Guyzik v. Kleinschmidt et al
OPINION AND ORDER granting 58 Defendant David Powell's Motion for Summary Judgment; granting 63 Defendant Chad Teets's Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by District Judge Robert H. Cleland. (LWag)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
MANUEL RAMON GUYZIK,
Case No. 16-12430
JEFFREY A. MOORE, et al.,
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT POWELL’S AND DEFENDANT
TEETS’S MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Plaintiff Manuel Ramon Guyzik filed this action after he was mistakenly
implicated in a drug distribution conspiracy and subsequently arrested by some of the
individual Defendants. (Dkt. #30.) Following an amended complaint (Dkt. #30) and
stipulated dismissals of certain Defendants and claims (see Dkt. ##36, 66, 70) the only
remaining claims are against some of the individual Defendants who Plaintiff claims
were involved in his wrongful arrest. Currently pending before the court are Defendant
David Powell’s and Defendant Chad Teets’s motions for summary judgment (Dkt. ##58,
63).1 The motion is fully briefed and the court has determined that a hearing is
unnecessary. E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2). Because the legal issues in these motions largely
overlap, the court will address both motions in this order. For the following reasons,
Defendants’ motions will be granted.
Because this order encompasses motions by only Defendants Powell and
Teets, where the court refers to “Defendants” in this order, the court is referencing these
Defendants alone unless otherwise noted.
The following facts are taken in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff. This case
arises out of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (“DEA”) misidentification of Plaintiff as a
member of a drug trafficking conspiracy. There is no dispute now that Plaintiff was not a
member of the conspiracy.
Defendants Teets, Powell, Justin Holton, Steve West, and Ryan Behrik (the
“arresting Defendants”) executed the arrest warrant for Plaintiff at his home. (Holton
Dep. Dkt. #58-7 Pg. ID 850.) They arrived around 7:40 am. (West Dep. Dkt. #58-3 Pg.
ID 720.) Plaintiff had already left for work, but his wife was home getting ready to take
their two daughters to school. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 642; Saldana Dep. Dkt.
#58-5 Pg. ID 772.)
There is some dispute—albeit irrelevant to this analysis—about the manner in
which the arresting Defendants approached the home. The arresting Defendants
maintain that Defendant Powell knocked on the door and introduced himself to Plaintiff’s
wife—Deanna Saldana—when she answered; he then explained who he was and
asked if the agents could speak with her inside. (Powell Dep. Dkt. #58-4 Pg. ID 748–
49.) Plaintiff contends that that the arresting Defendants approached the front door with
their guns drawn and Defendant Powell demanded “open the fucking door.” (Saldana
Dep. Dkt. #58-5 Pg. ID 771.) Plaintiff also maintains that after the arresting Defendants
entered his house, they kept their guns pointed at his wife and daughters before
eventually holstering their weapons. (Id. at Pg. ID 772.).2
A motion is pending filed by Defendant Holton for spoliation sanctions against
Plaintiff (Dkt. #74); Defendant Holton—joined by Defendants Behrik (Dkt. #75), Powell
(Dkt. #76), and Teets (Dkt. #77)—contends that Plaintiff failed to preserve video
Around five minutes after the arresting Defendants approached Plaintiff’s home,
Plaintiff’s neighbor called Plaintiff to tell him about the law enforcement presence there.
(Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 641–42.) Plaintiff immediately got in his truck and drove
for home. (Id. at Pg. ID 642.) He tried to call his wife several times but received no
answer. (Id.) His neighbor called again during the drive to let him know that he was
taking Plaintiff’s daughters to school; Plaintiff spoke to his daughters, who were crying
hysterically. (Id.) Plaintiff also received a call from his wife’s cell phone—one of the
arresting Defendants was using her phone. (Id. at Pg. ID 643.) Though Plaintiff does not
recall who he spoke to, the record indicates that it was Defendant Powell. (Id.; Powell
Dep. Dkt. #58-4 Pg. ID 751.) Plaintiff informed Defendant Powell that he was on his way
home. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 643.) He got to the house approximately 10 to 20
minutes later. (Saldana Dep. Dkt. #58-5 Pg. ID 778.)
Plaintiff is a former Marine (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 637). He is 5’8” and
weighed about 195 pounds on the day of his arrest. (Id. at Pg. ID 644.) Defendant
Holton described Plaintiff as “very stout. He was very strong.” (Holton Dep. Dkt. #58-7
Pg. ID 858.)
When Plaintiff pulled up to his house, he was upset. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg.
ID 643.) According to Plaintiff, he was upset because his daughters were upset. (Id.)
Realizing that vehicles were already blocking his driveway and the street parking in front
of his home, Plaintiff drove his truck onto his front lawn. (Id.) Plaintiff jumped out of his
truck, shut the door, and walked quickly to the front of his house. (Id.)
evidence (captured by an ADT security camera) showing Defendants as they were
entering the premises and three minutes thereafter.
When he walked in, Plaintiff noticed Defendants Holton, Teets, and Powell in the
living room, with Defendant West in the kitchen with his wife. (Id. at Pg. ID 644–45.) He
immediately told the arresting Defendants: “Get the fuck out of my house.” (Id. at Pg. ID
646.) According to Plaintiff, one of the arresting Defendants responded “shut the fuck
up.” (Id.) The same arresting Defendant also told Plaintiff that he was under arrest. (Dkt.
#30 Pg. ID 307.)3 There is a dispute as to whether Plaintiff was told to put his hands
behind his back or not. (See Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 646; Powell Dep. Dkt. #58-4
Pg. ID 754.)
