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Breland v. City of Wiggins

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

March 20, 2019

SUSAN ELAINE BRELAND PLAINTIFF
v.
CITY OF WIGGINS, MISSISSIPPI, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT ADAM DEDEAUX'S MOTION [18] FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND QUALIFIED IMMUNITY, AND DENYING AS MOOT PLAINTIFF SUSAN ELAINE BRELAND'S MOTION [32] TO STRIKE

          HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         BEFORE THE COURT are Defendant Adam Dedeaux's Motion [18] for Summary Judgment and Qualified Immunity and Plaintiff Susan Elaine Breland's Motion [32] to Strike Defendant Adam Dedeaux's Affidavit filed in support of his Motion [18] for Summary Judgment. After due consideration of the record, the parties' Motions, related pleadings, the record, and relevant legal authority, the Court is of the opinion that Defendant Adam Dedeaux is entitled to qualified immunity, that his Motion [18] for Summary Judgment should be granted, and that Plaintiff's Motion [32] to Strike should be denied as moot. Plaintiff Susan Elaine Breland's claims against Defendant Adam Dedeaux in his individual capacity will be dismissed with prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual background

         This matter involves an excessive force claim arising out of the arrest and detention of Plaintiff Susan Elaine Breland (“Plaintiff” or “Breland”), following a traffic stop that occurred on October 30, 2014, in the City of Wiggins, Mississippi. Breland claims that, while she was in police custody, Defendant Adam Dedeaux (“Defendant” or “Officer Dedeaux”) violated her Fourth Amendment right to be free from the use of excessive force. Specifically, Breland asserts that “the injurious use of unreasonable, abusive and excessive force” by Officer Dedeaux violated her rights under “the Due Process Clause of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and/or the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution . . . .” Compl. [1] at 9.[1]

         1. Officers stop and detain Breland

         In the late-night hours of October 30, 2014, Dustin Parker (“Officer Parker”), a police officer with the City of Wiggins, was advised of a disturbance and as a result conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle driven by Breland. See Parker's Police Report [18-2] at 1. Officer Parker was wearing a body camera, and approximately 30 minutes of video footage from the stop have been filed of record. See Ex. “C” to Def.'s Motion [18] (conventionally filed). The video reflects that at the time Officer Parker stopped Breland, she was wearing sunglasses while driving at night, appeared to be inebriated, and was slurring her speech. See Id. The audio indicates that she also had an open beer can in her car. Id.

         Breland was wearing a heavy, black leather jacket. See Id. At one point approximately four minutes into the video, Breland attempts to place her hands in the pockets of her jacket, and Officer Parker instructs her not to do so. See Id. Breland responds “[t]hey ain't nothing in them, ” and starts waving her hands around in the air. See Id. Officer Parker orders Breland not to make any “fast motion” at him, or he will perceive it as a “threat.” Id.; see also Parker's Report [18-2] at 1 (“I asked Breland not to put her hands back in her jacket pocket and she made a fast punching motion toward me. I advised her not to do that to a [sic] I take that as a threat.”).

         Officer Parker is then joined by two fellow Wiggins police officers, one of whom is Officer Dedeaux. During her encounter with the officers, Breland is standing between her car and the open driver's side door. See Ex. “C” to Def.'s Mot. [18] (video conventionally filed). Officer Dedeaux attempts to move Breland towards the rear of her vehicle and touches her arm or shoulder. See Id. According to Officer Dedeaux's Police Report [18-1], he and Officer Parker wanted to move Breland for purposes of officer safety and in order to prevent her from getting back into the car and driving away. Dedeaux's Report [18-1] at 2.

         Breland resists and says, “don't do that, ” at which point Officer Dedeaux pulls her away from the car door. See Ex. “C” to Def.'s Mot. [18] (video conventionally filed). Breland then attempts to walk away from the side of the car where Officer Dedeaux had placed her, and Officer Parker grabs her arm and states “ma'am, I ain't gonna tell you again - be still!” See Id. Officer Parker turns Breland around to face her car and places her hands on the trunk. See id.

         Approximately seven minutes and twenty seconds into the video, Officer Parker asks Breland if there is someone who can drive her home, and she responds “no.” Breland insists that she can drive. See Id. At approximately nine minutes and seven seconds, one of the officers asks Breland if she can call someone to retrieve her vehicle; Breland states that she does not want to call anyone. See id.

         Officer Dedeaux ultimately decided to arrest Breland for driving under the influence of alcohol (“DUI”) for what he perceived to be her “heavy intoxication.” Dedeaux's Report [18-1] at 2. On the video, after Officer Dedeaux reads Breland her Miranda rights, she refuses to be handcuffed. See Ex. “C” to Def.'s Mot. [18] (video conventionally filed). Officer Dedeaux directs Breland to remove her leather jacket as he grabs her left harm. See Id. According to Officer Dedeaux, he wanted to search the jacket, but not while Breland was wearing it. See Dedeaux's Report [18-1] at 2.

         Breland resists and pulls away from Officer Dedeaux, saying “take your hands off my jacket.” See Ex. “C” to Def.'s Mot. [18] (video conventionally filed). When Officer Parker steps in to assist, see id.; Dedeaux's Report [18-1] at 2, Breland screams at the officers and struggles with them, and it appears that she attempts to enter her car, see Ex. “C” to Def.'s Mot. [18] (video conventionally filed). Breland yells “don't push me!” and points her finger at Officer Dedeaux, to which Officer Dedeaux responds “I'll push you again if you come near this car.” See Id. Breland then states, “I'll kick the shit out of you then, ” prompting Officer Dedeaux to respond, “and you'll be charged with assault on a police officer.” See id.

