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Brown v. Albemarle County Police Department

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

August 9, 2016



          Hon. Jackson L. Kiser Senior United States District Judge

         Latron Dupree Brown, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed a complaint pursuant to . 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Albemarle County Police Department and local police officers associated with the Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement Task Force. Plaintiff alleged, inter alia, that the police officers' use of excessive force and denial of medical assistance violated his federal rights. By a prior memorandum opinion and order, I granted in part and denied in part defendants' motions to dismiss and ordered the current defendants - police officers Johnson, McKay, Coffin, Suitz, Frazier, Hatter, Wormley, Jones, McCall, and Brake - to file motions for summary judgment. These motions have been filed, and Plaintiff responded, making the matter ripe for disposition. After reviewing the record, I grant in part and deny in part defendants' motions for summary judgment, and the excessive force claim against defendant Johnson must be resolved by trial.



         Plaintiff alleges the following facts as his remaining two claims:

On [December 19, 2013, ] ... I was pulled out of the vehicle I was inside after Sgt[.] Johnson busted the driver's side window out with his handgun. I was pulled to the ground then handcuffed[.] ... I layed [sic] face down posing no threat to Officers or resistance[.] Dell Johnson started twisting my wrist until it broke ....
Tavis Coffin ordered Officer McCall to tase me two times in the back while I layed face down handcuffed without resistance [, ] posing no threat[, and] moving in pain from my wrist being broken. An ambulance arrived[.] Dell Johnson, Jon Seitz, Sgt[.] Brake[, ] Officer McCall, Mark Jones, Wormley, [and] Tavis Coffin denied me medical treatment.

         Notably, Plaintiff does not give evidence of when defendant Johnson allegedly broke his wrist during the arrest.


         Video from Officer McCall's police-cruiser dashcam was filed in support of a motion for summary judgment.[1] The video shows Officer McCall driving to a busy intersection controlled by a traffic light where Plaintiff stopped his car in a line of traffic. Once the police cruiser approaches Plaintiffs car, Detective Jones, who wore plain-clothes, pointed a pistol at Plaintiff inches from the closed driver's window. Detective Jones had jumped out of a black, unmarked SUV, and an unmarked black sedan had pulled across the front of Plaintiff s car.

         After holding the pistol at Plaintiffs face for about three seconds, Detective Jones tried to smash in the driver's window, but Plaintiff reversed his car for about five feet as Detective Jones placed the muzzle of the pistol against the driver's window. Officer McCall, who wore a uniform, ran to the car and smashed the driver's window with a baton. At that moment, Detective Coffin, who wore a jacket reading "POLICE" in large white letters, and Detective Johnson, another officer who wore plain clothes and a vest displaying a police badge and "POLICE" written in smaller white letters, joined Detective Jones and Officer McCall at the driver's door.[2] Although just out of the camera's view, it appears the four officers at the driver's door negotiated with Plaintiff or tried to pull him out of the car, but the viewer can hear the officers repeatedly ordering Plaintiff to not move his hands. Forty seconds elapsed between when the driver's window was smashed and Detective Jones removed Plaintiff from the car.

         Detective Jones forced Plaintiff to the ground just in front of the bumper of Officer McCall's car and about five feet from the driver's door of Plaintiff s car. Officer McCall immediately helped Detective Jones secure Plaintiff on the ground. The video shows the heads, shoulders, and backs of the officers in front of the bumper, but the viewer cannot see Plaintiff due to the angle of the dashcam.

         Within eight seconds of Plaintiff hitting the ground, Officer McCall unholstered his Taser while approximately four other officers skirmished with Plaintiff on the ground.[3] Detective Coffin shouted, "Taser! Taser! Taser!" A second later, Officer McCall deployed the Taser, Plaintiff began screaming, 'and an officer shouts, "Give me your arm!" After about thirty seconds, the officers stop skirmishing on top of Plaintiff. Detective Coffin secured leg irons to Plaintiffs legs as Plaintiff began to scream. Detectives Seitz and Jones returned to their SUV, drove away, and did not return.

         Plaintiff screamed intermittently for the next few minutes until the officers on top of Plaintiff do something out of the dashcam's view. Plaintiff began screaming again, and the officers again skirmished on top of Plaintiff. About a minute later, Officer McCall removed Plaintiffs belt, Plaintiff and the officers talked for several minutes until Plaintiff screamed again, and the parties talked for several more minutes. Plaintiff resumed screaming for a little more than a minute.

         About four minutes later, Detective Coffin stood Plaintiff up, and the officers and Plaintiff moved completely out of view. The officers told Plaintiff to sit on the roadway, and Plaintiff screamed again while an officer shouted, "Stop resisting!" A police van arrived about a minute later. Detective Wormley, Detective Johnson, Detective Coffin, and Officer McCall carried Plaintiff, who was bucking, flailing, and screaming, into the back of the police van. ...

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