Plaintiff was “taken to the ground immediately after that.” (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2
Pg. ID 646.) He could not tell who grabbed him where, but knows that Defendants
Teets, Powell, and Holton are the ones who took him to the ground. (Id.) He landed with
At deposition, Plaintiff testified that he was not told he was under arrest. (See
Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 671.) Both Plaintiff’s original (Dkt. #1 Pg. ID 8) and
amended complaint (Dkt. #30 Pg. ID 307), however, aver that Plaintiff was informed by
one of the arresting Defendants that he was under arrest. Plaintiff also admitted at
deposition that he was given an opportunity to review the allegations in the complaint
and believes they were based on truthful information. (Id. at Pg. ID 670.) No explanation
was given for the contradiction between Plaintiff’s complaint and his deposition
testimony. (Id. at Pg. ID 671.)
“Factual assertions in pleadings, unless amended, are considered judicial
admissions conclusively binding on the party who made them” where the statement is
“deliberate, clear and unambiguous and expressly concede[s] an alleged fact.” Kay v.
Minacs Grp., Inc., 580 F. App’x 327, 331 (6th Cir. 2014) (internal quotations, alterations,
and citations omitted); see also Hughes v. Vanderbilt Univ., 215 F.3d 543, 549 (6th Cir.
2000) (“Plaintiffs are bound by admissions in their pleadings, and a party cannot create
a factual issue by subsequently filing a conflicting affidavit.”). Plaintiff argues that this
“drafting error” should not be considered a judicial admission because it is insufficiently
deliberate, clear, and unambiguous. (Dkt. #69 Pg. ID 1338.) But Plaintiff fails to describe
what other meaning the court could possibly take from this statement that would make it
unclear or ambiguous. Plaintiff made no attempt, moreover, to amend this part of the
complaint, despite having reviewed this assertion and despite his decision to file an
amended complaint. The court, therefore, finds that Plaintiff is bound by this admission
in his pleadings.
his chest to the ground and his hands just below his chin near his neck. (Id.) According
to Ms. Saldana:
They were, like, on his back, like, I don’t know exactly who was where,
but, like, somebody had, like, a knee on his neck or something and some
of them were on top of his back, like, holding – like, had him on the
ground. They were on top of him.
(Saldana Dep. Dkt. #58-5 Pg. ID 795.) Ms. Saldana, however, did not see Defendant
Powell exert any particular force against Plaintiff. (Id. at Pg. ID 795.) According to
Plaintiff, he was trying to pull his arms out from underneath him “so maybe they would
stop” and because he “couldn’t breathe.” (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 674.) He could
not get his arms out from underneath him, however, because of the weight on his body.
(Id.) Plaintiff maintains that he was in no way resisting the arresting Defendants. (Id. at
Pg. ID 648.) He did, however, hear voices telling him to stop resisting. (Id. at Pg. ID
According to Plaintiff, he was immediately “beat[en].” (Id.) Defendant Teets pulled
his knee back and struck Plaintiff in the left shoulder more than twice. (Id. at Pg. ID
647–48.) Defendant Holton kneed him in the left ribs more than twice. (Id. at Pg. ID
648.) Defendant Behrik—who Plaintiff noticed for the first time while he was being
beaten—struck Plaintiff with a closed fist four to five times on the right side of his head.
(Id.) Plaintiff was also struck on the left side of his head, his right shoulder, the center of
his back, and the back of his neck, but he does not know who caused those injuries nor
how he was struck. (Id. at Pg. ID 647, 649.) He went in and out of consciousness during
this period. (Id. at Pg. ID 649.)
Eventually Plaintiff’s arms were pulled behind his back and Defendant Powell
handcuffed him. (Powell Dep. Dkt. #58-4 Pg. ID 756.) While Plaintiff was still on the
floor, about five seconds after he was handcuffed, Defendant Behrik struck him with a
closed fist three to four more times on the right side of his head. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #582 Pg. ID 650, 667.) These blows happened “quickly.” (Id. at Pg. ID 669.) According to
Ms. Saldana, Defendants Powell and Holton were holding Plaintiff still, and Defendant
Teets was about a foot away. (Saldana Dep. Dkt. #58-5 Pg. ID 803.) Plaintiff then
turned his head to the left, and Defendant Holton kneed him twice more in his left side
and punched him on the left side of his face. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 650.) Two
of the arresting Defendants then pulled Plaintiff up by his biceps. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #582 Pg. ID 651.) He was then taken outside and placed in the back of a Lincoln Park
squad car. (Id. at Pg. ID 651.)
Plaintiff was taken to the DEA office in Detroit and booked. (Id. at Pg. ID 656.)
Defendant Jeffrey Moore interviewed Plaintiff and determined that Plaintiff had been
wrongly identified. (Moore Dep. Dkt. #59-1 Pg. ID 884.) Plaintiff appeared in duty court
and was released that afternoon. (Id.)
According to Plaintiff, he sustained the following injuries: bruising and swelling on
the right side of his head and face; bruising and swelling on the left side of his head and
face; discoloration near the top of his head; bruising and swelling on his right ear; a
gash on his nose; bruising on his back; bruising on his right shoulder; and swelling to
his left elbow. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 678–79.) He rated the pain in his ribs and
head following the attack as a ten out of ten, and he thought his ribs were broken and
that he had a head injury. (Id. at Pg. ID 652.) He did not return to work for two weeks
and he has continuing anxiety from the incident. (Id. at Pg. ID 654.)
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). “In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court must
view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, drawing all
reasonable inferences in that party’s favor.” Sagan v. United States, 342 F.3d 493, 497
(6th Cir. 2003).
The movant has the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine dispute
as to a material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The burden
then shifts to the nonmovant, who must put forth enough evidence to show that there
exists “a genuine issue for trial.” Horton v. Potter, 369 F.3d 906, 909 (6th Cir. 2004)
A. Sufficiency of the Allegations Against Defendants
Defendants Powell and Teets first argue that they are entitled to summary
judgment because Plaintiff has not included any specific allegations of excessive force
against them. “[D]amage claims against government officials arising from alleged
violations of constitutional rights must allege, with particularity, facts that demonstrate
what each defendant did to violate the asserted constitutional right.” Lanman v. Hinson,
529 F.3d 673, 684 (6th Cir. 2008). Pleadings and discovery that attribute the
unconstitutional acts to a group as a whole or only describe an offending defendant in
general terms are insufficient. Ondo v. City of Cleveland, 795 F.3d 597, 611 (6th Cir.
