Lea v. Conrad et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER by Chief Judge Greg N. Stivers on 9/14/2022 granting 54 Motion for Partial Summary Judgment; granting in part and denying in part 65 Motion for Summary Judgment cc: Counsel(JWM)
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 1 of 20 PageID #: 1808
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:19-CV-00419-GNS-RSE
STEVE CONRAD, et al.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff’s Partial Motion for Summary Judgment (DN
54) and Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (DN 65). This matter is ripe for adjudication.
For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff’s motion is GRANTED, and Defendants’ motion is
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.
On August 9, 2018, Plaintiff Tae-Ah Lea (“Lea”), an eighteen-year-old African American
male, was operating a vehicle in Louisville, Kentucky, when he was pulled over by Kevin
Crawford (“Crawford”) and Gabriel Hellard (“Hellard”), officers of the Louisville Metro Police
Department (“LMPD”), in particular the LMPD Ninth Mobile Division (“Ninth Mobile”).
(Compl. ¶¶ 1-2, DN 1). Crawford approached the vehicle and explained to Lea that he had made
an improper wide turn. (Crawford Video 1:10-1:20, Aug. 9, 2018, DN 71-1). During the stop,
Crawford repeatedly asked Lea if he had any weapons or drugs, which Lea denied. (Crawford
Video 1:20, 2:47, 2:52-3:01). When asked for identification, Lea requested permission to retrieve
the card from his pants pocket, to which Crawford replied: “[i]f you ain’t got any guns.”
(Crawford Video 1:20-1:28). While Lea reached into his pockets, Hellard, who was standing by
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 2 of 20 PageID #: 1809
the front passenger window, pointed to a souvenir baseball bat between the passenger seat and the
console of Lea’s car and asked “what’s that, like a baseball bat or something right there?”, to
which Lea answered affirmatively. (Hellard Video 1:25-1:29, Aug. 9, 2018, DN 71-1). As he
handed Crawford his identification, Lea received a cell phone call from his mother and told
Crawford “my mom is on speaker.” (Crawford Video 1:20-2:26). Crawford responded “that’s
cool, man.” (Crawford Video 2:28). Crawford opened the car door and instructed Lea to move
his phone and wallet from his lap and led Lea by the wrists out of the car. (Crawford Video 2:302:44). After twice again asking Lea if he had a weapon or drugs and being told “no,” Crawford
frisked Lea over his objection. (Crawford Video 2:53-2:54, 3:05-3:06). At no point after the initial
inquiry did any of the officers mention to one another, or to Lea, anything else about the souvenir
Crawford requested to search the car and Lea denied consent, at which point Crawford
spoke with his K9 officer, Jeffrey McCauley (“McCauley”), who had arrived on the scene.
(Crawford Video 3:25-3:40). Crawford told McCauley that Lea acted nervous, but Crawford had
not checked for any outstanding warrants. (Crawford Video 3:43-3:48). Crawford then returned
to the vehicle and shined a flashlight into the car. (Crawford Video 3:50-4:30). At approximately
five and a half minutes into the stop, Crawford began to review Lea’s identification, while
McCauley took his dog around the outside of the vehicle. (Crawford Video 5:45-6:38; McCauley
Video 1:05-2:04, Aug. 9, 2018, DN 71-1). McCauley stated that the K9 was interested in Lea’s
wallet, and Crawford then began to search the vehicle in its entirety.1 (Crawford Video 10:31-
While Crawford was performing the search, Hellard stated: “we’re allowed to pat you down for
weapons, we’re allowed to do that.” (Hellard Video 3:07-3:08). During the majority of the stop,
Hellard was standing next to Lea and once the vehicle search began, Hellard handcuffed Lea.
(Hellard Video 3:15-3:24).
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 3 of 20 PageID #: 1810
14:45). After the search was completed and no contraband found, Crawford gave Lea a citation.
(Crawford Video 15:42-24:30).
On June 10, 2019, Lea filed this action alleging violations of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, and various state law claims. (Compl. ¶¶ 95-133). In the Complaint, Lea asserts claims
against Chief Steve Conrad (“Conrad”), Major William Hibbs (“Hibbs”), Crawford, Hellard,
McCauley, Jason McNeil (“McNeil”), and Kiersten Holman (“Holman”).2 Before the Court is
Plaintiff’s motion for partial summary judgment on the basis that Crawford unlawfully conducted
a pat-down search of Lea and prolonged the traffic stop beyond its initial purpose. (Pl.’s Mem.
Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 2, at DN 54-1). Defendants also seek summary judgment on all claims based
upon, inter alia, qualified immunity. (Defs.’ Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 5-25, DN 65-1).
This Court has subject-matter jurisdiction of this matter based upon federal question
jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. In addition, the Court has supplemental jurisdiction over Lea’s
state law claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Summary judgment is proper “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).
The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). When bodycam
footage of the events at issue are available, “[t]o the extent that videos in the record show facts so
clearly that a reasonable jury could view those facts in only one way, those facts should be viewed
Lea voluntarily dismissed his claims against Holman and McNeil, as well as the claim for
excessive force. (Pl.’s Resp. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J. 2, DN 71).
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 4 of 20 PageID #: 1811
in the light depicted by the videos.” Latits v. Phillips, 878 F.3d 541, 544 (6th Cir. 2017) (citing
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007)).
The moving party’s burden may be discharged by demonstrating that there is an absence
of evidence to support an essential element of the nonmoving party’s case for which he has the
burden of proof. Id. Once the moving party demonstrates this lack of evidence, the burden passes
to the nonmoving party to establish, after an adequate opportunity for discovery, the existence of
a disputed factual element essential to his case with respect to which he bears the burden of proof.
Id. If the record taken as a whole could not lead the trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party,
the motion for summary judgment should be granted. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).
Defendants argue they are entitled to qualified immunity in their individual capacities.
(Defs.’ Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 13). Qualified immunity shields government officials from
individual liability for claims arising out of their performance of discretionary functions so long
as “their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a
reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982) (citations
omitted). When evaluating a qualified immunity claim on summary judgment, the proper two-part
inquiry is: (1) “whether the facts, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, could support
a finding that the defendant has violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights”; and (2) whether “the
defendant violated ‘clearly established’ constitutional rights.” Williams v. City of Grosse Pointe
Park, 496 F.3d 482, 485 (6th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). “Both prongs of this test must be met
‘for the case to go to a factfinder to decide if [the] officer’s conduct in the particular circumstances
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 5 of 20 PageID #: 1812
violated a Plaintiff’s clearly established constitutional rights. If either one is not satisfied, qualified
immunity will shield the officer from civil damages.’” Gordon v. Bierenga, 20 F.4th 1077, 1082
(6th Cir. 2021) (alteration in original) (citations omitted). Ultimately, the plaintiff bears the burden
of demonstrating that the defendant is not entitled to qualified immunity. Rodriguez v. Passinault,
637 F.3d 675, 689 (6th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted).
Fourth Amendment Search
Whether a Right Was Violated
Lea’s partial motion for summary judgment seeks a determination that his Fourth
Amendment right against unlawful search was violated by Crawford’s pat down. (Pl.’s Mem.
Supp. Partial Mot. Summ. J. 12-14). This issue will therefore be addressed in conjunction with
first step of the qualified immunity discussion.
The Fourth Amendment recognizes “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their
persons . . . against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const. amend. IV. In order to
legally perform a frisk on an individual, an officer must have reasonable suspicion that a person is
armed and dangerous. United States v. Pacheco, 841 F.3d 384, 390 (6th Cir. 2016). Lea argues
that Crawford did not have such reasonable suspicion to justify Crawford frisking him for
weapons. (Pl.’s Mem. Supp. Partial Mot. Summ. J. 12). To have reasonable suspicion, “[t]he
officer need not be absolutely certain that the individual is armed; the issue is whether a reasonably
prudent man in the circumstances would be warranted in the belief that his safety or that of others
was in danger.” Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 27 (1968). The officer’s belief is judged by an objective
standard. Id. at 22. “If subjective good faith alone were the test, the protections of the Fourth
Amendment would evaporate, and the people would be ‘secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and effects,’ only in the discretion of the police.” Id. (citation omitted). “Reasonable suspicion
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 6 of 20 PageID #: 1813
‘requires more than a mere hunch.’” United States v. Pedicini, 804 F. App’x 351, 355 (6th Cir.
2020) (citation omitted). “It demands ‘a particularized and objective basis for suspecting [that]
the particular person’ is armed and dangerous.” United States v. Noble, 762 F.3d 509, 522 (6th
Cir. 2014) (alteration in original) (emphasis added) (citation omitted). To claim an action was
reasonable, “the officer must be able to give specific, articulable reasons for believing that a
particular person is dangerous before he or she may frisk the suspect.” Pacheco, 841 F.3d at 392
(citation omitted). Furthermore, “once a motor vehicle has been lawfully detained for a traffic
violation, the police officers may order the driver to get out of the vehicle without violating the
Fourth Amendment’s proscription of unreasonable searches and seizures.” Pennsylvania v.
