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Anderson v. City of Fulton

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky

August 29, 2019

BOB ANDERSON, Administrator of the Estate of Charles Christopher McClure, Deceased, and Next Friend of S.M., B.M., and C.M., Minor Daughters of Mr. McClure
v.
CITY OF FULTON, KENTUCKY, et al. DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          THOMAS B. RUSSELL, SENIOR JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant Lonnie Bell's Motion to Dismiss. [R. 50.] Plaintiff Bob Anderson responded, [R. 51], and Bell replied, [R. 52]. Fully briefed, this matter is ripe for adjudication. For the reasons stated herein, Bell's Motion to Dismiss, [R. 50], is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         The general factual background of this case can be found in the Court's previous Memorandum Opinion and Order from November 28, 2018, [R. 41.] The Motion to Dismiss before the Court solely involves the claims against Lonnie Bell, a member of the Critical Incident Response Team (“CIRT”), [1] who was assigned the task of investigating the shooting at issue.[2] During the course of his investigation, Bell interviewed Fulton Police Chief Terry Powell, Lieutenant James Buckingham, and Fulcher (another officer at the scene), reviewed the footage from Powell's dashcam, and reviewed the footage from Buckingham's bodycam. [Id. at 7.] Anderson states that although the camera footage refutes any justification by the police officers for the fatal shooting, Bell nonetheless concluded that Mr. McClure “continued to swing the post at a police … officer in a threatening manner, which resulted in Mr. McClure being shot and killed by a police officer.” [Id.] Bell then took the conclusions of his investigation to Commonwealth Attorney Michael Stacy, who presented the case to a Grand Jury. [Id.] Anderson alleges that Bell explicitly or implicitly made several, factual misrepresentations to the Grand Jury about what occurred at the scene. [Id. at 8.] Further detail concerning Bell's grand jury testimony can be found in the discussion below.

         On October 4, 2018, Anderson filed the First Amended Complaint, in which he alleged eight causes of action, including “[v]iolation of Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, ” “negligence/gross negligence, ” battery, wrongful death, loss of consortium, hindrance of prosecution, perjury, and abuse of public office, against nine defendants. [Id. at 9-11.][3]

         LEGAL STANDARD

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). In order to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a party must “plead enough ‘factual matter' to raise a ‘plausible' inference of wrongdoing.” 16630 Southfield Ltd. P'ship v. Flagstar Bank, F.S.B., 727 F.3d 502, 504 (6th Cir. 2013) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). A claim becomes plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court must presume all of the factual allegations in the complaint are true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Total Benefits Planning Agency, Inc. v. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, 552 F.3d 430, 434 (6th Cir. 2008) (citing Great Lakes Steel v. Deggendorf, 716 F.2d 1101, 1105 (6th Cir. 1983)). “The court need not, however, accept unwarranted factual inferences.” Id. (citing Morgan v. Church's Fried Chicken, 829 F.2d 10, 12 (6th Cir. 1987)). Should the well-pleaded facts support no “more than the mere possibility of misconduct, ” then dismissal is warranted. Iqbal, 556 U.S at 679. The Court may grant a motion to dismiss “only if, after drawing all reasonable inferences from the allegations in the complaint in favor of the plaintiff, the complaint still fails to allege a plausible theory of relief.” Garceau v. City of Flint, 572 Fed.Appx. 369, 371 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-79).

         DISCUSSION

         In the Amended Complaint, Bell is included amongst the listed defendants for Anderson's claims of “[v]iolation of Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, ” “negligence/gross negligence, ” battery, wrongful death, loss of consortium, hindrance of prosecution, perjury, and abuse of public office. [R. 25 at 9-11.] In response to Anderson's § 1983 claim, amongst other arguments, Bell maintains that he is entitled to absolute immunity. [R. 50 at 5.] As for the state claims asserted against him, Bell argues that Anderson has failed to state a claim. [Id. at 14-18.] The Court will address each of these issues in turn.

         I. Absolute Immunity for Grand Jury Testimony

         In his Motion to Dismiss, Bell asserts that he is absolutely immune from Anderson's § 1983 claim against him as it is based on his testimony in front of the Grand Jury. [R. 50 at 5-6.]

         In the Amended Complaint, Anderson claims that after Bell investigated the incident involving McClure's fatal shooting:

         Defendant Bell explicitly or implicitly misrepresented to the Grand Jury the following:

a. That there were attempts made to “subdue” Mr. McClure before he was shot;
b. That Mr. McClure, when he struck the front windshield of Defendant Powell's SUV with the pipe he was carrying, was trying to strike Defendant Powell and not just his windshield;
c. That when Defendant Buckingham exited his vehicle, he walked to the back of his vehicle, whereupon Mr. McClure broke the back windshield of Defendant Buckingham's vehicle and then “raised the pipe in a threatening manner, ” whereupon he was shot the first time by Defendant Buckingham;
d. That after Mr. McClure was shot the first time, he was “kicking” and keeping his hands “hidden”;
e. That given Defendant Buckingham's “close proximity” to Mr. McClure, Mr. McClure's “weapon” and “what he was electing to do with it”, there were no options available to Defendant Buckingham other than to shoot Mr. McClure;
f. That had Defendant Buckingham failed to subdue Mr. McClure with a non-lethal force alternative such as a taser, he would have been left ...

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