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Estate of Troy Ray Boyd v. Pike County

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

March 15, 2018

ESTATE OF TROY RAY BOYD, et al. PLAINTIFFS
v.
PIKE COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT TERRY BEADLES' MOTION [42] FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT PREMISED ON QUALIFIED IMMUNITY

          HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         BEFORE THE COURT is the Motion [42] for Summary Judgment Premised on Qualified Immunity filed by Defendant Terry Beadles. This Motion is fully briefed. After due consideration of the record, the submissions on file, and relevant legal authority, the Court finds that the Motion should be granted.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         The undisputed facts in this case establish that on March 15, 2015, Deputy Terry Beadles of the Pike County Sheriff's Department (“Deputy Beadles”) and the rest of his shift were searching for a shooting suspect in the outskirts of the City of McComb, Mississippi, Beadles Trial Tr. [42-4] at 139-40, when Deputy Beadles received a call from dispatch requesting medical assistance for a man who was seen slumped over a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle (“ATV”), bloodied with a possible head injury, and who may have been dead, id. at 140, 142. Deputy Beadles and Officer McDonald responded to the call.

         Deputy Beadles testified that while he and Officer McDonald were en route, dispatch advised them that the reporting party, Anna Cutrer (“Ms. Cutrer”), had stated that the man had several edged weapons on his vehicle. Id. at 140. Ms. Cutrer later testified that the man, Troy Ray Boyd (“Mr. Boyd”), was not holding a weapon and that she saw only a machete on the ATV. Cutrer Trial Tr. [48-2] at 94. Ms. Cutrer testified that she never mentioned that fact to dispatch. Id. Ms. Cutrer did not know if Mr. Boyd was too impaired to drive or if the ATV itself was “kind of wobbly.” Id. at 95.

         Deputy Beadles and Officer McDonald traveled to the area “not knowing what the situation was” to try to contact the individual because they “didn't know what the ambulance crew was going to be running into.” Beadles Trial Tr. [42-4] at 140. Dispatch later informed Deputy Beadles that the man was now at the intersection of McEwen Swamp Road and Highway 570 East. Id. at 141. Deputy Beadles first saw Mr. Boyd driving on McEwan Swamp Road, id. at 142, and “pulled up behind him” and “realized that he wasn't running from me, but he also was not stopping, ” id. Deputy Beadles “thought maybe [Mr. Boyd] just was not aware of his surroundings.” Id.

         Deputy Beadles parked his marked patrol vehicle in front of Mr. Boyd's ATV and exited his vehicle to attempt to speak with Mr. Boyd. Id. Mr. Boyd rode around Deputy Beadles' SUV and stopped in front of it. Id. Deputy Beadles asked Mr. Boyd to get off the four-wheeler and speak with him to assess the situation, but Mr. Boyd just stared at him. Id. at 142-43. At that time, Deputy Beadles did not intend to arrest Mr. Boyd, nor did he suspect Mr. Boyd of committing a crime. Id. at 160. Deputy Beadles' intent was to determine why Mr. Boyd was injured. Id.

         As Deputy Beadles was attempting to speak with Mr. Boyd, Mr. Boyd accelerated his ATV. Id. at 143. Deputy Beadles “reached out to grab [Mr. Boyd's] wrist and stay ahold of him to say - to tell him, ‘Hey, I need you to talk to me and tell me what's going on.'” Id. Before Deputy Beadles could do so, Mr. Boyd grabbed Deputy Beadles' left sleeve, tucked the officer's arm under his arm, and fully accelerated the ATV. Id. at 143-44. To avoid being dragged on the asphalt, Deputy Beadles grabbed the back of Mr. Boyd's sweatshirt and rested his abdomen on the ATV. Id. at 144. Deputy Beadles saw a machete strapped to the four-wheeler's back rack. Id. After being dragged for about fifty feet, Deputy Beadles freed himself from Mr. Boyd's grasp, pushed off the back bar of the ATV, and landed on the road. Id. at 144-45. Officer McDonald pursued Mr. Boyd as Deputy Beadles returned to his patrol vehicle. McDonald Trial Tr. [42-5] at 103.

         Deputy Beadles radioed to Officer McDonald that he “didn't care how far [Deputy Beadles] had to chase [Mr. Boyd], [the officers] were going to charge him with assault on a police officer.” Beadles Trial Tr. [42-4] at 162. Deputy Beadles testified that his “training kicked in, ” and his job at that point “was to stop somebody who committed a violent crime.” Id.

