Crowder v. Manila Arkansas, City of et al
ORDER granting as modified 10 Motion to dismiss. The federal claims against all defendants will be dismissed with prejudice. The Court declines to exercise jurisdiction over the state claims. They will be dismissed without prejudice. Signed by Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. on 1/11/2019. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
MILDRED CROWDER, as Personal
Representative of the Estate of
Timothy Johnson, Deceased
CITY OF MANILA, ARKANSAS;
and JARED CAMP and JACKIE
1. Mrs. Crowder pleads these sad facts against Manila, police
officer Camp, and police chief Hill based on her son's death. The Court
quotes her complaint (omitting the main paragraph numbers and
creating several combined paragraphs) about what happened.
Manila, Arkansas is a small town located in Mississippi County,
Timothy Johnson was a troubled young man who had
severe emotional and psychological problems. He was under the care
of a doctor and had been diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia,
bi-polar disorder, and manic depression.
Due to his conditions,
Timothy was unemployed. His friend, Melinda White, allowed him to
live in a camper in her back yard and would allow him to eat his meals
with them and shower at their house. Timothy was withdrawn and did
not engage with many people. His social interactions were limited to
some members of his family, Melinda White's family, and Kristi Greer,
a young lady to whom he was attracted. Timothy had recently been
rejected by Kristi Greer and was dejected and severely depressed. He
was a cutter. Whenever something bothered him to the point of severe
depression, he would cut himself. Timothy had tried to harm himself
several times in the past and had an unsuccessful suicide attempt
approximately a month before where he had cut his forearm to the
bone. His medical care physician had prescribed him Seroquel, Zoloft,
Prozac and Xanax.
In the morning of July 28, 2015, Kristi knocked on Melinda
White's door telling them she'd found Timothy laying on his camper
floor unconscious, unresponsive, and appearing not to be breathing.
Melinda's son, Matthew White, ran to the camper and found Timothy
as Kristi described. Matthew returned to the house and told Melinda
to call 9-1-1, and then he, along with a visiting friend, Tiffany Boyd, ran
to the camper to attend to Timothy. Camp responded along with the
EMTs to the 9-1-1 dispatch. The EMTs revived Timothy who told them
he was just trying to get attention from his girl friend. Camp and the
EMTs left when Timothy refused further aid staying at the camper.
Neither Camp nor the EMTs had any problem or difficulty with
Timothy in their interactions with him.
Later that day, around 2 p.m., Camp accompanied the EMTs to
Timothy's camper to retrieve a trauma bag that they had left there.
Timothy opened the door to them and allowed them to retrieve the bag.
Again, neither the EMTs nor Camp had problems from Timothy in their
interactions with him. While there, Camp asked Melinda White if they
knew Timothy to be a danger to anyone. She told him no. She told him
that Timothy was not a danger to anyone, but himself; that he'd only
hurt himself and not anyone else. He asked her if she was afraid of
Timothy and she told him no.
Later that evening at approximately 8 p.m., Kristi knocked on
Melinda White's door screaming that "Tim has done it this time, he is
Melinda White called 9-1-1 while Tiffany Boyd ran to the
camper to find Timothy lying in the camper doorway with a thick white
plastic zip tie pulled snug around his neck. Timothy's face and body
were purple and he was unresponsive. Tiffany screamed for help and
while waiting for help to come, pulled on the plastic zip tie as best as
she could trying to create space for blood to flow and for Timothy to
get some air. Melinda White's son, Matthew, arrived and cut the zip
tie. Timothy gave a big gasp and stirred, but was confused and not all
there. He had been with little to no oxygen for quite a long time.
Shaken by what they had just experienced, Tiffany and Matthew
returned to the house to await the arrival of the ambulance, leaving
Kristi and her driver in their truck parked in the yard.
Camp received a call from dispatch that the EMTs had been called
back to the camper for a man who had tried to hang himself. When
Camp arrived and got out of his vehicle, he saw Timothy holding a
knife in his right hand up to his neck. Camp drew his service revolver
and told Timothy to put the knife down and they would talk through
it. Camp told dispatch and other officers that he had a subject with a
knife to his neck and he, Camp, had the subject at gunpoint. Timothy
told Camp he was not going to put the knife down, but that he would
cut himself, that he would do it. As Timothy took a couple of steps
forward toward Camp, Camp told Timothy again to put the knife down
and that he, Camp, would shoot Timothy if he did not stop.
At or around that time, they saw Chief Hill's car pulling into the
driveway behind Camp's car. Timothy told Camp if anyone else
showed up, he was going to cut himself. Camp told Timothy that it
was just Jackie, Chief Hill, but to put the knife down because he wanted
to help him. Timothy brought the knife down to his waist, slapped his
forehead and said, "You wanna help me? Here, help me" and took two
quick steps toward Camp. Chief Hill had been informed by the EMS
personnel that they were responding to a call of a person who had tried
to hang himself. Enroute, he heard Camp say he was on the scene and
something about a gun, then something about a knife. Upon his arrival,
as he approached Camp, he saw Timothy, someone he knew and had
grown up with, and heard Timothy hollering "shoot me right here,
shoot me right here", as he pointed to his head. Hill saw Timothy take
a few quick steps toward Camp and Camp taking a few steps back,
fired his gun. According to Camp, Timothy was approximately 15'
away when he fired his gun three times.
