (5th Cir. 2005) (citations and quotations
omitted). “If officers of reasonable competence could disagree as to whether the
plaintiff’s rights were violated, the officer’s qualified immunity remains intact.” Id.
The Supreme Court has explained:
“We have repeatedly told courts ... not to define clearly established law
at a high level of generality….”
The dispositive question is “whether the violative nature of
particular conduct is clearly established.” Ibid. (emphasis
added). This inquiry “must be undertaken in light of the specific
context of the case, not as a broad general proposition.” Brosseau
v. Haugen, 543 U.S. 194, 198, 125 S. Ct. 596, 160 L.Ed.2d 583 (2004) (per
curiam) (quoting Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201, 121 S. Ct. 2151, 150
L.Ed.2d 272 (2001)). Such specificity is especially important in the
Fourth Amendment context, where the Court has recognized that “[i]t is
sometimes difficult for an officer to determine how the relevant legal
doctrine, here excessive force, will apply to the factual situation the
Mullenix, 577 U.S. at 12, 136 S. Ct. at 308.
In determining what constitutes clearly established law, this Court first looks
to Supreme Court precedent and then to Fifth Circuit precedent. Shumpert v. City of
Tupelo, 905 F.3d 310, 320 (5th Cir. 2018), citing Morgan v. Swanson, 659 F.3d 359,
Page 21 of 37
372 (5th Cir. 2011). If there is no directly controlling authority, this Court may rely
on decisions from other circuits to the extent that they constitute “a robust ‘consensus
of cases of persuasive authority.’ ” Shumpert, 905 F.3d at 320, citing Morgan, 659
F.3d at 372. Where no controlling authority specifically prohibits a defendant’s
conduct, and when the federal circuit courts are split on the issue, the law cannot be
said to be clearly established. This is true even when the circuit split developed after
the events in question. Morgan, 659 F.3d at 372.
Finally, in the context of excessive force, courts must judge the reasonableness
of an officer’s conduct by taking into account the “tense, uncertain, and rapidly
evolving” circumstances in which officers must often “make split-second judgments
... about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.” Bush v.
Strain, 513 F.3d 492, 502 (5th Cir. 2008) (internal citations omitted). From this “onscene perspective” rather than the “20/20 vision of hindsight,” courts should examine
the objective reasonableness of an officer’s belief that a certain degree of force was
lawful under the circumstances. Bush, 513 F.3d at 502. The “reasonableness” of an
officer’s use of force must be “judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on
the scene, and only the facts then knowable to the [officer] may be considered.” Crane
v. City of Arlington, Texas, 2022 WL 4592035, at *5 (5th Cir. 2022); see also Craig v.
Martin, 49 F.4th 404, 410 (5th Cir. 2022) (an officer’s conduct must be assessed
“with[out] the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”). A court considering the constitutional
propriety of a given use of force must therefore “[pay] careful attention to the facts
and circumstances of each  case,” including: (i) the severity of the crime at issue; (ii)
Page 22 of 37
whether a given suspect posed an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or
others; and (iii) whether the plaintiff was actively resisting arrest or attempting to
evade arrest by flight. Trammell v. Fruge, 868 F.3d 332, 340 (5th Cir. 2017), citing
Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396 (1989).
Here, Plaintiffs allege that Deputy Gintz exercised an unreasonable degree of
force by holding Mr. Pigott at gunpoint for several minutes and by pressing the barrel
of his gun to the back of his head before threatening to “blow [his] fucking head off.” 47
Similarly, with respect to Mya and K.P., Plaintiffs claim that Mr. Gintz used
excessive force by pointing his gun at them when they were not suspected of any crime
and were not engaged in any resistance.” Deputy Gintz, in turn, maintains that his
use of force was not clearly excessive to the need of the situation and was not
objectively unreasonable, arguing it was imminently reasonable to use a moderate
amount of non-deadly force for the time period during which he waited, outnumbered,
for backup to arrive.
In arguing that Deputy Gintz is not entitled to qualified immunity, Plaintiffs
rely, in part, on Flores v. Rivas, in which a district court considered the
constitutionality of an officer brandishing a deadly weapon at compliant suspects or
bystanders. 2020 WL 563799 (W.D. Tex. Jan. 31, 2020). In Flores – which was a
ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss – the plaintiffs claimed, inter alia, that
two police officers had used excessive force when they forced a minor to the ground;
kicked a minor in the leg; shoved a minor’s knee into his face; held a minor against
See Complaint. [Doc. 1, ¶¶ 32-37].
