Topeka Officer Loses Appeal for Qualified Immunity

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court’s decision not to grant qualified immunity to a Topeka police officer accused of using excessive force against a handcuffed Black man.

The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the appeal from police officer Christopher Janes seeking to dismiss the civil lawsuit brought by Timothy Harris against him and the city of Topeka.

The three-judge appeals panel ruled that a reasonable jury could find that Harris, once handcuffed and walking to the patrol car, did not present an immediate threat.

The decision sends the case back for trial.

The lawsuit stems from an encounter captured on body cam video in January 2018 when the officer tried to arrest Harris for an outstanding probation violation warrant.

Harris was handcuffed when Janes threw him onto the curb, where he landed face-first.

Janes then put his knee on his back, sprayed him with pepper spray, and punched him several times.

Harris protested that he was not trying to get up, saying the officer was on top of him, and that he could not breathe.