2015). Nonspecific allegations will not withstand a motion for summary judgment. Id.
1. Defendant Powell
Defendant Powell argues that Plaintiff has “fail[ed] to plead with any specificity
regarding the alleged force or its resultant injuries.” (Dkt. #58 Pg. ID 615.) He notes that
while Plaintiff made more specific allegations at his deposition, none of the allegations
at deposition relate to Defendant Powell in particular. Indeed, according to Plaintiff, after
he was taken to the ground, he did not see Defendant Powell again until he was
escorted out of his home. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 665–66.)
Plaintiff responds that Ms. Saldana’s testimony is enough to create a genuine
issue of material fact as it relates to Defendant Powell. He argues that “Plaintiff and [Ms.
Saldana] identified Powell as one of the [D]efendants that tackled [Plaintiff] to the
ground.” (Dkt. #69 Pg. ID 1333.) He also argues that Plaintiff “testified that the weight on
his back was so significant that he could neither move nor breathe,” and thus a
reasonable inference could be drawn that Defendant Powell, in addition to two other
arresting Defendants, was exerting his weight on Plaintiff’s back and neck. (Id. at Pg. ID
The court agrees with Defendant Powell that there are insufficiently specific
allegations against him concerning the force used against Plaintiff after Plaintiff was
brought to the ground. Plaintiff testified that he could no longer see Defendant Powell
once he was taken down (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 650), and he therefore did not
identify any specific blows that Defendant Powell may have delivered. While Ms.
Saldana testified that the arresting Defendants on top of Plaintiff were “kind of like a big
ball, arms, legs, everything,” (Saldana Dep. Dkt. #58-5 Pg. ID 779), she also testified
that she could not discern what, if anything, Defendant Powell particularly did (id. at Pg.
The court will also not infer, as Plaintiff proposes, that the amount of weight on
Plaintiff suggests that Defendant Powell was exerting his body weight on Plaintiff’s head
and neck. Plaintiff invites the court to draw this inference based only on Plaintiff’s
testimony that he could not breathe or move with one or more of the arresting
Defendants on top of him. Without more, this “inference” is not one the court will
reasonably make on this motion for summary judgment because the alleged weight on
Plaintiff’s back amounts to no more than a scintilla of evidence that Defendant Powell
was one of the arresting Defendants on top of Plaintiff. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 243 (1986).
Defendant Powell, therefore, is entitled to summary judgment as to any alleged
excessive force following Plaintiff being tackled. These allegations are insufficiently
specific, under Lanman and Ondo, to survive a motion for summary judgment. If a claim
for excessive force is to be sustained against Defendant Powell, therefore, it must
necessarily be based on Defendant Powell’s actions in helping take Plaintiff to the
ground before he was handcuffed.
“Q. . . . Beyond Holton and Behrik, could you see what Officer Powell was
A. No. Like I said, it was just a bunch of arms and legs everywhere.
Q. Okay. And so could you see where –
A. I couldn’t decipher the difference.”
(Saldana Dep. Dkt. #58-5 Pg. ID 795.)
2. Defendant Teets
Like Defendant Powell, Defendant Teets argues that Plaintiff’s amended
complaint is devoid of any specific allegations of excessive force against him. (Dkt. #63
Pg. ID 1235.) So, too, does Defendant Teets argue that Plaintiff’s deposition testimony
is insufficient to state a claim against him for excessive force. (Id.) Unlike Defendant
Powell, however, Defendant Teets argues that Plaintiff’s deposition testimony is
insufficient, not because it does not specifically allege some use of force by Defendant
Teets, but because “there is a fundamental flaw with [the] testimony identifying Officer
Teets: it is blatantly contradicted by indisputable photo evidence and therefore cannot
be used to avoid summary judgment.” (Id.)
According to Defendant Teets, when asked to describe Defendant Teets, both
Plaintiff and Ms. Saldana described him as bald and clean shaven. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt.
#58-2 Pg. ID 669; Saldana Dep. Dkt. #58-5 Pg. ID 771–72.) Photo evidence, however,
demonstrates that on the day of the arrest, Defendant Teets had a full beard and a head
of hair. (Teets Decl. Dkt. #62 Pg. ID 1125–28.)
Defendant Teets relies on Kowolonek v. Moore, 463 F. App’x 531 (6th Cir. 2012)
for his argument that Plaintiff’s misidentification of him at deposition entitles him to
summary judgment. In Kowolonek, the plaintiff alleged that defendant officers used
excessive force by using a taser on him while he was handcuffed. Id. at 538. The only
testimony regarding which defendant officer had used the taser was by plaintiff’s
girlfriend, who identified the man in question as “the last guy to arrive on the scene” and
described him as wearing a brown uniform. Id. at 539. The plaintiff’s girlfriend’s
testimony on this point was inconsistent with the record evidence, however, as all of the
named defendant officers had worn black uniforms. Id. Moreover, though she testified
that there were two officers on the scene when the “last guy pulled up,” there were five
officers in total during the altercation. Id. Because of the inconsistencies in this
testimony, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision to grant summary
judgment to the officers on the claim involving the taser.
Plaintiff argues that even if there is a discrepancy between the identification
testimony and Defendant Teets’s appearance on the day of the arrest, Plaintiff has
presented other evidence sufficient to avoid summary judgment. (Dkt. #69 Pg. ID 1332.)
The Kowolonek defendants were entitled to summary judgment, according to Plaintiff,
because the plaintiff’s girlfriend’s testimony was the only existing evidence identifying a
particular defendant as the one who used the taser.