Page 23 of 37
a cement post; pointed a gun at minors while yelling “back up motherfucker!;”
“flipped, dragged, and slammed” a minor to the ground before handcuffing him;
waved a baton at minors; and slammed another minor’s face “onto the hot concrete.”
2020 WL 563799, at *1 (W.D. Tex. Jan. 31, 2020). In the Flores Complaint, the
plaintiffs alleged that the children “did nothing to give a reasonable officer reasonable
suspicion or probable cause that they were engaging in any criminal activity” and did
nothing “that would give a reasonable officer reasonable suspicion or probable cause
that criminal activity was afoot,” to justify the officers threatening them with his
loaded gun. Id. at pp. 3-4. The district court therefore held that the officers were not
entitled to qualified immunity. But the facts of Flores are patently dissimilar to the
facts of this case. Among other differences, here, Deputy Gintz did not use physical
force against any of the Plaintiffs in this matter, and there was reasonable suspicion
that illegal activity had occurred at the time Deputy Gintz raised his weapon.
In Hankins v. Wheeler, 2023 WL 5751131 (E.D. La. Sept. 6, 2023), the district
court considered motions for summary judgment filed by law enforcement officers
who argued they were entitled to qualified immunity on the plaintiff’s claims of
unlawful seizure and excessive force. In Hankins, the plaintiff and his friends were
slowly driving around a neighborhood at midnight looking for a lost dog in a BMW
registered to the mother of one of the occupants of the vehicle. Hankins, 2023 WL
5751131 at *1. As they slowly drove along, they hung their heads out of the vehicle
trying to find the dog. The defendants were working a private security detail in New
Orleans when one of the officers, who had been asked by the plaintiff and his friends
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if he had seen the dog and was skeptical about their reason for being in the
neighborhood at that hour, ran a license plate check on the vehicle, which showed
that the car was registered to a woman in New Orleans East, approximately ten miles
away. Id. at *2. After observing the movements of the vehicle, the officer pulled the
plaintiff over. Id. The plaintiff alleged that the officer, now joined by another officer,
drew their guns and pointed them in the direction of the car. Id. Distinguishing
Flores, the district court held that the officers’ actions did not constitute excessive
force under the circumstances, as follows:
Defendants argue that Plaintiff suffered a de minimis injury that cannot
be proved by competent medical evidence; Defendants also argue that
Officer Wheeler pointed a flashlight rather than a gun at the occupants
of the car. Without any reference to a weapon, this would be a clear case
of a constitutionally permitted Terry stop conducted without excessive
force. The question posed by this case, however, is whether the pointing
of guns at the car by Officers Wheeler and Pierre, if true, would alter
the result and transform this stop into a prohibited seizure in which the
officers employed an excessive use of force.
The Fifth Circuit has held that “pointing a gun can be reasonable given
the circumstances, and that the momentary fear experienced by the
plaintiff when a police officer point[s] a gun at him” does not necessarily
rise to the level of a constitutional violation. In this case, accepting as
true Plaintiffs’ allegations that Officers Wheeler and Pierre pointed
their weapons at the car for a brief period of time, this would not be
sufficient to satisfy the requirements of an unreasonable stop and
excessive use of force in the light of the totality of the circumstances,
including the type of previous crime in the area, the late hour, the
address of the car’s registered owner, the slow-moving car with the
windows open, and the driver’s failure to immediately stop the vehicle
when Officer Pierre activated his blue light.
Page 25 of 37
Plaintiff cites Flores v. Rivas for the proposition that “it is objectively
unreasonable for a police officer to brandish a deadly weapon at ...
compliant subjects.” However, in that case, an officer confronted a group
of children playing outside a recreation center during a birthday party,
threw one of the children to the ground, pointed his gun and shouted an
expletive at them. That case is very different than the one at issue here,
in which Officers Wheeler and Pierre conducted a stop, late in the
evening, of a motorist and his companions, driving slowly in a car
registered to a woman who lived 10 miles away.
Id. at *9–10 (internal citations omitted).
Plaintiffs also rely on Hodge v. Laryisson, 1998 WL 564263 at *1 (E.D. La. Sept.
1, 1998), in which the district court considered the motion for summary judgment
filed by Keith Billiot, an agent employed by the United States Drug Enforcement
Agency, against whom the plaintiff had alleged an excessive force claim. In her
complaint, the plaintiff – a police officer herself – alleged that Billiot and several city
police officers had burst into her apartment, ordered her to lay on the floor, and
handcuffed her. Id. Plaintiff further alleged that Billiot pointed his gun at her face
and said, “Look, I know you are a police officer. Where is your duty weapon?” Id.
