Stryker v. Homewood, City of et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER that the motions for summary judgment are GRANTED and the state claims are DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE; as more fully set out in order. Signed by Judge Liles C Burke on 1/9/2019. (AHI)
2019 Jan-09 PM 01:20
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CITY OF HOMEWOOD, et al.,
Case No.: 2:16-cv-00832-LCB 1
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Moses Stryker brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against
the City of Homewood, Alabama (“the City”), and police officers Jason Davis,
Frederick Blake, and Brian Waid, in their individual capacities. 2
alleges that Officers Davis, Blake, and Waid used excessive and unnecessary force
while arresting him in the early morning hours of May 23, 2014. In Count I of his
second amended complaint, 3 Mr. Stryker asserts an excessive force claim against
This matter was previously assigned to the Honorable Virginia Emerson Hopkins. The case
was reassigned to the undersigned, Judge Liles C. Burke, on October 23, 2018. (Doc. Entry
The individual defendants were police officers with the City of Homewood at the time of the
events described in the second amended complaint. The Court is unaware of their current
Plaintiff’s initial complaint asserted claims against the City and the individual defendants for
excessive force, illegal seizure, and false arrest under Section 1983; excessive force and illegal
seizure against the City’s police chief, Jim Roberson; and state law claims against all defendants
for assault and battery, negligent hiring; negligent training and supervision, and abuse of process.
the individual defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In Count II, he asserts a Section
1983 claim against the City for failure to train and supervise. Mr. Stryker asserts
state law claims against only the individual defendants for assault and battery
(Count III), negligence (Count IV), and wantonness (Count V).
The matter is now before the Court on a motion for summary judgment filed
by the City (Doc. 87), and a separate motion for summary judgment filed
collectively by Officers Davis, Blake, and Waid. (Doc. 88). The motions have
been fully briefed by all parties to the case. 4 The individual defendants argue that
they are entitled to qualified immunity as to Mr. Stryker’s Section 1983 claim. As
to the state law claims, they argue that they are entitled to peace officer immunity
under Ala. Code § 6-5-338(a). The City argues that because Mr. Stryker cannot
survive summary judgment on his Section 1983 claim against the individual
defendants, his Section 1983 claim against the City necessarily fails. For the
reasons set forth below, the Court finds that the City’s and the defendants’ motions
for summary judgment are due to be GRANTED with respect to Mr. Stryker’s
Section 1983 claims in Counts I and II.
The Court declines to exercise
(Doc. 1). Plaintiff moved to voluntarily dismiss his claims for illegal seizure, false arrest, and
abuse of process, (Doc. 21), and subsequently filed an amended complaint. (Doc. 39). In his
amended complaint, plaintiff did not name Chief Roberson as a defendant; the Court therefore
terminated Chief Roberson as a defendant. (Doc. 64). Plaintiff filed a second amended
complaint with leave of Court per Judge Hopkins. (Doc. 69). The claims before this Court
include those reflected in the plaintiff’s second amended complaint, as identified above.
Although the individual defendants filed a collective summary judgment motion (Doc. 88), the
parties took a different approach to briefing the motion, with Officers Blake and Waid
submitting a joint brief (Doc. 90) and Officer Davis submitting a brief of his own. (Doc. 92).
supplemental jurisdiction over Mr. Stryker’s state law claims in Counts III, IV, and
V, and these claims are due to be DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE.
Summary Judgment Standard
“The court shall grant summary judgment 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). To demonstrate that there is a genuine
dispute as to a material fact that precludes summary judgment, a party opposing a
motion for summary judgment must cite “to particular parts of materials in the
record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information,
affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the
motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” FED. R. CIV.
P. 56(c)(1)(A). “The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may
consider other materials in the record.” FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)(3).
When considering a summary judgment motion, the Court must view the
evidence in the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and
draw reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. White v. Beltram
Edge Tool Supply, Inc., 789 F.3d 1188, 1191 (11th Cir. 2015). “[A]t the summary
judgment stage[,] the judge’s function is not himself to weigh the evidence and
determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue
for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). “‘Genuine
disputes [of material fact] are those in which the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the non-movant. For factual issues to be considered
genuine, they must have a real basis in the record.’” Evans v. Books-A-Million,
762 F.3d 1288, 1294 (11th Cir. 2014) (quoting Mize v. Jefferson City Bd. of Educ.,
93 F.3d 739, 742 (11th Cir. 1996)). “A litigant’s self-serving statements based on
personal knowledge or observation can defeat summary judgment.” United States
v. Stein, 881 F.3d 853, 857 (11th Cir. 2018); see Feliciano v. City of Miami Beach,
707 F.3d 1244, 1253 (11th Cir. 2013) (“To be sure, Feliciano’s sworn statements
are self-serving, but that alone does not permit us to disregard them at the summary
judgment stage.”). Even if the Court doubts the veracity of the evidence, the Court
cannot make credibility determinations of the evidence. Feliciano, 707 F.3d at
1252 (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). However, conclusory statements in a
declaration cannot by themselves create a genuine issue of material fact. See Stein,
881 F.3d at 857 (citing Lujan v. Nat’l Wildlife Fed’n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990)).
In sum, the standard for granting summary judgment mirrors the standard for
a directed verdict. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250 (citing Brady v. Southern R. Co., 320
U.S. 476, 479–480 (1943)). The district court may grant summary judgment when,
“under governing law, there can be but one reasonable conclusion as to the
verdict.” Id. at 250. “[T]here is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence
favoring the nonmoving party . . . . If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not
significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.”
Id. at 249–50
(internal citations omitted).
Statement of Facts
Plaintiff Moses Stryker is a 58 year-old male who, in 1989, immigrated to
the United States from Liberia, West Africa. (Doc. 69, p. 1, ¶ 1; Doc. 91-1, pp.
369–71, 482). Mr. Stryker is a naturalized citizen and permanent resident of the
United States. (Doc. 69, p. 1, ¶ 1). Prior to coming to America, Mr. Stryker
worked for eleven years as a police officer for the Liberian National Police,
specifically, within the criminal investigation division. (Doc. 91-2, pp. 6–8). In
2003, Mr. Stryker began driving for Swift Transportation as a truck owner and
operator. (Doc. 91-1, p. 379).
The story begins in the early morning hours of May 23, 2014, on Highway
280 in Birmingham, Alabama.
Mr. Stryker and Musie Ibedingl, a truck driver
whom Mr. Stryker was training for his employer, Swift Transportation, were
traveling on Highway 280 around midnight when they allegedly side-swiped a
sedan driven by Tammy Barnette. (Doc. 91-2, p. 10; Doc. 101-1, p. 5). Mr.
Stryker and Mr. Ibedingl were unaware of having hit Ms. Barnette (Doc. 91-1, pp.
444, 467), and they continued to drive toward their delivery destination at the
Walmart Supercenter on Lakeshore Drive in Homewood, Alabama. (Doc. 91-2,
pp. 11, 23; Doc. 101-1, p. 8). Once at Walmart, shortly before 2:00 a.m., Mr.
Ibedingl struggled to maneuver the truck, an eighteen wheeler, in the manner
necessary to park at the loading dock. (Doc. 91-1, p. 385; Doc. 91-2, pp. 10–11).
Mr. Stryker traded places with Mr. Ibedingl and assumed the driver’s position.
(Doc. 91-2, p. 11). Moments later, Ms. Barnette appeared in her vehicle—having
followed the truck for approximately ten miles from Highway 280 to the Walmart
shopping center—and parked her car in front of Mr. Stryker’s truck in an apparent
attempt to prevent Mr. Stryker from leaving the scene. (Doc. 91-2, pp. 11–12;
Doc. 101-1, p. 6). Ms. Barnette indicated to Mr. Stryker that she would not move
her car until the police arrived. (Doc. 91-2, p. 11). Ms. Barnette’s boyfriend,
Merle Bailey, was also present at the Walmart shopping center in a separate
vehicle which was parked near Ms. Barnette. (Doc. 101-1, pp. 7–8). Mr. Stryker
and Mr. Bailey had a brief verbal exchange. (Doc. 101-1, p. 8). Mr. Stryker
testified that Mr. Bailey smelled of alcohol and that he wanted to avoid further
contact with him until police arrived (which he did by retreating to his truck).
(Doc. 91-1, p. 392, 448–50; Doc. 91-2, pp. 13–14).
A short time later, at approximately 2:00 a.m., Homewood police officer
Jason Davis arrived on the scene. (Doc. 91-2, p. 14). Officer Davis’s blue lights
were on; however, he turned off the video recorder before exiting his vehicle.
(Doc. 91-3, p. 28). Officer Davis instructed the parties to move their vehicles in
order to clear the roadway. (Doc. 91-3, p. 31). He told Ms. Barnette to pull her car
into one area of the lot and he instructed Mr. Stryker to move his truck to a side
alleyway some distance away (approximately 50 feet from Ms. Barnette’s vehicle).
(Doc. 91-3, pp. 31–32; Doc. 101-9, p. 9). Mr. Stryker complied but pleaded with
Officer Davis to leave his truck in a well-lighted space.
