United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Brent Brennenstuhl, Judge
the Court is Defendants, City of Munfordville Chief of Police
Greg Atwell and Lanny Jewell, motion for summary judgment (DN
39). Plaintiff, Stacey Lindsey, has responded at ¶ 51.
Defendants replied at ¶ 54. The parties have consented
to the undersigned conducting all proceedings and entry of
orders of final judgment in accordance with 28 U.S.C. §
636(c) and Fed.R.Civ.P. 73 (DN 33).
a civil rights action brought under 42 U.S.C. §1983 (DN
1). Plaintiff, Stacey Michelle Lindsey, claims that on
February 15, 2017, she was falsely arrested by two Kentucky
State Police Troopers (Id. at 13-17). The arrest
stemmed from an investigation conducted by the Munfordville
Police Department. Four suspects impersonated a social
worker, assaulted Erica Lawler and abducted her child. Lawler
recognized one of the suspects and identified her as Stacie
Lindsey to Defendant Jewell-a detective with
Munfordville City Police-who was assigned to lead the
investigation (DN 49-5 PageID # 444).
discovered the child at Travez Lindsey's home, the
child's father. Travez would not say who brought the
child to his residence. Jewell returned to Lawler's
apartment. She identified Amber Bunch from Bowling Green,
Kentucky as one of her assailants. Using a cell phone left at
the scene, Jewell contacted Amber Bunch who denied being in
Munfordville and informed Jewell that her phone had been
stolen. However, she admitted she knew one of the assailants,
Latoyya Jones-listed as “Toya” on her phone.
Jewell then contacted B.J. Lindsey who provided information
about Stacey Lindsey, her sister, and Latoyya Lindsey,
Stacey's daughter (DN 49-5 PageID # 445).
then contacted Kentucky State Police (“KSP”) to
retrieve a driver's license photograph of Stacey Lindsey
in Warren County. Plaintiff Lindsey is the only Stacey
Lindsey listed in Warren County. Her photograph was sent to
Jewell who showed it to Lawler. Lawler positively identified
Plaintiff as the Stacey Lindsey in the photograph and told
Jewell she knew her personally. Sometime later Jewell
received a call from Latoyya Jones. She admitted that she,
Amber Bunch, Jacobi Lindsey, and Stacey Lindsey assaulted
Lawler, abducted her child, and brought him to Travez
Lindsey's home in Horse Cave. Jewell presented this
information to the Hart County Attorney, Mike Nichols, who
concurred that probable cause existed for the arrest of
Stacey Lindsey. Nichols summoned Lawler to his office. She
again positively identified Plaintiff Stacey Lindsey as one
of her attackers (DN 49-1 Page ID # 450-51).
after this meeting, Lawler signed criminal complaints against
Stacey Lindsey and the other perpetrators. Lindsey was
charged with Burglary in the Second Degree, Custodial
Interference, Assault in the Fourth Degree, and Impersonating
a Public Servant. Pursuant to this warrant, two Kentucky
State Troopers arrived at Lindsey's residence in Bowling
Green, Kentucky and informed her husband that a warrant had
been issued for her arrest. Lindsey vociferously denied the
charges and insisted that the troopers were arresting the
wrong suspect. The troopers asked Lindsey if the driver's
license photograph accompanying the warrant-the same photo
Lawler used to identify her attacker-was her. She replied it
was. The troopers continued to effectuate the arrest.
next morning Lindsey's attorney contacted Chief Atwell of
the Munfordville Police Department and advised him that they
arrested the wrong person. After a subsequent investigation,
Atwell confirmed Plaintiff Lindsey was in fact not the Stacey
Lindsey involved in the assault and kidnapping. Atwell
contacted Nichols who prepared an order releasing Lindsey
from jail. All charges were dropped. Lindsey spent seventeen
and a half hours in jail.
complaint sets forth causes of action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 claiming violations of her rights to due process, to be
free from false arrest and to be free from unreasonable
search and seizure (DN 1). She also asserted claims under
Kentucky law for assault and battery and false
arrest/imprisonment. This Court previously dismissed
Fourteenth Amendment Due Process; state law assault; state
law battery; state law false arrest; and state law false
imprisonment claims (DN 39). All that remains are Fourth
Amendment claims for false arrest and imprisonment and
unlawful search and seizure.
grant a motion for summary judgment, the Court must find that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden
of identifying the basis for its motion and the parts of the
record that demonstrate an absence of any genuine issue of
material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party shows there is an
absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's
case, the nonmoving party must present “significant
probative evidence” to demonstrate that “there is
[more than] some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts.” Moore v. Phillip Morris Cos., 8 F.3d
335, 339-40 (6th Cir. 1993). The Court must determine whether
“the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to
require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided
that one party must prevail as a matter of law.”
