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Renfroe v. Parker

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

June 7, 2019




         Defendants Madison County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Denver Parker and Madison County Sheriff Randall Tucker seek summary judgment on Plaintiff Amanda Kay Renfroe's claims against them in their individual capacities. Mot. Summ. J. [17]. Renfroe asks the Court to strike one of Defendants' exhibits in support of their summary-judgment motion and to strike certain relief requested in Defendants' memorandum. Mot. to Strike [32]; Mot. to Strike [38]. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is granted, and the individual-capacity claims are dismissed. Plaintiff's motion to strike the relief requested is granted, but her motion to strike Defendants' exhibit is considered moot. Finally, Plaintiff will be given 14 days to show cause why the official-capacity claims should not be dismissed.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         This case arises from the fatal shooting of Renfroe's husband, Michael Wayne Renfroe, by Defendant Parker on June 8, 2018.[1] That morning, Faye Burns Renfroe, Michael's mother, learned that Michael “was walking down the side of Highway 43 . . . completely naked.” Am. Compl. [13] ¶ 11. According to the Amended Complaint, Faye “sought assistance from the Madison County Sheriff's Office . . . in safely and kindly taking Mike . . . into protective custody pending an involuntary commitment proceeding.” Id. ¶ 14.

         Later that evening, the Madison County Sheriff's Department received a 911 call from Willard McDaniel advising “that he suspected two people may have attempted to burglarize his truck.” Id. ¶ 17. He “described the suspects as occupying a white or grey Ford pick-up truck with a 4-wheeler all terrain vehicle loaded in the back of the bed.” Id. The dispatcher then alerted all available units that a possible burglary was in progress. Defendant Parker responded to the call and drove to the scene. He knew nothing about Faye's earlier call to the Madison County Sheriff's Department seeking to commit Michael.

         What happened next was recorded on the dashcam in Parker's patrol car. Driving down a dark and otherwise deserted street, Parker came upon a white Chevrolet truck parked just off the road. When Parker stopped his patrol car a reasonable distance from the truck, Michael emerged, shirtless, from its driver's side. He took approximately 18 steps toward Parker with his arms extended out by his side and then-without verbal instructions from Parker-dropped to his hands and knees in the middle of the road. Seconds later, Michael suddenly rose and bull rushed toward Parker yelling, according to Parker, “Now, motherfucker, let's do this.” Parker Decl. [17-1] ¶ 13. Parker stands 5'11” and weighs approximately 150 pounds; Michael was 6'2” and weighed 205 pounds.

         In response, Parker first attempted non-lethal force by deploying his taser as Michael approached. Though the darts hit his chest, Michael continued charging, and approximately two seconds later, Parker's vehicle was visibly jostled when Michael apparently reached Parker. The rest of the encounter occurred beyond the camera's view, though an audible struggle can be heard in the background. Parker says Michael tried to choke him and struck him on the side of the head while pinning Parker against his vehicle. According to Parker, he realized that he could not escape the assault, so he drew his weapon and fired four gunshots in rapid succession into Michael's center mass.[2]

         All of this transpired quickly. The entire encounter-from the time Michael opened the door to his truck until the fourth gunshot was fired-lasted less than a minute. And only eight seconds elapsed between the time Parker deployed his taser and the final shot.

         Renfroe filed this lawsuit against Parker and Sheriff Tucker, in their official and individual capacities, on August 31, 2018. In her Amended Complaint [13] she asserts a § 1983 claim for excessive force as well as state-law tort claims. Defendants moved for summary judgment “as to the individual liability claims asserted against them” on January 31, 2019, and the parties engaged in a brief period of immunity-related discovery. Mot. Summ. J. [17] at 1. Renfroe responded to Defendants' motion and filed two motions to strike, one aimed at an exhibit Defendants submitted and the other at a request for relief contained within Defendants' memorandum. Mot. to Strike [32]; Mot. to Strike [38]. The matters raised in all motions have been fully briefed, and the Court has jurisdiction and is prepared to rule.

         II. Standard

         Summary judgment is warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) when evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. 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 (1986).

         The party moving for summary judgment “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.” Id. at 323. 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 (citation omitted). In reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be resolved in favor of the nonmovant, “but only when . . . both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc). 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 (2000). Conclusory allegations, speculation, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic arguments have never constituted an adequate substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James of Wash., 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir. 2002); Little, 37 F.3d at 1075; SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir. 1993).

         III. Analysis

         In their motion, Defendants seek summary judgment on Renfroe's claims against them in their individual capacities. But in their memorandum, they urge the Court to also dismiss the official-capacity claims. Defs.' Mem. [24]. This request for relief drew one of Renfroe's motions to strike. The Court will first address the ...

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