Daniels v. Wyoming City of et al
ORDER granting 49 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Susan J. Dlott on 1/10/17. (wam)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF OHIO
QUINCY C. DANIELS,
DISTRICT JUDGE SUSAN J. DLOTT
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
CITY OF WYOMING, ET AL.,
This matter is before the Court on Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 49).
Plaintiff Quincy C. Daniels asserts a claim for violation of his Fourth Amendment and
Fourteenth Amendment rights against Defendant Tom Riggs, a police officer with the City of
Wyoming, Ohio, arising from a traffic stop. Daniels asserts that the traffic stop was illegal
because it was racially motivated. Officer Riggs moves for summary judgment on the grounds
that he did not violate Daniels’s constitutional rights and that he is entitled to qualified immunity
as a matter of law. For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT the Motion for Summary
The following facts are derived, except where specifically noted otherwise, from
Defendant’s Proposed Undisputed Facts (Doc. 49-1) and Plaintiff’s Responses (Doc. 54) thereto.
On December 26, 2013, Daniels, an African-American, and his companion, Glenda Smith, spent
the evening together at a Broadway show. Just after 8:00 p.m. that night, Daniels drove with
Smith towards Smith’s residence in Wyoming, Ohio in his recently acquired 2014 Cadillac CTS.
Daniels obtained the vehicle in November 2013 from Fairfield Cadillac in Fairfield, Ohio. The
vehicle displayed temporary license plates from the dealer which had expired on December 16,
Officer Riggs has filed a dash camera video to support his recitation of the facts. The
video system in the cruiser is set to record and save from one minute prior to the time that the
cruiser lights are activated. (Riggs Dep., Doc. 48 at PageID 564.) The video is authenticated by
Rusty Herzog, the Wyoming Chief of Police, and contains both a time-of-day clock and an event
timer that starts starts at 0:00 and counts up to 7:08 minutes. (Herzog Aff., Doc. 49-2 at PageID
644; Video.)1 Daniels’s attorney notes that the video provided to Daniels in discovery and used
in the deposition had only an event timer. The event timer in the dash camera video filed with
the Court matches the timing of events set forth by Daniels in his Proposed Statement of the
Facts. (Doc. 53.) Thus, the Court will use the event timer in this recitation of the facts.
When the dash camera video begins, Daniels and Smith were travelling north on
Springfield Pike in the left lane towards Smith’s residence. Officer Riggs was travelling 2–3 car
lengths behind Daniels’s vehicle in the right lane until both vehicles stopped for a traffic light
with Officer Riggs’s cruiser next to Daniels’s vehicle. (Video 0:00–0:16.) Daniels and Smith
testified that Officer Riggs made eye contact with them while stopped for the traffic light.
(Smith Dep., Doc. 47 at PageID 517–18; Daniels Dep., Doc. 46 at PageID 433–34.) After the
cars accelerated from the light, Officer Riggs drove next to or ahead of Daniels’s vehicle for
approximately 15 seconds, and then he switched into the left lane behind Daniels’s vehicle.
(Video 0:28–0:59.) Officer Riggs put on his vehicle flashing lights to effectuate a traffic stop at
the one minute mark in the dash cam video. (Video 1:00.) Daniels then turned left at the next
intersection onto Ritchie Avenue and parked his car on the side of the road to comply. (Video
Notice of the filing of the video DVD is at Doc. 50.
At some point after he encountered Daniels’s vehicle on Springfield Pike, Officer Riggs
ran the temporary license plate number from the computer in his cruiser. He had noticed that the
license plate number appeared to be altered on the temporary tag. (Riggs Dep., Doc. 48 at
PageID 573.) The electronic record from the police cruiser indicates that he ran the license plate
number at 8:16 p.m. (Doc. 49-2 at PageID 651.) That same electronic record indicates that
Officer Riggs informed the police dispatcher about the traffic stop at 8:18 p.m. (Doc. 49-2 at
PageID 652.) Riggs testified that the license plate issue was the only reason that he pulled over
Daniels’s vehicle. (Riggs Dep., Doc. 48 at PageID 561.) Officer Riggs “radioed” the numbers
of the license plate to the police dispatcher for the first time on Ritchie Avenue or just before he
turned onto Ritchie Avenue. (Id. at PageID 585; Audio at TStop 12-26 B.)2
After the vehicles had pulled over on Ritchie Avenue, Officer Riggs approached Daniels
and informed him that his license plate was expired and that the date written on it appeared to
have been altered. Daniels provided Officer Riggs with his driver’s license and registration at
Officer Riggs’s request. Officer Riggs returned to his cruiser to check the documents. He then
returned the items to Daniels, reiterated that the license plate was expired, and suggested that
Daniels contact the dealership about the license plate expiration. Officer Riggs did not issue
Daniels a traffic citation. The traffic stop concluded and Daniels drove away. (Video 6:17.)
Additionally, Daniels presents evidence that from December 2012 through December
2013 Officer Riggs issued tickets to more black individuals than to white individuals. (Doc. 48
at PageID 598–622.)3
Notice of the filing of the audio tape is at Doc. 55.
Counsel for Daniels asked Officer Riggs during his deposition to assume that the records
established that Officer Riggs issued twenty-four tickets to black individuals and eighteen tickets
Daniels initiated this suit on July 31, 2015 against the City of Wyoming, Ohio; Lynn
Tetley, the Wyoming City Manager; the Wyoming Police Department; and Chief Gary Baldauf,
Officer Tom Riggs, Officer Mike World, Officer Brian Berigan, and Officer Jeffrey Banker of
the Wyoming Police Department. (Doc. 1.) He filed a [First] Amended Class Action Complaint
on September 3, 2015 after Defendants had moved to dismiss the initial Complaint. (Docs. 8, 9.)