         The officers pursued Mr. Boyd for two to two-and-a-half minutes. McDonald Trial Tr. [42-5] at 103; Beadles Trial Tr. [42-4] at 146-47. Deputy Beadles testified that he chased Mr. Boyd at speeds between forty-five and fifty miles an hour and that Mr. Boyd “t[ook] corners at such a high rate of speed on the four-wheeler that he was actually getting it up on two wheels at points.” Beadles Trial Tr. [42-4] at 146-47. Robbie Travis (“Mr. Travis”), an eyewitness to the shooting who owns a similar ATV and has driven the same ATV model as Mr. Boyd's, later stated his opinion that Mr. Boyd's ATV could go only as fast as twenty-five or thirty miles per hour. Travis Trial Tr. [48-6] at 13-15.

         Eventually, Deputy Beadles passed Mr. Boyd and unsuccessfully attempted to conduct a rolling stop of the ATV. McDonald Trial Tr. [42-5] at 106; Beadles Trial Tr. [42-4] at 148. Deputy Beadles then drove further ahead and parked his vehicle at an angle across the road, leaving “[a]n avenue of escape for anybody who needed to get by.” Beadles Trial Tr. [42-4] at 148-49. At this point, the parties' versions of events diverge.

         1. Deputy Beadles' Version

         Deputy Beadles exited his vehicle and stood at the front left side of his SUV to observe Mr. Boyd's approach. Id. at 149-50. Mr. Boyd approached slowly at first, but then rapidly accelerated when he was twenty-five yards from Deputy Beadles. Id. at 150. Deputy Beadles drew his gun and “continu[ed] to yell for him to stop” when he “realized [Mr. Boyd] was not going to slow down.” Id. at 150-51. Upon Deputy Beadles drawing his firearm, Mr. Boyd “turned the four-wheeler slightly towards [Deputy Beadles] and began to come directly at [him].” Id. at 151. “At that point when [Deputy Beadles] felt that [he] had no other option, that [his] life was in jeopardy, [Deputy Beadles] began to take defensive actions and defend [his] own life by firing at the suspect.” Id. Deputy Beadles fired six rounds, with approximately a “second-and-a-half” elapsing between the first and last shot. Id. at 152. Deputy Beadles testified that he ceased firing when he realized he was no longer in jeopardy and Mr. Boyd was no longer threatening him. Id. at 153.

         Deputy Beadles got back into his vehicle and pursued Mr. Boyd. Id. Officer McDonald later found Mr. Boyd face down in a ditch a short distance away. McDonald Trial Tr. [42-5] at 127. Officer McDonald informed Deputy Beadles that Mr. Boyd was breathing but unresponsive. Beadles Trial Tr. [42-4] at 153. Deputy Beadles radioed dispatch for an ambulance, id. at 154, then he and Officer McDonald began performing life-saving measures on Mr. Boyd until an emergency medical technician arrived, id. at 155. Unfortunately, Mr. Boyd passed away. Id. at 156. An autopsy report found bullet “entrance wounds to the right side of the back and left lower leg.” Autopsy [42-8] at 2.

         2. Plaintiffs' Version

         Mr. Travis lives on Archie Boyd Road in Pike County, Mississippi, Travis Trial Tr. [48-6] at 12, and was at home on March 15, 2015, id. at 13. Mr. Travis heard sirens “coming through the swamp, ” so he “stepped out on the porch” and saw “two officers following a four-wheeler.” Id. Deputy Beadles sped up, passed Mr. Boyd, and parked his vehicle before stepping out of it. Id. According to Mr. Travis, Deputy Beadles was beside his car on the right side of the road, at “[a]bout the middle” of his car. Id. at 17, 21. Mr. Boyd was in the far left lane, on the far inside of the curve in the road, and Mr. Travis testified that if a car would have been coming in the other direction, it would have run over Mr. Boyd. Id. at 17.

