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Shumpert v. City of Tupelo

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

November 6, 2017

PEGGY SHUMPERT, individually and as the Administrator of the Estate of Antwun Shumpert, Sr., THE ESTATE OF ANTWUN SHUMPERT, SR., and CHARLES FOSTER PLAINTIFFS



         In their Second Amended Complaint [59], the Plaintiffs assert a number of federal and state law claims against the City of Tupelo Mississippi, Jason Shelton, the mayor of Tupelo in his official capacity, Bart Aguirre, the Chief of the Tupelo Police Department in his official capacity, and Tupelo Police Officer Tyler Cook in both his official and individual capacities.[1] The City filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [188], requesting that the Court dismiss all of the Plaintiffs' claims against them. The Plaintiffs filed a Response [193], and the City filed a Reply [199] making these issues ripe for review.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background [2]

         On the evening of June 18, 2016, the Tupelo Police Department Special Operations Unit was conducting surveillance of the Townhouse Motel due to complaints of drug activity. One of the officers on the surveillance team watched a vehicle enter the motel parking lot without stopping at the office and then exit about three minutes later. Suspecting that the occupants of the vehicle were involved in narcotics activity, the surveilling officer notified the team that the vehicle was now headed north on South Gloster Street.

         Another officer, Joseph Senter, was in his unmarked patrol car near that location and started following the suspect vehicle. After observing the vehicle make a right turn without signaling, Senter activated his blue lights and attempted to initiate a traffic stop. Senter radioed that the vehicle was “slow rolling” him and continued to follow. The vehicle went through a three-way stop without stopping and made a left hand turn on Harrison Street. Then, the vehicle then stopped and the driver, Antwun “Ronnie” Shumpert, exited the vehicle and ran into a nearby neighborhood. The passenger, Charles Foster, remained with the vehicle. Senter gave chase on foot, identifying Shumpert over the radio as black male wearing shorts and a maroon jersey with the number five on it.

         Officer Cook was in the area, parked his patrol vehicle and set out on foot with his K9, Alec, in an effort to locate Shumpert. Alec led Cook to the rear of a nearby house where Cook observed a hand trying to hold the door to the crawlspace under the house closed from the inside. The area was dark, and the only light illuminating the area was the light attached to Cook's drawn gun. Cook opened the crawlspace door and announced, “Tupelo Police Department, show me your hands, come out from under the house, I have a dog, and he will bite.” At this point, Shumpert attempted to flee further under the house. Cook gave the bite command to Alec and released him sending him under the house through the crawlspace door. K9 Alec engaged Shumpert, and Shumpert began punching the dog and slamming the dog's head up against the floor joists above. Shumpert fought Alec off, but Alec held on to Shumpert's jersey. Still engaged in a struggle, Alec and Shumpert came out from under the house, and in the process, Shumpert's maroon jersey came off. As he exited the crawlspace, Shumpert charged and tackled Cook with a football style tackle, with Shumpert ending up on top of Cook punching him. Cook attempted to strike Shumpert with his fist and gun. According to Cook, as he started to lose consciousness, he shot Shumpert four times in succession.

         Several officers were in the area and heard the gunshots. Officers Senter and Adam Merrill were the first to arrive at the scene. Senter handcuffed Shumpert and requested an ambulance. Emergency medical personnel arrived within approximately five minutes, administered aid to Shumpert, and then transported him to the hospital. Cook was also transported to the hospital where he was treated for bruising to his face.

         After Shumpert fled the scene of the traffic stop and Senter gave chase, Foster remained with the vehicle, and was standing by the vehicle with his hands in the air when Officer Jonathan Johnson arrived, arrested him and placed him the back of a police vehicle. Although Shumpert was driving, the car belonged to Foster.

         After approximately forty-five minutes to one hour, the Mississippi Highway Patrol and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation arrived, and the Tupelo Police Department turned the investigation, both scenes, and Foster over to them.

         Shumpert ultimately died from his wounds.

         II. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 governs summary judgment. Summary judgment is warranted when the evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The rule “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

         In reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be resolved in favor of the non-movant, “but only when . . . both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Little, 37 F.3d at 1075. When such contradictory facts exist, the Court may “not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000).

         The moving party “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. The nonmoving party must then “go beyond the pleadings” and “designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (citation omitted).

         III. 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Municipal Liability

         The Plaintiffs assert two theories for municipal liability against the City under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: the first related to the City's training policies, and the second related to Foster's detention.[3]

         A municipality may only be held liable under §1983 when the violation of a plaintiff's federally protected right is attributable to the enforcement of a municipal policy or pattern. Hall v. Robinson, 618 Fed.Appx. 759, 763 (5th Cir. 2015) (citing Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of N.Y., 436 U.S. 658, 691, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978)). In order to sustain a claim, the Plaintiffs must demonstrate that their constitutional rights were violated, and that the violation is attributable to the enforcement of a City policy or practice. Saenz v. City of El Paso, 637 Fed.Appx. 828, 831 (5th Cir. 2016) (citing Valle v. City of Houston, 613 F.3d 536, 541 (5th Cir. 2010)). If they establish a constitutional violation, the Plaintiffs may show that the violation was the result of a City policy or practice in a number of ways. Generally, municipal liability may be based upon a formally ...

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