The officers then proceeded to search for drugs and for an alleged drug dealer in her
The plaintiff alleged that Billiot badgered her “in a coercive and
threatening manner” by accusing her of trafficking drugs and threatening to send her
to jail. Id. The search for drugs and the drug dealer ultimately was unsuccessful.
Although the case largely turned on the issue of the “knock and announce” rule,
in his motion for summary judgment, Billiot argued, inter alia, that he did not point
his gun at the plaintiff and that he was entitled to qualified immunity on the
Page 26 of 37
excessive force claim. Id. at *5. Finding that the excessive force claim turned on the
issue of whether Billiot pointed his gun at the plaintiff, the district court determined
that the existence of genuine issues of material fact precluded a finding of qualified
immunity, and the court denied Billiot’s motion for summary judgment as to the
plaintiff’s excessive force claim. Id.
On appeal, 48 the Fifth Circuit reversed the decision of the district court, finding
that, even assuming the plaintiff’s version of events, “Billiot’s use of his weapon under
the circumstances of this drug raid was not objectively unreasonable under the
circumstances.” Hodge v. Laryisson, 226 F.3d 642, *3 (5th Cir. 2000) (unpublished).
Therefore, the Fifth Circuit held that Billiot was entitled to qualified immunity on
the plaintiff’s excessive force claim, and the decision of the district court, denying
Billiot summary judgment, was reversed. Hodge, 226 F.3d 642 at *3.
In Martin v. City of Alexandria Municipality Police Dep’t, 2005 WL 4909292
(W.D. La. Sept. 16, 2005), the district court considered a motion for summary
judgment filed by three police officers who were sued for, inter alia, excessive force
after responding to an anonymous tip that reported a potential burglary at a car
dealership. Martin, 2005 WL 4909292 at *1. The plaintiffs – a father who owned a
janitorial services company that provided cleaning services to various commercial
businesses in Alexandria, Louisiana, and his two minor sons – were performing
cleaning services at around 10:30 p.m. on the night of the incident at a Honda car
dealership. Id. After receiving an anonymous tip about a suspected burglary at the
Although the Plaintiffs cite the Hodge case at the district court level, they did not cite
to the Fifth Circuit decision overturning the district court decision.
Page 27 of 37
dealership, police were dispatched to the dealership.
In their Complaint, the
plaintiffs alleged that they were forcibly detained and unreasonably questioned at
gunpoint for about seven to ten minutes. Id. at *1. Although they were not arrested,
incarcerated, or physically harmed, the Martins alleged that the manner in which the
investigation and questioning were performed by the officers violated their civil
With respect to the Plaintiffs’ excessive force claim, the district court
Viewing the record in the light most favorable to the Martins show that
they were questioned at gunpoint by Officer Distefano for only seven to
ten minutes, only a short period of time, and at most for the entire
twenty minutes Distefano was on the scene. There is no dispute that
the officer-Defendants did not arrest, handcuff, or even physically touch
the Martins. Distefano arrived late at night and stated that he was
around thirty yards away from the Martins when he saw them exit the
Used Car Office and come onto the porch with objects in their hands.
Distefano stated in his Internal Affairs interview that he was in fear for
his life when he drew his gun and ordered the Martins to show him their
hands and come off the porch. Once Officer Distefano got closer, asked
for and looked at Martin’s identification, figured out that the Martins
were not burglary suspects and did not have weapons in their hands,
Distefano holstered his weapon and no shots were fired. Just as in
Hinojosa, 49 hindsight may show that there was no need to point
the gun at the Martins. Distefano’s gun-pointing, however, falls
squarely under a display of force for officer safety in the course
of duty because it occurred during a valid Terry stop late at
night from a distance and he reasonably could not identify what
objects the Martins had in their hands until he got closer. Thus,
the Martins’ hindsight argument fails under Hinojosa.
In Hinojosa v. City of Terrell, Tex., the Fifth Circuit reiterated that not every wrongful
act of a police officer is redressed by Section 1983, and that Section 1983 imposes liability
only for violations of rights protected by the Constitution. 834 F.2d 1223, 1229 (5th Cir. 1988).
