United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MICHAEL P. MILLS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
cause comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss  and Motion to Dismiss via
Abstention . Having reviewed the motions, the
parties' submissions, the complaint, and relevant case
law, the Court is now prepared to rule.
March 3, 2018, Robert Salley and Bonita Cunningham
(“Plaintiffs”) traveled to the Town of Mantee,
Mississippi in Webster County. While making their way home to
Grenada County, Salley took a series of Webster County back
roads and, regrettably, took a wrong turn onto Highway 50.
Salley noticed some stopped cars ahead and assumed that the
drivers had pulled over to “chat.” This
presumption proved wrong for, unbeknownst to Salley, Webster
County Sherriff deputies were conducting a road block, though
their “blue lights” were not active.
Consequently, Salley did not identify the vehicles as law
turned his vehicle around and reversed direction. Checking
his rear-view mirror, he noticed flashing blue lights on a
vehicle behind him, indicating the vehicle was a law
enforcement cruiser, but Salley could not ascertain whether
the cruiser was attempting to pull him over or pass, so he
continued down the road. Further examination by Salley
revealed the driver of the cruiser to be Chief Deputy Dillon
Cates of Webster County. Salley alleges that given the
tempestuous history between himself and the Webster County
Sheriff's Office, he decided not to pull over.
travelled through Slate Springs in Calhoun County and then,
according to the Plaintiff's allegations, through the
community of Sabola with deputies following behind with blue
lights flashing. At some point, Chief Deputy Cates rear-ended
Salley's vehicle. Undeterred, Salley journeyed on and
merged onto Highway 8 and headed west toward Pleasant Grove
Road in Grenada County. Yet again, Salley made a wrong turn,
missing his intended turn onto Cadaretta Road, and instead
turned left onto Millhouse Road where he
“overshot” his left turn and landed his vehicle
in a ditch. As Salley attempted to coax his vehicle out of
the ditch Chief Deputy Cates exited his cruiser and, pistol
drawn, approached Salley's vehicle yelling “Let me
see your hand. . . Let me see your hand.” Salley's
vehicle leapt from the ditch and Chief Deputy Cates opened
fire. Bullets struck the vehicle's rear window,
dashboard, tire and body, and Salley absorbed “bullet
wounds to the back of his right shoulder and right
arm.” Nevertheless, the intrepid Salley raced on,
finally arriving at his mother's home in Grenada County,
where he ran into the house, out the back door, and hid under
a parked truck.
Deputy Cates, along with other Webster County deputies, and
now including a K-9 unit, arrived at the matriarch's
residence where they arrested Bonita Cunningham, Salley's
passenger, and detained her while they tried to get their
man. It appears, though the facts alleged by the parties are
lacking, that despite pleas from the deputies, Salley would
not come out from under the truck. Continuing his pattern of
defying law enforcement directives, Salley stayed under the
truck, at which point, the deputies threatened to release the
dog. According to Salley, he stayed under the truck “in
an attempt to give his mother additional time to get to the
residence and witness what was happening.” The deputies
released the dog, which apparently went under truck, though
this fact is not established by the parties. Nevertheless,
the deputies got their man. Officers transported Salley to
Baptist Memorial Hospital in Oxford for treatment and later
delivered him into the custody of the Grenada Police
and Cunningham filed suit on March 15, 2018. Defendants
subsequently filed a Motion to Dismiss  in which
they ask this Court to “make a finding of qualified
immunity, dismissal and/or judgment on the pleadings”
as to most of Plaintiff's claims, and in the alternative
filed a Motion to Dismiss via Abstention . We
now address these motions.
Motion to Dismiss Standard
the Court can grant a motion to dismiss, Defendant must show
that Plaintiffs have not met the relevant pleading standard
to state a claim. Defendant must show that Plaintiff's
complaint fails to contain enough facts to “state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 697, 129 S.Ct.
1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167
L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). A claim is facially plausible
“when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant
is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. at
678. It is not necessary that a complaint contain detailed
factual allegations, but it must set forth “more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.”
Colony Ins. Co. v. Peachtree Constr., Ltd.,
647 F.3d 248, 252 (5th Cir.2011) (quoting Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555.
reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the
Court must limit its examination to the complaint, documents
attached to the complaint, and documents accompanying the
motion to dismiss that reference the complaint. Lone Star
Fund V(US), LP v. Barclays Bank PLC, 594 F.3d 383, 387
(5th Cir.2010). The Court must liberally construe the
complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff and accept
all well-pleaded facts as true. Woodard v. Andrus,
419 F.3d 348, 351 (5th Cir.2005).
Qualified Immunity Standard
enforcement officials, “like other public officials
acting within the scope of their official duties, are
shielded from claims of civil liability, including §
1983 claims, by qualified immunity.” Morris v.
Dillard Dept. Stores, Inc., 277 F.3d 743, 753 (5th Cir.
2001). Qualified immunity requires a two-pronged analysis.
Kinney v. Weaver, 367 F.3d. 337, 374 (5th Cir.
2004). The court has discretion to decide “which of the
two prongs” to address first. Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236, 129 S.Ct. 808, 172 L.Ed.2d
565 (2009). To rebut a defendant's qualified immunity
defense, the plaintiff must show: “(1) that the
official violated a statutory or constitutional right, and
(2) that the right was ‘clearly established' at the
time of the challenged conduct.” Ashcroft v.
al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 735, 131 S.Ct. 2074, 2085, 179
L.Ed.2d 1149 (2011). For a right to be clearly established,
it must be sufficiently clear “that every
‘reasonable official would have understood that what he
is doing violates that right.'” Id. 563
U.S. at 741, 131 S.Ct. at 2083 (quoting Anderson v.
Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640, 107 S.Ct. 3034, 97 L.Ed.2d