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Williams v. Dame

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Owensboro Division

February 15, 2019

DONALD EUGENE WILLIAMS, II PLAINTIFF
v.
DEPUTY KYLE DAME et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOSEPH H. MCKINLEY JUDGE.

         Before the Court are the motion for summary judgment (DN 27) filed by Defendant Chad Voss and the motion for summary judgment (DN 31) filed by Defendant Kyle Dame. Plaintiff Donald Eugene Williams, II has responded (DN 37), and Defendants have replied (DNs 38, 39, & 40-1). The matters being ripe, the Court will grant Defendants' motions for the following reasons.

         I. STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 complaint alleged that his constitutional rights were violated by the use of excessive force during his arrest. Plaintiff sued Deputy Dame of the Union County Sheriff's Department and Officer Voss of the Morganfield Kentucky Police Department. He alleged that on November 7, 2016, he was fleeing from Defendants when he was tased in his back and the back of his head causing him “to fall and shatter multiple bones in face, missing teeth, and multiple surgeries.” He alleges that Defendants used excessive force by deploying two different tasers. He states, “By them tasing me in the location they did I fell down an embankment, that much force was not deemed in the accounts of my crime while fleeing on foot.” On initial review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court allowed Plaintiff's claims to continue against Defendants in their individual capacities.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The moving party's burden may be discharged by demonstrating that there is an absence of evidence to support an essential element of the nonmoving party's case for which he has the burden of proof. Id. Once the moving party demonstrates this lack of evidence, the burden passes to the nonmoving party to establish, after an adequate opportunity for discovery, the existence of a disputed factual element essential to his case with respect to which he bears the burden of proof. Id. If the record taken as a whole could not lead the trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, the motion for summary judgment should be granted. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Defendant Dame's motion for summary judgment

         Defendant Dame argues in his motion for summary judgment that Plaintiff admits to fleeing on foot from law enforcement officers to avoid being arrested despite being told to stop and warned that he would be tased if he refused to stop. He further argues that the evidence establishes that Plaintiff fell twice before Defendant Dame used his taser and that Plaintiff has acknowledged that he fell down an embankment leading to his injuries.

         Defendant Dame further argues that he is qualifiedly immune because his actions were not objectively unreasonable, especially taking into account that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving circumstances. He points to the fact that Plaintiff was refusing to obey his order to stop fleeing.

         Finally, Defendant Dame points out that, with regard to Plaintiff's argument that he sustained serious injuries during his flight, Fourth Amendment analysis does not consider the extent of injury but only whether an officer subjected the detainee to gratuitous violence.

         The police reports attached to Defendant Dame's summary-judgment motion show that on each of two days prior to November 7, 2016, shoplifting occurred at Wal-Mart. The modus operandi of the crimes was that one subject would enter the store, take merchandise without paying, run out, hop into a van which was running and waiting, and then flee the scene. On November 7, 2016, Wal-Mart alerted law enforcement that the same subject had just fled the scene. Defendants Voss and Dame were informed and pursued in two separate vehicles. They spotted the van in question getting gas at a gas station and used their vehicles to block it at the gas pump. Plaintiff got out of the van and fled on foot despite being commanded by Defendant Voss to stay in the vehicle.

         Defendant Dame's affidavit in support of his summary-judgment motion avers that he pursued Plaintiff on foot, yelling for Plaintiff to stop a number of times; that he warned Plaintiff that if he did not stop fleeing he would use his taser; and that Plaintiff fell at least twice prior to his deployment of his taser - once down a steep embankment and once on a paved roadway. He further avers that when he deployed his taser Plaintiff was in a cornfield. Defendant Dame also avers that he believes that Plaintiff's injuries were the result of falling down the embankment or on the road. He avers that he deployed his taser only once and that “[b]oth prongs from my taser struck [Plaintiff].”

         In Plaintiff's deposition testimony, submitted into the record, the following colloquy occurred: “Q. So is it true . . . that you basically don't remember anything once you got out of the car until you woke up in the ambulance or the hospital? A. Yes, ma'am.” DN 28, Plaintiff's Depo. p. 31. Elsewhere, Plaintiff's deposition testimony was as follows: “Q. So literally from the point whenever you jumped out of the car when ...


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