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McCoy v. City of Independence

United States District Court, Tenth Circuit

August 26, 2013

KEENAN L. MCCOY, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF INDEPENDENCE, KANSAS, and CLARENCE SNYDER, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JULIE A. ROBINSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

On March 23, 2011, Plaintiff Keenan L. McCoy was driving with his fifteen-year old stepson when he was stopped by Officer Clarence Snyder of the Independence, Kansas Police Department. Snyder and three other backup officers ordered the men out of their vehicle with guns drawn and handcuffed them before the officers realized that McCoy and his son were not in fact the suspects in an assault that the officers had been investigating. McCoy filed this case alleging racial profiling by Officer Clarence Snyder.[1]

Before the Court is Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 46) and Plaintiff’s Motion for Hearing (Doc. 55) on the summary judgment motion. The summary judgment motion is fully briefed, and the Court is prepared to rule. While this is a case where race appears to be the only suspect identifier that matched McCoy or his stepson, it is not a case that involves a pattern of stopping all or even anyone else based solely on the fact that their race matched the race of the suspect. Thus, while a stop of one person based solely on race as a suspect identifier, particularly when other identifiers did not match, may be strong circumstantial evidence of a Fourth Amendment violation, it is not alone sufficient circumstantial evidence of discriminatory intent or effect on a racial profiling claim. Accordingly, Defendants’ motion for summary judgment is granted. The Court does not believe that oral argument would materially assist it in deciding the issues presented on summary judgment, so the motion for hearing is denied.

I. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates that there is “no genuine issue as to any material fact” and that it is “entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”[2] In applying this standard, the court views the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[3] “There is no genuine issue of material fact unless the evidence, construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”[4] A fact is “material” if, under the applicable substantive law, it is “essential to the proper disposition of the claim.”[5] An issue of fact is “genuine” if “‘the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.’”[6]

The moving party initially must show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.[7] In attempting to meet this standard, a movant that does not bear the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial need not negate the other party’s claim; rather, the movant need simply point out to the court a lack of evidence for the other party on an essential element of that party’s claim.[8]

Once the movant has met this initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.”[9] The nonmoving party may not simply rest upon her pleadings to satisfy her burden.[10] Rather, the nonmoving party must “set forth specific facts that would be admissible in evidence in the event of trial from which a rational trier of fact could find for the nonmovant.”[11] To accomplish this, the facts “must be identified by reference to an affidavit, a deposition transcript, or a specific exhibit incorporated therein.”[12] Rule 56(c)(4) provides that opposing affidavits must be made on personal knowledge and shall set forth such facts as would be admissible in evidence.[13] The non-moving party cannot avoid summary judgment by repeating conclusory opinions, allegations unsupported by specific facts, or speculation.[14]

Finally, summary judgment is not a “disfavored procedural shortcut”; on the contrary, it is an important procedure “designed to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.”[15] In responding to a motion for summary judgment, “a party cannot rest on ignorance of facts, on speculation, or on suspicion and may not escape summary judgment in the mere hope that something will turn up at trial.”[16]

II. Uncontroverted Facts

The following facts are either uncontroverted, stipulated to, or taken in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. At approximately 8:15 p.m. on March 23, 2011, Independence Police Officers Christina Johnson, Andrew Reid, Clarence Snyder, and Lt. Lisa Helkenberg responded to a reported disturbance at a Jiffy Mart on Main Street in Independence, Kansas. When Officer Johnson arrived, she saw two black males in the parking lot, one of whom identified himself as Anthony Sterling. He reported that he had been assaulted by two men, and that he knew the initials, J.B., of one of the men who had assaulted him. When Officer Reid asked Sterling whether he wanted to press charges, Sterling replied that he did not and that he would “take care of it on the streets.” Officer Snyder was at the Jiffy Mart for approximately ten minutes and had an opportunity to observe Sterling. Sterling was 31 years old; he was 5 feet 8 inches and weighed 155 pounds. Officer Snyder describes Sterling as a short and stocky black male with dreadlocks that did not extend past his shoulders. None of the officers saw a gun on Sterling.

Approximately one-half hour after leaving the Jiffy Mart call, officers were dispatched to a fight on North 17th Street; Snyder responded in case the dispatched officers required assistance. This was J.B.’s residence. Officer Snyder learned that a black male subject named Anthony “Pig” Sterling had been at the residence and was threatening to shoot people there; Officer Snyder recognized Sterling’s name from the earlier Jiffy Mart encounter. One of the witnesses reported a bulge in Sterling’s shirt. Another witness told officers that Sterling was driving a blue Caprice automobile; another witness told officers that Sterling’s car was a 1993 red Mercury, older model, with 24-inch rims. While at the 17th Street residence, a car drove by and one of the residents said “that’s the car that Pig was in.” Officer Snyder followed after the car and performed a “felony stop” along with Officer Reid. Officers Snyder and Reid removed at least four people from the vehicle—two white males and two black females. Sterling was not in the vehicle, so the officers explained to the occupants why they had been stopped and released them to leave.

According to Officer Snyder, a felony car stop is to be performed if an officer believes there is a dangerous person in a vehicle that could cause injury to officers or the public. The officers’ protocol for a felony stop includes using their vehicle for safety, drawing their weapon, and directing the vehicle’s occupants out of the car one at a time, secured by a cover officer until all occupants are out of the vehicle and secure.

Officer Snyder returned to patrol and looked for Sterling. The parties dispute whether Snyder had a vehicle description for Sterling’s vehicle, but agree that Snyder did not stop Plaintiff’s vehicle based on any vehicle description.

Just after 9:00 p.m., Plaintiff and his fifteen year-old stepson, I.K., were driving east in a 1988 gold Cadillac on Myrtle Street, on their way to rent a Redbox video. At a traffic light at 10th Street, Plaintiff noticed a police cruiser driven by Officer Snyder headed south on 10th Street, which turned right to head west on Myrtle. Officer Snyder testified that when he observed Plaintiff’s vehicle as he passed by it, he believed the person in the passenger seat was Sterling. Snyder made an abrupt U-turn on Myrtle and got behind Plaintiff’s vehicle, turned on his emergency lights, and performed a traffic stop. Officer Snyder called for backup, advising dispatch that he thought he had the subject they were looking for. In the meantime, Snyder ...


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