It was a warm, muggy summer night in Tupelo, Mississippi, when Officer Senter saw a car he believed was involved in narcotics activities. The officer pulled the car over when he noticed the car had a non-functional tag light and failed to indicate at a turn. Once stopped, the driver of the car (Shumpert) fled on foot into a nearby neighborhood while the passenger (who was the owner of the vehicle) stayed in the car. Officers, including a K9, pursued Shumpert. Shumpert went into a crawl space under a house. Officers opened the door to the crawl space and ordered Shumpert to come out and to show his hands and warned they would send in the K9 if he didn’t comply. Upon hearing this warning, he went further back under the house. Officer Cook released his K9 under the house. Shumpert came out from under the house and tackled Officer Cook and pinned him to the ground and repeatedly struck him in the face. Fearing he would lose consciousness, Officer Cook shot Shumpert four times. Shumpert later died from the wounds. Shumpert’s family sued the city and Officer Cook in a 1983 action for excessive force in 1) the use of the K9 and 2) the use of deadly force.
The Fifth Circuit affirmed the District Court’s grant of summary judgment holding that Officer Cook was entitled to Qualified Immunity in the first instance (K9) because the particular use of the K9 in this situation was not “clearly established” and in the second instance (Deadly Force) because “a reasonable officer could have believed that Shumpert ‘posed a threat of serious harm,’ so Officer Cook’s use of deadly force under these circumstances did not violate clearly established law.”