The court agrees with Plaintiff. While the court acknowledges the apparent
discrepancy between Plaintiff and Ms. Saldana’s testimony identifying Defendant Teets,
these physical descriptions—unlike those in Kowolonek—do not amount to the only
evidence tying Defendant Teets to the injuries alleged by Plaintiff. Indeed, Plaintiff
throughout his testimony identified Defendant Teets by name as the Defendant who
kneed him in the shoulder while he was on the ground. (See, e.g., Guyzik Dep. Dkt.
#58-2 Pg. ID 647–48 (“Officer Teets kneed me in the left shoulder.”).) Plaintiff’s
testimony on this point—that Defendant Teets was near enough to his left shoulder to
knee him in it—is consistent with Defendant Teets’s testimony about his position during
the altercation. (See Teets Dep. Dkt. #58-6 Pg. ID 829 (“Once I was able to pull his arm
out from underneath his body, I would use – I used my left knee to hold his – that would
be his left shoulder down so he can’t turn belly up.”).) The court will not grant summary
judgment to Defendant Teets on the basis that he was insufficiently identified.
Defendant Teets, however, also argues that he is entitled to summary judgment
for allegedly kneeing Plaintiff because Plaintiff “has not alleged that he suffered any
injury to his left shoulder.” (Dkt. #63 Pg. ID 1236–37.) Defendant Teets cites and quotes
Rodriguez v. Passinault, 637 F.3d 675, 687 (6th Cir. 2011) as saying that “under the
Fourth Amendment’s reasonableness standard, excessive force claims generally
require at least de minimis physical injury.”
Defendant Teets misunderstands the case law. The court grants that Rodriguez’s
quoted passage seems to suggest that an excessive use of force claim cannot be
sustained without some injury. This excerpt, however, does not set out the established
law of the Sixth Circuit, but rather describes the district court’s apparent—but ultimately
mistaken—belief in that case that established law required some injury to make out an
excessive force claim. Id. The statement is followed by a citation to Morrison v. Board of
Trustees of Green Township, 583 F.3d 394, 406–07 (6th Cir.2009), a case that
“declined to adopt a de minimis injury requirement for excessive force claims under the
Fourth Amendment.” Neal v. Melton, 453 F. App’x 572, 574 n.2 (6th Cir. 2011)
(emphasis added). As the Sixth Circuit noted in Morrison, “the extent of the injury
inflicted is not crucial to an analysis of a claim for excessive force in violation of the
Fourth Amendment,” and even a claim for a slap across the face while a plaintiff is
subdued in handcuffs can withstand summary judgment “notwithstanding the relatively
minimal use of force applied and the absence of any resulting injury.” 583 F.3d at 407.
Instead, the absence of injury may be taken into account when determining whether the
use of force against a person is reasonable. See Bolden v. City of Euclid, 595 F. App’x
464, 471 (6th Cir. 2014). The court, therefore, will not grant summary judgment to
Defendant Powell on the basis that Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged a specific injury.
B. Qualified Immunity
Defendants next contend that, even if Plaintiff’s allegations of excessive force are
sufficiently specific, Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.5 Qualified immunity
shields government officials from civil liability when they take actions in their official
capacity that “[do] 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). Qualified immunity attaches unless “it would be clear to a reasonable officer that
his conduct was unlawful in the situation he confronted.” Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194,
202 (2001). The court employs a two-prong inquiry in determining whether a
government official is entitled to qualified immunity: (1) whether “the facts that a plaintiff
has alleged or shown make out a violation of a constitutional right,” Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 232 (2009) (citations omitted); and (2) whether the
constitutional right was “‘clearly established’ at the time of defendant’s alleged
misconduct,” id. The determination of whether the right is “clearly established” must be
Defendant Teets does not actually use the term “qualified immunity” as it relates
to him in the argument section of his brief. His motion and the introduction section of his
brief, however, posit that Defendant Teets is entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff’s
claims for use of force and failure to intervene. (Dkt. #68 Pg. ID 1202, 1214.) The court,
therefore, construes Defendant’s argument that he did not use unreasonable force as
an argument for qualified immunity. It similarly construes Defendant Teets’s argument
for summary judgment on the failure to intervene claim, discussed below, as an
argument for qualified immunity.
made “in light of the specific context of the case, not as a broad general proposition.”
Saucier, 533 U.S. at 201. It is within the sound discretion of the district court to
determine the order in which it will address these prongs. Pearson, 555 U.S. at 236.
Whether an officer is entitled to qualified immunity is a question of law.
Stinebaugh v. City of Wapakoneta, 630 F. App’x 522, 525 (6th Cir. 2015). “An answer of
‘yes’ to both of the qualified immunity questions defeats qualified immunity, while an
answer of ‘no’ to either question results in a grant of qualified immunity.” Haley v.
Elsmere Police Dep’t, 452 F. App’x 623, 626 (6th Cir. 2011). Once raised, it is the
plaintiff’s burden to show that a defendant is not entitled to qualified immunity. Everson
v. Leis, 556 F.3d 484, 494 (6th Cir. 2009).
1. Excessive Force
The parties agree that Plaintiff’s claim for excessive use of force is properly
analyzed under the Fourth Amendment’s “objective reasonableness” standard. Graham
v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 388 (1989). “Reasonableness,” under this test, “requires
careful attention to the facts and circumstances of each particular case.” Id. at 389. “The
‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a
reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” Id. There
is a “built-in measure of deference to the officer’s on-the-spot judgment about the level
of force necessary in light of the circumstances of the particular case.” Burchett v.
Kiefer, 310 F.3d 937 (2002).
The court takes into account various factors in determining the reasonableness
of force used, 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.” Graham, 490 U.S. at 389. The
parties dispute how each of these factors applies to the present case.
i. Severity of the Crime at Issue
Defendants argue that Plaintiff—while incorrectly identified—was the “subject of
an arrest warrant for his suspected role in narcotics trafficking; a felony and certainly a
severe crime.” (Dkt. #58 Pg. ID 622; see also Dkt. #63 Pg. ID 1238.) According to
Defendant Teets, “[r]easonable officers could therefore believe that substantial risks
existed for personal injury because of the inherent danger of the crime at issue.” (Dkt.