(Doc. 91-2, p. 22).
According to Mr. Stryker, Officer Davis became irritated and stated “if I didn’t
shut up he would lock my ass up.”5 (Doc. 91-2, pp. 20–21).
After moving the truck, Mr. Stryker, Mr. Ibedingl and Officer Davis walked
around the truck to inspect it for damage. (Doc. 91-1, pp. 399–400; Doc. 91-2, p.
23). Officer Davis stated that he did not see any damage to the truck. (Doc. 91-1,
p. 400; Doc. 91-2, p. 23). Officer Davis also indicated to Mr. Stryker that the
accident occurred outside of his jurisdiction, and he would have to call authorities
The record contains conflicting accounts of Officer Davis’s alleged threat to Mr. Stryker (i.e.
“to lock his ass up.”). The second amended complaint alleges that the threat was made in
response to Plaintiff’s request to photograph Ms. Barnette’s car. (See Doc. 69, p. 6, ¶ 29)
(“When [plaintiff] tried to explain to Davis that Swift policy required him to photograph the
alleged damage, Davis threatened . . . ‘[to] lock his ass up.’”). In his deposition, Plaintiff offered
two scenarios for when the threat was made. Compare Doc. 91-2, p. 20 (“So I said, Officer,
where I am parked now is well lighted . . . . So why can’t we just let me leave it here . . . .
Officer Davis got really mad and said ‘if I didn’t shut up, he was locking my ass up.’”) with Doc.
91-2, p. 22 (“The light business [and Officer Davis’s threat] was after I moved my truck.”).
Plaintiff’s brief in opposition to summary judgment alleges an entirely different scenario as to
when Officer Davis made the alleged threat. (See Doc. 100, p. 4, n. 2) (“When he [plaintiff]
asked Davis if he would get Barnette to move her car so that [he] could get his truck out of the
way . . . , Davis got upset and ‘told me if I didn’t shut up he would lock my ass up.’”).
discussed in the analysis portion of this opinion, in ruling on the present motions, the Court does
not credit Plaintiff’s self-contradictory testimony. See Iraola & CIA, S.A. v. Kimberly-Clark
Corp., 325 F.3d 1274, 1286 (11th Cir. 2003) (affirming district court’s grant of summary
judgment in defendant’s favor where plaintiff’s witnesses offered “self-contradicting
testimony”); see also Wright v. DISH Network, LLC, 4:15-CV-0167-HLM, 2016 WL 10919655,
*5 (N.D. Ga. Dec. 1, 2016) (“Even on summary judgment, the Court must construe [plaintiff’s]
self-contradictory testimony against her, as she has provided no explanation for the
contradiction.”), aff’d 714 Fed. Appx. 951 (11th Cir. 2017).
from the proper jurisdiction to come and investigate. 6 (Doc. 91-1, p. 400). Officer
Davis testified that Mr. Stryker became agitated at this point and began speaking
loudly in another language or in a thick accent which Officer Davis could not
understand. (Doc. 91-3, pp. 32–33).
After walking around the truck, Mr. Stryker and Mr. Ibedingl returned to the
truck. (Doc. 91-1, p. 400). Mr. Stryker then remembered that his company policy
requires him to take photographs of any damage in the event of an accident, and so
he retrieved his company camera from the cab of his truck and began walking
toward Ms. Barnette’s vehicle. (Doc. 91-1, pp. 400–401). However, Officer Davis
stopped him and asked what he had in his hand. (Doc. 91-1, pp. 400–401). Mr.
Stryker explained that it was a camera, and that his company policy required him
to photograph any damage resulting from an accident. (Doc. 91-2, p. 31; Doc. 911, pp. 402–04). Officer Davis told Mr. Styker that he could not take any photos,
and that he should put the camera away. (Doc. 91-2, p. 31; Doc. 91-3, pp. 35–36).
Mr. Stryker contends that Officer Davis told him to place the camera in his
pocket, but that as a former police officer himself, he was fearful to do that
knowing that an officer could mistake reaching into a pocket as reaching for a
weapon. (Doc. 91-1, pp. 414–15; Doc. 91-2, p. 30). Nonetheless, Mr. Stryker
There was confusion initially as to which city or municipality had police jurisdiction. Officer
Davis testified that once he determined that the accident occurred outside of the city limits of
Homewood, his sole purpose on the scene was to determine which authorities should be called to
investigate. (Doc. 91-3, pp. 29–30).
attempted to place the camera in his pocket, at which point Officer Davis drew his
weapon. (Doc. 91-1, p. 414; Doc. 91-3, p.35). Mr. Stryker asked Officer Davis
“are you going to kill me?” (Doc. 91-1, p. 415; Doc. 91-2, p. 31). Once Officer
Davis realized that Mr. Stryker had a camera (and not a weapon), he re-holstered
his firearm, and suggested to Mr. Stryker that he return to his truck. (Doc. 91-1,
pp. 36, 146–48, 415; Doc. 91-3, pp. 35–36). Mr. Stryker testified that at this point
Officer Davis shoved him. (Doc. 91-1, p. 405; Doc. 91-2, p. 33). Officer Davis
claims that he merely redirected Mr. Stryker by placing his hand on Mr. Stryker’s
shoulder, at which time Mr. Stryker attempted to elbow him but missed. (Doc. 911, p. 39–40, 41; Doc. 91-3, p. 36; Doc. 91-2, p. 35). Officer Davis testified that in
response to Mr. Stryker swinging his elbow, he (Officer Davis) employed a
maneuver known as an “arm bar takedown,” but that Mr. Stryker spun around and
evaded him and began walking back to his truck. (Doc. 91-1, p. 46; Doc. 91-3, p.
37). Mr. Stryker denies attempting to elbow Officer Davis. (Doc. 91-1, p. 482).
As Mr. Stryker walked away, Officer Davis tased Mr. Stryker in the back.
(Doc. 91-2, p. 37). Officer Davis testified that he did this in response to Mr.
Stryker trying to elbow him and evading the arm-bar takedown. (Doc. 91-3, p. 37).
After getting tased, Mr. Stryker began crawling toward the truck. (Doc. 91-2, pp.
37–38). Mr. Stryker testified that after Officer Davis tased him, he realized that he
was under arrest. (Doc. 91-2, p. 46). However, he also believed that Officer Davis
was trying to kill him, so he sought to return to his truck for safety. (Doc. 91-2, pp.
Meanwhile, Officer Davis requested 9-1-1 backup through his chest
microphone. (See Doc. 91-5) (9-1-1 audio recording conventionally filed with
Clerk of Court). Officer Davis then tased Mr. Stryker a second time. (Doc. 91-3,
p. 39). Mr. Stryker continued his efforts to climb into the truck. (Doc. 91-1, p.
412). Mr. Stryker testified: “The officer walked away so I started dragging myself
to get into the truck to get away from him.” (Doc. 91-1, p. 412). Officer Davis
pursued him up the stairs, struck him in the neck region, and tugged on his legs to
pull him down. (Doc. 91-1, pp. 412–13). However, Mr. Stryker clutched the
safety bar in the driver’s side of the cabin and refused to let go. (Doc. 91-1, p.
Mr. Stryker then climbed into the cab of the truck, rolled up the window, and
locked the driver’s side door. (Doc. 91-1, pp. 418–19; Doc. 91-3, p. 39).
Stryker yelled at Mr. Ibedingl, who was standing nearby, to get into the passenger
side of the truck, which he did. (Doc. 91-1, p. 418). Officer Davis then used his
police baton to break the driver’s side window, causing glass to shatter in Mr.
Stryker’s face. (Doc. 91-1, pp. 420–21; Doc. 91-3, pp. 39–40). Mr. Stryker began
sliding to the passenger side of the cabin and Mr. Ibendingl exited the truck. (Doc.
91-1, p. 426). Officer Davis entered the passenger side and attempted a second
time to remove Mr. Stryker from the truck. (Doc. 91-1, p. 426; Doc. 91-3, pp. 41–
42). Mr. Stryker clutched the safety bar in the passenger side of the truck. (Doc.
91-2, p. 44). At some point during the struggle, Officer Davis sprayed chemical
spray in Mr. Stryker’s face and struck him with his fist several times in the carotid
artery and wrist and hand area (in an effort to force him to loosen his grip). (Doc.
91-3, p. 42). Officer Davis testified that he “hammer-fisted”7 Mr. Stryker and
denies hitting Mr. Stryker with his baton. (Doc. 91-3, p. 42). Mr. Stryker alleges
that Officer Davis hit him in the head and neck with an object or a “blunt
instrument.” (Doc. 69, p. 7, ¶ 39; Doc. 91-1, p. 412). Officer Davis testified that
he punched Mr. Stryker in the back a number of times in an effort to bring him out
of the truck. (Doc. 91-1, p. 225).
Officers Blake and Waid, each of whom were on duty at the time, appeared
on the scene in separate vehicles. (See Doc. 91-1, pp. 200–04; Doc. 91-1, pp. 245–
46). Both heard the distress call from Officer Davis requesting back-up. (See Doc.