         Breland begins to walk away from the car, down the street, at which point Officer Dedeaux apparently displays a taser. See Id. Breland turns her back to Officer Dedeaux and places her arm up to shield her face. See Id. When Officer Parker informs Officer Dedeaux that Breland's jacket is too thick, Officer Dedeaux instead grabs her arm. See Id. Breland again resists, and Officer Dedeaux “grab[s] her by her right arm and [takes] her to the ground.” Dedeaux's Report [18-1] at 2. It appears from the video that Officers Dedeaux and Parker then move Breland onto her stomach and handcuff her hands behind her back. See Ex. “C” to Def.'s Mot. [18] (conventionally filed).

         One can see from the video that Officer Parker walks a handcuffed Breland to the rear of his patrol car. Officer Parker apparently believes Breland is attempting to spit on Officer Dedeaux and orders her “don't you spit on him.” See Ex. “C” to Def.'s Mot. [18] (conventionally filed). According to Officer Dedeaux, at that point Officer Parker grabbed Breland's hair and turned her head away from Dedeaux in order to prevent Breland from spitting on him. Dedeaux's Report [18-1] at 2.

         Officer Parker places Breland into the back of his patrol car and closes the door. See Ex. “C” to Def.'s Mot. [18] (video conventionally filed). Breland can still be heard screaming from inside the vehicle, including informing the officers that her daughter and son-in-law were police officers, and using expletives to refer to the officers. See Id. Breland also threatens the officers. See Id. For example, at approximately 23 minutes into the video, she proclaims that, “if I could get out of these cuffs, I would have whooped ya'll's asses!” See Id. A few minutes later, Breland threatens to “get a shot gun, shove it up your ass, and blow you a new hole.” See id.

         Several minutes later, an occasional, slow banging or beating sound becomes audible on the video. See Id. Officer Parker asks Breland what she is kicking or beating on, and she responds that “I'm fixing to beat myself out of this vehicle.” See Id. This video concludes as Officer Parker says something about Breland not hurting herself. See id.

         2. Events at the jail

         Officer Parker transported Breland to the Stone County Jail. Dedeaux's Report [18-1] at 2. Officer Dedeaux also traveled to the jail in order to conduct an Intoxilyzer 8000 test on Breland. Id. According to Officer Dedeaux, he arrived at the jail at approximately 12:17 a.m. to begin the 20-minute observation period prior to administering the test. Id.

         Officer Dedeaux has supplied approximately 30 minutes of Officer Parker's body-camera video from inside what appears to be a testing or booking room at the jail. See Ex. “E” to Def.'s Mot. [18] (filed conventionally). Breland has provided a little over five minutes of surveillance video from the same room, but taken later in time than Officer Parker's body-camera footage. See Ex. “A” to Pl.'s Resp. [24] (filed conventionally).

         At the outset of Officer Parker's body-camera video, Officer Dedeaux is seated at a desk against a wall working on paperwork, and Breland is seated in a chair. See Ex. “E” to Def.'s Mot. [18] (filed conventionally). She is not handcuffed. See Id. There is a table between Officer Dedeaux's desk and Breland's chair. See Id. Breland's chairback is situated flush with the cinderblock wall, and its side is against the edge of the table. See id.

         Throughout the video, Breland remains belligerent and argumentative, and exhibits erratic behavior. At one point, approximately six minutes and 50 seconds into the video, Breland tells one of the jail or correctional officers, “I'm going to knock you out.” See Id. When the officer asks Breland if she is threatening him, she says, “I could do that so quick, you wouldn't even know it.” See Id. The officer instructs Breland to sit and calm down. A short time later, Breland tells the officers that “I'll take all y'all on, anytime.” See id.

         At approximately 17 minutes and 10 seconds into the video, Breland moves to the front of her chair and states that she needs to use the restroom and wants the cane out of her car.[2] See Id. When officers do not respond to her requests, Breland remains seated on the edge of the chair but lunges her upper body in the direction of the jail officer who is positioned closest to her. See Id. Breland simultaneously waves her arms in an erratic fashion in the direction of the jail officer, who orders Breland to place her hands behind her back; Breland refuses. See Id. The jail officer repeats the request, and Breland says, “hell no, ” as she quickly climbs to stand on the chair. Id. Breland repeatedly refuses to comply with the officer's instructions and remains standing on the chair for approximately 40 seconds, continuing to be combative. See id.

         When Breland eventually steps down from the chair, the jail officer handcuffs her hands behind her back and instructs her to sit down. See Id. Breland sits, but then abruptly stands, stating that “it hurts.” See Id. The jail officer repeatedly tells Breland to sit down, but she refuses and remains standing for over a minute more before finally sitting. See id.

         When Officer Parker comments to the jail officer about Breland jumping up on the chair earlier, Breland states, “you don't know what I'm capable of.” See Id. Breland warns, “I could swift kick you with one leg across your head, and you'd be like, where's my head at?” See Id. A few minutes later, Officer Parker and the jail officer exit the room, leaving only Officer Dedeaux with Breland. See Id. Breland demands that Officer Dedeaux remove her handcuffs, and Officer Dedeaux states that he will. See Id. It is unclear when Dedeaux does so, as one can only hear their voices off camera. See id.

         Throughout the entirety of Parker's body-camera video, Officer Dedeaux never leaves the room. See Id. Just before the conclusion of the video, Breland is heard sternly saying to Officer Dedeaux “look at me!”, see id., followed by “get this shit off of me. Tell him to get these cuffs off of me, ” see Id. The jail officer standing outside of the room instructs Breland to “calm down, ” to which she responds ...


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