United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division
ORDER GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
DEBRA M. BROWN, District Judge.
This removed action arises from an altercation between Indianola Police Officer Scott Hagerman and Demetrius Campbell after Demetrius arrived on the scene of an automobile accident involving his grandmother, Eugenia Campbell. Demetrius and Eugenia allege that Hagerman choked Demetrius without justification or provocation and knocked Eugenia to the ground in the process, while Hagerman defends that he only used a neck "pressure point" technique on Demetrius after Demetrius "shoulder-butted" him. Demetrius and Eugenia filed suit against the City of Indianola ("City"); Steve Rosenthal, the City's mayor; Richard O'Bannon, the City's police chief; and Hagerman, alleging injuries associated with the altercation. Doc. #2 at ¶¶ 11-20. Before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Doc. #14. For the reasons below, summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part.
Summary Judgment Standard
"Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine issues as to any material facts, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Norwegian Bulk Transp. A/S v. Int'l Marine Terminals P'ship, 520 F.3d 409, 411 (5th Cir. 2008) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 22-23 (1986)). To award summary judgment, "[a] court must be satisfied that no reasonable trier of fact could find for the nonmoving party or, in other words, that the evidence favoring the nonmoving party is insufficient to enable a reasonable jury to return a verdict in her favor." Norwegian Bulk Transp. A/S, 520 F.3d at 411-12 (internal quotation marks omitted). To this end, "[t]he moving party bears the burden of establishing that there are no genuine issues of material fact." Id. at 412.
"If, as here, the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may demonstrate that it is entitled to summary judgment by submitting affidavits or other similar evidence negating the nonmoving party's claim, or by pointing out to the district court the absence of evidence necessary to support the nonmoving party's case." Morris v. Covan World Wide Moving, Inc., 144 F.3d 377, 380 (5th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). If the moving party makes the necessary demonstration, "the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to show that summary judgment is inappropriate." Id. In making this showing, "the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Cotroneo v. Shaw Env't & Infrastructure, Inc., 639 F.3d 186, 191-92 (5th Cir. 2011) (citation and internal punctuation omitted). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court "resolve[s] factual controversies in favor of the nonmoving party." Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994).
A. Accident and Altercation
At "a little after 12" p.m. on July 23, 2013, Eugenia was rear-ended while at the intersection of Garrett and Wiggins Road in Indianola, Mississippi. Doc. #14-5 at 3. Following the collision, Eugenia called the police who, in turn, dispatched Indianola Police Officer Scott Hagerman to the scene of the accident. Id.
At some point after arriving on the scene, Hagerman informed Eugenia and the driver of the other automobile that they were "free to go." Doc. #14-5 at 3. At approximately the same time, Demetrius arrived in a car driven by Shondell Davis. Id. at 14-15. Davis pulled up to the scene in such a way as to block traffic. Id. at 15. Hagerman told Davis, "Get the car out of my investigation." Id. at 3. Davis, heeding Hagerman's instructions, backed the automobile away from the accident scene. Id.
While Hagerman spoke with Davis, Demetrius exited the vehicle, approached Eugenia, and asked whether she was alright. Doc. #14-5 at 3, 10. After Eugenia responded that she was "okay, " Demetrius walked to the rear of Eugenia's automobile "to see [the] damage to the truck." Id. at 3, 12. Upon observing Demetrius, Hagerman asked, "[W]ho are you, " and then told Demetrius to "[g]et out of my investigation." Id at 3. Demetrius "proceeded to come around in the front of... Hagerman" and responded, "Officer, I just came to check on my grandmother." Id. at 3-4. About the same time, Demetrius moved back toward his grandmother. Doc. #14-5 at 11, 15.
The circumstances surrounding Demetrius' move toward his grandmother are disputed by the parties. Hagerman testified that, while walking toward Eugenia, Demetrius "shoulder-butted" him and said, "I don't have to tell you shit, that's my grandma." Doc. #14-5 at 15. Eugenia testified that Demetrius did not "bump" into Hagerman and that "he didn't do anything." Id. at 7. In any event, Hagerman then put his hands on Demetrius' chest and pushed him onto the truck. Id. at 10. Demetrius responded by asking, "[W]hy are you being so aggressive?" Id. at 4, 10.
At this point, Eugenia observed Hagerman "grab [Demetrius] around his neck and like shoved him up against the truck and start choking him." Id. at 4. Hagerman described this technique as "not... a choke hold, but... what they call pressure point technique." Id. at 15. According to Hagerman, his intention in employing this technique was "[t]o find out who [Demetrius] was and to arrest him." Id.