91-1, pp. 201–03; Doc. 91-1, p. 245–46).
Officer Blake appeared first and
observed a struggle between Officer Davis and Mr. Stryker as Mr. Styker held onto
the safety bar in the passenger side of the truck and Officer Davis attempted to
remove him. (Doc. 91-1, pp. 209–10). Officer Blake ordered Mr. Stryker to “let
go” and then tugged on Mr. Stryker’s belt and punched him in the kidney area.
(Doc. 91-1, pp. 212–15, 217–18; Doc. 91-10, p. 44). Mr. Stryker eventually
A “hammer fist” is described in the record as a strike in a karate-chop type motion with the soft
tissue of the hand. (Doc. 91-1, pp. 65, 253; Doc. 91-3, p. 43).
released the safety bar and Officer Blake forced him to the ground. (Doc. 91-10,
pp. 47–48). Once on the ground, Officer Blake put both of his knees on Mr.
Stryker’s back. (Doc. 91-10, pp. 49, 53). Officer Blake told Mr. Stryker “stop
resisting” and “give us your hands.” (Doc. 91-10, pp. 54, 56, 68).
Officer Waid approached and observed Officers Davis and Blake in a
struggle to remove Mr. Stryker from the vehicle. (Doc. 91-1, pp. 249–50). Officer
Waid testified that after Officers Davis and Blake put Mr. Stryker on the ground,
he (Mr. Stryker) was still resisting and fighting. (Doc. 91-1, p. 252). Officer Waid
then “hammer fisted him three to five times in the jaw or the ear, maybe the side of
the neck” in order to gain compliance. (Doc. 91-11, pp. 47–48).
Mr. Stryker denies that he resisted the officers’ attempts to handcuff him
(Doc. 91-2, p. 48), and alleges that the officers continued to kick him and “choke
him” 8 even after handcuffs were placed on him. 9 (Doc. 91-2, p. 49). Mr. Stryker
By “choking,” Plaintiff clarified in his deposition that he was referring to a choke hold that one
or more officers had on his biceps, not his neck. (Doc. 91-2, p. 49).
Plaintiff offers varying testimony in his deposition concerning whether he was kicked or
stepped on after he was placed in handcuffs.
Plaintiff initially stated that after he was
handcuffed, “I was still being kicked . . . . I was lying there for a while and I was still being
kicked and they were still making the expression as though they didn’t have my arm.” (Doc. 912, p. 49). Later in his deposition, Plaintiff testified:
Q. Were you kicked in your back?
A. I was kicked in my back earlier.
Q. I’m talking about you’re taken out of the truck and put on the ground.
A. Not that I remember.
Q. Okay. Did anybody stomp on your back after you’re taken out of the truck and
put on the ground?
A. Not that I remember.
recalls hearing Officer Blake command him to “stop resisting” and to “give us your
(Doc. 100, p. 17, ¶ 12). Once restrained, Mr. Stryker testified that
Officers Davis, Blake and Waid dragged him across the parking lot. (Doc. 91-1,
pp. 428–29, 434, 477–78). Mr. Stryker was then placed under arrest and put in a
police car without further incident. (See Doc. 91-1, p. 435).
Mr. Ibedingl was also placed in handcuffs but was released shortly
thereafter. (Doc. 91-1, p. 352). Mr. Ibedingl was not arrested or charged with a
crime. (Doc. 91-1, p. 353).
After the dust settled, one of the officers transported Mr. Stryker directly
from the Walmart shopping center to UAB hospital for treatment. (Doc. 91-1, p.
435–36). Mr. Stryker suffered a broken jaw which required surgery. (Doc. 69, p.
17, ¶ 81; Doc. 91-1, p. 479). Emergency room staff also removed glass from Mr.
Stryker’s face and eyes. (Doc. 69, p. 17, ¶ 80). Mr. Stryker’s jaw was wired shut
for approximately eight weeks in order to allow it to heal. (Doc. 69, p. 17, ¶ 81).
Q. All right. Did –
A. Those were still before.
Q. Did anybody strike you in the back in any kind of way after you’re taken out of
the truck and put on the ground?
A. Not that I remember.
(Doc. 91-2, p. 51).
The Court addresses this apparent discrepancy in the discussion section of
Mr. Stryker also suffered back injuries requiring surgery and which prevent Mr.
Stryker from returning to work as a truck driver. (Doc. 69, p. 17, ¶ 83). 10
The City brought a criminal action against Mr. Stryker, styled City of
Homewood v. Stryker, CC-2015-3645 and CC-2015-3646, filed in the Circuit
Court of Jefferson County, Alabama, on charges of disorderly conduct, resisting
arrest, and refusal to comply with a lawful order. (Doc. 101-3; Doc. 101-5; Doc.
101-6; Doc. 101-8). Prior to the criminal trial, the City dismissed the charges
against Mr. Stryker for assault and disorderly conduct. (See Doc. 101-7, pp. 2, 3).
Following a jury trial, Mr. Stryker was acquitted on the charge of resisting arrest
(Doc. 101-4, p. 2). Mr. Stryker was convicted on the charge of refusal to comply
with a lawful order. (Doc. 91-7, p. 2; Doc. 91-8, p. 2). The trial order states in
10/21/16 On this date the jury returned its verdict which read, ‘We,
the jury find the Defendant, Moses Jutomue Stryker, Guilty of
Refuse to Comply with Lawful Order as charged in the complaint,’
and was signed by the foreperson, Lisa Arrington. In accordance
with the jury verdict the Court therefore Adjudges you Guilty.
Aside from the allegations contained in the second amended complaint, the Court has not
located any medical evidence in the record concerning the nature and extent of Plaintiff’s
injuries. This is perhaps due to the prior Court’s bifurcation of discovery to determine whether
the defendants are entitled to qualified immunity before reaching the liability phase of the case.
(See Doc. 80 – Order Granting Motion to Bifurcate Discovery). In any event, because the parties
apparently do not dispute the extent of Plaintiff’s injuries, the Court accepts the allegations in the
second amended complaint as true, and assumes for summary judgment purposes that Plaintiff
suffered a broken jaw and back injuries.
It is the sentence of the Court that the Defendant, Moses Jutomue
Stryker, is fined the sum of $500 plus court costs, which shall be
paid in full by 9:00 A.M. on January 19, 2017.
(Doc. 91-8, p. 2) (bold supplied in original).
Prior to the reassignment of this case to the undersigned, the City and
Officers Blake and Waid filed a motion to dismiss. (See note 1, supra, and Docs.
Officer Davis did not join in the motion.
The Court, Hopkins, J.,
determined that the motion filed by Officers Blake and Waid was due to be granted
with respect to all alleged conduct occurring prior to Mr. Stryker’s removal from
the truck. See Stryker v. City of Homewood et al., 2:16-CV-0832-VEH, 2017 WL
3191097, *11–19 (N.D. Ala. July 28, 2017) (“The officers’ motion is GRANTED
as to all of the Plaintiff’s claims relating to his removal from the vehicle.”). In
light of Judge Hopkins’s ruling, this Court, in ruling on the present motion for
summary judgment, will not consider any alleged conduct concerning Officers
Blake and Waid occurring prior to Mr. Stryker’s removal from the truck.
Consistent with the Court’s ruling on the motion to dismiss, the Court will only
consider the conduct of these officers as it relates to events occurring after Mr.
Stryker was outside of the truck and on the ground.
The Court’s inquiry
concerning Officer Davis’s conduct is not limited in scope as Officer Davis was
not a party to the motion to dismiss.
To recap the claims in this matter, as against Officers Davis, Blake, and
Waid, Mr. Stryker asserts a Section 1983 excessive force claim as well as state law
claims for assault and battery, negligence and wantonness. Against the City, Mr.
Stryker asserts a single count under Section 1983 for failure to train and supervise.
The Court will first address Mr. Stryker’s Section 1983 claim against the
individual defendants. In light of the Court’s partial dismissal of the Section 1983
claim against Officers Blake and Waid, the Court analyzes the claim separately as
it relates to Officer Davis, and will then turn to the “post-removal from the truck”
conduct involving Officers Blake and Waid.
The Court will then turn to Mr.
Stryker’s Section 1983 claim against the City, and will conclude with a discussion
of Mr. Stryker’s remaining state law claims.
A. Section 1983 Excessive Force Claims
Section 1983 creates a private right of action for constitutional violations
committed by persons acting under “color of state law.” City of Newport v. Fact
Concerts, Inc., 453 U.S. 247, 258 (1981); see generally Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S.
167 (1961). The statute provides in pertinent part:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation,
custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of
Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the
United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the
deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the
Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action
at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress....
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 is not itself a source of substantive rights; it
instead provides a method for vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred.
Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144, n. 3 (1979). In cases alleging excessive
force incident to an arrest, the source of federal rights arises under the Fourth
Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Graham v.
Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989) (“Where, as here, the excessive force claim
arises in the context of an arrest or investigatory stop of a free citizen, it is most
properly characterized as one invoking the protections of the Fourth Amendment,
which guarantees citizens the right “to be secure in their persons ... against
unreasonable ... seizures” of the person.”); Lee v. Ferraro, 284 F.3d 1188, 1197–98
(11th Cir. 2002) (“The Fourth Amendment’s freedom from unreasonable searches
and seizures encompasses the plain right to be free from the use of excessive force
in the course of an arrest.”).
While Section 1983 creates a private right of action for constitutional
by government officials,
the doctrine of qualified
simultaneously operates to provide a shield from liability to government officials
performing discretionary functions.
See generally Case v. Eslinger, 555 F.3d
1317, 1326 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223 (2009)
(“‘Qualified immunity balances two important interests—the need to hold public
officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield
officials from harassment, distraction and liability when they perform their duties
reasonably.’”)). The purpose of qualified immunity is to ensure that government
officials are not required to “err always on the side of caution because they fear
being sued.” Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 229 (1991). “Qualified immunity
gives government officials breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken
judgments, and protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly
violate the law.” Stanton v. Sims, 571 U.S. 3, 6 (2013) (internal quotations and
1. Qualified Immunity Standard
To receive qualified immunity, the public official carries the initial burden
of demonstrating that “he was acting within the scope of his discretionary authority
when the alleged wrongful acts occurred.” Courson v. McMillan, 939 F.2d 1479,
1487 (11th Cir. 1991).
If the defendant is not acting within the scope of his
discretionary authority, he may not enjoy the benefit of qualified immunity. Lee v.
Ferraro, 284 F.3d 1188, 1194 (11th Cir. 2002).
In the present case, no question exists as to whether Officers Davis, Blake
and Waid were acting in a discretionary capacity while arresting Mr. Stryker. The
burden therefore shifts to Mr. Stryker “to show that qualified immunity is not
appropriate.” Lee, 284 F.3d at 1194. The United States Supreme Court has set
forth a two-part test for determining the appropriateness of a qualified immunity
defense. See Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194 (2001), receded from by Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223 (2009). 11 Under Saucier, a court must ask, “[t]aken in the
light most favorable to the party asserting the injury, do the facts alleged show the
officer’s conduct violated a constitutional right?” Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201. If a
constitutional right would have been violated assuming the plaintiff’s version of
the facts as true, the court must then determine “whether the right was clearly
the following considerations,
conceptualized as the “Graham factors,” for determining whether an excessive
force claim amounts to a constitutional violation:
In order to determine whether the amount of force used by a police
officer was proper, a court must ask “whether a reasonable officer
would believe that this level of force is necessary in the situation at
hand.” [Willingham v. Loughnan, 261 F.3d 1178, 1186 (11th Cir.
2001).] The Supreme Court has held that “[d]etermining whether the
force used to effect a particular seizure is ‘reasonable’ under the
In Pearson, the United States Supreme Court held that courts may exercise their discretion in
applying the two-part test under Saucier in whatever order is best suited to the facts of the case.
555 U.S. at 810 (“The judges of the district courts and the courts of appeals should be permitted
to exercise their sound discretion in deciding which of the two prongs of the qualified immunity
analysis should be addressed first in light of the circumstances in the particular case at hand.”).
The Pearson Court noted that cases at the pleading stage may be best suited for reordering the
sequence because in the early stages of litigation, “the precise factual basis for the plaintiff’s
claim or claims may be hard to identify. Id. at 822. As the parties in the present case are well
beyond the pleading stage, the Court finds that the traditional application of Saucier is
Fourth Amendment requires a careful balancing of ‘the nature and
quality of the intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment
interests’ against the countervailing governmental interests at stake.”
Graham, 490 U.S. at 396, 109 S.Ct. at 1871 (quoting Tennessee v.
Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 8, 105 S.Ct. 1694, 1699, 85 L.Ed.2d 1 (1985)
(internal quotations omitted)). Moreover, “Fourth Amendment
jurisprudence has long recognized that the right to make an arrest or
investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some
degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it.” Id. at 396,
109 S.Ct. at 1871–72 (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 22–27, 88
S.Ct. 1868, 1880–83, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968)).
The Supreme Court has established that, in order to balance the
necessity of using some force attendant to an arrest against the
arrestee’s constitutional rights, a court must evaluate a number of
factors, “including the severity of the crime at issue, whether the
suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or
others, and whether he is actively resisting arrest or attempting to
evade arrest by flight.” Id., 109 S.Ct. at 1872. . . . Graham dictates
unambiguously that the force used by a police officer in carrying out
an arrest must be reasonably proportionate to the need for that force,
which is measured by the severity of the crime, the danger to the
officer, and the risk of flight.
Lee, 284 F.3d at 1197–98.
Importantly, the excessive force inquiry requires the Court to consider what
a reasonable officer would do under the circumstances. Vinyard v. Wilson, 311
F.3d 1340, 1346 (11th Cir. 2002) (“An officer will be entitled to qualified
immunity if his actions were objectively reasonable, that is[,] if an objectively
reasonable officer in the same situation could have believed that the force used was
not excessive.”); Garczynski v. Bradshaw, 573 F.3d 1158, 1166 (11th Cir. 2009)
(“The only perspective that counts is that of a reasonable officer on the scene at the
time the events unfolded.”). The Eleventh Circuit has also instructed district courts
to consider the facts—albeit in a light most favorable to the plaintiff—through the
lens of the officer(s) involved, and not merely “from the comfort and safety of our
chambers.” Crosby v. Monroe Co., 394 F.3d 1328, 1333–34 (11th Cir. 2004) (“We
must see the situation through the eyes of the officer on the scene who is hampered
by incomplete information and forced to make a split-second decision between
action and inaction where inaction could prove fatal.”). “Qualified immunity thus
represents the rule, rather than the exception: ‘Because qualified immunity shields
government actors in all but exceptional cases, courts should think long and hard
before stripping defendants of immunity.’” Sanders v. Howze, 177 F.3d 1245,
1249 (11th Cir. 1999) (quoting Lassiter v. Alabama A & M Univ. Bd. of Trustees,
28 F.3d at 1146, 1149 (11th Cir. 1994) (en banc)).
After a careful review of the evidence, and viewing the facts in the light
most favorable to Mr. Stryker, as the Court must pursuant to the Rule 56 standard
and the mandate of Saucier, the Court finds that the Graham factors weigh in favor
of the individual defendants.
(i) Officer Davis
As to the first question under Graham (i.e. the severity of the crime at issue),
Mr. Stryker argues that because he did not commit any serious criminal offense, no
force was necessary at all. Mr. Stryker points to the fact that Officer Davis was on
the scene to investigate a minor traffic accident, and to determine which city had
jurisdiction. Officer Davis argues that the state court has already determined that
Mr. Stryker failed to comply with a lawful order, and based on the criminal
conviction, there can be no question that probable cause existed for Mr. Stryker’s
arrest. He argues further that under the Heck doctrine, as espoused in Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), Mr. Stryker may not attack the validity of his
state court conviction by claiming that his arrest was not justified. To be clear,
Officer Davis does not seem to argue that Heck bars Mr. Stryker’s entire Section
1983 claim, but rather, that it prevents him from arguing that no probable cause
existed for his arrest or that he did not fail to comply with Officer Davis’s orders.
(See Doc. 92, p. 23, n. 9). Mr. Stryker argues, in turn, that Heck is inapposite to his
excessive force claim because the state court conviction is not clear as to which of
Officer Davis’s orders Mr. Stryker failed to follow and, notwithstanding this
ambiguity, a finding in his favor on his Section 1983 claim would not invalidate
the criminal conviction for failure to obey a lawful order.
In Heck, the United States Supreme Court determined that a Section 1983
claim is precluded if an award in the plaintiff’s favor would have the effect of
invalidating a state court conviction or sentence.
Heck, 512 U.S. at 486–87.
However, if a finding in the plaintiff’s favor on a Section 1983 claim would not
invalidate the criminal conviction or sentence, the Heck doctrine does not apply
and the plaintiff may proceed with his Section 1983 action. Id. In applying Heck,
the federal court must carefully analyze the relationship between the plaintiff’s §
1983 . . . claims and the charge on which the plaintiff was convicted.” See PostConviction Remedies § 11:2 (July 2018).
The jury in the underlying criminal action, see City of Homewood v. Stryker,
CC-2015-3645 and CC-2015-3646, found Mr. Stryker guilty of failure to obey a
lawful order “as charged in the Complaint.” (Doc. 91-8, p. 2). The criminal
complaint provides the following narrative:
Stryker refused several times of my commands for him to get back in
his vehicle. He also turned and tried to walk away from me, again
refusing to comply with my orders.
(Doc. 101-8, p. 2; Doc. 108-1, p. 2). Based on this complaint, and following a
three-day trial on the matter, the jury determined that sufficient evidence existed to
convict Mr. Stryker for failure to obey a lawful order.
