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Crawford v. Desoto County Sheriff's Department

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

January 6, 2020

CARL CRAWFORD PLAINTIFF
v.
DESOTO COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, EX REL., MISSISSIPPI, BRIAN FALATKO, ROBERT FORBERT, DESOTO COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS DEFENDANTS

          ORDER

          MICHAEL P. MILLS, U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         This cause comes before the court on the motion of defendants Desoto County Sheriff's Department, et al for summary judgment, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Plaintiff Carl Crawford has not responded in opposition to the motion, nor has he sought additional time to do so. The court, having considered defendants' submissions and having conducted an inquiry into plaintiff's failure to respond to them, concludes that the motion is well taken and should be granted.

         This is, inter alia, a false arrest case arising out of a March 14, 2018 incident in which the individual defendants Brian Falatko and Robert Forbert, each deputies with the Desoto County Sheriff's Department, detained plaintiff and searched his vehicle at a Desoto County car wash. The only post-discovery version of the facts at this court's disposal is that set forth in defendants' summary judgment brief, in which they assert what they characterize as these “undisputed” facts:

On or about March 14, 2018, Defendant Brian Falatko, at all times a DeSoto County Sheriff's Department Deputy, was patrolling in the area of Hwy 301 and Nail Road in DeSoto County. He observed an SUV parked at a car wash near the intersection of Nail Road and Hwy 301. The vehicle was parked in the far east car wash bay, and no one was washing the vehicle. According to Falatko, the vehicle initially appeared to be unoccupied. No water was visible under the vehicle, and the concrete around the vehicle was also dry. There was no indication that the vehicle had just been washed.
Defendant Falatko approached the vehicle, exited his patrol car, and walked up to the driver's side. He determined that the vehicle was occupied by a black male who was later identified as the Plaintiff, Carl Crawford. As Falatko approached the vehicle, Plaintiff had his driver's side window down, and Falatko began speaking with him. Immediately, Falatko detected an odor coming from Plaintiff's vehicle which, based upon knowledge, experience, and training, Falatko knew to be marijuana. Falatko also observed several air fresheners in the vehicle which appeared to be an attempt to mask the odor of marijuana. Defendant Falatko then asked Plaintiff to exit his vehicle, after which Falatko searched the Plaintiff for any potential weapons. Plaintiff appeared agitated and upset about being questioned. Accordingly, Defendant Falatko handcuffed him for his own protection so that Plaintiff's vehicle could be searched.
Around that moment, Deputy Robert Forbert arrived at the car wash. . . . Forbert observed that Falatko was talking with Plaintiff Crawford. Forbert was aware that this area was known as a potential spot for criminal activity; thus, in order to see if he could be of assistance to Officer Falatko, Forbert pulled into the car wash. Defendant Forbert found that Defendant Falatko had handcuffed Plaintiff Crawford, and Forbert also observed that Plaintiff was upset and agitated. Forbert assisted by placing the Plaintiff in his patrol car. At that time, Falatko searched Plaintiff's vehicle and located a pistol between the driver seat and the center console. It was a Ruger .45 caliber, with approximately 10 rounds in the magazine. Falatko ran the gun through dispatch, and it came back negative; however, when Falatko asked Plaintiff if he had ever been arrested, Plaintiff answered in the affirmative. Therefore, Falatko ran a criminal history on Plaintiff and determined that Plaintiff had a prior arrest for domestic violence and a subsequent conviction. Falatko did not find any marijuana inside of the vehicle.
Falatko then contacted Detective Mundy Quinn at the DeSoto County Sheriff's Department, and Officer Quinn advised Falatko that the handgun would have to be taken from the vehicle due to Plaintiff's prior domestic violence conviction. Quinn advised that due to federal law, Plaintiff, as an individual previously convicted of domestic violence, was not permitted to have a handgun in his possession. Forbert was also present and aware of this discovery. After the background check was completed, and finding no other outstanding issues and/or warrants for Plaintiff Crawford, the officers released him; they did not charge Plaintiff with any offense since the handgun possession was subject to a potential federal charge, not state. The entire incident lasted approximately 33 minutes; thus, Plaintiff's actual time of detention would have been less than 33 minutes. At no time did Plaintiff ever advise either officer that any part of his body had been injured or that he was hurting. Defendant Falatko prepared a written report that same day, and it is attached as an exhibit to his affidavit.

[Defendant's brief at 4 (record citations omitted)].

         In his amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that he was arrested and detained without probable cause, for which he asserts claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, robbery and intentional infliction of emotional distress. [Amended complaint at 4-5]. Plaintiff does not allege that defendants used excessive force against him, but he maintains that the act of leaving him handcuffed in the backseat of a patrol car caused his back to “pop” and resulted in a back injury which required surgery. Specifically, plaintiff alleges in his amended complaint as follows:

12. Once exiting the vehicle, and producing his identification, Defendant, Officer Brian Falatko directed Plaintiff to rear of Plaintiff's vehicle.
13. At the rear of Plaintiff's vehicle, Defendants Brian Falatko and Robert Forbert patted Plaintiff down and placed Plaintiff in handcuffs. And prior to placing Plaintiffs in handcuffs, Defendants had not informed Plaintiff of the reason or reasons for the stop, seizure, and arrest of Plaintiff. Defendants, Brian Falatko, and Robert Forbert failed to find a weapon or contraband on him.
14. Thereafter, Plaintiff while handcuffed was placed in the back seat of Defendants' patrol car.
15. While being placed in the back seat of the patrol car, Plaintiff felt his back pop, and begin experiencing excruciating pain in his back, hands, and feet.
16. And while sitting in the back seat of the patrol car, Defendants'--without a search warrant, and without obtaining Plaintiff's consent-searched Plaintiff's vehicle. Plaintiff had not committed a crime in the officer's present, nor was Plaintiff wanted for the commission of a misdemeanor or a felony. Plaintiff ...

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