United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
E. Conrad Senior United States District Judge.
Eric Routon, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this
civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Routon
alleges that the defendants, who are state and local
government officials, violated his constitutional rights
during separate incidents, in May 2014 and January 2018, when
sheriffs deputies investigated and arrested Routon. The
defendants named in the original complaint have filed motions
to dismiss. Routon has responded to their motions, but has
also filed an amended complaint. After review of the record,
the court finds that the motions to dismiss are ripe for
disposition as to that amended complaint. The court concludes
that while many of Routon's claims must be dismissed, his
Fourth Amendment claims and related state law claims against
Defendants Dameron and Norton survive their motion to
signed and dated his complaint on March 7, 2018,
was granted the opportunity to proceed in forma pauperis
under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(b). In carrying out its
obligation under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d) to accomplish
service on the defendants, the court encountered some
difficulties and required Routon to provide additional
information. In the meantime, those defendants who had
already waived service filed motions to dismiss on June 8,
2018. Routon then submitted his motion for leave to file a
proposed amended complaint, signed and dated on June 28,
2018. Because Routon's amended complaint must be
considered filed on that date, the court finds that it is
proper under Rule 15(a)(1)(B) (authorizing amended complaint
within twenty-one days after motion to dismiss is filed).
Therefore, the court will grant the motion and direct the
clerk to add the defendants newly named in the amended
complaint to the docket. Routon omitted Jay Mason and Robbie
Hodges from the list of defendants in the amended complaint,
and his submissions as a whole also indicate that he has
abandoned his claims against them. Therefore, the court will
dismiss them from the case.
May 2014 Incidents.
2014, Routon shared a house with his fiance, Michelle Page,
in Rocky Mount, Virginia. On the evening of May 6, 2014,
Bryan Johnson and Chad Austin, deputies of the Franklin
County Sheriffs Office ("FCSO"), arrived at that
house in separate patrol cars after receiving a report of
"suspicious activity." Am. Compl. Exh. A, ECF No.
47-2. They found Page sitting in the driver's seat of her
car, with Routon standing beside the car. The deputies
blocked the end of the driveway with their cars, separated
the couple, and began talking to them. While Johnson was
speaking to Page, Routon explained to Austin that he and Page
were having a dispute, but he had called someone for a ride
to his parents' house. Austin allowed Routon to start
walking down, the street. After a few minutes, however,
Austin's patrol car pulled up next to Routon, the deputy
ordered Routon to empty his pockets and surrender his cell
phone, frisked him, and then drove him back to the house.
Austin said "he was detaining [Routon] for investigation
because 'something' had been found on" Page. Am.
Compl. 14, ECF No. 47-1.
Johnson was talking to Page, she told him that she had come
to the car "to get away from Routon, because she knew
that he wouldn't do anything out in the driveway."
Am. Compl. Exh. A, ECF No. 47-2. She then "took a small
baggie with a white substance in it from her bra and handed
it to" Johnson, saying that she had "swiped it off
the table as she came out of the house." Id.
Michelle also told Johnson that Routon had taken a gun from
her and hidden it in her car. After a search, they found a
loaded .22 caliber handgun in the console, and Johnson
deputies later began to question Routon about the gun and who
owned it, but he invoked his right to remain silent. At this
point, Page was handcuffed and placed in the backseat of
Johnson's patrol car, and Routon was handcuffed and
placed in Austin's car. They remained in the vehicles for
five and a half hours.
deputies arrived-defendants Lyle, Hylton, Ingram and
Shockley. Lyle and Shockley questioned Routon about the
substance Johnson had found on Page, which Ingram field
tested and identified as methamphetamine. Routon alleges that
Page had earlier consumed methamphetamine in Johnson's
presence and was "highly intoxicated." Am. Compl.
at 18. Defendants Tyree, Straub, Newberry, and Willis,
special agents with the Virginia Department of State Police
("VDSP") drove up, responding to a "meth
lab" call from the dispatcher. Id. at 29.
Defendants Peters, Naff, Angle, Waterman, Stiltner, and
Shepard of the Boones Mill Fire-EMS-Franklin County Public
Safety Company 7 all arrived in private vehicles, and other
EMS defendants (Evans, Rorrer, and Ball) drove up in a fire
engine tanker truck. They had been "dispatched to
assist" in decontaminating Page and Routon who were
suspected of "running a meth lab." Id. at
30. The officers' vehicles blocked traffic on the street,
and the noise and flashing lights drew a crowd of curious
and another deputy, Joshua Mason, had Page execute a consent
for a search of the house, despite her intoxicated state.
That search was conducted just after midnight by deputies
Hylton and Shockley, who did not have a search warrant.
1:00 a.m., Page was taken from the patrol car, uncuffed, and
led away. Routon shortly heard her "screaming and
crying," and then officers returned her to the patrol
car, now dressed in a "Tyvek suit." Id. at
20. Austin let Routon out of the car and led him to an open,
grassy area of the yard, uncuffed him, and ordered him to
remove his clothes to be "decontaminated."