#63 Pg. ID 1239.)
Plaintiff—citing Defendant Powell’s and Defendant Teets’s depositions—notes
that Defendants “know only that [Plaintiff] was charged with some crime, so the
contention that this factor weighs in their favor fails.” (Dkt. #69 Pg. ID 1335 (emphasis
original).) Defendants argue in reply that this argument is a “misstatement” of the
realities of this case. (Dkt. #72 Pg. ID 1755; see also Dkt. #73 Pg. ID 1768.) Defendants
Powell and Teets are both members of a DEA task force. (Dkt. #72 Pg. ID 1755; Dkt.
#73 Pg. ID 1768.) Defendant Powell was aware—following briefing from Defendant
Moore—that Plaintiff was involved in an investigation being conducted by Defendant
Moore. (Powell Dep. Dkt. #58-4 Pg. ID 742–43).
The court agrees with Defendants that, on these facts, it was reasonable for
Defendants—as members of a DEA task force—to understand that Plaintiff was
charged with a serious and dangerous crime, even if they did not know the exact nature
of the crime for which there was an arrest warrant.
ii. Immediate Threat to the Safety of the Officers or Others
Plaintiff posed an immediate threat, according to Defendants, based on their
perception of his arrival. Because of his phone calls with his neighbor and Defendant
Powell, Plaintiff was aware that there were members of law enforcement waiting for him.
(Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 641–43.) When he got home, he pulled his truck onto
the lawn, walked quickly up to his house, and, upon entering, immediately and
aggressively told the arresting Defendants to “[g]et the fuck out of [his] house.” Guyzik
Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 643, 646.) Defendants also note that Plaintiff is a stocky former
Marine (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 637, 644) and contend that he was therefore
“physically imposing” (Dkt. #58 Pg. ID 622).
Plaintiff argues that he did not present a threat sufficient to warrant him being
thrown violently to the ground. (Dkt. #69 Pg. ID 1335.) Rather, according to Plaintiff, the
record established that the arresting Defendants had already “cleared the home to
ensure the environment was safe,” and they outnumbered Plaintiff five to one. (Id. at
1335–36.) Plaintiff also contends that he only parked in the lawn because the arresting
Defendants had taken all other available parking, the fact of which they should have
been aware. (Id. at 1335.) The evidence shows, moreover, that Plaintiff was “the same
height and weight as the smallest two of the five defendants.” (Id. at 1336 (emphasis
original).) Finally, according to Plaintiff, his statement (what Plaintiff styles as a
“demand” that the arresting Defendants leave) does not demonstrate that Plaintiff was a
threat because the statement itself was not threatening. (Id.) Plaintiff did not, for
example, say “I’m going to throw you out of here.” (Id.)
The court disagrees with Plaintiff. The facts, as reasonably available to the
arresting Defendants, are sufficient to demonstrate that Plaintiff was a threat. Whether
the house was cleared prior to Plaintiff’s arrival does not bear on whether Plaintiff
himself posed a risk to the safety officers present. Neither does his size, nor the fact
that he was outnumbered, mean that he did not pose a threat to the arresting
Defendants individually—though Plaintiff may have been smaller than some of the
arresting Defendants, Plaintiff does not dispute that he is stocky and strong. It was
reasonable, then, for the arresting Defendants to conclude that, even if they
outnumbered Plaintiff, he could cause harm to any one of the arresting Defendants
before they were able to subdue him.
This is especially true in light of the manner of Plaintiff’s approach to his home
and his immediate demand that the arresting Defendants “[g]et the fuck out of [his]
house.” Despite Plaintiff’s subjective explanation for why he drove his truck onto the
lawn, a reasonable law enforcement officer could have concluded, based on Plaintiff’s
approach to his house and instant demand that they leave, that Plaintiff posed a
physical threat to their safety. While 20/20 hindsight might demonstrate that Plaintiff was
not as threatening as he may have appeared, Plaintiff—as it relates to this factor—has
not overcome the level of deference due to Defendants in assessing his actions in the
iii. Resisting Arrest or Evading Arrest by Flight
It is undisputed that Plaintiff did not attempt to evade arrest by flight, but rather
was on his way home when he spoke to Defendant Powell on the phone. (Guyzik Dep.
Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 643.) This factor would therefore weigh against any claim that force
was warranted against Plaintiff before he was taken to the ground. Defendants claim
that Plaintiff resisted arrest prior to being taken to the ground because he refused to be
handcuffed. (Dkt. #58 Pg. ID 613; Dkt. #63 Pg. ID 1224.) But Plaintiff’s version of
events—wherein he was taken to the ground and immediately beaten before he had a
chance to resist—is assumed true for the purposes of this motion. (Guyzick Dep. Dkt.
#58-2 Pg. ID 647.)
The analysis changes, however, as it relates to Plaintiff’s conduct after he was
taken to the ground. Defendants contend that Plaintiff was resisting arrest. (See Dkt.
#63 Pg. ID 1226.) Plaintiff maintains that he was in no way resisting. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt.
#58-2 Pg. ID 648.) There is no dispute that Plaintiff’s hands were under his chest when
he was taken to the ground. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 646–47.) Plaintiff testified
that he tried to pull his arms out from under him, but was unable to because of the body
weight on top of him. (Id. at Pg. ID 674.)
Defendants argue that Plaintiff’s hands being under his body, coupled with the
fact that Plaintiff had not been searched, means that their actions were objectively
reasonable in placing Plaintiff on the ground while trying to gain control of his arms.
(Dkt. #58 Pg. ID 623; Dkt. #63 Pg. ID 1240.) Defendant Powell notes that the Sixth
Circuit has repeatedly held that it is reasonable for law enforcement to get a suspect
into the prone position when attempting to “neutralize a perceived threat.” (Dkt. #58 Pg.
