United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
For Ryan Stillman Lucas, Plaintiff: Carroll Mullen Ching, John Palmer Fishwick , Jr., Monica Lynn Mroz, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Lichtenstein Fishwick PLC, Roanoke, VA.
For Gary L. Shively, Defendant: Jim H. Guynn , Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, Guynn Memmer & Dillon, PC, Salem, VA.
For Patrick Lamb, Defendant: Andrea Kay Hopkins, Jeremy Ethridge Carroll, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Glenn Feldmann Darby & Goodlatte, Roanoke, VA.
Hon. Michael F. Urbanski, United States District Judge.
This matter is before the court on the summary judgment motions of defendants Patrick Lamb (" Lamb" ) and Gary L. Shively (" Shively" ). Dkt. Nos. 37 & 38, respectively. Both defendants assert that qualified immunity bars this civil rights action. The court heard oral argument on these motions on April 25, 2014. Dkt. No. 60. At that time, the court requested supplemental briefing on fingerprint analysis, specifically the verification step of the " ACE-V" (analysis, comparison, evaluation, and verification) process. The parties have filed their briefs on that issue and the matter is now ripe for decision. For the reasons stated herein, the court will GRANT the defendants' motions.
Plaintiff Ryan Stillman Lucas (" Lucas" ) brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the defendants violated his Federal Constitutional rights by arresting him without probable cause. Specifically, he asserts claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. He also asserts pendent state law claims for false arrest and false imprisonment. All of Lucas' claims arise from his arrest on April 24, 2012, on five warrants -- four felonies and one misdemeanor -- related to two burglaries. The facts surrounding the burglaries and the ensuing
investigation by the defendants are as follows:
A. The Burglaries
In December of 2009, multiple items, including a 50 inch television, power tools, and a shotgun, were stolen from a vacation home located near Smith Mountain Lake in Franklin County, in southwestern Virginia. Items were taken both from the home itself and from a detached garage. Deputies from the Franklin County Sheriff's Office initially responded to the burglary, but Shively, a Sheriff's Office's investigator, was contacted because a firearm was among the stolen items. At the scene, Shively was able to lift three latent fingerprints from the medicine cabinet in the master bedroom, collect footwear impressions, and photograph pry marks from tools on several doors. See generally, Franklin County Sheriff's Office Report, Dkt. No. 44-1; Shively Dep., at 20:20-22:21. Believing the fingerprints to be of sufficient quality, Shively submitted them to the Virginia Department of Forensic Science Western Laboratory. Shively Dep., at 25:25-26:9. Shively did not receive any information back and the case went dormant at that time. Id. at 26:25.
The second burglary occurred on March 22, 2012, in Fredericksburg, a city in northern Virginia. The homeowner and his daughter walked in on the burglary in progress. An officer from the Fredericksburg Police Department initially responded and received a description of the perpetrator: a white male; mid-twenties; 5 foot 6 to 5 foot 8; weighing 140-165 pounds; tattoos on both arms; and short brown wavy hair. The only items stolen were a piggy bank and small sum of money; several items of value were apparently passed over. The piggy bank was recovered outside the home. Approximately forty-five minutes after the initial responding officer arrived, Lamb, a detective and fingerprint examiner with the Fredericksburg Police Department, arrived at the scene. Lamb was able to lift latent fingerprints from the piggy bank and a gel lift of a footwear impression from the yard adjacent to the burglarized home. Lamb also received a description of the suspect from the homeowner similar to what was conveyed to the initial responding officer: a shirtless white male; possibly early to mid-twenties to early-thirties in age; tattoos on both arms with the forearm tattoos being particularly noticeable; no tattoos on his back, which was pale -- not sun tanned; no " farmer's tan" line on the back of the neck; and shorter brown hair that may have been " wavy" that looked to be " neatly cut." See generally, Fredericksburg Police Dep't Report, Dkt. No. 40-3., at 2-4.
B. The Investigation
The Fredericksburg police began canvassing the area for suspects. The burglarized home was near a wooded area containing a number of homeless camps. One officer contacted a homeless individual
known to the police. That individual reported that there was a new person in the homeless community that matched the physical description of the suspect. This newcomer, according to the tipster, possibly had the first name " Ryan."  See generally, Lamb Dep., at 106:1-107:9
That evening, Lamb ran one of the latent fingerprints (L2) from the piggy bank through a database of known prints. This database is made up of fingerprint cards, known as " ten print cards," of known individuals. Lamb used the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (" AFIS" ) to search this database and generate a " candidate list" of potential matches. Lamb then compared the L2 latent to the prints of seven known individuals. Based on his comparisons, Lamb excluded all of them as potential suspects in the Fredericksburg burglary. See Fredericksburg Police Dep't Report, Dkt. No. 40-3, at 5.
