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Lawson v. Hedgespeth

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division

July 8, 2019

AMANDA LAWSON; K.B.H., by and through her next of friend, Amanda Lawson; A.L.T., by and through her next of friend, Amanda Lawson; and J.B.T., by and Through his next of friend, Amanda Lawson PLAINTIFFS
v.
JACOB HEDGESPETH DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          GREG N. STIVERS, CHIEF JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (DN 37).[1]For the reasons provided below, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On April 15, 2016, Officers Jacob Hedgespeth (“Officer Hedgespeth”) and Jonathan Leigh (“Officer Leigh”) with the Campbellsville City Police Department (“CCPD”) responded to a domestic dispute at the home of Doug Thompson (“Thompson”). (Hedgespeth Dep. 14:7-17:9, Feb. 13, 2018, DN 37-3). During their response to the domestic dispute, Thompson told the officers that he could arrange a meeting in a local fast-food restaurant's parking lot so that officers could apprehend William Tompkins (“Tompkins”)-the respective husband, father, and stepfather of Plaintiffs Amanda Lawson (“Lawson”), K.B.H., A.L.T., and J.B.T. (collectively “Plaintiffs”). (Hedgespeth Dep. 19:24-21:16). Officer Hedgespeth knew at the time that Tompkins had active warrants out for his arrest. (Hedgespeth 20:18-23:25).

         The officers then arranged for Thompson to meet with Tompkins at the restaurant later that evening under the surveillance of at least three members of CCPD with the goal of apprehending Tompkins. (Hedgespeth Dep. 29:21-32:6). After the officers waited for some time with Thompson stationed in the restaurant's parking lot without any sign of Tompkins, Officer Leigh called the plan off, and the officers left the scene. (Hedgespeth Dep. 37:4-38:5). After failing to apprehend him at the restaurant, the officers agreed to look for Tompkins at his home on Gardner Street. (Hedgespeth Dep. 39:16-41:16).

         The officers then began to execute their new plan. Officer Leigh directed officers to assemble in a high school parking lot near Tompkins' residence and remain there until Tompkins arrived. (Hedgespeth Dep. 42:3-43:12). Officer Hedgespeth testified that because Tompkins was a known flight risk, law enforcement planned to approach on foot from various directions upon his arrival, announce their presence, and surround Tompkins so that he could not escape the scene. (Hedgespeth Dep. 81:10-24).

         Plaintiffs had been with Tompkins earlier that evening moving their belongings to another residence in Campbellsville. (Lawson Dep. 60:16-62:25, Nov. 27, 2017, DN 37-2). After Tompkins arrived at the Gardner Street residence with Plaintiffs in his vehicle, Tompkins parked on the street, exited his car and stood beside it holding a box he had retrieved from inside the vehicle. (Hedgespeth Dep. 51:5-56:25; Lawson Dep. 60:25-63:23). Upon seeing Tompkins, the officers approached while announcing their presence with “Campbellsville Police, ” “[d]on't move, ” and “[g]et on the ground.” (Hedgespeth Dep. 59:6-7; Lawson Dep. 63:25-64:1). Rather than complying with these commands, Tompkins jumped into the car and shut the door. (Lawson Dep. 64:1-6). Lawson repeatedly yelled at him to stop, screaming, “[d]on't run with my kids in the car.” (Lawson Dep. 64:12). Tompkins ignored Lawson's pleas and drove the vehicle to the right, directly at Officer Hedgespeth, who was positioned a few feet from the vehicle's right front headlight. (Hedgespeth Dep. 58:2-9, 89:24-90:8; Lawson Dep. 64:13-65:2). Officer Hedgespeth testified that he tried to evade the vehicle by backing up to his left, but the vehicle was moving faster than he could retreat. (Hedgespeth Dep. 66:10-16, 79:15-22). As the vehicle came at him, Officer Hedgespeth responded by firing four shots aimed at the driver from in front of the vehicle. (Hedgespeth Dep. 66:23-67:3; Lawson Dep. 64:24-65:3). After the shots, Tompkins' vehicle changed course away from Officer Hedgespeth and sped off. (Hedgespeth Dep. 77:4-10; Lawson Dep. 65:4-7). None of the Plaintiffs were hit by any of the bullets. (Lawson Dep. 111:21-25).

         After escaping the scene of his run-in with police, Tompkins exited the car and absconded on foot. (Lawson Dep. 65:4-66:6). Plaintiffs went to a family member's house, then brought the vehicle to CCPD for inspection, and took the minor Plaintiffs to the hospital. (Lawson Dep. 66:22-69:15). Tompkins was later arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to wanton endangerment and evading police. (Tompkins Dep. 23:12-25:2, 25:13-25, Feb. 7, 2018, DN 37-4).

         Plaintiffs brought the present action against Officer Hedgespeth in his individual capacity under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 for violations of their federal constitutional rights, and various state-law claims. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 7, DN 1). Plaintiffs allege Officer Hedgespeth illegally seized them without legal process and used unjustifiable force, intimidation, and excessive force when firing his gun at the vehicle. (Compl. ¶ 12). Plaintiffs claim that they were subjected to unwarranted restraint and severe mental and physical pain because of Officer Hedgespeth's conduct, and that his actions amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. (Compl. ¶¶ 15, 18). Plaintiffs also claim they “sustained physical and mental injuries and are entitled to their claims for medical expenses, past and future, physical pain and suffering, mental pain and suffering, anguish and humiliation and punitive damages, ” in addition to damages for Officer Hedgespeth's intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Compl. ¶¶ 23, 25).

         Officer Hedgespeth now moves for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity, which he argues forecloses Plaintiffs' federal and state claims. (Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 12, 31 DN 37-1 [hereinafter Def.'s Mem.]). In the alternative, Officer Hedgespeth argues Plaintiffs' claims should be dismissed because they have either failed to demonstrate the deprivation of any constitutional right or any state claims under applicable Kentucky law. (Def.'s Mem. 23, 32-33). Plaintiffs contend in response that Officer Hedgespeth is not entitled to qualified immunity because he violated Plaintiffs' clearly established rights when he shot into the vehicle. (Pls.' Resp. Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. 8, DN 47 [hereinafter Pls.' Resp.]). Plaintiffs further contend that they sufficiently alleged facts supporting their state law claims. (Pls.' Resp. 18-20).

         II. JURISDICTION

         Plaintiffs raise claims invoking 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988, as well as the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. (Compl. ¶ 1). This Court has “original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must determine whether there is any genuine issue of material fact that would preclude entry of judgment for the moving party as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of stating the basis for the motion and identifying evidence in the record that demonstrates an absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catretti,477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If the moving party satisfies its burden, the non-moving party must then ...


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