As an initial matter, Officer Davis’s reliance on Heck is misplaced. Simply
put, a finding in Mr. Stryker’s favor on a Section 1983 claim would not invalidate
Mr. Stryker’s criminal conviction for failure to obey a lawful order. The officers
could have still used excessive force in effecting Mr. Stryker’s arrest even though
Mr. Stryker failed to obey a lawful order. See Hadley v. Gutierrez, 526 F.3d 1324,
1329 (11th Cir. 2008) (citing Bashir v. Rockdale County, Ga., 445 F.3d 1323, 1332
(11th Cir. 2006) (“A genuine excessive force claim relates to the manner in which
an arrest was carried out, independent of whether law enforcement had the power
At the same time, this Court will not disregard the jury’s findings. Probable
cause for Mr. Stryker’s arrest was conclusively established based on the state court
conviction. See Quire v. Miramar Police Dep’t, 595 Fed. Appx. 883, 886 (11th
Cir. 2014) (“[W]here the plaintiff was convicted of the offense for which she was
allegedly falsely arrested, that judgment of conviction conclusively establishes that
the arrest was made with probable cause, absent a showing of fraud, perjury or
corrupt means.”) (internal quotations and brackets omitted). 12 The fact that Officer
Davis’s complaint could have been more specific or artfully drafted does not
provide a basis for this Court to disregard the state court conviction. See generally
Lee, 284 F.3d at 1195–96 (the fact that the officer did not cite a specific ordinance
in his arrest report is irrelevant where probable cause exists for the arrest); Bailey
v. Bd. of County Comm’rs of Alachua County, 956 F.2d 1112, 1119 (11th Cir.
1992) (finding arrest proper on charges of bribery, unlawful compensation, and
unlawful possession of money in jail even though arrest report contained only a
vague charge for conveying tools into jail to aid escape). Thus, the Court rejects
The plaintiff in Quire asserted Section 1983 claims for false arrest and false imprisonment.
Although Quire did not involve an excessive force claim, the Court finds that its principles are
instructive concerning the manner in which a district court should view a state court criminal
conviction, specifically, when a plaintiff in a subsequent federal court action challenges probable
cause underlying his state court conviction.
Mr. Stryker’s arguments which seek to either challenge probable cause for his
underlying arrest or which are otherwise at odds with his criminal conviction for
failure to obey Officer Davis’s orders. 13 See Martin v. Delcambre, 578 F.2d 1164,
1165 (5th Cir. 1978)(“The district court granted summary judgment for the
appellees, holding that the appellant was collaterally estopped from relitigating the
facts undergirding these claims so long as the state court conviction, which had
resolved them against him, was still valid. Our cases fully support the district
court's conclusion.”); Anderson v. Tyus, No. 4:06CV004 SPMWCS, 2007 WL
2884367, at *6 (N.D. Fla. Sept. 27, 2007) (“Plaintiff asserts that at the outset of the
riot he was not involved, and this must be assumed to be true on this motion for
summary judgment. However, he was found guilty both in a prison disciplinary
and criminal proceedings of striking Sergeant Childs without justification.
Whatever the truth of the way in which Plaintiff, Childs, and Tyus interacted
initially, the die is cast for Plaintiff: he struck Childs without justification. Plaintiff
cannot attempt to prove otherwise in this case. To allow Plaintiff to prove his
version of events, that he was restrained by Tyus in a chokehold and beaten by
Childs and Tyus, and that he did not strike Childs without justification, would
The Court also rejects Plaintiff’s argument that the jury’s acquittal of Mr. Stryker on charges
of resisting arrest conclusively establishes that he did not attempt to flee or evade arrest. The
Court gives credence to the jury’s criminal conviction of Mr. Stryker for failure to obey a lawful
order because Mr. Stryker was convicted on this charge. However, a reverse inference does not
attach to what the jury did not conclude or decide.
necessarily imply the invalidity of the disciplinary action taken against him and his
Returning to the first Graham factor, the Court finds that Mr. Stryker’s
refusal to comply with Officer Davis’s orders is sufficiently severe under the
circumstances to justify the use of force against him. Mr. Stryker argues that “at
worst, [Mr.] Stryker may have been suspected [of] the low-level misdemeanor of
potentially leaving the scene of an accident.” (Doc. 100, p. 31). This argument is
problematic for two reasons. First, it ignores the reality that a hit and run is not a
low level offense. See Ala. Code. § 32-10-6 (1975) (describing hit and run as a
Class A misdemeanor or a Class C felony depending on whether persons are
injured). Second, it ignores the fact that the impetus for Officer Davis’s use of
force was not the traffic accident, but Mr. Stryker’s failure to obey orders. The
jury determined that Mr. Stryker was guilty of failure to obey orders as charged in
the complaint. That complaint reflects that Officer Davis issued two directives to
Mr. Stryker—including an initial command to return to his truck and a later
command to stay put. (Doc. 108-1, p. 2). As already noted, Mr. Stryker may not
now feign confusion over the nature of the orders at issue, as it was clear enough to
the jury in the underlying criminal action that Mr. Stryker failed to follow orders,
resulting in an objectively reasonable need for Officer Davis to use some level of
force to bring Mr. Stryker into compliance.
The next two factors under Graham (i.e. whether the suspect poses an
immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether he is actively
resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight) may be examined together.
Mr. Stryker argues that he did not swing an elbow at Officer Davis, and therefore,
Officer Davis had no justification for tasing him.
Once again, however, this
argument ignores the fact that the precipitating event for the use of force was Mr.
Stryker’s failure to follow Officer Davis’s orders. This argument also selectively
overlooks the escalation that ensued as a result of Mr. Stryker’s failure to follow
Mr. Stryker acknowledges that Officer Davis had a reasonable basis for
drawing his weapon—that is, he admits that a reasonable officer could have
construed his movements in putting the camera in his pocket as reaching for a
weapon. (Doc. 100, p. 20) (“[Mr.] Stryker does not claim that [Officer] Davis has
any liability to him for drawing his weapon.”). Nevertheless, following this tense
exchange, Mr. Stryker opted to walk away from Officer Davis, prompting Officer
Davis to use an arm bar takedown (which was not effective) and then to use his
taser in a further effort to bring Mr. Stryker into compliance. Even if the Court
were to assume that Mr. Stryker did not swing his elbow at Officer Davis, the
Court finds that Officer Davis’s decision to tase Mr. Stryker at this point was
objectively reasonable in light of Mr. Stryker’s failure to follow Officer Davis’s
commands. See generally, Draper v. Reynolds, 369 F.3d 1270, 1278 (11th Cir.
2004) (approving use of a taser against a suspect at a traffic stop who did not
comply with verbal commands and who used profanity, moved around and paced
in agitation, and yelled at the officer); Fils v. City of Aventura, 647 F.3d 1272,
1289 (11th Cir. 2011) (“And, where a suspect appears ‘hostile, belligerent, and
uncooperative,’ use of a taser might be preferable to a ‘physical struggle [causing]
serious harm’ to the suspect or the officer.”) (quoting Draper, 369 F.3d at 1278).
Mr. Stryker argues that he did not attempt to escape or flee, and that he was
merely trying to comply with Officer Davis’s command to return to his truck.
(Doc. 100, p. 32). This argument (once again) asks the Court to disregard the
jury’s contrary findings in the underlying criminal action. Moreover, Mr. Stryker’s
own testimony contradicts the assertion that he complied with Officer Davis’s
orders. Mr. Stryker admits that after being tased, he knew that Officer Davis was
trying to arrest him. (Doc. 91-2, p. 46). 14 In spite of this, Mr. Stryker attempted to
flee from Officer Davis. (See Doc. 91-1, p. 412) (“I started dragging myself to get
into my truck to get away from him.”); (Doc. 91-1, p. 413) (“I was trying to get in
the truck away from him.”); (Doc. 91-1, p. 417) (“I wanted to get away from
Q. Is it fair to say that at the point Officer Davis tases you – that at the point
Officer Davis tases you that you realize he’s trying to arrest you?
(Doc. 91-2, p. 46).
Mr. Stryker also admits that he evaded Officer Davis by
clutching the safety bar in the cabin, securing himself inside the truck, and then
locking the doors and rolling up the windows. (Doc. 91-1, pp. 417–19). Mr.
Stryker’s assertion in his brief that he did not attempt to flee or evade arrest is
simply not supported by the record evidence and, in fact, is contradicted by Mr.
Stryker’s own testimony. As such, Mr. Stryker’s persistent arguments in his brief
that he did not attempt to flee or evade arrest lack merit, and do nothing to advance
his excessive force claim. See Dukes v. Deaton, 852 F. 3d 1035, 1046 (11th Cir.
2017) (“A plaintiff may not amend her complaint through argument in a brief
opposing summary judgment.”); see also Evans, 762 F.3d at 1294 (“For factual
issues to be considered genuine, they must have a real basis in the record.”)
(internal quotations omitted).
Mr. Stryker argues further that “any reasonable officer in this situation
would know that [Mr.] Stryker was not attempting to flee or escape by trying to get
into a cumbersome, 18-wheeler truck that could not . . . be cranked and made to
zoom away.” (Doc. 100, p. 34). The Court disagrees with this oversimplified
assessment of the dangers attendant to having an already flight-bound suspect,
along with another individual, locked inside of an eighteen wheeler, with only one
officer on the scene at the time, as well as innocent bystanders—Ms. Barnette and
Mr. Bailey—on foot nearby.