Mimms, 434 U.S. 106, 111 n.6 (1977).
Crawford, who performed the pat-down, stated that the indicators of criminal activity he
saw were “nervousness” and “lying to us about the weapon.” (Crawford Dep. 51:13-17, Mar. 24,
2021, DN 54-5). The “weapon” in question was “a bat or a stick” that was in Lea’s car tucked
between the front passenger seat and the console. (Crawford Dep. 51:20-25; Crawford Video 1:331:36). Lea avers he had “a miniature Louisville Slugger bat in plain view inside the vehicle,”
which is borne out by Hellard’s bodycam video.3 (Pl.’s Resp. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J. 12; Hellard
Video 1:25-1:29). When asked if he believed Lea was armed after Crawford inquired if Lea had
any weapons, Crawford responded, “I didn’t have any reason to believe he wasn’t. I mean, he
could have had a gun on him. I didn’t know.” (Crawford Dep. 46:21-25). Crawford testified that
he believed Lea had lied and may have possessed other weapons based on his failure to disclose
the souvenir bat. (Crawford Dep. 41:8-12). At no point during search does the body camera
An Amazon.com listing for an apparently similar bat notes that its weight is six ounces.
Louisville Slugger 18” Mini Bat, Amazon.com, https://www.amazon.com/Louisville-Slugger-18Mini-Bat/dp/B0773PHPYH (last visited Aug. 8, 2022).
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 7 of 20 PageID #: 1814
footage show Crawford or Hellard examine the miniature bat, nor did either attempt to secure the
purported cause of Crawford’s concern.
In order to find that Crawford did not violate Lea’s rights when he frisked Lea, an officer
in Crawford’s position is required to reasonably believe that Lea was armed and dangerous.
Pacheco, 841 F.3d at 390. With respect to the miniature Louisville Slugger, the lawful possession
of an object which has the capability to inflict physical damage does not automatically render a
person in possession of a weapon.
A “weapon” could include a brick, a baseball bat, a hammer, a broken bottle, a
fishing knife, barbed wire, a knitting needle, a sharpened pencil, a riding crop, a
jagged can, rope, a screwdriver, an ice pick, a tire iron, garden shears, a pitch fork,
a shovel, a length of chain, a penknife, a fork, metal pipe, a stick, etc. The foregoing
only illustrate the variety of lawful objects which are often innocently possessed
without wrongful intent . . . .
Wright v. New Jersey, 469 U.S. 1146, 1149 n.3 (1985) (Brennan, J., dissenting) (internal quotation
marks omitted) (citation omitted). When Crawford was asked what made him believe Lea was
armed, he testified that the miniature souvenir bat could have been used as a weapon. (Crawford
Dep. 51:20-5). The mere possession of a souvenir bat weighing six ounces, however, does not
objectively support a reasonable belief that Lea was armed any more than a screwdriver, a
sharpened pencil, or a pair of scissors, had those objects been present inside the car. This is
particularly true given that Lea gave no indication of any attempt to brandish or even touch the
souvenir bat. Crawford allowed Lea to continue searching his pockets even after the discovery of
the souvenir bat, which seriously undermines Crawford’s alleged belief that Lea may have been
armed and dangerous based upon his supposed lie about not possessing a weapon. (Crawford Dep.
51:13-17; Crawford Video 1:20-2:26). Further, Crawford did not mention the existence of the bat
to anyone else on the scene throughout the entire stop. Aside from the initial acknowledgment of
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 8 of 20 PageID #: 1815
the bat, it was never discussed again, suggesting that its threat as a weapon was not a significant
concern to Crawford or any of the other officers.
Crawford testified that the only thing that caused him to believe that Lea was armed was
“[j]ust the interaction with him and seeing him display the nervousness.” (Crawford Dep. 46:1217). It is well established that nervousness alone is not a sufficient basis on which to articulate
reasonable suspicion, as the Sixth Circuit held in Pacheco:
We found that [the suspect’s] nervousness should be discounted because, after
witnessing his alleged nervousness, the officer returned to his cruiser, inspected the
window tint, and performed a field-sobriety test on the driver, and then performed
the pat down on [the suspect]. These actions, we concluded, reflected a lack of
suspicion as to a suspect’s dangerousness, which an officer needs in order to justify
a pat down for weapons.