ID 618 (quoting Dunn v. Matatall, 549 F.3d 348, 354 (6th Cir. 2008)).) In addition to
Dunn, Defendant Powell cites Wells v. City of Dearborn Heights, 538 F. App’x 631, 637
(6th Cir. 2013), in which the Sixth Circuit determined that, where the defendant officers
ordered the plaintiff to the ground so they could execute a search warrant, the plaintiff’s
“apparent failure to drop to the ground quickly enough provided [the defendant officer]
adequate justification to knee [the plaintiff] to the ground.” The Sixth Circuit noted that
the plaintiff’s slow response may have been the result of his cerebral palsy, but that it
could not “charge [the defendant] with knowledge that he did not possess”; therefore,
plaintiff’s “failure to respond immediately could have been interpreted as his resisting
Both Defendants also cite Goodrich v. Everett, 193 F. App’x 551 (6th Cir. 2006).
(Dkt. #58 Pg. ID 621; Dkt. #63 Pg. ID 1241.) In Goodrich, the plaintiff was suspected of
throwing his wife from his vehicle during a domestic dispute. 193 F. App’x at 552. When
officers came to the plaintiff’s home to question him, the plaintiff refused to comply with
their request that he step out of his vehicle; he instead drove to a nearby police station
where he thought he would be safer than with the officers who confronted him; while the
plaintiff drove around multiple police road blocks on the way, he also obeyed the speed
limit, stopped at stop signs, and used his turn signal. Id. at 553. The plaintiff contended
that, once he got out of his car at the police station, the defendants “body slammed
[him] to the ground on the aggregate concrete” and pushed his face deep into some
mulch. Id. The plaintiff testified that one of the defendants kneed him in the side until the
plaintiff’s ribs were broken and that both defendants kicked him as he was held down.
Id. Because the plaintiff alleged that he was not resisting the defendants in any way, the
defendants admitted for the purpose of summary judgment that he was not resisting
arrest. Id. at 554. They also admitted that they had holstered their weapons and that
they did not fear for their safety. Id. The plaintiff sustained a broken and dislocated hip,
a broken rib, and torn skin on his knees as a result of the officers’ actions. Id.
The Sixth Circuit affirmed that the defendants in Goodrich were entitled to
qualified immunity. The court reemphasized that the reasonableness of an officer’s use
of force is evaluated from the perspective of an objective officer. Id. at 555. Because the
plaintiff drove away from officers and because the officers only had information that the
plaintiff was accused of throwing his wife from a vehicle, reasonable officers in the
defendants position “would have suspected [the plaintiff] of a violent crime and would
have interpreted [the plaintiff's] actions as an attempt to evade the police.” Id. at 556.
Therefore, “a reasonable officer would not have considered the physical tackling of [the
plaintiff] to be an excessive use of force.” Id.
The plaintiff argued that even if the defendants were entitled to tackle him to the
ground, the force they used in kneeing and kicking him was unreasonable. Id. The Sixth
Circuit disagreed, however, finding that as alleged by the plaintiff, “the kneeing and
kicking occurred not when [the plaintiff] was neutralized, but while the officers were
handcuffing him. Even assuming that [the plaintiff] had been incapacitated merely by the
officers’ tackling him, [the plaintiff] presents no evidence that such a fact was clearly
communicated to the officers in the midst of the take-down.” Id. (emphasis added). The
plaintiff had testified that he was not resisting arrest. Nevertheless, the court found that
his “subjective intent to cooperate” was insufficient to overcome the measure of
deference given to the officers in their judgment regarding how much force was
necessary because there was no evidence that this subjective intent was communicated
to the officers and the totality of the circumstances suggested that he had no such
intent. 6 Id.
In Goodrich, the court was careful to point out that “some force may be wildly
Though Plaintiff contends that he did not resist, he points to nothing in the record
that would have “clearly communicated” this intent to the arresting Defendants.
Plaintiff’s arms were under his chest. He attributes his hands being under his chest to
the fact that he fell down with his hands up by his neck and the fact that he was unable
to pull his arms out because of the weight on top of him. But the court, as in Wells, 538
F. App’x at 637, cannot charge Defendants with knowledge they did not possess. From
the perspective of an objective officer, Plaintiff may have been hiding his hands in an
effort to avoid being handcuffed. Defendants, therefore, could reasonably have thought
that Plaintiff was resisting arrest, and, consistent with Goodrich, they were permitted to
use force—including kneeing Plaintiff—prior to him being handcuffed.
Plaintiff contends that, despite this case law, the Sixth Circuit affirmed the denial
of qualified immunity where a reasonable jury could find that the plaintiffs posed no
threat to the officers—even in cases where the plaintiffs did resist arrest. (Dkt. #69 Pg.
ID 1338–39 (citing Lawler v. City of Taylor, 268 F. App’x 384 (6th Cir. 2008) and Malory
v. Whiting, 489 F. App’x 78 (6th Cir. 2012)).) As noted above, however, the court finds
that—from the perspective of an objective officer in the Defendants’ position—Plaintiff
reasonably could have been deemed to pose a threat to the safety of the arresting
Defendants. This argument, therefore, is unavailing.
disproportionate for the purpose of handcuffing a suspect, and may constitute excessive
force regardless of whether a suspect has already been subdued.” Id. at 557. Because
Plaintiff has not demonstrated that Defendant Teets’s action in kneeing Plaintiff in the
shoulder before Plaintiff was handcuffed was “wildly disproportionate” to the
circumstances, however, the court need not address this as it relates to Defendant
Finally, Plaintiff argues, Defendants Teets and Powell used excessive force
because they continued to exert pressure on him—and Defendant Teets kneed Plaintiff
in the shoulder—when he was already taken to the ground and subdued. (Dkt. #69 Pg.
ID 1339–40.) “[T]he use of force after a suspect has been incapacitated or neutralized is
excessive as a matter of law.” Baker v. City of Hamilton, 471 F.3d 601, 607 (6th Cir.
