EUNICE J. WINZER, Individually and on behalf of the statutory beneficiaries of Gabriel A. Winzer; SOHELIA WINZER; HENRY WINZER, Plaintiffs - Appellants
KAUFMAN COUNTY; BILL CUELLAR; GARRY HUDDLESTON; MATTHEW HINDS, Defendants - Appellees HENRY ANDREE WINZER, also known as Henry A. Winzer, Plaintiff - Appellant
MATTHEW HINDS, Individually and in his capacity as member of Kaufman County Sheriff Department; UNKNOWN STATE TROOPERS, Individually and in their capacity as member of Texas Department of Public Safety; UNKNOWN PARAMEDICS, Individually and in their capacity as emergency responders of the East Texas EMS; SERGEANT FORREST FRIESEN, Defendants - Appellees
Appeals from the United States District Court for the
Northern District of Texas
DENNIS, CLEMENT, and GRAVES, Circuit Judges.
case is a § 1983 action arising from the deadly shooting
of a young man by Kaufman County law enforcement officers
responding to a 911 call. The district court dismissed all
claims against the individual officers and the county. We now
AFFIRM in part and REVERSE in part.
The use of force.
April 27, 2013, 911 dispatchers received multiple calls of a
man standing in a rural street shooting a pistol. The man
reportedly was kicking at mailboxes and pointed a gun at a
house. The man further appeared agitated, speaking to himself
and yelling "everyone's going to get theirs"
and "I'm just trying to get back what's
mine." Callers described the suspect as a black male
wearing a brown shirt and jeans.
approximately 10:30 am, dispatch relayed these details to law
enforcement units in the area. Pertinent here, dispatch
specifically informed the officers that the suspect was a
"black male wearing blue jeans and a brown shirt."
Officers Matthew Hinds, Gerardo Hinojosa, Gary Huddleston,
William Cuellar, Brad Brewer, and Keith Wheeler responded
immediately to the area.
and Hinojosa arrived at the scene first and observed a
suspect matching dispatch's description in the road 150
yards away. Both officers angled their vehicles to provide
cover and took up defensive positions. The suspect then
raised his hand and fired directly at Hinds and
officer returned fire because there were multiple civilians
in the area. Hinds "relayed to dispatch that shots had
been fired by the suspect." The officers did not report
that the suspect was in possession of a bicycle. The suspect
then disappeared into the trees and the officers lost visual
contact. Appellants' summary judgment evidence indicates
that at the time of this shooting, Gabriel Winzer, the
decedent, was inside his father's house and did not fire
this shot at the officers.
thereafter, Huddleston, Cuellar, and Wheeler arrived. Hinds
informed Cuellar and Wheeler that a suspect had fired shots
at him and Hinojosa. Hinds told at least Cuellar that the
suspect was "wearing a brown shirt."
suspect then re-appeared at a distance between 100 to 500
yards from the officers. Because there were civilians in the
area between the officers and the suspect, the officers
decided to "move down [the road] to keep the public safe
and attempt to move them inside their homes." At this
point, the officers again confirmed several times that the
suspect was wearing a brown shirt. The officers advanced down
the road in a defensive position secured by three vehicles.
As they advanced, the officers directed civilians into their
homes. During the approach, the officers lost sight of the
suspect. Accordingly, upon reaching the suspect's last
known location, the officers set up a defensive position
"for better cover." Hinds "angled [his]
vehicle near the southwest corner [of the street], Trooper
Hinojosa angled his vehicle near the northwest corner, and
Deputy Wheeler positioned his marked Chevy Tahoe behind and
centered between those vehicles."
was on the Tahoe's driver's side. Cuellar was
kneeling down on the driver's side by the front tire.
Wheeler was away from the Tahoe in a ditch. Hinds and
Hinojosa were near the passenger rear of the Tahoe. Four of
the law enforcement officers had semi-automatic rifles and
one had a shotgun. The officers began giving verbal commands
for the suspect to drop his weapon and "come out."
a few minutes," the officers spotted a figure on a
bicycle enter the road. The rider was wearing a blue jacket
instead of the brown shirt the suspect had been wearing, and
was over 100 yards away. What happened next is highly
disputed and central to the resolution of this
appeal. All of the officers claim the rider was armed, raised
a pistol to a firing position, and they feared for their
turned out, the person on the bicycle was Gabriel Winzer, and
not the suspect who had fired at Hinds and Hinojosa.
According to Appellants, Gabriel was on an innocent mission
to show the officers his toy pistol. Gabriel's father
claims that when Gabriel rode off toward the officers
"[he] did not have anything in his hands,"
"had both hands on the handle bar of his bike," and
"did not reach for anything nor did he have anything in
his hands when he was shot." Moreover, Mr. Winzer claims
that Gabriel was "unarmed," "did not fire any
shots," and "did not point anything towards the
deputies." Indeed, Mr. Winzer states that "Gabriel
did not move his hands in any way that might have suggested
that he was reaching for something."
Gabriel's actions on the bike are disputed, it is beyond
dispute that an officer yelled "put that down!" The
officers then fired within six seconds of spotting Gabriel on
his bike. Three officers fired Bushmaster AR-15s, one officer
fired an M4 patrol rifle, and the fifth fired a Remington 870
shotgun. In total, seventeen shots were fired. Four bullets
struck Gabriel, who was still over 100 yards from the
officers. Upon being hit, Gabriel fell off his bike and fled
out of view. The officers remained in their positions before
fanning out to set up a perimeter around Gabriel's house.
Henry Winzer, Gabriel's father, was attempting to provide
assistance to Gabriel in their back yard. After some time,
the officers surrounded the yard and advanced on Gabriel and
Henry. Henry told Hinojosa that Gabriel had been shot. As
they approached, the officers asked Henry where the gun was.