Pacheco, 841 F.3d at 391 (internal citation omitted).4
Crawford’s testimony is inconsistent with his actions as shown on the bodycam footage.
Crawford’s video shows he made no acknowledgment of the miniature bat, nor an effort to secure
it which contradicts his stated belief that Lea was armed with a weapon, as required to justify the
frisk. Pacheco, 841 F.3d at 390. Due to the conflicting nature between Crawford’s testimony and
his actions on the video, as well as the relatively small weight given to nervousness in a traffic
stop, Crawford lacked an objectively reasonable basis to believe that Lea was armed and dangerous
While nervousness alone is not a sufficient basis for reasonable suspicion, it should be noted that
a review of the footage from the traffic stop revealed no objective indications of the “nervousness”
Crawford claims to have observed. During the stop and prior to being removed from the vehicle,
Lea followed the directions of the officers and answered their questions directly. (Crawford Video
1:00-2:30). When asked to step out of the vehicle, Lea questioned the actions of the officers, not
indicating that he was nervous, but rather that he was confused about why the stop had escalated.
(Crawford Video 2:26-3:05). Even after Lea was removed from the car, his demeanor and actions
cannot be described as nervous, but rather exasperated or annoyed. (See Hellard Video 3:30-5:31).
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 9 of 20 PageID #: 1816
so as to justify a frisk for weapons. Thus, unless qualified immunity is available to Crawford, Lea
is entitled to summary judgment with respect to Crawford’s pat-down search.
Whether the Violated Right Was Clearly Established
Even when there is a constitutional violation, qualified immunity protects the officer unless
the right violated was clearly established at the time of the incident. Williams, 496 F.3d at 485. A
right is clearly established if “[t]he contours of the right [are] sufficiently clear that a reasonable
official would understand that what he is doing violates that right.” Baynes v. Cleland, 799 F.3d
600, 610 (6th Cir. 2015) (alterations in original) (quoting Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635,
640 (1987)). As the Supreme Court has noted:
[O]fficials can still be on notice that their conduct violates established law even in
novel factual circumstances. Indeed, in [United States v. Lanier, 520 U.S. 259
(1997)], we expressly rejected a requirement that previous cases be “fundamentally
similar.” Although earlier cases involving “fundamentally similar” facts can
provide especially strong support for a conclusion that the law is clearly established,
they are not necessary to such a finding. The same is true of cases with “materially
Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 741 (2002). This does not mean “that an official action is protected
by qualified immunity unless the very action in question has previously been held unlawful; but it
is to say that in the light of pre-existing law the unlawfulness must be apparent.” Id. (internal
quotation marks omitted) (internal citation omitted) (citation omitted).
Under Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968):
[T]here must be a narrowly drawn authority to permit a reasonable search for
weapons for the protection of the police officer, where he has reason to believe that
he is dealing with an armed and dangerous individual, regardless of whether he has
probable cause to arrest the individual for a crime. The officer need not be
absolutely certain that the individual is armed; the issue is whether a reasonably
prudent man in the circumstances would be warranted in the belief that his safety
or that of others was in danger.
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 10 of 20 PageID #: 1817
Id. at 27 (citation omitted). “When an officer makes a Terry stop, he may also perform a
precautionary search—known as a ‘frisk’ or ‘pat down’—whenever he has ‘reasonable suspicion’
that the person searched may be armed and dangerous.” Pacheco, 841 F.3d at 390 (citation
omitted). It is well established that the relevant inquiry to determine reasonable suspicion is
whether “a reasonably prudent [person] in the circumstances would be warranted in the belief that
his [or her] safety or that of others was in danger.” Noble, 762 F.3d at 521-22 (alterations in
original) (citation omitted).
Under the circumstances clearly shown in the officers’ bodycam footage, a reasonable
officer in the same situation would be aware that “[a] lawful stop does not necessarily carry with
it the authority to conduct a pat-down search.” Bennett v. City of Eastpointe, 410 F.3d 810, 822
(6th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). Moreover, “[r]easonable suspicion ‘requires more than a mere
hunch [that a person is armed and dangerous].’” Noble, 762 F.3d at 522 (citation omitted).
Furthermore, it is well established that nervousness in a traffic stop is not in and of itself sufficient
to create reasonable suspicion shielding an officer from violating a person’s Fourth Amendment
rights. United States v. Richardson, 385 F.3d 625, 630-31 (6th Cir. 2004); see also United States
v. Wilson, 506 F.3d 488, 495 (6th Cir. 2007) (“Nervous behavior, standing alone, is not enough to
justify a Terry search.” (citation omitted)). In fact, “[m]any citizens become nervous during a
traffic stop, even when they have nothing to hide or fear.” Richardson, 385 F.3d at 630-31. A
reasonable officer would have known that nervousness was not a reliable indicator of whether a
potential suspect is armed and dangerous.