2006). Plaintiff cites and quotes Bolick v. City of East Grand Rapids, 580 F. App’x 314,
320, where he says qualified immunity was denied to officers where “[plaintiff] could
hardly move, had stopped resisting, and was outnumbered, all with one of the officers
(. . . who was six inches taller and 80 pounds heavier) applying significant pressure to
his upper back.” Id. Plaintiff ignores, however, that the court considered these factors in
light of the fact that the plaintiff in Bolick was “in handcuffs”—it was after he was
handcuffed that one officer tased him and the other put his weight onto the plaintiff’s
Here, there is no dispute that the force Plaintiff complains of as excessive
(applied by Defendants Powell and Teets) occurred before Plaintiff was handcuffed. As
noted above, an objective officer could have determined that Plaintiff was resisting
arrest because his hands were kept under his body. The court finds, therefore, that
there is insufficient evidence to suggest that an officer in the arresting Defendants’
position must have known that Plaintiff was incapacitated or already neutralized.
iv. Defendant Powell
As noted above, Defendant Powell is entitled to summary judgment on claims
that he used excessive force after Plaintiff was taken to the ground because such
allegations were insufficiently specific in the developed factual record. The preceding
analysis demonstrates that Defendant Powell is entitled to qualified immunity as to
Plaintiff’s claim for tackling him to the ground because Defendant Powell’s actions were
objectively reasonable. The first two factors in the Graham analysis—the severity of the
charged crime and the threat to the safety of the officers—both weigh in favor of
validating Defendant Powell’s actions in subduing Plaintiff. Though the court assumes
for the purposes of this motion that Plaintiff had not evaded or resisted arrest to that
point, the court finds that there is sufficient evidence that Defendant Powell acted
reasonably in subduing Plaintiff before Plaintiff could cause harm to the arresting
Defendants. Defendant Powell is entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff’s claim that
he used excessive force in tackling Plaintiff to the ground.
v. Defendant Teets
Though Plaintiff brought sufficiently specific allegations of excessive force
against Defendant Teets, the court finds that Defendant Teets is nevertheless entitled to
qualified immunity. As with Defendant Powell, Defendant Teets is entitled to qualified
immunity in taking Plaintiff to the ground to subdue him.
In light of the Sixth Circuit’s ruling in Goodrich, moreover, Defendant Teets is
likewise entitled to qualified immunity for Plaintiff’s claim that Defendant Teets kneed
him in the shoulder. Plaintiff specifically testified that he was kneed in the shoulder prior
to being handcuffed. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg. ID 647 (“Q. All right. So all of these
strikes to . . . your left shoulder . . . all of those strikes took place prior to being
handcuffed? A. Yes.”).) Because a reasonable law enforcement officer could have
interpreted Plaintiff’s actions after being tackled as resisting arrest, and because of the
severity of Plaintiff’s charged crime and his apparent threat to the officers, the court
finds that Defendant Teets’s use of force, before Plaintiff was handcuffed, was
reasonable. Defendant Teets, therefore, is entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff’s
claims for excessive use of force.
2. Clearly Established
Even if Defendants’ use of force were unreasonable, however, the court finds
that the right was not so clearly established as to defeat qualified immunity in this case.
The clearly established prong of qualified immunity is meant “to ensure that
officials are on notice that their alleged conduct was unconstitutional.” Baynes v.
Cleland, 799 F.3d 600, 610 (6th Cir. 2015) (citing Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 741
(2002)). Thus a “clearly established” right is one in which the “contours” are “sufficiently
clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that
right.” Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987). General prohibitions, such as
“an unreasonable search and seizure violates the Fourth Amendment,” are insufficient.
Baynes, 799 F.3d at 612. But precedent need not set out the precise factual scenario
before the officer for the right to be clearly established. Hope, 536 U.S. at 741.
“[O]fficials can still be on notice that their conduct violates established law even in novel
factual circumstances.” Id. The question for the court is whether the “state of the law” at
the time of the activity gave the officer “fair warning” that his conduct was
unconstitutional. Id.; Baynes, 799 F.3d at 612–13 (“[T]he sine qua non of the ‘clearly
established’ inquiry is ‘fair warning.’”). A court may look to circuit precedent in
determining whether a right is clearly established. See, e.g., Baynes, 799 F.3d at 614
(“The extent of case law in this Circuit suffices to put a reasonable officer on notice that
excessively forceful or unduly tight handcuffing is a constitutional violation . . . .”).
The Sixth Circuit’s ruling in Goodrich v. Everett, 193 F. App’x 551 (6th Cir. 2006)
sufficiently illustrates that, at the time he was arrested, Plaintiff did not have a clearly
established right not to be tackled or, after he was on the ground, kneed in an effort to
restrain his movement and subdue him enough to be handcuffed. As with the
defendants in Goodrich, Defendants here would have been justified in their belief that
Plaintiff had committed a serious crime and that he posed a danger to the safety of the
officers. Goodrich approved officers tackling the plaintiff to the ground in light of these
factors. It also validated officers using knees and kicks on the plaintiff—causing much
more severe injuries than Plaintiff alleges here—before the plaintiff was handcuffed.
Plaintiff’s citation to Crawford v. Geiger, 656 F. App’x 190 (6th Cir. 2016) does
not change this analysis. The defendant officer in Crawford was denied qualified
immunity where he threw the plaintiff to the ground during an arrest. Id. at 207–08.
Unlike the present case, however, the Sixth Circuit in Crawford determined that all of
the three Graham factors weighed in favor of the plaintiff. Id. Perhaps more significantly,
however, Crawford was decided in 2016—two years after this Plaintiff was arrested.
Qualified immunity was raised by the Defendants here, and it was Plaintiff’s
burden to demonstrate that they were not entitled to it. Plaintiff does not address how it
was clearly established, prior to the actions undertaken in this case, that under these
circumstances he had the right not to be taken to the ground or kneed in the shoulder
before he was handcuffed. Indeed, the only time that Plaintiff mentions the “clearly
established” prong of the qualified immunity analysis in his argument is to note that
“there is no question that a citizen’s right to be free from physical force when he is not
resisting has been clearly established.” (Dkt. #69 Pg. ID 1349.) Such a “general
prohibition” is insufficient to establish that Plaintiff’s rights were clearly established here.