More importantly, Mr. Stryker admits that he
understood that Officer Davis was trying to arrest him, but he continued to flee
Officer Davis and evade arrest.
Relying on Ex parte Wallace, 497 So.2d 96 (Ala. 1986), Mr. Stryker argues
that he “had a right to protect himself from [Officer] Davis’s unlawful conduct
during the arrest.” (Doc. 100, p. 34). In Wallace, the Alabama Supreme Court
recognized that in very limited circumstances, a “citizen may resist an attempt to
arrest him which is simply illegal.” Id. at 97. Wallace has no application here
because Mr. Stryker was not subjected to an unlawful arrest. As a consequence of
Mr. Stryker’s criminal conviction, there can be no question that probable cause
existed for Mr. Stryker’s arrest.
Quire, 595 Fed. Appx. at 886 (finding that
probable cause is conclusively established in light of a state court conviction).
Additionally, Mr. Stryker voluntarily dismissed his claims in this action for
unlawful arrest, further undermining the relevancy of Wallace to the present case.
Beyond the Graham factors, Mr. Stryker cites to numerous Eleventh Circuit
cases for the proposition that “gratuitous force violates the Fourth Amendment.”
(Doc. 100, p. 38). However, the cases relied on by Mr. Stryker are distinguishable
from the instant case as the arrestees were under control, not resisting, and obeying
commands, or not otherwise under arrest. See, e.g. Saunders v. Duke, 766 F.3d
1262, 1265–66 (11th Cir. 2014) (officer slammed arrestee’s face into hot pavement
causing injuries to his face and jaw after subject was placed in handcuffs)
(emphasis added to Saunders and the following cases); Fils, 647 F.3d at 1291–92
(11th Cir. 2011) (arrestee tased while he had his hands up and was not resisting);
Payton v. City of Florence, 413 Fed. Appx. 126, 132–33 (11th Cir. 2011) (officer
twisted thumb of sixty year old woman who was not under arrest); Oliver v.
Fiorino, 586 F.3d 898, 908 (11th Cir. 2009) (officer tased suspect multiple times
after subject was immobilized, limp, and writing in pain); Hadley, 526 F.3d at
1330 (officer punched non-resisting arrestee in stomach); Galvez v. Bruce, 552
F.3d 1238, 1243–44 (11th Cir. 2008) (officer forcefully dragged and repeatedly
slammed non-resisting arrestee’s head into corner of a concrete structure after
arrestee was handcuffed); Reese v. Herbert, 527 F.3d 1253, 1271 (11th Cir. 2008)
(officer pepper sprayed non-resisting subject who was face down on the ground);
Walker v. City of Riveria Beach, 212 Fed. Appx. 835, 838 (11th Cir. 2006) (officer
struck arrestee in head with his gun even though arrestee was pulled over and
posed “no threat or risk” to the arresting officer); Davis v. Williams, 451 F.3d 759,
767–68 (11th Cir. 2006) (officer manhandled individual who was not actively
resisting); Lee, 284 F.3d at 1198 (officer slammed arrestee’s head into trunk of car
after arrestee was placed in handcuffs and not resisting); Vinyard, 311 F.3d at 1346
(officer grabbed arrestee by hair and arm and pepper sprayed her after she was
handcuffed and seated in the back of the patrol car); Priester v. City of Riviera
Beach, 208 F.3d 919, 927 (11th Cir. 2000) (officer released police dog on
suspected burglar after he had submitted to arrest by lying on the ground); Slicker
v. Jackson, 215 F.3d 1225, 1233 (11th Cir. 2000) (officer beat arrestee after he was
handcuffed and even though arrestee did not resist, attempt to flee, or struggle with
the officers); Smith v. Mattox, 127 F.3d 1416, 1419–20 (11th Cir. 1997) (officer
broke arm of previously resisting arrestee who was docile at the time of the arm
The Court notes that Mr. Stryker offers conflicting testimony concerning the
extent to which he was kicked after being removed from the truck and placed on
the ground. In his brief in opposition to summary judgment, Mr. Stryker argues
that Officer Davis (and Officers Blake and Waid) gratuitously kicked him and hit
him after he was “in their control, compliant and lying face down.” (Doc. 100, pp.
20–21). However, Mr. Stryker’s deposition testimony appears to contradict this
assertion. He initially testified that the kicking occurred before he was handcuffed
but later testified that he did not recall being kicked (at least in his back) after
being placed on the ground. Mr. Stryker testified:
Q. Were you kicked in your back?
A. I was kicked in my back earlier.
Q. I’m talking about [when] you’re taken out of the truck and put on
A. Not that I remember.
Q. All right. Did –
A. Those were still before.
Q. Did anybody strike you in the back in any kind of way after you’re
taken out of the truck and put on the ground?
A. Not that I remember.
Q. Okay. Did anybody stomp on your back after you’re taken out of
the truck and put on the ground?
A. Not that I remember.
(Doc. 91-2, p. 51). Because Mr. Stryker offers self-contradictory testimony on this
point, the Court need not consider this evidence.
Iraola, 325 F.3d at 1286
(affirming district court’s grant of summary judgment in defendant’s favor where
plaintiff’s witnesses offered “self-contradicting testimony”); see also Wright, 2016
WL 10919655 at *5 (“Even on summary judgment, the Court must construe
[plaintiff’s] self-contradictory testimony against her, as she has provided no
explanation for the contradiction.”), aff’d 714 Fed. Appx. 951 (11th Cir. 2017).
But even if the Court were to credit Mr. Stryker’s testimony that he was kicked
after being placed on the ground, his own testimony indicates that this was before
handcuffs were placed on him. (Doc. 91-2, p. 49) (“But I do know this. I was
lying there for a while and I was still being kicked and they were still making the
expression as though they didn’t have my arm.”). If the officers were indicating
that they did not have his arm (whether they actually had his arm or were merely
“playing a game with him” as Mr. Stryker suggests), Mr. Stryker was still not in
handcuffs at this point in time.
Based on the record evidence, the Court finds that the progressive amount of
force used by Officer Davis was objectively reasonable under the circumstances.
His efforts began with minimal force, and progressed to more aggressive methods
when the more minimal measures failed. Mr. Stryker admits that he attempted to
flee Officer Davis even after he realized that he was under arrest. He also admits
fighting off Officer Davis in an effort to return to his truck, clinging to the safety
bar in two separate struggles, and refusing to exit his vehicle. Finally, Mr. Stryker
has failed to offer substantial evidence that excessive force was used on him after
he was placed in handcuffs. The conduct attributable to Officer Davis—including
an arm bar takedown; tasing; attempting to pull Mr. Stryker from the truck by
pulling on his waist and striking him in the hand and neck; striking him in the side
of the face; and the use of chemical spray—was not excessive under the rapidly
evolving circumstances of this case.
(ii) Officers Blake and Waid
As to Officers Blake and Waid, the Court’s excessive force inquiry is limited
to the events occurring after Mr. Stryker was removed from the truck and on the
ground. Mr. Stryker testified that he is not sure about the specific conduct of
Officers Blake and Waid.
However, we know based on the officers’ own
testimony that Officer Blake put his knees on his back once Mr. Stryker was out of
the truck. Officer Waid testified that he “hammer-fisted” Mr. Stryker in the head,
neck and jaw area three to five times once Mr. Stryker was out of truck and on the
The Graham factors weigh in favor of Officers Blake and Waid. As to the
seriousness of the offense, both Officers Blake and Waid arrived on the scene in
response to Officer Davis’s request for backup. Both officers report having heard
Officer Davis yelling for help and indicating that the suspect was not under
control. Officer Blake testified that when he arrived on the scene, he observed a
struggle between Officer Davis and Mr. Stryker (which is not disputed) as Officer
Davis was attempting to apprehend Mr. Stryker from the vehicle. Mr. Stryker,
meanwhile, was clutching the safety bar in the passenger side of the truck. Officer
Blake then climbed up, punched Mr. Stryker in the kidney, and then assisted in
bringing Mr. Stryker to the ground.
The kidney punch, occurring while Mr.
Stryker was still in the truck, is not under consideration here. As to the remaining
conduct, Officer Blake put his knees on Mr. Stryker’s back and assisted Officer
Davis in trying to place handcuffs on Mr. Stryker. Officer Blake’s use of force—
amounting to placing his knees on Mr. Stryker’s back, was not excessive as Mr.
Stryker was posing a threat to the safety of the officers and actively attempting to
evade arrest by planting himself in the vehicle, clutching the safety bar, and
refusing to exit the vehicle voluntarily.
The amount of force used by Officer Waid, while a closer call, was not
objectively unreasonable under the circumstances. Officer Waid testified that he
hammer fisted Mr. Stryker in the side of the head and neck region three to five
times in order to gain compliance. He was the third officer on the scene and
testified that he did not know whether Mr. Stryker was armed. (Doc. 91-1, p. 256).
