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Hocker v. Pikeville City Police Dept.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

December 17, 2013

Charles Russell HOCKER, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
PIKEVILLE CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT; Addison Baisden and Chadwick Branham, in their individual and official capacities, Defendants-Appellees.

Argued: Oct. 10, 2013.

Page 151

ARGUED:

Katherine L. MacPherson, Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Appellant.

Russell H. Davis, Jr., Baird and Baird, Pikeville, Kentucky, for Appellees.

ON BRIEF:

Katherine L. MacPherson, Grand Rapids, Michigan, for Appellant.

Russell H. Davis, Jr., Baird and Baird, Pikeville, Kentucky, for Appellees.

Page 152

Before: BOGGS and SUTTON, Circuit Judges; CLELAND, District Judge [*].

OPINION

SUTTON, Circuit Judge.

A heavily intoxicated, possibly suicidal Charles Hocker led two Pikeville police cruisers on a nighttime, lights-off, high-speed chase for seven miles before pulling onto a darkened gravel road. A lot happened in the next few seconds. Officers Addison Baisden and Chadwick Branham exited their cruisers with guns drawn and ordered Hocker to show his hands and turn off his car. Maybe Hocker heard the commands; maybe he didn't. But no matter what Hocker heard, what he did next is beyond dispute: He put his vehicle in reverse— accelerating quickly enough to spin his tires— and rammed one of the two cruisers, moving it thirty feet. Baisden and Branham opened fire on Hocker's vehicle. Once the shooting ended, they forcibly removed a severely wounded Hocker from his car. After pleading guilty to two counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree, one count of fleeing or evading police in the first degree, and one count of driving under the influence, Hocker sued the officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming excessive force. The district court granted qualified immunity to the officers and rejected the claims against the other defendants in the case: the City of Pikeville and its police department. We affirm.

I.

After getting off work on August 13, 2010, Hocker drank a six-pack of Budweiser " Tall Boy" beers, and at approximately 10:30 pm he drove to the home of his on-again, off-again girlfriend Jessica Batten. A protective order, however, directed Hocker not to go to Batten's house. Batten called 911, reporting that Hocker was " highly intoxicated" and " suicidal" and that he had just left her home in a red Honda.

Officers Baisden and Branham saw a red Honda Prelude with its headlights off speed past their two police cruisers. Hocker admits that the lights of his Prelude were off, that he was traveling between 70 and 80 miles per hour, and that he passed at least one civilian vehicle on the winding, narrow Hurricane Road. The officers gave chase. Hocker denies seeing or hearing the officers— neither the headlights nor the red-and-blue flashing lights nor the sirens of the two police cars directly behind him— during the seven-mile ...


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