Throughout the entire time, Kristi Greer had remained in the yard
talking and pleading with Timothy. She heard Timothy yell at Camp
"get the f **k out of here". She heard Camp tell Timothy "I'm not here
to arrest you; you've got people worried about you; and put the knife
down", and as Timothy took a couple of steps toward Camp, Camp
pulled his gun. Kristi heard Timothy yell at Camp, "shoot me, that's
what I want you to do"; and as he took a couple more steps screaming
at Camp, "Come on, I want you to do it", Camp fired his gun.
NQ 1 at 4-8.
Mrs. Crowder claims violations of the United States and Arkansas
Constitutions, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation
Act, and the Arkansas Civil Rights Act. The Manila defendants say
that, for various reasons, all her claims fail as a matter of law. The Court
accepts the pleaded facts as true for the purposes of the Manila
defendants' motion. Crumpley-Patterson v. Trinity Lutheran Hospital, 388
F.3d 588, 590 (8th Cir. 2004).
2. Mrs. Crowder' s main claim is that officer Camp shot and killed
Timothy when he didn't have to, violating the Fourth Amendment's
prohibition against unreasonable seizures. Estate of Morgan v. Cook, 686
F.3d 494, 496-98 (8th Cir. 2012). But, because officer Camp didn't
violate Timothy's clearly established rights, he's entitled to qualified
Officer Camp returned that night to find Timothy with a knife to
his own throat. He was distraught and screaming at Camp to shoot
him. Timothy took a couple of steps toward Camp, holding the knife
at his side. Camp tried to talk him down. He repeatedly told Timothy
to drop the knife, warning him about what would happen if he
continued moving forward with it. The officer backed up. Camp was
right to do all these things. Loch v. City of Litchfield, 689 F.3d 961, 967
(8th Cir. 2012). But Timothy's quick movements, the knife, and the
screaming made it a fraught situation, which then required a splitsecond decision.
Kisela v. Hughes, 138 S. Ct. 1148, 1152 (2018) (per
curiam); Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 396-97 (1989).
Mrs. Crowder presses that the fifteen feet separating Camp and
Timothy when the officer fired, plus his dealings with Timothy and
those that knew him earlier that day, made the officer's decision to
shoot unreasonable. She also points out that, unlike Camp, Hill did not
pull his pistol, much less shoot.
Distance matters, especially when an officer confronts someone
with a knife. Ludwig v. Anderson, 54 F.3d 465, 473-74 (8th Cir. 1995). In
the Cook case, six to twelve feet separated the officer and the person
with a knife. 686 F.3d at 498. Here, it was fifteen feet-and the gap was
closing. Fifteen feet is about six steps. Timothy was moving toward
Considering all the circumstances, the distance was close
enough to put officer Camp and the others in danger.
Manila is the kind of small town where most folks know each
other. For example, when chief Hill arrived, officer Camp told Timothy
it was "just Jackie."
NQ 1 at 7.
Neither that background, Camp's
interactions with Timothy earlier that day, Melinda White's firm
opinion that Timothy wasn't a danger to anyone but himself, nor Hill's
decision not to draw his weapon answers the law's question in this kind
of situation. Was it objectively reasonable for a police officer to use
deadly force against an emotionally distraught person with a knife,
who was refusing to drop it, was advancing toward the officer, and was
approximately fifteen feet away? Yes, it was. Cook, 686 F.3d at 497.
Camp's knowledge about Timothy's "mental state does not change the
fact he posed a deadly threat to the officers." Hayek v. City of St. Paul,
488 F.3d 1049, 1055 (8th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted).
Next, is officer Camp entitled to qualified immunity against Mrs.
Crawford's ADA and Rehabilitation Act claims, which overlap in these
circumstances? Roberts v. City of Omaha, 723 F.3d 966, 972-73 (8th Cir.
2013). He is. It's hard to craft a solid Title II claim in this context. There
would need to be proof that an officer used force because of the victim's
disability. De Boise v. Taser International, Inc., 760 F.3d 892, 899 (8th Cir.
2014). There's nothing in the record that supports the conclusion that
Camp's use of force was "by reason of [Timothy's] disability .... " Ibid.
(quotation omitted). Instead, the record shows a quick decision about
safety in tense and fluid circumstances involving an emotionally
disturbed young man.
3. Mrs. Crowder' s claims against chief Hill and Manila also fall
short. She says that Hill "stood idly by" when Camp used deadly force.
NQ 1 at 10. But the facts show that Hill arrived mid-stream. Camp's
quick decision doesn't allow for any "inference of tacit collaboration"
between the two officers to arise. Krout v. Goemmer, 583 F.3d 557, 565
(8th Cir. 2009). And the failure-to-train claims against Hill and Manila
fail because Camp didn't violate the Constitution. Sanders v. City of
Minneapolis, Minnesota, 474 F.3d 523,527 (8th Cir. 2007).
4. The Defendants' motion to dismiss, NQ 10, is granted as
modified. The federal claims against all defendants will be dismissed
with prejudice. The Court declines to exercise jurisdiction over the state
claims. 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3); Anderson v. Franklin County, Missouri, 192
F.3d 1125, 1131 (8th Cir. 1999).
They will be dismissed without
D.P. Marshall Jr.
United States District Judge
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