Officer Waid stated that he heard both the initial dispatch call and the later distress
call from Officer Davis, and that when he arrived on the scene, he heard yelling,
witnessed broken glass on the ground, and observed Officers Davis and Blake
struggling to remove Mr. Stryker from the vehicle. (Doc. 91-1, p. 245–49). Based
on the out-of-control nature of the scene, the Court cannot say that an objectively
reasonable officer would have or should have used less force than Officer Waid.
As previously discussed herein, Mr. Stryker cannot reasonably argue that the
situation was anything less than out-of-control considering his own testimony that
he was actively trying to evade arrest by entering his truck, clinging to the safety
bar inside the cabin, and refusing to voluntarily exit the vehicle. While the Court
must construe the facts in the light most favorable to Mr. Stryker, the Court is not
required to discount the unfavorable portions of Mr. Stryker’s own testimony in
favor of an alternate version of events which better suits his position.
unfortunate that the situation spiraled to the point of Mr. Stryker sustaining a
broken jaw and back injuries. However, the Eleventh Circuit has upheld the right
of law enforcement to use increasing force, even deadly force, in situations when
an arrestee is non-compliant and where less aggressive measures have failed. See
e.g., Garczynski, 573 F.3d at 1170 (“The outcome of this situation was undeniably
a tragedy. In their efforts to prevent a suicide, the officers took a life. Yet the
record reveals that their use of force was objectively reasonable considering all the
circumstances from a reasonable officer’s viewpoint. No constitutional violation
b. “Clearly Established”
Mr. Stryker has failed to satisfy the first element under Saucier, that is, that
the officers violated his Fourth Amendment right to be free from the use of force.
Accordingly, the Court’s analysis as to the question of qualified immunity need not
proceed further. However, assuming for the sake of argument that Mr. Stryker had
demonstrated that Officers Davis, Blake and Waid violated his constitutional right
to be free from the use of force, Mr. Stryker has failed to show that his right was
clearly established at the time of the incident. In the Eleventh Circuit:
There are two ways for a party to show that the law clearly established
that a particular amount of force was excessive. The first is to point to
a “materially similar case [that has] already decided that what the
police officer was doing was unlawful.” Willingham, 261 F.3d at
1187. Because identifying factually similar cases may be difficult in
the excessive force context, we have recognized a narrow exception
also allowing parties to show “that the official’s conduct lies so
obviously at the very core of what the Fourth Amendment prohibits
that the unlawfulness of the conduct was readily apparent to the
official, notwithstanding the lack of case law.” Priester, 208 F.3d at
926 (quoting Smith v. Mattox, 127 F.3d 1416, 1419 (11th Cir. 1997)).
Under this test, the law is clearly established, and qualified immunity
can be overcome, only if the standards set forth in Graham and our
own case law “inevitably lead every reasonable officer in [the
defendant’s] position to conclude the force was unlawful.” Id.
(quoting Post v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 7 F.3d 1552, 1559 (11th Cir.
Lee, 284 F.3d at 1198–99. To satisfy his burden, a plaintiff must do more than
“point to sweeping propositions of law and simply posit that those propositions are
applicable.” Nicholson v. Georgia Dept. of Human Resources, 918 F.2d 145, 147
(11th Cir. 1990). “The dispositive question is whether ‘it would be clear to a
reasonable officer that his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted.’”
Poulakis v. Rogers, 341 Fed. Appx. 523, 526 (11th Cir. 2009) (quoting Saucier,
533 U.S. at 202).
Mr. Stryker argues that “[t]here was ample relevant and ‘clearly established’
case law at the time of this incident to place the Defendant Officers on notice that
kicking, punching and hitting Mr. Stryker while he was compliant, lying face down
with his hands in the officers’ control was a violation of his Fourth Amendment
rights.” (Doc. 100, p. 49). However, none of the cases relied upon by Mr. Stryker
are factually similar. See supra, string citation at pages 30–31; see also Vinyard,
311 F.3d at 1355 (“We also find that . . . the law was clearly established [such] that
Officer McCreless’s conduct, as Payton describes it, violated her constitutional
right to be free from excessive force. No objectively reasonable police officer
could believe that, consistent with the dictates of the Constitution, he could grab a
60–year–old woman—who was suspected of no crime, who verbally objected to a
search of her home in a non-belligerent manner and made no aggressive
movements, and who had already been pulled from the doorway for a fellow
officer to enter—and twist her thumb up behind her back so severely that she
suffered tendon damage and a possible bone fracture.”); Hadley, 526 F.3d at 1333
(“We hold that a handcuffed, non-resisting defendant's right to be free from
excessive force was clearly established[.]”); Lee, 284 F.3d at 1199 (“[A]
reasonable officer could not possibly have believed that he then had the lawful
authority to take her to the back of her car and slam her head against the trunk after
she was arrested, handcuffed, and completely secured, and after any danger to the
arresting officer as well as any risk of flight had passed. Once an arrestee has been
fully secured, such force is wholly unnecessary to any legitimate law enforcement
purpose.”); Slicker, 215 F.3d at 1233 (“[O]fficers used excessive force in beating
Slicker even though he was handcuffed and did not resist, attempt to flee, or
struggle with the officers in any way.”); Fils, 647 F.3d at 1289 (“Under either
method, Bergert and Williams [the officers] should have known that their conduct
violated Maurice’s Fourth Amendment rights. Maurice was tased even though he
committed at most a minor offense; he did not resist arrest; he did not threaten
anyone; and he did not disobey any instructions (for none were given).”).
Mr. Stryker has failed to identify any materially similar Eleventh Circuit
case law that would have put the officers on notice that their conduct was in
violation of Mr. Stryker’s constitutional rights.
The underlying criminal
conviction against Mr. Stryker combined with Mr. Stryker’s own testimony
concerning his attempts to flee Officer Davis and to further evade arrest obviate a
conclusion, at least in this Court’s mind, that the officers’ conduct would not
“inevitably lead every reasonable officer in the defendants’ position to conclude
the force was unlawful.” See Lee, 284 F.3d at 1198–99. For this and the other
reasons stated herein, the officers are entitled to qualified immunity and to
summary judgment as to Mr. Stryker’s Section 1983 claim.
B. Section 1983 Claim Against the City
Mr. Stryker asserts in Count II of his second amended complaint that the
City “permitted and ratified a policy, custom and practice among its police officers
to unreasonably use excessive force during arrests, including routine arrests
involving misdemeanors.” (Doc. 69, p. 11, ¶ 62). More specifically, Mr. Stryker
alleges that the City failed to properly train and supervise its officers in the proper
use of force. (Doc. 69, p. 21, ¶ 98) (The described City policy, custom and
practice permitting and encouraging the unconstitutional use of force against
ordinary citizens . . . was reinforced by the City’s failure to discipline or prosecute
known incidents of improper use of excessive force, failure to adequately
investigate claims of excessive force, failure to supervise problem officers, and
failure to provide training to problem officers.”). Mr. Stryker notes that Officer
Davis and the City of Homewood has been sued on two other occasions for using
excessive force in the course of an arrest. (See Doc. 69, p. 12, ¶ 67, n. 2) (citing
Jackson v. City of Homewood et al., 2:12-cv-4199-KOB (N.D. Ala. 2014) and
Pettaway v. City of Homewood, et al., 2:16-cv-932-AKK (N.D. Ala. 2017).
1. Judicial Notice of Jackson and Pettaway
Before reaching the merits of Mr. Stryker’s Section 1983 claims against the
City, the Court adopts and incorporates herein Judge Hopkins’s conclusions as to
the dispositive weight of the two prior cases against Officer Davis and the City of
Homewood. Judge Hopkins opined:
The City notes, correctly, that the two lawsuits cited by the Plaintiff—
Jackson v. City of Homewood, et al., 2:12-cv-4199 and Pettway v.
City of Homewood, et al., 2:16-cv-932—both of which were filed in
the Northern District of Alabama and alleged excessive force claims
against Officer Davis and the City of Homewood (Doc. 41 at 9),
provide no support the Plaintiff’s claim. “Courts may take judicial
notice of public records, such as a pleading filed in another court,
because such documents are ‘capable of accurate and ready
determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably
be questioned.’” Navarro v. City of Riviera Beach, 192 F. Supp. 3d
1353, 1364 (S.D. Fla. 2016) (quoting Bryant v. Avado Brands, Inc.,
187 F.3d 1271, 1278 (11th Cir. 1999)). “However, judicial notice may
be taken only to establish what those documents contain, not the
veracity of their contents.” Id. (citing Bryant, 187 F.3d at 1278). The
Court takes judicial notice of the allegation that the incident in
Pettway occurred on June 5, 2014 (See doc. 1 at 2, ¶ 6 in Pettway v.
City of Homewood, 2:16-cv-00932-AKK), a date which was after the
date of the conduct alleged in the instant case. Neither the conduct
alleged in Pettway, nor the filing of the suit itself, could have put the
City on notice, before the date of the events of the instant case, of the
need to train on the use of force. See MacMillan v. Roddenberry, No.