After observing one of Demetrius' eyes "g[e]t larger than the other one, " Eugenia started crying, "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, " and attempted to get between Demetrius and Hagerman. Id. at 4. During this altercation, Hagerman "shoved" Eugenia with his arm or elbow, knocking her to the ground. Id. Hagerman testified that he did not intentionally push Eugenia and that he did not notice her fall. Id. at 16. As a result of Eugenia's intervention, Demetrius was able to free himself from Hagerman's grasp and take off running away from the scene. Id. at 16.
Hagerman caught up with Demetrius, "placed him in a head lock" and took him to the ground. Id. at 11, 16. According to Demetrius, Hagerman then placed his hands around Demetrius' neck, "squeezing tighter and tighter choking me." Id. at 11. Around this time, another officer arrived and placed handcuffs on Demetrius. Id. Hagerman continued to choke Demetrius even after the handcuffs were secured. Id.
B. Arrest and Subsequent Legal Proceedings
Shortly after the altercation, Demetrius was arrested on three charges: (1) trespass after notice of non-permission; (2) disorderly conduct - failure to comply with officer; and (3) resisting arrest - minor. Doc. #14-2. The same day, Demetrius filed a criminal affidavit against Hagerman. Doc. #14-4. In the affidavit, Demetrius alleged that Hagerman "purposely, knowingly and unlawfully cause [sic] bodily injury to Demetrius Campbell by grabbing him around the throat and choked [sic] him at the intersection of Garrard and Wiggins." Id.
On November 4, 2013, Sunflower County Circuit Judge Richard A. Smith convened a probable cause hearing on two criminal complaints brought against Hagerman - one brought by Demetrius (XXXX-XXXX), and one brought by Eugenia (XXXX-XXXX). Doc. #14-5 at 1-2. At the hearing, Judge Smith heard testimony from Hagerman, Demetrius, and Eugenia. Doc. #14-5. The witnesses were questioned by Gary Austin, on behalf of the State; and Francis Springer, on behalf of Hagerman. Id.
The following day, on November 25, 2013, Judge Smith issued an order in XXXX-XXXX (Demetrius' case) stating, in relevant part:
This Court, having heard evidence in open court from the Petitioner [Demetrius Campbell] and his mother, Eugenia Campbell, and Scott Hagerman, finds the following:
a. Scott Hagerman was an acting sworn law enforcement officer on July 23, 2013 and was acting within the scope of his duties as law enforcement officer at the subject time and place;
b. No proof evidenced an attempt to cause or purposely, knowingly or recklessly cause any bodily injury to Demetrius Campbell....
[T]here is not sufficient probable cause for a warrant to be issued against Scott Hagerman for simple assault.
Doc. #14-6. The record does not reveal how, if at all, the complaint brought by Eugenia (XXXX-XXXX) was resolved.
On April 14, 2014, in Indianola Municipal Court, Demetrius was found guilty of "Failure to Obey Officer - Minor" and "Resisting Arrest (Minor)." Doc. #14-3. The conviction for failure to obey resulted in a fine of $181.00 and assessments of $153.25, while the conviction for resisting arrest resulted in a fine of $286.00 and assessments of $153.25. Id.
Demetrius appealed his convictions to the Circuit Court of Sunflower County, Mississippi. On April 1, 2015, the Sunflower County Circuit Court issued an order reversing the judgment of the Municipal Court. Doc. #27-4. In the same order, the Circuit Court entered a not guilty verdict on each charge. Id.
C. Procedural History
On April 17, 2014, Eugenia and Demetrius filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Sunflower County. Doc. #2. The complaint names as Defendants: (1) the City of Indianola; (2) Steve Rosenthal, the Mayor of the City of Indianola, in his individual and official capacities; (3) Richard O'Bannon, the Chief of the City's Police Department, in his individual and official capacities; and (4) Hagerman, in his individual and official capacities. Id.
On May 15, 2014, Defendants, asserting the existence of federal question jurisdiction, removed the state court action to this Court. Doc. #1. On September 25, 2014, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of "all Defendants with prejudice." Doc. #14 at 3. After seeking and receiving a short extension, Plaintiffs responded to the motion for summary judgment on October 16, 2014. Doc. #21. Defendants replied seven days later. Doc. #22.
On April 17, 2015, Plaintiffs filed an unopposed motion to supplement their response by "adding Not Guilty Verdicts and Deposition transcripts...." Doc. #25. Four days later, on April 21, ...