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Turner v. Mitchell

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Richmond Division

April 8, 2014

LARRY TURNER, Plaintiff,
v.
KENNY D. MITCHELL, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN A. GIBNEY, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dk. No. 18.) The plaintiff, Larry Turner, suffered injuries during his arrest by the defendant, Officer Kenny Mitchell. Turner now asserts a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Officer Mitchell used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable seizures. Turner also advances a second, state law claim for assault and battery.

The evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to Turner, shows that Officer Mitchell used excessive force in the arrest, in violation of both federal and state law. The Court thus DENIES the defendant's summary judgment motion.

I. Facts

On April 3, 2013, Turner hosted a cookout at his home, where he got drunk. While drunk, Turner assaulted his son, who reported the incident at the Waverly Police Station.[1] Officer Mitchell then drove the son back to Turner's residence to try to resolve the dispute.

After arriving, Officer Mitchell asked Turner to tell him about the fight, as well as to explain an open fire in the front yard. Turner yelled and cursed at the officer, refused to answer any questions, and went inside, slamming the door. A short time later, Turner came back outside. When he realized that the police officer had not left, Turner tried to go back inside, but found he had locked himself out. Turner then went around the side of his house, through a carport, to an unlocked side door. Fearing that Turner might have gone inside to get a gun, Officer Mitchell followed Turner inside.

Turner had no weapon. He repeatedly asked the officer to leave his house, eventually "touch[ing]" Officer Mitchell on the elbow in an effort to convince the officer to leave. Officer Mitchell then told Turner that he was under arrest for assaulting a police officer. Turner opened his front door, left the house, and walked toward the street. Officer Mitchell followed, repeatedly reminding Turner that he was under arrest and should stop walking away. Turner continued walking, shouting at Officer Mitchell, "[u]nder arrest for what?... Man, I didn't assault you." The slow speed pursuit ended in the street, behind the parked police cruiser.

According to a neighbor, [2] upon reaching the street, "[Turner] stopped, said, okay, man, take me on down.' He put his hands behind his back. He backed up to Officer Mitchell." In the sudden quiet, the officer "walked up to [Turner], put the handcuffs on - click, click." Now fully handcuffed, Turner then "looked over his shoulder, and said now, why am I under arrest?'" Officer Mitchell responded by "pick[ing] [Turner] up and slamm[ing] him on his face straight to the road - pow - slammed him to the road."[3]

Turner suffered an orbital fracture and facial lacerations to his face as a result.

II. Discussion

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court must resolve all genuine factual disputes and inferences in favor of the non-moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962) (per curiam). The Court cannot weigh the evidence or make credibility determinations in its summary judgment analysis. Williams v. Staples, Inc., 372 F.3d 662, 667 (4th Cir. 2004). Ultimately, the relevant inquiry in a summary judgment analysis consists of "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986).

A. Qualified Immunity

Qualified immunity protects public officers from § 1983 liability for actions taken that do not violate clearly established and well-known law. A claim of qualified immunity raises two questions: (1) whether the plaintiff has alleged facts establishing the "violation of a constitutional right, " and (2) whether that constitutional right "was clearly established' at the time of the defendant's misconduct." Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232 (2009) (internal citation omitted). It does not matter ...


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