Patton v. Bearden, 8 F.3d 343, 346 (6th Cir. 1993)
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 251-52 (1986)). All inferences that may be drawn from
the facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
nonmovant. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). DEFENDANTs argue
that summary judgment is required because qualified immunity
shields them from liability (DN 49-1 PageID # 399). Lindsey
argues that the investigation conducted by Detective Jewell
was plainly incompetent, and therefore not protected by
qualified immunity. See Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S.
335, 341 (1986). Lindsey argues that Jewell should have
“connected the dots” and discovered that she was
not the Stacey Lindsey involved in the assault of Lawler. She
acknowledges that once an officer acquires probable cause to
arrest a suspect he is not obligated to further investigate
possible exculpatory evidence but argues this does not grant
officers impunity to conduct “hasty and unsubstantiated
arrests” (DN 51 PageID # 577).
the shield of qualified immunity is not an easy feat.
Qualified immunity sweeps broadly and affords law enforcement
“ample room for mistaken judgments.” Sova v.
City of Mt. Pleasant, 142 F.3d 898, 902 (6th
Cir. 1998). Once qualified immunity is raised as a defense,
it becomes the plaintiff's burden to prove that it does
not apply. Johnson v. Moseley, 790 F.3d 649, 543
(2015). Officials are protected from personal liability for
civil damages so long as their conduct does not violate
“clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights.” Everson v. Leis, 556 F.3d 484 (6th
Cir. 2009). The right at issue must be sufficiently clear
that that every reasonable official would have understood
that what he is doing violates that right.”
Ashcroft v. Al-Kidd, 131 S.Ct. 2074, 2083 (2011).
right at issue cannot be pleaded generally but must be
sufficiently specific that a reasonable officer would
understand the alleged conduct to be unconstitutional.
Specificity is particularly important in the context of the
Fourth Amendment, where the Court has recognized that it is
difficult for an officer to determine how the relevant legal
doctrine will apply to the factual situation the officer
confronts. Kisela v. Hughes, 138 S.Ct. 1148, 1152
(2018). Lindsey claims that her arrest deprived her of
“clearly established rights, privileges, and immunities
secured by the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth
amendments…These rights include, but are not limited
to, the right to due process of law, the right to be free of
an arrest without probable cause, and the right to be free of
unreasonable searches and seizures” (DN 1 PageID # 8).
It is axiomatic that an individual enjoys the right to be
free from arrests without probable cause. However, a law
enforcement officer is entitled to qualified immunity for a
wrongful arrest, even if his probable cause determination is
incorrect, if a reasonable police officer in his position
could have believed that probable cause to arrest existed.
Avery v. King, 110 F.3d 12, 14 (6th Cir. 1997).
cause to make an arrest exists if the facts and circumstances
within the arresting officer's knowledge were
“sufficient to warrant a prudent man in believing that
the arrestee had committed or was committing an
offense.” Beck v. Ohio, 379 U.S. 89, 91
(1964). Here, Lindsey was erroneously arrested as a result of
detective Jewell's investigation. Crucial to that
investigation was Lawler's positive identification of
Lindsey as one of her assailants. Upon being shown
Lindsey's photograph, Lawler stated that she knew Lindsey
personally and was adamant that Lindsey participated in her
assault (DN 49-5 PageID # 445). She confirmed that
identification again several days later in the office of Hart
County Attorney Mike Nichols (Id.). An
identification of a suspect by an eyewitness is enough to
establish probable cause, unless factual circumstances exist
that creates reason for the officer to believe the eyewitness
was lying or did not accurately describe what she had seen.
Ahlers v. Schebil,1 ...