Accordingly, at the time of the incident in August 2018, it was clearly established that
Crawford could not frisk Lea without a reasonable suspicion that he was armed and dangerous,
and that Lea’s nervousness was insufficient to justify the search. As a result, Crawford is not
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 11 of 20 PageID #: 1818
entitled to qualified immunity, and Lea is entitled to judgment as a matter of law with respect to
his Fourth Amendment search claim.
Fourth Amendment Seizure
Whether a Right Was Violated
Lea’s partial motion for summary judgment seeks a finding that his Fourth Amendment
right against unlawful seizure was violated through the prolonging of the traffic stop by Crawford.
(Pl.’s Mem. Supp. Partial Mot. Summ. J. 14-17). Defendants assert in their motion for summary
judgment that Crawford, Hellard, and McCauley are all entitled to qualified immunity because
they did not unjustly prolong the traffic stop. (Defs.’ Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 13-19).
“A traffic stop is analogous to a ‘Terry stop’ in that, following the initial stop, the
subsequent detention cannot be excessively intrusive and must be reasonably related in time to the
investigation.” United States v. Wellman, 185 F.3d 651, 656 (6th Cir. 1999) (citing Berkemer v.
McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 439 (1984); United States v. Palomino, 100 F.3d 446, 449 (6th Cir. 1996)).
To determine whether a detention is reasonable, the court should consider “whether the officer’s
action was justified at its inception, and whether it is reasonably related in scope to the
circumstances which justified the interference in the first place.” Wellman, 185 F.3d at 656
(citation omitted). The typical steps associated with a traffic stop include “checking the driver’s
license, determining whether there are outstanding warrants against the driver, and inspecting the
automobile’s registration and proof of insurance.” Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. 348, 355
(2015). “Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are—or
reasonably should have been—completed.” Id. at 354 (citation omitted). Lea does not deny that
Crawford had cause to stop Lea’s vehicle due to the traffic infraction. (Pl.’s Mem. Supp. Partial
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 12 of 20 PageID #: 1819
Mot. Summ. J. 14). Rather, Lea argues that the duration of the stop was impermissibly extended
so as to violate Lea’s Fourth Amendment rights. (Pl.’s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. 14).
The record reflects that Crawford did not promptly perform the requisite steps of the traffic
stop. Crawford approached the vehicle, informed Lea of the improper turn violation, and then
asked for his license and registration. (Crawford Video 1:00-1:15). Before addressing the purpose
of the stop by verifying Lea’s information and writing a citation, Crawford performed the illegal
frisk discussed above, sought out McCauley to do a K9 sniff, and then walked around Lea’s vehicle
while shining a light into the interior, further prolonging the stop while Hellard stood next to Lea.
(Crawford Video 3:25-5:00). Crawford testified that he walked around the car with the flashlight
in order to check for “anything dangerous to the dog whenever he went in there.” (Crawford Dep.
Crawford claims that he called for the K9 unit to do a sniff because the “criminal
indicators” present at Lea’s stop were “[h]is nervousness, him lying to us about the weapon.”
(Crawford Dep. 51:13-17). As noted previously, Crawford’s consideration of the miniature bat
was not sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion that Lea was armed and dangerous and
nervousness is not a reliable indicator of criminal activity. Crawford furthermore has not testified
with any specificity his concerns of criminal activity when Lea was stopped, only that he believed
something “criminal in nature” was in the vehicle. (Crawford Dep. 55:20-21). Absent a reasonable
belief that Lea was armed and dangerous and noting that nervousness alone is insufficient,
Crawford has not identified any other criminal activity indicators supporting his suspicion of
criminal activity to justify extending the stop by removing Lea from the vehicle, frisking him,
deploying a K9 sniff, and delaying performance of the procedures associated with a stop for a
traffic violation. Without a particularized suspicion of criminal activity, Crawford extended the
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 13 of 20 PageID #: 1820
traffic stop beyond its scope and violated Lea’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable
With regard to McCauley, who performed the sniff at Crawford’s behest, Defendants argue
that “there is no reason to believe that McCauley knew that nothing was being done to further the
mission of the stop.” (Defs.’ Reply Mot. Summ. J. 5). Five and a half minutes into the stop,
however, Crawford appears to begin running Lea’s information after speaking to McCauley and
informing him he had yet to run warrants on Lea. (Crawford Video 3:40-5:20). McCauley,
knowing at least that Crawford had not checked on Lea’s information, then walked the K9 around
the vehicle before Crawford or Hellard had addressed the purpose of the stop. (Crawford Video
5:30). McCauley testified that he came to the stop, saw Crawford and Hellard, and was asked to
do an exterior sniff of the vehicle, which he performed with the K9. (McCauley Dep. 38:25-39:6,
Mar. 9, 2021, DN 65-14). Other than Crawford’s statement about warrants, however, there has
been no showing that McCauley was aware that his presence with the K9 was contributing to
Crawford prolonging the stop.
