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Estate of Collins v. Wilburn

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division, Ashland

September 15, 2017

ESTATE OF BILLY COLLINS, JR., BILLY JOE COLLINS, ADMINISTRATOR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STEPHEN WILBURN, Individually and in his Official Capacity, JORDAN MILLER, Individually and in his Official Capacity, GREG FUGITT, Individually and in his Official Capacity, LOUISA CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT and CITY OF LOUISA, KENTUCKY, DEFENDANTS.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          HENRY R. WILHOIT, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court upon the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 71]. The matter has been fully briefed by the parties [Docket Nos. 71-1, 82 and 83]. For the reasons stated herein, the Court finds that the Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         I.

         This case arises from the arrest of Billy Collins, Jr. on May 29, 2015 in Louisa, Kentucky. On that night, Sergeant Stephen Wilburn of the Louisa City Police Department ("LPD") was working a local high school graduation assigned to crowd and traffic control. [Docket No. 62, Deposition of Sergeant Wilburn, p. 46].

         After the graduation ceremony concluded, as traffic was letting out, Chief Greg Fugitt of LPD observed Collins' truck, which had been driven over a hill, through a grassy area and into a ditch. Id. He asked Sergeant Wilburn to investigate, which he did. Id. at pp.46-47.

         Sergeant Wilburn approached Collins' vehicle and asked what was going on and how he ended up there. Id. at p. 49. He also obtained Collins' license, insurance information, and ran his tags. Id. Collins was driving on a suspended license. Sergeant Wilburn testified that he suspected Collins may have been under the influence of alcohol since he observed a bucket of beer on ice sitting in the passenger seat of the truck and numerous open beer bottles and cans strewn about the cabin. Id. at pp. 49-50, 53. Sergeant Wilburn attempted to keep speaking with Collins while trying to conduct a field sobriety test to ensure he was not under the influence. Id. at p. 50. Ultimately, however, Sergeant Wilburn did not observe any positive indications of alcohol intoxication.

         During and after the field sobriety test, while he was attempting to speak with Collins, Collins was screaming and cursing at people who were leaving the graduation, despite Sergeant Wilburn asking him to stop. Id. at pp. 53-55. He did not. Therefore, Sergeant Wilburn informed Collins he was going to be charged with disorderly conduct and placed under arrest. Id. At that time, Sergeant Wilburn filed out a citation for disorderly conduct and for operating on a suspended license. Id. at p.56.

         After placing Collins under arrest, Sergeant Wilburn did not handcuff Collins. During his deposition, he explained that Collins was very agitated at that point and Wilburn believed that if he could get Collins to come sit in his patrol car uncuffed, Collins would be more willing to cooperate. Id. at p. 57. This proved to be correct, and Collins agreed to sit in the back seat of the patrol vehicle. Id.

         Upon arriving at the LPD headquarters, Collins refused to exit the patrol vehicle, despite being requested to do so, repeatedly by Sergeant Wilburn. Id. at p. 58. After telling Sergeant Wilburn he preferred to stay in the patrol car, he eventually agreed: "Fuck you motherfucker, I guess I'll go." [Docket No. 65, Kentucky State Police Investigative Report, p. 11, Page ID# 1010].

         Collins eventually exited the vehicle and continued cursing at Sergeant Wilburn. [Docket No. 62, Depo. of Sergeant Wilburn, p. 58].

         As Sergeant Wilburn escorted Collins up the ramp outside of the police department, Collins suddenly turned and with both hands grabbed the railing and refused to let go after Sergeant Wilburn instructed him to do so. Id. at pp. 58-59.

         At the time, the video camera attached to Sergeant's Wilburn's vest, commonly known as a body cam, began recording. A CD of the recording is part of the record herein at Docket No. 71-2. The undersigned has viewed the recording.

         The recording begins with Sergeant Wilburn repeatedly asked him to let go of the railing, yet Collins refused to turn the rail loose while screaming and yelling. Id. at p. 59; and CD of Sergeant Wilburn Body Camera Video, 20:19:40 - 20:20:05.

         Sergeant Wilburn again used asked Collins to let go of the rail so that they could go inside, to which again Collins refused. Id. It is at this time that Sergeant Wilburn stated to Collins that if he did not let go of the railing he would have to cuff him behind his back. Id.

         When Sergeant Wilburn attempted to put a handcuff on Collins, he only succeeded in cuffing the left wrist of Collins before he tensed up, pulled away from the officer, and became more agitated. Id. at pp. 59-60 and CD, 20:20:00-20:20:05.

         Collins refused to physically let go of the railing and allow handcuffs to be applied. Sergeant Wilburn warned Collins he was going to deploy his taser should he continue to refuse stating: "I'm gonna light you up. Let go of the rail right now. We can do this easy or hard, come on. Billy?" CD, 20:20:05 - 20:20:19. Collins continued to curse and yell at Sergeant Wilburn, yelling "Bullshit! You ain't my goddamn boss!" CD, 20:20:23 - 20:20:25. "You better let the fuck go of me. I'm gonna get pissed off. You ain't gonna like it." CD, 20:20:25-20:20:33.

         Collins continued to refuse to let go of the rail. Only one handcuff was applied at this point to Collins' left wrist. Collins then taunted Sergeant Wilburn stating, "Why don't you go ahead and get mad. Go and get mad. I want you to get mad. Get mad, boy. Go ahead." CD, 20:20:34 - 20:20:41. Sergeant Wilburn was still asking Collins to "come on" and to release the rail so that they could go inside.

         At this point Sergeant Wilburn radioed Officer Miller to confirm he was on his way as backup. CD, 20:20:43 - 20:20:50. Sergeant Wilburn again requested Collins to "let go of the banister, " and again Collins refused, responding "Fuck you." CD, 20:20:50 - 20:20:52.

         With Officer Miller pulling into LPD's parking lot, Sergeant Wilburn again repeatedly asked Collins - almost a dozen times in fact - to let go of the banister, and at that time pulled his Taser to apply a drive-stun if Collins continued to refuse while giving Collins two warnings he was going to be tased if he did not comply. [Docket No. 62, Depo. of Sergeant Wilburn, pp. 60, 76; CD, 20:20:52-20:21:27].

         At that time Sergeant Wilburn issued a drive-stun to the upper shoulder of Collins, which was not effective as Collins immediately turned towards Sergeant Wilburn and began to physically assault him by first striking him in the chest and then taking a ...


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