C. Failure to Intervene
Finally, Defendants contend that they are entitled to qualified immunity on
Plaintiff’s claims for failure to intervene.7 The parties agree that, to be liable for failure to
intervene in another officer’s excessive use of force, the plaintiff must demonstrate that
“(1) the officer observed or had reason to know that excessive force would be or was
being used, and (2) the officer had both the opportunity and the means to prevent the
harm from occurring.” Turner v. Scott, 119 F.3d 425, 429 (6th Cir. 1997).
1. Before Plaintiff Was Handcuffed
Defendant Teets argues that he cannot be liable for failure to intervene before
Plaintiff was handcuffed because his testimony illustrates that he was “solely and
completely focused on Guyzik’s left hand and arm” and he therefore did not have
reason to know of the other officer’s actions in striking Plaintiff. (Dkt. #63 Pg. ID 1243–
44.) He further argues that he did not have the opportunity or means to intervene
because he could not do so “without sacrificing his duty to assist with the arrest.” (Id. at
According to Defendant Powell, he makes this argument because he
“anticipates that Plaintiff will argue” he is liable for failure to intervene despite the fact
that it is “not pled anywhere in Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint.” (Dkt. #58 Pg. ID 624.)
The claim was, in fact, raised in the amended complaint. Plaintiffs’ amended complaint
states: “Upon information and belief, each of the Defendant Arresting Agents/Officers
were aware of the unlawful force conduct of their fellow Defendant Arresting
Agents/Officers with respect to Mr. Guyzik, had a reasonable opportunity to intervene to
prevent it, but failed to do so.” (Dkt. #30 Pg. ID 312 (emphasis added).) Whether the
claim is sufficiently specific for this summary judgment motion, however, is addressed
The court disagrees with Defendant Teets that it may properly determine, as a
matter of law, based solely on Defendant Teets’s deposition testimony, that he was so
completely and utterly focused on the Plaintiff’s left arm that he was unaware of the
force being used by his fellow arresting Defendants mere inches from him.
The court reaches a different conclusion, however, with respect to whether there
is sufficient evidence on the record that Defendant Teets had the means or opportunity
to intervene. Plaintiff argues that, because Plaintiff was already subdued, the court
should reject Defendant Teets’s argument that he did not have the means to intervene.
(Dkt. #69 Pg. ID 1342.) Again, the court relies on its conclusion that Plaintiff was not
sufficiently neutralized until he was handcuffed. There is no dispute that Defendant
Teets was attempting to secure Plaintiff’s left arm before the handcuffs were secured on
Plaintiff (regardless of Plaintiff’s contention that he was neutralized even if he was not
handcuffed). The court therefore finds that Plaintiff has not sufficiently shown that
Defendant had the opportunity and means to intervene. Defendant Teets is entitled to
qualified immunity on Plaintiff’s claim that he failed to intervene in the allegedly
excessive use of force by other arresting Defendants before Plaintiff was handcuffed.
Curiously, neither Defendant Powell nor Plaintiff address whether Defendant
Powell—who, by his own account, was “pushed . . . out of the way” by Guyzik before
Plaintiff was taken to the ground (Dkt. #63 Pg. ID 1225)—had the opportunity to
intervene in the alleged excessive use of force before Plaintiff was handcuffed. The
court, however, finds nothing that would establish that Plaintiff developed on the factual
record a sufficiently specific claim against Defendant Powell for failure to intervene
before Plaintiff was handcuffed. See Lanman v. Hinson, 529 F.3d 673, 684 (6th Cir.
2008). Defendant Powell, therefore, is entitled to summary judgment on a claim that he
failed to intervene before Plaintiff was handcuffed.
2. After Plaintiff Was Handcuffed
Defendants are similarly entitled to qualified immunity on the claim that they
failed to intervene on Defendant Behrik’s and Defendant Holton’s alleged excessive use
of force after Plaintiff was handcuffed. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Behrik’s blows
happened “[m]aybe five seconds” after he was handcuffed. (Guyzik Dep. Dkt. #58-2 Pg.
ID 667.) Defendant Holton’s blows happened immediately after. (Id.) Though Plaintiff
makes conclusory arguments that “a fact finder may infer that Defendants Teets and
Powell saw the beating, had opportunity to react, and [did not] intervene,” (Dkt. #69 Pg.
ID 1343), he fails to support these allegations with citations to the record. As noted
above, Defendant Teets had just finished securing Plaintiff before Plaintiff was
handcuffed. It is undisputed that Defendant Powell is the one who placed the handcuffs
on Plaintiff. (Powell Dep. Dkt. #58-4 Pg. ID 756.) Plaintiff fails to demonstrate how
Defendants Powell and Teets, within five seconds of securing Plaintiff, would have had
the means and opportunity to prevent Defendant Behrik and Defendant Holton from
striking Plaintiff again. As presented to the court, therefore, Defendants Powell and
Teets are entitled to qualified immunity on a claim for failing to intervene after Plaintiff
Defendant Powell is entitled to summary judgment for any alleged excessive use
of force after Plaintiff was taken to the ground, as well as for a failure to intervene claim
before Plaintiff was handcuffed, because no such claims are sufficiently made out in the
pleading or the factual record. Defendants Powell and Teets are both entitled to
qualified immunity as to Plaintiff’s remaining claims against them for excessive force
and failure to intervene. Accordingly,
IT IS ORDERED that Defendants’ motions for summary judgment (Dkt. ##58, 63)
s/Robert H. Cleland
ROBERT H. CLELAND
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: November 17, 2017
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was mailed to counsel of record
on this date, November 17, 2017, by electronic and/or ordinary mail.
Case Manager and Deputy Clerk
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