Lea has not pointed to evidence in the record that McCauley, arriving to the scene after the
stop in a support role as a K9 handler, reasonably knew that he was extending the traffic stop
beyond a constitutionally permissible length.
McCauley is therefore entitled to qualified
Hellard is also implicated by Lea as contributing to the length of the stop. Throughout the
body camera footage, Hellard can be seen standing next to Lea during the majority of the stop.
(See generally Hellard Video). Hellard testified that he was not the one to stop Lea, but rather was
functioning as a support officer. (Hellard Dep. 35:10-11, Mar. 25, 2021, DN 65-5). Hellard stated
“if I’m support role, my job is to just be cover as best as I can.” (Hellard Dep. 85:3-4). Again,
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 14 of 20 PageID #: 1821
Lea has not pointed to case law or evidence in the record contradicting Hellard’s assertion that he
did not have the responsibility to execute the purpose of the stop, nor has Lea pointed to any
authority to show that Hellard had such a responsibility to prevent the stop from being extended.
Hellard is therefore also entitled to qualified immunity.
Whether Lea’s Right Against Unlawful Seizure Was Clearly
It was clearly established that at the time of the relevant a traffic stop that a reasonable
officer would have known that the stop could not be extended beyond the time necessary to
complete the requisite steps without cause. In Rodriguez, the Supreme Court held the question of
whether a stop is unconstitutionally prolonged depends on whether the officer’s conduct prolonged
the stop beyond its mission. Rodriguez, 575 U.S. at 354. The Sixth Circuit has interpreted
Rodriguez to hold the mission is “to address the traffic violation that warranted the stop and attend
to related safety concerns.” United States v. Lott, 954 F.3d 919, 923 (6th Cir. 2020) (internal
citation omitted) (citing Illinois v. Caballes, 543 U.S. 405, 407 (2005)). An officer can extend a
traffic stop beyond this mission only through reasonable articulable suspicion, but the reasonable
suspicion must arise before the officer seeks to prolong the stop. Rodriguez, 575 U.S. at 355;
United States v. Howard, 815 F. App’x 69, 76 (citing Lott, 954 F.3d at 923). “‘Authority for the
seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are—or reasonably should have been—
completed’ unless ‘reasonable suspicion of criminal activity justified detaining [the defendant]
beyond completion of the traffic infraction investigation.’” United States v. Collazo, 818 F.3d
247, 257 (6th Cir. 2016) (alteration in original) (citation omitted). LMPD instructed the officers
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 15 of 20 PageID #: 1822
that they may not delay a traffic stop while waiting for a dog to complete its search or to arrive on
the scene. (Pl.’s Resp. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J. Ex., at 1, DN 71-13).
As Lea points out, United States v. Blair, 524 F.3d 740 (6th Cir. 2008), raised similar
concerns to those at bar. In Blair, the suspect was pulled over for a minor traffic violation. Blair,
524 F.3d at 748. The officer informed the suspect that he believed drugs were in the car and then
performed a K9 sniff. Id. at 752. The officer testified that the indicators which led to his
reasonable suspicion of criminal activity included a fear that the suspect would flee, nervousness,
and a belief that the suspect had just left a known drug house. Id. at 752-53. The Sixth Circuit
dismissed the fear of flight as unreasonable and further found that the officer could not have known
about the suspect’s potential drug involvement before extending the stop. Id. The court found that
the suspect’s nervousness and his reaching under the seat were insufficient to support the officer’s
suspicion. Id. at 752-53. Similarly, in Richardson, the Sixth Circuit reiterated that nervousness in
a traffic stop is an unreliable indicator of criminal activity and found that the officer did not have
a valid reason to extend the stop. Richardson, 385 F.3d at 630-31.