Page 28 of 37
Martin, 2005 WL 4909292, at *13 (emphasis added). The Fifth Circuit affirmed on
Sympathetic as we might be to the Martins for having been
misidentified as burglars by the anonymous informer, and subsequently
held at gunpoint during the investigation, the district court thoroughly
examined their complaints, and we find no reversible error in the court’s
findings of fact or conclusions of law. We therefore AFFIRM the final
judgment of the district court essentially for the reasons stated in its
Martin v. City of Alexandria, 191 F. App’x 272, 273 (5th Cir. 2006).
As in Hankins, Hodge, and Martin, here, the Court finds that, even assuming
the Plaintiffs’ version of events, Deputy Gintz’s use of his firearm was not objectively
unreasonable under the circumstances. In addition to all of the information already
known to Deputy Gintz – including the potential introduction of contraband into the
prison – the Court also finds that Deputy Gintz could not be aware from the beginning
of the encounter what level of threat the Plaintiffs might pose to his safety. When
Deputy Gintz approached the Pigott’s truck, he was alone and outnumbered and
could not see through the windows of the truck but knew that at least three
individuals were in the Pigott truck. Finally, the Plaintiffs have presented no clearly
established law that a police officer may not, during the course of an investigatory
stop, point his gun at an individual who: (i) had slowly driven onto Detention Center
property at night shortly after other individuals had previously been arrested for
throwing contraband over the Detention Center’s fence; (ii) under circumstances
where there was initial confusion as to how many individuals were in the bed of the
truck when the truck first entered the property and when it left the property; (iii) had
Page 29 of 37
violated a traffic law as he drove away from the Detention Center; (iv) was driving a
truck with dark windows so that the officer could not see into the back seat of the
truck and therefore did not know how many additional people were inside the truck;
(v) and only for a short period of time while the officer waited for backup.
Therefore, considering the jurisprudence, the arguments of the parties, and the
evidence presented in this case, the Court concludes that it did not violate clearly
established law for Deputy Gintz to use a moderate amount of non-deadly force
(displaying his firearm) for the three-to-five minutes he waited, outnumbered, for
backup to arrive, where no shots were fired and no one was arrested or physically
touched. And while hindsight may show that there was no need to point a gun at Mr.
Pigott, Deputy Gintz’s brandishing his firearm falls squarely under a display of force
for officer safety in the course of duty.
Given these particularized facts – even
assuming the Plaintiffs’ version of events – Mr. Pigott has not shown that Deputy
Gintz violated a clearly established right under the circumstances of this case. 50
With respect to the Plaintiffs’ claim that Deputy Gintz is not entitled to
qualified immunity on their excessive force claim for pointing his gun at Mya and
K.P., who were minors at the time, the Court similarly concludes that Deputy Gintz’s
To be clear, the Court does not condone the actions taken by Deputy Gintz on the night
of April 17, 2020. His decision to follow Mr. Piggott in his personal vehicle late at night –
without any indication of his law enforcement status – and to then confront Mr. Piggott with
his weapon drawn after he stopped his truck showed poor judgment and created a dangerous
situation for everybody involved. Clearly, any investigatory encounter should have been
initiated by a marked unit. But the fact that Deputy Gintz might have violated department
policy and exercised poor judgment, alone, is not determinative. As the Fifth Circuit
explained in Hinojosa, Section 1983 does not redress every wrongful or imprudent action of
a police officer. 834 F.2d at 1229 (internal citations omitted).
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actions were reasonable and that the Plaintiffs have not presented jurisprudence
showing otherwise. K.P. testified that Deputy Gintz moved his gun in his direction
in a sweeping fashion for approximately one second, 51 while Mya testified that
Deputy Gintz pointed his gun at her only after she attempted to jump into the back
seat of the truck. 52 As Deputy Gintz has testified, he did not know who, or what, was
in the back seat of the truck at that time. 53 Considering the potential danger to
Deputy Gintz under these circumstances, the Court concludes that Deputy Gintz’s
actions were not inherently unreasonable.
Finally, the Court finds that, even if Deputy Gintz was not entitled to qualified
immunity, the Plaintiffs would ultimately be unable to prevail on the merits of their
excessive force claim, as the Plaintiffs have produced no evidence supporting their
claims for injuries. To prevail on a Fourth Amendment excessive force claim under §
1983, plaintiffs must prove: “(1) an injury (2) that resulted directly and only from the
use of force that was excessive to the need and (3) that the force used was objectively
unreasonable.” Johnson v. Thibodaux City, 887 F.3d 726, 731 (5th Cir. 2018), citing
Flores v. City of Palacios, 381 F.3d 391, 396 (5th Cir. 2004).