         Deputy Beadles “hollered” at Mr. Boyd to “[s]top, stop, stop, ” id. at 16, but Mr. Boyd kept driving on the inside of the curve, id. at 16-17. Mr. Travis saw Deputy Beadles draw his weapon “[r]ight before Troy was up even with him.” Id. at 17. Mr. Travis testified that the officer never appeared to be in any danger and he did not see Mr. Boyd make any moves towards the officer. Id. at 18.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiffs Estate of Troy Ray Boyd and minors Z.B. and G.B., by and through their mother Amy Boyd (“Plaintiffs”), are Mr. Boyd's wrongful death beneficiaries. Am. Compl. [6] at 1-2. On February 8, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a Complaint in this Court against Deputy Beadles and Officer McDonald in their individual capacities and against Pike County, Mississippi, advancing claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. Plaintiffs claim that the individual defendants: (1) “violat[ed] Troy's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable seizures by chasing him without cause, then using unreasonable, deadly force by shooting Troy four times in the back, thereby causing his death;” and (2) “failed to provide Boyd with adequate medical care as requested by the 911 caller” in violation of Mr. Boyd's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.[1] Id. at 5-6.

         On April 13, 2016, Officer McDonald filed a Motion [25] to Dismiss Based on Qualified Immunity, which the Court construed as a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Order [33] at 3. The Court found that Officer McDonald was entitled to qualified immunity and dismissed Plaintiffs' claims against him on June 24, 2016. Id. at 1. Specifically, the Court found that Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint did not sufficiently allege that Officer McDonald seized or used any force at all against Mr. Boyd. Id. at 6, 7. Regarding Plaintiffs' Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment claims, the Court concluded that Officer McDonald was never constitutionally required to provide Mr. Boyd with medical care and that Plaintiffs failed to allege facts that showed Officer McDonald responded in an objectively unreasonable manner. Id. at 9.

         On July 11, 2016, Deputy Beadles filed a Motion [35] to Stay Case Pending Criminal Prosecution, on grounds that a grand jury of Pike County, Mississippi, had returned an indictment on September 9, 2015, against Deputy Beadles on the charge of manslaughter related to the same set of facts as in this civil litigation. Mot. [35] at 1; Indictment [35-2]. The Court entered an Order [39] staying the case, including a stay of all discovery, pending final resolution of the parallel criminal proceedings. Order [39] at 1. A jury trial was held in the criminal case on September 27 and 28, 2016, in the Circuit Court of Pike County, Mississippi.[2] Mot. [40] at 1-2. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty, Def.'s Mem. [43] at 2, and on April 5, 2017, the Court lifted the stay of proceedings.

         On June 2, 2017, Deputy Beadles filed his Motion [42] for Summary Judgment Premised on Qualified Immunity. Deputy Beadles contends that his first encounter with Mr. Boyd should not be considered a stop, but even if so construed, there existed reasonable suspicion to pull Mr. Boyd over for illegally operating his vehicle, and that Deputy Beadles was justified in pursuing Mr. Boyd after he assaulted the officer. Def.'s Mem. [43] at 10. Deputy Beadles argues that his use of deadly force was objectively reasonable because Mr. Boyd posed a threat of serious harm to Deputy Beadles and others, and that no controlling precedent has clearly established that Deputy Beadles' actions were unconstitutional. Id. at 11-12, 14. Deputy Beadles asserts that this Court's analysis in its prior Order [33] is equally applicable to Deputy Beadles with regard to Plaintiffs' Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment claims.[3] Id. at 16.

         Plaintiffs counter that Deputy Beadles violated Mr. Boyd's right to be free from unreasonable seizures because he has acknowledged that the 911 call requested medical assistance, Mr. Boyd was not suspected of any crime during the initial stop, and officers usually do not ticket for driving a four-wheeler on the road. Pls.' Mem. [49] at 8. Plaintiffs argue that Deputy Beadles' use of force violated Mr. Boyd's constitutional rights because Deputy Beadles created the danger to Mr. Boyd by blocking the road, Deputy Beadles should have known that Mr. Boyd would be traveling in his direction when he passed Mr. Boyd, Deputy Beadles did not fire his weapon until Mr. Boyd was beside him, and Mr. Boyd could not travel at high speeds on an old four-wheeler. Id. at 8-9, 13-14.

         Deputy Beadles notes in his Reply that Plaintiffs failed in their Response to argue in support of their Eighth Amendment claim and made only a conclusory allegation that Deputy Beadles violated Mr. Boyd's Fourteenth Amendment rights. Reply [50] at 1-2. Deputy Beadles further posits that Mr. Travis' testimony does not raise a triable issue of fact as to excessive force. Id. at 6.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Relevant Legal Standard

         1. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate “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). If the movant carries this burden, “the nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine ...


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