When Crawford stopped Lea, it was clearly established that an officer could not extend a
traffic stop, including deployment of a K9 sniff, beyond the time necessary to complete a citation
without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Accordingly, Crawford is not entitled to
qualified immunity, and Lea is entitled to summary judgment on his Fourth Amendment unlawful
Count 6 of the Complaint alleges that Conrad and Hibbs, as leadership of the LMPD and
the Ninth Mobile Division respectively, failed to train and supervise the LMPD officers, resulting
in a violation of Lea’s rights. (Compl. ¶¶ 7, 8, 126-33). Under Monell v. Department of Social
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 16 of 20 PageID #: 1823
Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978), municipalities can be held liable for
constitutional violations caused by an official policy. Id. at 690-91. To establish municipal
liability, a plaintiff “must (1) identify the municipal policy or custom, (2) connect the policy to
the municipality, and (3) show that his particular injury was incurred due to execution of that
policy.” Alkire v. Irving, 330 F.3d 802, 815 (6th Cir. 2003) (citing Garner v. Memphis Police
Dep’t, 8 F.3d 358, 364 (6th Cir. 1993)). A plaintiff may demonstrate the existence of an illegal
policy or custom by showing: “(1) the existence of an illegal official policy or legislative
enactment; (2) that an official with final decision-making authority ratified illegal actions; (3) the
existence of a policy of inadequate training or supervision; or (4) the existence of a custom of
tolerance or acquiescence of federal rights violations.” Burgess v. Fischer, 735 F.3d 462, 478 (6th
Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). There must be a causal link between a municipal policy or custom
and the alleged constitutional deprivation to hold a municipality responsible. Monell, 436 U.S. at
691-92; Deaton v. Montgomery Cnty., 989 F.2d 885, 889 (6th Cir. 1993).
Under an “inaction theory” wherein a policy of tolerating federal rights violations is
entrenched but unwritten, a plaintiff must show:
the existence of a clear and persistent pattern of [illegal activity];
notice or constructive notice on the part of the [defendant];
the [defendant’s] tacit approval of the unconstitutional conduct, such that
their deliberate indifference in their failure to act can be said to amount to
an official policy of inaction; and
that the [defendant’s] custom was the ‘moving force’ or direct causal link
in the constitutional deprivation.
Thomas v. City of Chattanooga, 398 F.3d 426, 429 (6th Cir. 2005) (alterations in original) (quoting
Doe v. Claiborne Cnty., 103 F.3d 495, 508 (6th Cir. 1996)). “[A] negligent failure to adequately
supervise, train or control,” however, is insufficient to establish a municipality’s deliberate
indifference. Hays v. Jefferson Cnty., 668 F.2d 869, 873 (6th Cir. 1982). A municipality cannot
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 17 of 20 PageID #: 1824
be liable on a respondeat superior theory for the bad acts of its employees if there is not an overall
policy of unconstitutional practices. See Monell, 436 U.S. at 691. “[T]he court in Monell
concluded that the language plainly imposes liability on a governmental entity that, under the color
of some official policy, ‘causes’ an employee to violate another’s constitutional rights. Congress
did not intend § 1983 liability to attach where causation is absent.” Deaton, 989 F.2d at 889
(internal citation omitted).
Defendants argue that Lea has not established that any constitutional violations were the
result of a “policy, practice, or custom attributable to Metro Government.” (Defs.’ Mem. Supp.
Mot. Summ. J. 7). In response, Lea states:
When every, single traffic stop citation issued by Crawford and Hellard over three
months was to Black citizens, there’s a clear indication of discriminatory practices
under the Fourteenth Amendment. When 75 percent of exterior dog sniffs produce
false positives, there’s a clear indication of bad probable cause being established.
When thousands of stops are being performed by a Unit over a three-year period
and there are only a couple hundred of the required STOPS forms executed by a
handful of detectives, while all the rest do none whatsoever, there’s a clear
indication of actions being taken on the stops that would be better off
(Pl.’s Resp. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J. 20).
Although the pat down of Lea violated his constitutional rights and the traffic stop was
unjustifiably prolonged, Lea’s Monell claim fails for lack of causation. Defendants argue that
Lea’s characterization of McCauley’s K9 sniff reports is misleading. (Defs.’ Reply Mot. Summ.
J. 2). Regardless of this dispute, other than pointing to McCauley’s K9 sniff reports and the racial
disparity in Crawford and Hellard’s citation records, Lea does not point to a policy of the LMPD
other than the widespread failure of officers to consistently complete STOPS reports. (Pl.’s Resp.
Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J. 20).
