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Rollins v. Hattiesburg Police Department

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division

July 14, 2015



KEITH STARRETT, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment [44] of the Defendants Hattiesburg Police Department and Officer Adam S. McGinty. Having considered the submissions of the parties, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the motion should be granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiffs Clifton Rollins, Avon Rawls, and Kelvin Rawls allege federal and state law claims relating to their arrests on January 9, 2012, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Plaintiffs name the Hattiesburg Police Department (the "Department") and Officer Adam S. McGinty ("Officer McGinty"), in his individual and official capacities, as Defendants. Officer McGinty was a member of the Department at all times relevant to the Complaint.

The following particulars surrounding the Plaintiffs' arrests are derived from Officer McGinty's trial testimony in the underlying criminal proceedings and the Police Department Investigative Report ("Police Report") prepared by Officer McGinty. ( See Police Report [44-1]; Trial Tr. [53-2].)[1] On January 9, 2012, Officer McGinty was on patrol with Lieutenant Terrence Bullock, his supervisor, when an older individual flagged them down and advised of a situation at the Regions Bank located on Broadway Drive. The individual stated that he had just left the Bank and there were several young males occupying two sports utility vehicles ("SUVs") in the parking lot. The individual was concerned for his safety and the safety of the Bank because the younger males stayed in the parking lot and did not conduct any banking business during the approximate ten to fifteen minutes he was at the premises. Officer McGinty relayed this information to other members of the Department and proceeded to the Bank.

Upon arriving at the scene, Officer McGinty observed two SUVs in the parking lot. There were several individuals inside each vehicle. One of the SUVs had its rear hatch open; Clifton Rollins was standing next to this SUV. Officer McGinty exited his vehicle and approached Clifton Rollins, while Lieutenant Bullock walked toward the other SUV. At that point in time, Officer McGinty did not observe anyone committing a crime. Officer McGinty, nonetheless, began questioning Rollins to investigate the matter in light of the aforementioned citizen complaint. Officer McGinty initially asked Rollins to step to the side of the vehicle. Rollins hesitated to comply and asked what he had done wrong. Officer McGinty told Rollins that he did not think they were doing anything wrong, but he wanted to get some information. Officer McGinty said this to Rollins "not to aggravate him[;]" he really "didn't know what was going on." (Trial Tr. [53-2] 30:26-31:11.) Officer McGinty again asked Rollins to step to the side of the vehicle and Rollins eventually complied. Officer McGinty subsequently asked Rollins to turn around and place his hands on the vehicle in order to conduct a pat down search. Rollins then became irate and noncompliant. Officer McGinty asked Rollins to turn around several more times. After the second or third time, Officer McGinty placed his hand on Rollins' shoulder and Rollins complied. Rollins kept talking loudly and attempted to turn toward Officer McGinty as he conducted a pat down search. Officer McGinty then placed Rollins "into handcuffs because of his actions." (Trial Tr. [53-2] 16:12-14.)

Several additional police officers arrived on the scene during Officer McGinty's interactions with Rollins. After Officer McGinty handcuffed Rollins, he joined the other officers as they questioned the remaining individuals who had occupied the two SUVs. At some point during the questioning, Avon Rawls and Kelvin Rawls began yelling loudly, cursing, and/or telling the other members of the group not to say anything. Neither Avon Rawls nor Kelvin Rawls heeded Officer McGinty's requests for them to be quiet and listen. Further, Kelvin Rawls provided misinformation regarding whether he was a passenger or driver of one of the vehicles. Kelvin Rawls and Avon Rawls were thus handcuffed and taken into custody. The officers searched the two SUVs and no contraband was found inside either vehicle. All of the individuals, except Clifton Rollins, Avon Rawls, and Kelvin Rawls (the "Plaintiffs"), were allowed to leave the Bank parking lot. The Plaintiffs were transported to the Forrest County Jail and charged with disorderly conduct and interfering with a police investigation.

Plaintiffs have submitted an affidavit executed by Jason Rawls regarding the subject incident. ( See J. Rawls Aff. [53-3].) Jason Rawls avers that he is related to Clifton Rollins and Kelvin Rawls, and that he was the driver of one of the SUVs at the Bank. Jason Rawls states as follows regarding Officer McGinty's interactions with Clifton Rollins:

Officer McGinty came up to my brother, Clifton Rollins, and told him to "put his hands up." My brother, Clifton Rollins', response was, "what have I done wrong." After my brother, Clifton Rollins, asked the question, Officer McGinty told Clifton "get up against the truck, " and my brother complied while asking again, "what have I done wrong." Officer McGinty then proceeded to handcuff my brother, Clifton Rollins, while he and Lt. Bullock told all the occupants of the two SUVs to exit the vehicles.

(J. Rawls Aff. [53-3] at pp. 1-2.) Jason Rawls further avers that Lieutenant Bullock stated, "[W]hen you guys come out here with this stuff like the club, our taxes go down, and when our taxes go down, my pay goes down, and you guys are not in Columbia, you not gonna come out here and take over anything." (J. Rawls Aff. [53-3] at p. 2.) Morever, Jason Rawls was a co-owner of a night club in Hattiesburg at the time of the incident, and Lieutenant Bullock and Officer McGinty had previously accused him and his "brothers of being involved with illegal drugs." (J. Rawls Aff. [53-3] at p. 2.)

In September of 2012, each of the Plaintiffs was found guilty of disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer in the Municipal Court of the City of Hattiesburg ("Municipal Court"). ( See Doc. No. [53-7].) Plaintiffs then appealed their convictions to the County Court of Forrest County ("County Court"). A trial de novo was held in the County Court on October 7, 2013.[2] All charges against the Plaintiffs were dismissed with prejudice after the prosecution presented its case in chief and the Plaintiffs moved for a directed verdict. ( See Order of Dismissal [53-8].)

On May 2, 2014, Plaintiffs filed their Complaint [1] against the Department and Officer McGinty in this Court. Plaintiffs allege violations of their rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution pursuant to Title 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. Plaintiffs also assert the following state law claims in connection with their arrests: assault, battery, kidnaping, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, outrageous conduct, libel, and slander. Defendants presently seek summary judgment on all of the Plaintiffs' claims.


A. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Initially, the movant has "the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Cannata v. Catholic Diocese of Austin, 700 F.3d 169, 172 (5th Cir. 2012) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). If the movant meets this burden, the nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and point out specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Id. "An issue is material if its resolution could affect the outcome of the action." Sierra Club, Inc. v. Sandy Creek Energy Assocs., L.P., 627 F.3d 134, 138 (5th Cir.2010) (quoting Daniels v. City of Arlington, Tex., 246 F.3d 500, 502 (5th Cir. 2001)). "An issue is genuine' if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Cuadra v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist., 626 F.3d 808, 812 (5th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).

The Court is not permitted to make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence. Deville v. Marcantel, 567 F.3d 156, 164 (5th Cir. 2009) (quoting Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007)). When deciding whether a genuine fact issue exists, "the court must view the facts and the inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Sierra Club, Inc., 627 F.3d at 138. However, "[c]onclusional allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Oliver v. Scott, 276 F.3d 736, 744 (5th Cir. 2002) (citation omitted). Summary judgment is mandatory "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element ...

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