from the United States District Court for the Western
District of Texas
SMITH, CLEMENT, and SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judges.
BROWN CLEMENT, Circuit Judge
Marciano Garza pulled over Lionel Alexander in a hotel
parking lot after observing what he perceived as suspicious
activity. Alexander refused to answer Garza's questions.
After waiting for backup to arrive, Garza and other officers
forcibly removed Alexander from his car, handcuffed him, and
ultimately arrested him for resisting a search. Alexander
sued the officers and the city under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging violations of his First, Fourth, Fifth, and
Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court granted the
officers' motion to dismiss all claims. Alexander
appeals. We AFFIRM in part, REVERSE in part, and REMAND for
stress at the outset that, because this appeal is from a
grant of a motion to dismiss, all of the following facts are
drawn exclusively from the allegations in Alexander's
was staying at a hotel in Round Rock, Texas. At approximately
9:15 p.m. he returned to the hotel from a trip to the grocery
store and saw a stray cat in the hotel parking lot. He
stopped his car, exited, and peered into the grass near his
vehicle looking for the cat, intending to feed it. He could
not find the cat and so turned to get back into his car,
planning to park it in a spot nearer his hotel room. Upon
turning to reenter his car, he noticed a police car in the
parking lot but, not knowing why the police car was there and
assuming it was unrelated to him, Alexander got back in his
vehicle and proceeded to drive toward his room.
Alexander was moving his car, Garza, who was driving the
police car in the parking lot, activated his emergency lights
and pulled Alexander over. Garza approached Alexander's
vehicle and told Alexander that he was curious as to what
Alexander had been doing. Alexander gave Garza his
driver's license and informed Garza that he would not
answer any of the officer's questions. At this point,
Garza radioed for backup, citing "noncompliance."
While he was waiting for backup to arrive, Garza stood by the
window of Alexander's car, told Alexander to keep his
hands on the steering wheel, and continued to question him.
some time, backup arrived in the form of Sergeant Greg
Brunson, Sergeant Sampson Connell, Officer Tracy Staggs, and
unidentified John Does (together with Garza, the
"officers"). Garza then asked Alexander to exit his
car. Alexander responded by asking Garza why he wanted him to
get out of the car, and Garza responded, "Because I
asked you to." Alexander began to reply that he did not
believe he was legally required to exit. Before he finished,
Garza and the other officers pulled Alexander from the car
and pinned him face down onto the ground. One officer pressed
a boot or knee on the back of Alexander's neck as his
face was "mashed into the concrete." Alexander felt
at least three officers on top of his body,
"manipulating his limbs and putting pressure on his
torso, neck, and head."
officers handcuffed Alexander and sat him on a curb. Garza
asked Alexander, "[a]re you ready to talk to me
now?" Alexander refused, using an unidentified
expletive. The officers then shackled Alexander's legs.
At some point, either during the forcible removal from his
car or while he was on the curb, Alexander sustained
"injuries to his body . . . including injuries to his
mouth." He "sustained emotional and psychological
injuries as well." Throughout this ordeal, Alexander did
not physically resist the officers in any way.
informed Alexander that he was under arrest "for
uttering an expletive where the public could hear him, which
[Garza] asserted was a violation of the [Texas] disorderly
conduct statute." The officers then searched
Alexander's person and vehicle, finding nothing illegal
or suspicious. Alexander was placed handcuffed into the back
of one of the officers' police cars and taken to the
Round Rock police station. He was then transported to the
Williamson County Jail, where he remained for approximately
twenty hours. In his formal police report, Garza wrote that
Alexander was arrested not for disorderly conduct, but for
resisting a search in violation of Texas Penal Code
("TPC") § 38.03(a). Alexander was eventually
released. No criminal charges were brought.
Alexander sued the City of Round Rock, Garza, and the other
officers in federal district court, asserting claims under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 and various provisions of the Texas
Constitution. Alexander argued, among other things, that: (1)
there was no reasonable suspicion supporting his detention;
(2) there was no probable cause supporting his arrest; (3) he
was retaliated against for exercising his constitutional
rights; and (4) the officers used excessive force when
pulling him from his vehicle. The officers moved to dismiss all claims,
asserting that they were entitled to qualified immunity. The
district court granted the officers' motion to dismiss,
holding that, with regard to some of Alexander's claims,
he had not alleged any violations of his constitutional
rights, and with regard to the others, Alexander was unable
to overcome the qualified immunity defense. Alexander now
review "a district court's dismissal under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) de novo, " Thompson
v. City of Waco, Tex., 764 F.3d 500, 502 (5th Cir. 2014)
(emphasis omitted), "accepting all well-pleaded facts as
true and viewing those facts in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff." Stokes v. Gann, 498 F.3d 483,
484 (5th Cir. 2007). Dismissal is appropriate only when a
plaintiff has not alleged "enough facts to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face" and has failed
to "raise a right to relief above the speculative
level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555, 570 (2007).
government official asserts a qualified immunity defense, the
burden is on the plaintiff to "show that he pleaded
facts showing . . . that the official violated a statutory or
constitutional right. If the plaintiff makes this . . .
showing, then [we must] determine whether the defendants'
actions were objectively unreasonable in light of the law
that was clearly established at the time of the actions
complained of." United States ex rel Parikh v.
Brown, 587 F.App'x 123, 127-28 (5th Cir. 2014)
(internal quotation marks, citations, and alteration
omitted); see also Atteberry v. Nocona Gen. Hosp.,
430 F.3d 245, 253 (5th Cir. 2005). When engaging in the
qualified immunity analysis, we are "permitted to
exercise [our] sound discretion in deciding which of the two
prongs . . . should be addressed first in light of the
circumstances in the particular case at hand."