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 18 of 20 PageID #: 1825
The pertinent LMPD standard operating procedure provides:
Officers are required to complete a Vehicle Stop Reporting form for every traffic
stop, regardless of whether a citation is written or an arrest is made. The only
exceptions are motorist assists, road blocks, and traffic accidents. If an eCitation
is issued for a traffic accident, members will check “Other” in the Disposition area
of the Vehicle Stop Reporting form and enter “accident” in the box.
The Vehicle Stop Reporting form data is analyzed and compiled into a report on an
annual basis. This report includes a summary of all stops by officers and also
includes recommendations for improvement.
(Pl.’s Resp. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J. Ex., at 2-3, DN 71-5). Lea argues that the LMPD was
deliberately indifferent to the failure of its officers to complete the STOPS forms. (Pl.’s Resp.
Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J. 21). Lea states “LMPD’s command staff knew or should have known there
were numerous, ongoing patterns of constitutional violations occurring within with the
performance of the Ninth Mobile members’ duties.” (Pl.’s Resp. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J. 20).
Regardless of whether the LMPD did in fact fail to enforce a policy that officers complete
STOPS forms, Lea fails to connect the failure to fill out STOPS forms to the alleged constitutional
violations suffered by him. “Even if [a] policy was not followed here, [the plaintiff] must still
show that the policy was the ‘moving force’ behind the injury he suffered. . . . Accordingly, to
give rise to Monell liability, the policy must have been the factual and proximate cause of [the
plaintiff’s] injury.” Crabbs v. Scott, 800 F. App’x 332, 337-38 (6th Cir. 2020) (internal citation
omitted) (citation omitted). Lea does not explain how the failure to complete STOPS forms led to
his injury beyond the conclusory claim that had the LMPD been monitoring data on the Ninth
Mobile’s STOPS reports over a three-month period, it would have been aware of Crawford and
Hellard’s “discriminatory practices” under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Pl.’s Resp. Defs.’ Mot.
Summ. J. 20). Instead, there has been no showing whatsoever that any of the other instances of
Ninth Mobile traffic stops resulted in constitutional violations.
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 19 of 20 PageID #: 1826
Lea has not shown that any failure of the LMPD to enforce the use of STOPS forms by
officers of the Ninth Mobile was the cause of any constitutional violations committed against him.
Without pointing to any evidence in the record to establish that the failure to enforce the use of
STOPS forms amounted to tacit approval of a policy of constitutional violations, Lea’s Monell
claim cannot survive.5
State Law Claims
Lea fails to respond to Defendants’ arguments regarding the state law claims of negligent
training and negligent supervision. As a result Lea has waived those claims, which will therefore
be dismissed. Butler v. City of Cincinnati, No. 1:17-CV-604, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 132032, at
*29 (S.D. Ohio July 27, 2020) (“Plaintiff does not respond to [an] argument, and the Court will
construe his silence as a concession.” (internal citation omitted)).
Lea’s response addresses a Fourteenth Amendment equal protection argument stating, “[i]n their
memorandum, the Defendants laud the actions of the Ninth Mobile Unit, a unit which has since
been disbanded, for focusing on patrolling areas plagued by violent crime. But Defendants fail to
mention that the street squad actions of targeted traffic stops were directed nearly exclusively at
Black residents.” (Pl.’s Resp. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J. 21). Defendants reply to Lea’s Fourteenth
Amendment argument on the merits. (Defs.’ Reply Mot. Summ. J. 7). Defendants’ motion for
summary judgment, however, does not seek a ruling on a Fourteenth Amendment claim as Lea did
not assert a Fourteenth Amendment claim in the Complaint. By previous order, this Court
dismissed Lea’s reliance on the Fourteenth Amendment in Count 1 and Count 3 of the Complaint.
(Mem. Op. & Order 10, DN 23). As a result, Lea’s Fourteenth Amendment argument will not be
Case 3:19-cv-00419-GNS-RSE Document 81 Filed 09/15/22 Page 20 of 20 PageID #: 1827
For the foregoing reasons, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED as follows:
Plaintiff’s Partial Motion for Summary Judgment (DN 54) is GRANTED with
respect to his claims for violations of his rights against unlawful search and seizure from the
prolonged traffic stop. Lea’s claims for damages against Crawford will proceed.
Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (DN 65) is GRANTED IN PART and
DENIED IN PART. Plaintiff’s Section 1983 claims against McCauley, Hellard, Conrad, and
Hibbs in their official and/or individual capacities are DISMISSED. Plaintiff’s state law claims
September 14, 2022
counsel of record
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?