5:08-CV-351-OC-10GRJ, 2010 WL 668281, at *7, n. 5 (M.D. Fla.
Feb. 19, 2010) (Hodges, J.), aff’d, 432 Fed.Appx. 890 (11th Cir. 2011)
(and cases cited therein) (complaints made after the arrest at issue are
not relevant to whether city was on notice of incidents of abuse);
Timmons v. Polk Cty. Sheriff's Office, No. 8:09-CV-1190-T-17TGW,
2009 WL 4249553, at *2 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 25, 2009) (Kovachevich, J.)
(“Plaintiffs complaint on pages B15–B19 merely lists incidents and
grievances that allegedly occurred after his incident.”); Thomas v. City
of Clanton, 285 F. Supp. 2d 1275, 1283 (M.D. Ala. 2003) (Thompson,
J.) (“Thomas ... cannot demonstrate a ‘pattern of constitutional
violations ... such that the municipality knows or should know that
corrective measures are needed’ by relying ... on ... the Gomez
complaint, which was filed six months after the incident involving
Similarly, the Court takes judicial notice that the allegations in
Jackson have not been substantiated (See Doc. 35) (Stipulation of
Dismissal) in Jackson v. City of Homewood et al., 2:12-cv-04199KOB), and thus the Plaintiff’s reference to that case provides no
support for the Plaintiff’s claims. See, e.g., Gold v. City of Miami, 151
F.3d 1346, 1351 (11th Cir. 1998) (prior complaints must be shown to
have been valid); Brooks v. Scheib, 813 F.2d 1191, 1193 (11th Cir.
1987) (“Brooks never demonstrated that past complaints of police
misconduct had any merit.”); Montanez v. City of Orlando, No.
614CV622ORL22TBS, 2015 WL 12778406, at *12 (M.D. Fla. Oct.
23, 2015) (Conway, J.), aff’d, 678 Fed.Appx. 905 (11th Cir. 2017)
(“Because Montanez has not presented any evidence that the
allegations of false arrest and excessive force made in the two other
federal lawsuits filed against Sgt. Parker had any merit, they cannot
establish past police misconduct of which the City was, or should
have been, aware, for the purpose of showing that the City had a
custom or policy condoning or permitting such behavior.”); Tolbert v.
Trammell, No. 2:13-CV-02108-WMA, 2014 WL 3892115, at *5
(N.D. Ala. Aug. 4, 2014) (Acker, J.) (“The Eleventh Circuit has held
that complaints of police misconduct alone, without a demonstration
that such complaints have merit, do not establish a pattern of similar
constitutional violations and do not give the city notice of police
Stryker v. City of Homewood, No. 2:16-CV-0832-VEH, 2017 WL 3191097, at *10
(N.D. Ala. July 27, 2017) (emphasis in original).
For the purposes of ruling on the defendants’ summary judgment motions,
this Court likewise takes judicial notice of Pettaway and Jackson as providing no
support for Mr. Stryker’s claims in this action. As Judge Hopkins aptly stated, the
plaintiff in Pettaway filed her complaint after the date of the conduct alleged in the
instant case, and therefore, the allegations contained in that complaint could not
put the City on notice of the need to train and supervise its officers on the use of
Moreover, since the date of Judge Hopkins’s ruling noted above, the
plaintiff’s claims in Pettaway have been dismissed.
See Pettway v. City of
Homewood, et al., 2:16-cv-932 (Kallon, J.) (Doc. 36 – Memorandum Opinion and
Order – granting city of Homewood’s motion to dismiss with prejudice; Doc. 42 –
Order dismissing without prejudice claims against individual defendants as a result
of plaintiff’s guilty plea on charges of trafficking narcotics). The allegations in
Jackson have also not been substantiated—by virtue of the parties’ joint stipulation
of dismissal—and are of no utility here.
2. Analysis of Section 1983 Claim Against the City
“A municipality can be held liable under § 1983 for the unconstitutional
actions of its employees only when the [city’s] official policy causes a
constitutional violation.” Martin v. City of Macon, Georgia, et al., No. 16-1616103, 2017 WL 2859512, at *2 (11th Cir. July 5, 2017); see also Garczynski, 573
F.3d at 1170–71 (quoting Collins v. City of Harker Heights, Tex., 503 U.S. 115,
123 (1992) (“‘[I]f a city employee violates another's constitutional rights, the city
may be liable if it had a policy or custom of failing to train its employees and that
failure to train caused the constitutional violation.’”) (internal citations and
However, in cases where no constitutional violation has
occurred, the Court need not look further into the municipality’s policies or
Garczynski, 573 F.3d at 1170 (“Analysis of a state entity’s custom or
policy is unnecessary . . . when no constitutional violation has occurred.”); see also
Case, 555 F.3d at 1328 (declining to review the sheriff’s and city’s customs and
policies in the absence of a constitutional deprivation by the individual police
officer); Rooney v. Watson, 101 F.3d 1378, 1381 (11th Cir. 1996) (“Since we have
determined that Deputy Watson’s conduct did not cause the Rooneys to suffer a
constitutional deprivation, we need not inquire into Volusia County’s policy and
custom relating to patrol vehicle operation and training.”).
Mr. Stryker failed to demonstrate that Officers Davis, Blake or Waid
violated his constitutional rights by using excessive force. In the absence of a
constitutional violation, the Court need not examine whether the City’s policies
violated Mr. Stryker’s rights. Garczynski, 573 F.3d at 1171; Case, 555 F.3d at
1328; Rooney, 101 F.3d at 1381. The City is entitled to summary judgment as to
Mr. Stryker’s Section 1983 claim for failure to train and/or supervise its police
C. State Law Claims
Mr. Stryker asserts state law claims against Officers Davis, Blake and Waid
for assault and battery (Count III), negligence (Count IV), and wantonness (Count
V). The jurisdictional basis for Mr. Stryker’s state law claims is 28 U.S.C. § 1367,
which provides a federal district court with discretion to exercise or to decline to
exercise supplemental jurisdiction over state claims in which the court’s
jurisdiction is based upon a federal question. This Section provides that “in any
civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts
shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to the
claims in the action that they form part of the same case or controversy.” 28
U.S.C. § 1367(a).
The notion of supplemental jurisdiction is “‘a doctrine of discretion, not of
plaintiff’s right.’” Carnegie-Mellon University v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 350 (1988)
(quoting Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966)). A district court may
decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction in the following circumstances:
(1) the claim raises a novel or complex issue of state law,
(2) the claim substantially predominates over the claim or claims over
which the district court has original jurisdiction,
(3) the district court has dismissed all claims over which it has
original jurisdiction, or
(4) in exceptional circumstances, there are other compelling reasons
for declining jurisdiction.
28 U.S.C. 1367(c) (emphasis supplied). The United States Supreme Court has
[A] federal court should consider and weigh in each case, and at
every stage of the litigation, the values of judicial economy,
convenience, fairness, and comity in order to decide whether to
exercise jurisdiction over a case brought in that court involving
pendant state-law claims. When the balance of these factors indicates
that a case properly belongs in state court, as when the federal-law
claims have dropped out of the lawsuit in its early stages and only
state-law claims remain, the federal court should decline the exercise
of jurisdiction by dismissing the case without prejudice.
Additionally, the Eleventh Circuit has observed that when a plaintiff’s
federal claims are dismissed, “there remains no independent original federal
jurisdiction to support the Court’s exercise of supplemental jurisdiction over the
state law claims against the [d]efendant.”
Baggett v. First Nat. Bank of
Gainesville, 117 F.3d 1342, 1352 (11th Cir. 1997); see also Raney v. Allstate Ins.
Co., 370 F.3d 1086, 1089 (11th Cir. 2004) (“We have encouraged district courts to
dismiss any remaining state claims when, as here, the federal claims have been
dismissed prior to trial.”).
Having already determined that Mr. Stryker’s federal claims against the City
and the individual defendants fail as a matter of law, the Court declines to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over Mr. Stryker’s remaining state law claims. Pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d), Mr. Stryker has thirty (30) days from the entry of this
memorandum opinion and order to refile in state court. See Personalized Media
Communications, LLC v. Scientific-Atlantic, Inc., 493 Fed. Appx. 78, 82, n. 1 (11th
Cir. 2012) (interpreting 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d) (“The period of limitations for any
claim asserted [based on supplemental jurisdiction] . . . shall be tolled while the
claim is pending and for a period of 30 days after it is dismissed.”)).
For the foregoing reasons, summary judgment is hereby GRANTED in
favor of the City and the individual defendants as to Mr. Stryker’s Section 1983
claims (Counts I and II). The Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction
over Mr. Stryker’s state law claims as set forth in Counts III, IV, and V. The state
law claims are therefore DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. Mr. Stryker
shall have thirty (30) days from the entry of this judgment to refile his state law
claims in state court. The Court will enter a separate order contemporaneously
DONE and ORDERED January 9, 2019.
LILES C. BURKE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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