To establish the first element of an excessive force claim, a plaintiff must prove
more than a de minimis injury. Tarver v. City of Edna, 410 F.3d 745, 752 (5th Cir.
2005). Although courts no longer require “significant injury” for excessive force
See Deposition of K.P. [Doc. 29-7, p. 60].
See Deposition of Mya Pigott. [Doc. 29-6, p. 62].
See Deposition of Paul Gintz. [Doc. 41-5, pp. 105-109, 113].
Page 31 of 37
claims, the injury must be more than de minimis. Williams v. Bramer, 180 F.3d 699,
703 (5th Cir.1999).
“Any force found to be objectively unreasonable necessarily
exceeds the de minimis threshold, and, conversely, objectively reasonable force will
result in de minimis injuries only.” Alexander v. City of Round Rock, 854 F.3d 298,
309 (5th Cir. 2017) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Stated differently, “as
long as a plaintiff has suffered ‘some injury,’ even relatively insignificant injuries and
purely psychological injuries will prove cognizable when resulting from an officer’s
unreasonably excessive force.” Id.
Here, the Plaintiffs allege that they suffered emotional distress, including
overwhelming guilt, sadness, anxiety, stress, anger, depression, frustration,
sleeplessness, nightmares, avoidance behavior, hypervigilance, and irritability. 54
Mya alleges that she fears sleeping alone, and K.P. alleges that he has “given up on
his dream of becoming a game warden because he no longer trusts law
enforcement.” 55 The Plaintiffs also allege that K.P.’s school performance and grades
have suffered as a result of the incident. 56 Plaintiffs aver that they are unable to
proffer evidence of their psychological injuries because they could not afford medical
care to treat them. 57
See Complaint. [Doc. 1, ¶¶ 53-55].
Id. at ¶¶ 52-56.
See Plaintiffs’ Response to Motion for Summary Judgment. [Doc. 41, p. 25].
Page 32 of 37
While the Court is mindful of the costs associated with treatment for mental
health issues and psychological injury, it is noted that other indicia of psychological
injury – including, for example, letters from teachers or report cards evidencing K.P.’s
declining academic performance – could have been provided to the Court but were
not. In the absence of any evidence beyond mere allegations of psychological injury,
the Court finds that the Plaintiffs’ excessive force claim would also fail on the merits.
To the extent that Mya and K.P. allege claims for psychological damages based
upon witnessing Deputy Gintz threaten Mr. Pigott while holding him at gunpoint,
such claims are not cognizable under Section 1983. “[T]here is no constitutional right
to be free from witnessing police action,” which necessarily means that “bystanders
cannot recover [damages caused by] witness[ing] excessive force used upon another.”
Crane v. City of Arlington, Texas, 2022 WL 4592035, at *9 (5th Cir. Sept. 30, 2022);
accord, Harmon v. City of Arlington, Texas, 16 F.4th 1159, 1168 (5th Cir. 2021)
(“Bystander excessive force claims can only succeed when the officer directs the force
toward the bystander – that is to say, when the bystander is not really a bystander.”).
Accordingly, insofar as Mya and K.P. seek so-called “bystander” damages for
excessive force allegedly used against their father, Deputy Gintz is entitled to
summary judgment as to that claim.
Plaintiffs also seek punitive damages against Deputy Gintz under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 as well as attorneys’ fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. As an initial matter, the Court
Page 33 of 37
notes that a party must be a prevailing party in a civil rights suit to recover attorney
fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Von Clark v. Butler, 916 F.2d 255, 258 (5th Cir. 1990),
citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433, 103 S. Ct. 1933, 1938, 76 L.Ed.2d 40
(1983). Because the Plaintiffs are not prevailing parties on their claims against
Deputy Gintz, and because the Court finds no violations of their constitutional rights
under the Fourth Amendment, they are not entitled to attorneys’ fees under Section
Furthermore, punitive damages may be awarded for a violation of a plaintiff’s
constitutional rights only when the defendant’s conduct “is ‘motivated by evil intent’
or demonstrates ‘reckless or callous indifference’ to a person’s constitutional rights.”
Williams v. Kaufman County, 352 F.3d 994, 1015 (5th Cir.2003) (citation omitted).
“Reckless indifference has been described by the Supreme Court as ‘subjective
consciousness’ of a risk of injury or illegality and a criminal indifference to civil
obligations.” Kolstad v. Am. Dental Ass’n, 527 U.S. 526, 536, 119 S. Ct. 2118, 144
L.Ed.2d 494 (1999) (citation omitted).