Henry informed the officers that the only gun they had was a
toy cap gun. Henry then tossed a toy gun towards the officers
and said "there is your gun." Nonetheless, the
officers approached with caution because the "suspect
had his arms underneath his body and no one knew whether he
still had a weapon."
the officers attempted to cuff Henry and Gabriel, both
resisted. Huddleston and Brewer both tased Gabriel during
this encounter. "About 10 seconds after the last Taser
deployment, [Gabriel] went limp and [the officers] were able
to handcuff" him. EMS later pronounced Gabriel dead at
The Procedural History
April 22, 2015, Henry filed cause number 15-cv-01295, in the
Northern District of Texas. In a pro se complaint,
Henry asserted claims against Hinds, "unknown state
troopers," and "unknown paramedics." Compl. at
1, Winzer v. Hinds et al., No. 15-cv-01295 (N.D.
Tex. 2015), ECF No. 1 ("Henry Complaint").
on April 27, 2015, Eunice Winzer, Gabriel's mother, filed
cause number 15-cv-01284, in the Northern District of Texas
against "Kaufman County," "City of
Kaufman," and "City of Terrell." None of the
officers involved in the incident were named defendants.
See Eunice subsequently filed an amended complaint
and a second amended complaint, again failing to list any of
the officers as named defendants.
September 18, 2015, Eunice filed a third amended complaint in
15-cv-01284 individually and "on behalf of"
Henry. The Third Amended Complaint alleged
violations of Gabriel's Fourth Amendment right against
excessive force and failure to train against several
defendants. Relevant here, Appellants listed Cuellar and
Huddleston as named defendants for the first time. Appellants
additionally formally added Hinds as a named defendant in
cause number 15-cv-01284. This essentially consolidated the
parties from the two pending lawsuits and, on September 21,
2015, the Court formally consolidated the cases.
January 15, 2016, Hinds, Cuellar, and Huddleston filed a
motion for summary judgment. Cuellar and Huddleston argued
that the claims against them were time-barred. All three of
these officers also asserted that they were entitled to
the motion for summary judgment was pending, Appellants
sought leave to file a fourth amended complaint to add
Hinojosa and Wheeler as defendants. The district court denied
the motion for leave to amend. The court ultimately granted
summary judgment on both the limitations and qualified
immunity defenses. Kaufman County then promptly sought
summary judgment, arguing that there could be no county
liability if there was no constitutional violation by its
officers. The court granted Kaufman County summary judgment.
The district court denied a motion for reconsideration, and
this appeal followed.
argue that the district court erred in four ways. First, that
the district court erred in granting summary judgment to
Cuellar and Huddleston based on limitations. Second, that the
district court erred in denying leave to add Hinojosa and
Wheeler as defendants. Third, that the court erred in
granting summary judgment to Hinds based on qualified
immunity. Fourth, that the court erred in granting summary
judgment to Kaufman County. We address each in turn.
Claims Against Cuellar and Huddleston Are
district court ruled that Appellants' claims against
Cuellar and Huddleston were barred by a two-year statute of
limitations. Appellants argue that the court should have
related the claims back to the date of the original
complaints. The district court did not err.
limitations period for a § 1983 action is determined by
the state's personal injury limitations period. Whitt
v. Stephens Cnty., 529 F.3d 278, 282 (5th Cir. 2008). In
Texas, that period is two years. Id. When a
plaintiff adds a defendant after the limitations period has
run, Rule 15(c) allows the plaintiff to relate the claims
filed against the new defendant back to the date of the
original filing. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c). To do
so, the plaintiff must show both that the added defendant
received adequate notice of the original lawsuit and that the
defendant knew that, but for a mistake concerning the
identity of the defendant, the action would have originally
been brought against the defendant. Jacobsen v.
Osborne, 133 F.3d 315, 319-22 (5th Cir. 1998). Rule
15(c) is meant to "correct a mistake concerning
the identity of the party." Id. at 321.
'"Rule 15(c) does not allow an amended complaint
adding new defendants to relate back if the newly-added
defendants were not named originally because the plaintiff
did not know their identities."' Id.
(quoting Barrow v. Wethersfield Police Dep't, 66
F.3d 466, 470 (2d Cir. 1995)). We review a grant of summary
judgment de novo. Whitt, 529 F.3d at 282.
incident at issue occurred on April 27, 2013. Accordingly,
Appellants had to file suit by April 27, 2015. See
Whitt, 529 F.3d at 282. Appellants did not add Cuellar
or Huddleston as named defendants until their Third Amended
Complaint on September 21, 2015. Appellants added Cuellar and
Huddleston, therefore, after the two-year limitations period
Appellants argue that their claims against Cuellar and
Huddleston should "relate back" to the filing of
the original complaint under Rule 15(c). Appellants assert
two primary grounds for that argument: (1) the original
complaint listed "unknown officers" that clearly
gave the defendants notice; and (2) Appellants diligently
tried to identify the officers and added them as soon as they
did. Neither argument has merit.
this court has clearly held that "an amendment to
substitute a named party for a John Doe does not relate back
under Rule 15(c)." Whitt, 529 F.3d at 282-83.
Thus, to the extent Appellants sued "unknown
officers," they cannot use these "John Doe"
claims to now substitute in Cuellar and Huddleston after the
limitations period. Id.
even if Appellants were diligent in trying to identify
Cuellar and Huddleston, such failures to identify do not
relate back. Rule 15(c) requires a "mistake
concerning the identity of a party." See
Jacobsen, 133 F.3d at 321. "[F]ailing to identify
individual defendants cannot be characterized as a
district court did not err in granting summary judgment to
Cuellar and Huddleston based on the statute of limitations.
Claims Against Hinojosa and ...