BRIAN C. LEE, SR., Plaintiff - Appellant,
TOWN OF SEABOARD, Defendant-Appellee.
Argued: March 23, 2017
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of North Carolina, at Raleigh. James C. Dever III,
Chief District Judge. (2:13-cv-00020-D)
Laurence Doggett, DOGGETT LAW OFFICES, Raleigh, North
Carolina, for Appellant.
Hartzog, Jr., CRANFILL, SUMNER & HARTZOG, LLP, Raleigh,
North Carolina, for Appellee.
Hartzog, CRANFILL, SUMNER & HARTZOG, LLP, Raleigh, North
Carolina, for Appellee.
NIEMEYER, KING, and WYNN, Circuit Judges.
on the morning of May 15, 2010, Sergeant Howard Phillips
("Sergeant Phillips"), a police officer employed by
Defendant Town of Seaboard, North Carolina
("Seaboard"), shot and wounded Plaintiff Brian C.
Lee, Sr. ("Lee") as Lee was driving to escape a mob
that had attacked him as he left a party at an Elks Lodge in
Seaboard. Lee filed a diversity suit in federal district
court against Seaboard, asserting a variety of state-law tort
claims relating to the shooting. Seaboard moved for summary
judgment, arguing that Sergeant Phillips's use of deadly
force was justified under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-
401(d)(2), thus precluding Lee's state-law tort claims.
The district court granted the motion, holding that the
undisputed evidence established that Sergeant Phillips
reasonably believed deadly force was necessary because Lee
posed an imminent threat to Sergeant Phillips and others. But
upon viewing the facts in the light most favorable to Lee, as
we must, see Bauer v. Lynch, 812 F.3d 340, 347 (4th
Cir. 2016), the record reveals several genuine disputes of
material fact bearing on the reasonableness of Sergeant
Phillips's decision to use deadly force against Lee.
Accordingly, we conclude that the district court reversibly
erred in awarding summary judgment in favor of Seaboard.
evening of May 14, 2010, Lee, his brother, and his cousin
drove from Norfolk, Virginia, to attend a party at an Elks
Lodge in Seaboard, a town of 500 people. Lee was invited to
the party by another cousin who was serving as deejay at the
party. Between 9:30 PM and 10:00 PM, Lee and his companions
arrived at the Elks Lodge to attend the party, which included
between fifty and seventy-five partygoers. Off-duty Seaboard
Police Officer David Twine ("Officer Twine")
provided security for the party, and on-duty Seaboard Police
Sergeant Phillips monitored the party by repeatedly visiting
the Elks Lodge throughout the night and patrolling the area
around the lodge.
A.M., with between twenty and thirty partygoers remaining,
Sergeant Phillips and Officer Twine announced that the party
was over. Because there was, as stated by Lee, "tension
in the air with the Seaboard crowd, " J.A. 349, Sergeant
Phillips and Officer Twine escorted Lee and his companions to
their car through a crowd of fifteen to twenty local men who
"rush[ed] up on" the three men, J.A. ...