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Washington v. Henry

United States District Court, D. Kansas

July 7, 2017

JOE C. WASHINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
JARED HENRY, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          CARLOS MURGUIA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Joe C. Washington brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Wichita police officers Jared Henry and Donald Moore alleging that defendants violated his Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force while arresting him. Plaintiff was arrested at his home on August 7, 2014 and later pleaded guilty to numerous charged related to the incident.

         The matter is now before the court on defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 37). Defendants allege they are qualifiedly immune because they acted reasonably in response to plaintiff's resistance. They argue plaintiff is judicially and collaterally estopped from claiming he did not resist during the incident because he pleaded guilty to three counts of battery. For the following reasons, the court finds defendants are entitled to qualified immunity and therefore grants defendants' motions.

         I. Factual Background

         On the evening of August 7, 2014, plaintiff was at home watching a football game on TV with a friend. At the conclusion of the game, plaintiff drove his friend home and stopped at a liquor store. As he drove back to his house, plaintiff noticed flashing blue lights approximately two blocks behind him. Plaintiff, however, continued to drive home despite the police car remaining behind him with its lights flashing. As plaintiff approached his house, he stopped his car in the middle of the road and then backed into his driveway. As he was parking his car-with his windows rolled down-plaintiff noticed the police car had stopped in the middle of the street and that an officer was running in his direction. Plaintiff testified that as he reached down to apply his emergency break, the officer ran up to the driver's side door, grabbed him by his shirt, pulled him out of the car, and shoved him to the ground. Plaintiff alleges at this time he was severely beaten by the officer-later identified as Officer Henry-without any provocation on his part. He claims that Officer Henry straddled him across the back and punched him in the ribs with his fist and punched him in the head all while telling him to “not resist.” Plaintiff denies ever resisting arrest and instead maintains he was immediately pinned to the ground, unable to move, while continuing to plead with Officer Henry to determine what he had done wrong. It is uncontroverted that at some point during the approximately 45-second struggle, plaintiff was tased at least two times. Officers managed to place plaintiff under arrest, and he was struck in the head at least one more time while in handcuffs.

         Defendants' account of the incident is largely consistent with plaintiffs' story. Defendants allege that on the night of August 7, 2014, they observed plaintiff making a right-hand turn without using a turn signal. Defendants activated their emergency lights and siren and began to follow plaintiff. Plaintiff, however, disregarded the officers and continued to drive several blocks to his home. Defendants grew suspicious as plaintiff stopped his car and reversed to back it into his driveway. Officer Henry, uncertain of whether plaintiff intended to reverse his car in order to flee the scene, drew his firearm and then approached the car as it came to a stop in the driveway. After holstering his gun, Officer Henry approached the driver's side window to instruct plaintiff to get out of the car. As he approached the car, he noticed plaintiff reaching down “as if to retrieve something from under the seat where some people keep weapons.” (Doc. 38-3, at 3.) Officer Henry responded by pulling plaintiff out of the car. At this point, defendants claim plaintiff tackled Officer Henry into a chain link fence, prompting an ensuing struggle. Officer Henry maintains that he felt plaintiff attempt to grab his gun from his holster and attempt to grab his taser. Defendants admit Officer Henry tased plaintiff in an attempt to overcome his resistance in order to place him under arrest. Additional officers arrived at the scene to assist, and plaintiff was eventually handcuffed.

         An ambulance arrived at the scene, and it is controverted as to whether plaintiff refused medical assistance or was denied further medical treatment. Plaintiff claims he suffered “redness” to his left eye and that prior shoulder injuries were aggravated because of the struggle.

         Plaintiff was charged in Sedgwick County District Court with felony Attempted Robbery for trying to grab Officer Henry's gun, and several misdemeanors and traffic infractions. Plaintiff pleaded guilty to eight amended charges including three counts of misdemeanor battery, and one count each of interference with law enforcement, attempted criminal deprivation of property, possession of paraphernalia, transporting an open container, and failure to signal when turning.

         II. Legal Standards

         a. Summary Judgment

         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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A “genuine” factual dispute requires more than a mere scintilla of evidence. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of showing the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party demonstrates an absence of evidence in support of an element of the case, the burden then shifts to the nonmoving party who “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The nonmoving party “may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading.” Id.

         In making the summary judgment determination, the court must view the evidence and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). Ultimately, the court evaluates “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to the jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 252.

         b. Qualified Immunity

         Qualified immunity recognizes “the need to protect officials who are required to exercise their discretion and the related public interest in encouraging the vigorous exercise of official authority.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 807 (1982). It protects “all but the plainly ...


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