Id. at 21. Ingram explained that someone would spray
Routon's naked body, using the hose from the firetruck
parked in the street. Routon refused to remove more than his
shirt, because male and female neighbors were
watching. Austin and Ingram "slammed"
Routon to the ground, "beat" and
"punched" him, "ripped" his clothing and
shoes off, "dragged [him] naked and forced [him] to
stand in front of the firehose." Id. at 22. The
high-pressure stream of water caused him pain, particularly
when it struck his genitals. Afterward, the deputies had him
don a Tyvek suit and put him back in handcuffs in the patrol
was charged with four methamphetamine offenses. After a
preliminary hearing in . June 2014, these charges were
dismissed by the Franklin County General District Court. In
July 2014, a Franklin County grand jury returned five felony
indictments, charging Routon with conspiracy, manufacturing
methamphetamine, possession of precursors to manufacture the
drug, distribution of methamphetamine, and possession of a
firearm as a felon. Court records online indicate that Routon
pleaded guilty in Franklin County Circuit Court on January
29, 2015, to the charge of possession of a firearm as a
felon, and the drug-related charges were dismissed on January
29, 2015. After several continuances, Routon was
sentenced on the firearm conviction on April 7, 2017.
January 2018 Incident.
January 19, 2018, Routon was staying in Room 106 of the
Hometown Inn Motel in Rocky Mount, with a guest, Brittany
Nichols. About 4:00 p.m., FCSO Deputies Dameron and Norton
came to the door and asked for Nichols. She went outside
to talk to Norton, and Routon agreed to step outside to talk.
When he did so, Dameron moved to block Routon from reentering
told Routon that before the deputies knocked on the motel
room door, they had spoken to the motel owner, Mr. Patel, who
verified for them that Routon's name was on the lease for
Room 106.. Patel then allegedly gave his
"permission" for the deputies to search Room 106.
Id. at 41. Dameron said the deputies would search
the room, but Routon refused to consent to a search. Dameron
said he would bring a drug-sniffing dog and search the room
if the dog alerted for drugs. When Routon demanded to reenter
the room to get his cellphone to call his attorney, Dameron
physically restrained him from doing so and checked
Routon's pockets. The deputy said that Norton would get a
search warrant for the room, but that Routon could not
reenter because Dameron "smelled 'pot' on
[him]." Id. at 37.
[Routon] reentered the room" anyway, Dameron
"immediately crossed the threshold .. . into the room
and "tackled [Routon] to the floor." Id.
Dameron was "punching" Routon on one side, and
Norton was "kneeing" him on the other side
"for several minutes." Id.
r Face down, Routon was handcuffed
behind his back, when Dameron "choked" him so that
he could not breathe. Id. Dameron placed Routon in
his patrol car. The deputies then entered Room 106 with
Nichols, who was screaming and crying. Routon saw Norton
leave the room and deposit something in her patrol car.
Dameron attempted to question Routon about an item from the
room, but Routon asked to speak to his attorney. While Norton
was gone to get a search warrant, Dameron entered the room
with Nichols, who allegedly showed him "a 'one
pot' meth lab.'" Id. at 52. Dameron
then telephoned Norton to tell her what details to put in the
affidavit in support of the warrant application.
Norton returned with a search warrant, she conducted a search
of Room 106. No marijuana was discovered there. Because of
the contraband that was found, officials contacted the VDSP,
which dispatched unnamed members of a "clandestine
methamphetamine laboratory clean up crew" to the motel
room. Id. at 46. Unspecified members of the Boones
Mill Company 7 also reported to assist. Dameron drove Routon
to the Franklin County Jail, where he was allowed to
decontaminate himself in a holding cell using disinfecting
were obtained and served on Routon for assault on law
enforcement, possession of a Schedule II drug, manufacture of
methamphetamine, possession of paraphernalia, and obstruction
of justice. See Am. Compl. Ex. G-2, ECF No. 47-3. Copies of
the indictments that resulted from one or more of these
charges are not in the record. State court records online
indicate that two 2018 charges against Routon in Franklin
County Circuit Court have been dismissed.
construed, the amended complaint asserts the following
1. On May 5-6, 2014, Johnson and Austin conspired to commit
an unreasonable search and seizure of Routon's house, in
violation of the Fourth Amendment.
2. Lyle, Ingram, Austin, and Johnson used excessive force
against Routon on May 5-6, 2014, by slamming him to the
ground, beating him, ripping his clothes off, and spraying
him with a high-powered fire hose, and allowed female
onlookers to see him naked, in violation of the Fourth
Amendment, and the other defendants at the scene failed to
3. Franklin County Sheriff Overton, Boones Mill Mayor Flora,
Boones Mill Fire Chief Peters and the Fire Department itself,
VDPS Superintendent Settle, and VDPS Colonel Flaherty are
vicariously liable for the tortious actions of their