On March 26, 2012, Lamb ran another latent print (L6) through the known prints database. Again, Lamb excluded any potential suspects from the AFIS generated candidate list. Lamb Dep., at 112:12-113:9. Next, Lamb ran L6 through a database of unknown latent prints. After his latent-to-latent comparison of L6 to the AFIS generated candidate list, Lamb believed that he had a " hit" -- a latent with sufficient similarity to L6 to warrant further investigation. This hit was the latent fingerprint submitted by Shively in 2009 relating to the Franklin County burglary. Id. at 115:24-116:7; id. at 116:23-117:4.
Shively's Franklin County latent had been entered into the database of unknown latent prints by Lyle Shaver at the Virginia Department of Forensic Science Western Laboratory. Just after 9:00 a.m. on March 28, 2012, Lamb spoke with Shaver. Lamb informed Shaver that he had gotten a " hit" on a latent print Shaver had entered into the database. Tr. of Recorded Conversations, Dkt. No. 44-2, at 2:19-20. Shaver asked if the latent print Lamb had recovered was in the system; Lamb confirmed that it was and gave Shaver the key number. Lamb and Shaver then discussed how they would proceed:
Shaver: Oh okay. Uh, what I will try to do is I will try to pull these up.
Shaver: And make sure everything looks good from my standpoint and then
I will, uh, -- contact the investigating agency from, from out here whoever that might've been and let them know that there's a link between these two cases. . . .
Id. at 4:21-5:4. After Shaver confirmed that Lamb was the lead investigator for the Fredericksburg burglary and acquired Lamb's contact information, the conversation continued:
Shaver: Okay, I will pass this information along. I'll pull it up and see what I got and then, uh, hopefully I'll let, so that way we'll know if something comes up. One of us gets a legitimate suspect and they may have one.
Lamb: Yeah, that's what I'm hoping we can put a name on this joker.
Shaver: All right.
Lamb: Now, my quality of my print, it doesn't look so good on Avis  screen, I'll be happy to, uh, you know, email you a digital image if that would be easier to work with. That's what I do is use a digital scan to match to your print, your print's a lot better.
Shaver: Okay. I probably didn't develop it so I can't take any credit for that.
Shaver: Anyway, let me, let me see, uh, who, uh, who we got here and what all's going on and then, uh.
Shaver: And then I will either get back with you or I'll let the investigator get back with you.
Id. at 5:20-6:18. At this point, the two men exchanged goodbyes and the call ended.
The next day, March 29, 2012, Shaver called Lamb at 1:00 p.m. Shaver first confirmed that the victims of the two burglaries were not the same. Shaver then told Lamb that the only information he had on the prior burglary was that " two suspects entered the residence and stole numerous items." Id. at 22:18-20. Shaver then stated:
Shaver: Yeah and, um, let me be, what I'll do is I'll just give you the investigator's name and phone number.
Shaver: And I want you to contact them.
Lamb: Yes, sir.
Id. at 23:2-7. Shaver then proceeded to provide Lamb with the contact information for Shively. The two then briefly discussed their optimism about finding a suspect and then ended their conversation.
Lamb called Shively that same day. He left a message stating that he " got a print off a crime scene that matched to a print from [Shively's] crime scene" and that he had a " very good suspect description" from eyewitnesses that he wanted to share with Shively. Id. at 8:6-11. Shively called Lamb back just before 2:45 p.m. Shively informed Lamb about the nature of the Franklin County burglary: the type of home, its location, when the burglary occurred, what was stolen, and what sort of evidence he had collected from the scene. Lamb then provided Shively with the same sort of information about the Fredericksburg burglary. He also provided Shively with the physical description he had been given by the Fredericksburg homeowner. He also mentioned the name " Ryan" :
Lamb: " [T]he homeless community, different informants are saying there is a guy, younger guy who's newer to the area that matches. Um, and they, uh, the name Ryan has come up but again nobody, there's not anything you can put any stock in on that."
Id. at 14:5-10. Shively took note of the suspect's distinctive tattoos:
Shively: And you say tattoos on both arms?
Lamb: Yes, sir, very, a lot of tattoos. There was like a sleeve on both arms.
Lamb: And yeah, that was the most ...