Because Plaintiffs’ claims fail for the reasons discussed above, they are not
entitled to punitive damages in this matter, and in any event, the Court finds no
evidence of reckless indifference or callous disregard.
For these reasons, the
Plaintiffs’ claims for attorneys’ fees and punitive damages are dismissed.
State Law Claims
District courts have “supplemental jurisdiction” over claims so related to a
federal question “that they form part of the same case or controversy.” 28 U.S.C. §
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1367(a). Rodriguez v. Pacificare of Texas, Inc., 980 F.2d 1014, 1018-19 (5th Cir.), cert.
den., 508 U.S. 956 (1993); Whalen v. Carter, 954 F.2d 1087, 1097 (5th Cir. 1992).
Although the district court retains its statutory supplemental jurisdiction over any
related state law claims after dismissing a plaintiff’s federal claims, it may choose
whether to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. Carlsbad Tech., Inc. v. HIF Bio, Inc.,
556 U.S. 635, 639–40 (2009).
“A district court’s decision whether to exercise
[supplemental] jurisdiction after dismissing every claim over which it had original
jurisdiction is purely discretionary.” Carlsbad, 556 U.S. at 639 (“The district courts
may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim ... if ... the district court
has dismissed all claims over which it has original jurisdiction.”). The “general rule”
in the Fifth Circuit is to decline to exercise jurisdiction over supplemental state law
claims when all federal claims are dismissed or otherwise eliminated from a case
prior to trial – but that rule “is neither mandatory nor absolute.” Batiste v. Island
Records Inc., 179 F.3d 217, 227 (5th Cir. 1999).
28 U.S.C. § 1367(c) enumerates the circumstances in which district courts may
refuse to exercise supplemental jurisdiction. Under that statute, the district courts
may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a claim under subsection (a)
the claim raises a novel or complex issue of State law,
the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over
which the district court has original jurisdiction,
the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has original
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in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons
for declining jurisdiction.
28 U.S.C. § 1367(c). The Court’s decision to retain supplemental jurisdiction is guided
by “both the statutory provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c) and the balance of the relevant
factors of judicial economy, convenience, fairness, and comity.” Batiste, 179 F.3d at
227; Parker & Parsley Petroleum Co. v. Dresser Ind., 972 F.2d 580, 585 (5th Cir. 1992).
“No single factor” in the supplemental jurisdiction analysis is dispositive, and courts
must review all of the factors under the specific circumstances of a given case. Parker,
972 F.3d at 587.
In this case, the Plaintiffs’ state law claims do not raise novel or complex issues,
however, the state law claims predominate at this stage of the litigation, because all
federal claims against Deputy Gintz are being dismissed. See, e.g., Mendoza v. United
States, 481 F. Supp. 2d 643, 647 (W.D. Tex. 2006), adhered to on reconsideration, 481
F. Supp. 2d 650 (W.D. Tex. 2007), and aff’d sub nom. Mendoza v. Murphy, 532 F.3d
342 (5th Cir. 2008), and aff’d sub nom. Mendoza v. Murphy, 532 F.3d 342 (5th Cir.
2008) (where court dismissed the federal claims and only supplemental state law
claims remain, the state law claims predominated over the federal claims, and this
factor weighed in favor of declining to exercise supplemental jurisdiction). Similarly,
the third factor weighs in favor of declining jurisdiction over the state law claims, as
all claims that gave the federal court jurisdiction have been dismissed, and the only
remaining claims against Deputy Gintz are for state law causes of action. See Parker,
972 F.2d at 585 (“Our general rule is to dismiss state claims when the federal claims
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to which they are pendent are dismissed.”), citing Wong v. Stripling, 881 F.2d 200,
204 (5th Cir. 1989).
Thus, in consideration of the foregoing factors, the Court declines to exercise
its supplemental jurisdiction over the Plaintiffs’ state law claims against Deputy
Gintz. These claims will therefore be dismissed without prejudice.
For the foregoing reasons,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the MOTION
SUMMARY JUDGMENT [Doc.
29] filed by Defendant Paul Gintz is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Plaintiffs’ federal claims arising under
42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging unlawful seizure and excessive force, as well as their claim
for punitive damages and any claim for bystander liability, against Deputy Gintz in
his individual capacity, are DENIED and DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Plaintiffs’ state law claims for assault
and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of
emotional distress are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
THUS, DONE AND SIGNED in Chambers on this 14th day of November 2023.
DAVID C. JOSEPH
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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