Daniels sought to assert claims on behalf of a class of other non-white citizens stopped by the
Wyoming Police Department because of their ethnicity. He asserted five claims: (1) unlawful
stop in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment; (2) failure to train, instruct, or
supervise in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; (3) denial of substantive due
process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; (4) denial of procedural due process in
violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; and (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress.
(Doc. 9 at PageID 87–89.) The Court assumed that Daniels also intended to assert an equal
protection claim because he alleged that Defendants stopped him and the prospective class
members on the basis of their race. (Id. at PageID 84–87; Doc. 28 at PageID 329.)
Defendants moved to dismiss the [First] Amended Class Action Complaint in its entirety.
(Doc. 12.) On February 10, 2016, the Court issued an Order dismissing all claims against the
City of Wyoming, City Manager Tetley, the Wyoming Police Department, Chief Baldauf,
Officers World, Berigan, and Banker. (Doc. 28 at PageID 340.) The Court also struck the class
action allegations. Finally, the Court dismissed the due process, equal protection, and intentional
to white individuals. (Riggs Dep., Doc. 48 at PageID 587.) The Court’s tally was slightly
different, but the Court also counted more tickets given to black individuals. (Doc. 48 at PageID
598–622.) The slight discrepancy is not unexpected as the quality of the printouts is poor and
some notations are difficult to read.
infliction of emotional distress claims against Officer Riggs. (Id.) The Court did not dismiss the
claims against Officer Riggs for a violation of Daniels’s rights under the Fourth Amendment.
(Id. at PageID 340.) Finally, the Court instructed Daniels, for the sake of clarity, to file a Second
Amended Complaint deleting the class allegations and the dismissed claims. (Id.)
Daniels timely filed the Second Amended Complaint on February 26, 2016. (Doc. 31.)
He asserts one claim alleging he “was stopped, detained, and interrogated because of his race” in
violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Id. at PageID 346.) Officer Riggs now
moves for summary judgment on this sole remaining claim.
STANDARDS GOVERNING MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 governs motions for summary judgment. Summary
judgment is appropriate if “there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The movant has the burden to
show that no genuine issues of material fact are in dispute. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd.
v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585–87 (1986); Provenzano v. LCI Holdings, Inc., 663 F.3d
806, 811 (6th Cir. 2011). The evidence, together with all inferences that can permissibly be
drawn therefrom, must be read in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., 475 U.S. at 585–87; Provenzano, 663 F.3d at 811.
The movant may support a motion for summary judgment with affidavits or other proof
or by exposing the lack of evidence on an issue for which the nonmoving party will bear the
burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322–24 (1986). In responding to
a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party may not rest upon the pleadings but must
“present affirmative evidence in order to defeat a properly supported motion for summary
judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 257 (1986). A court’s task is not “to
weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a
genuine issue for trial. Id. at 249. A genuine issue for trial exists when there is sufficient
“evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Id. at 252. “The court need
consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.” Fed. R. Civ.
To begin, the Court reminds the parties that in the Order dated February 10, 2016 it
dismissed Daniels’s implicit racial profiling claim against Officer Riggs and the other
Defendants. (Doc. 28 at PageID 335–37, 340.) The Court recognized that individuals “subjected
to unequal treatment based upon their race or ethnicity during the course of an otherwise lawful
traffic stop . . . [can] demonstrate a violation of the Equal Protection Clause.” Farm Labor
Organizing Comm. v. Ohio State Hwy. Patrol, 308 F.3d 523, 533 (6th Cir. 2002). However, to
state an equal protection claim, Daniels would have had to “adequately plead that the
government [officer] treated the plaintiff disparately as compared to similarly situated persons
and that such disparate treatment . . . targets a suspect class . . . .” Center for Bio-Ethical
Reform, Inc. v. Napolitano, 648 F.3d 365, 379 (6th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation and citation
omitted) (emphasis added). Daniels alleged only one incident of wrongdoing by Officer Riggs in
the [First] Amended Complaint—the traffic stop of Daniels by Officer Riggs in December 2013.
He made no allegations of fact that Officer Riggs in particular treated white drivers differently.
Daniels’s allegation that the “WPD [Wyoming Police Department] issued a relatively high
number of traffic citations on a two mile stretch, [sic] to a relatively high number of non whites”
was too vague to state a claim against Officer Riggs for race discrimination. (Id. at PageID 336;
Doc. 9 at PageID 87.) The Court concluded that the [First] Amended Class Action Complaint
was “devoid of statistical or anecdotal allegations of fact regarding more favorable treatment
accorded to white individuals” and, accordingly, dismissed the equal protection claim. (Doc. 28
at PageID 336.) Daniels did not have leave to re-assert an equal protection claim against Officer
Riggs in the Second Amended Complaint. Therefore, the Court will proceed to analyze only the
claim that Officer Riggs unlawfully stopped and detained Daniels in violation of the Fourth
Daniels contends that Officer Riggs stopped him without legal justification, as evidenced
by the fact that Officer Riggs did not issue him a traffic citation. “An ordinary traffic stop by a
police officer is a ‘seizure’ within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.” U.S. v. Blair, 524
F.3d 740, 748 (6th Cir. 2008).
The Fourth Amendment requires that a traffic stop “not be ‘unreasonable’ under the
circumstances.” Whren v. U.S., 517 U.S. 806, 810 (1996). However, the constitutional
reasonableness of a traffic stop under the Fourth Amendment does not depend upon the “actual
motivations of the individual officers involved.” Id. at 813.4 A police officer may stop a car
with probable cause to believe a civil traffic infraction has occurred or with reasonable suspicion
of ongoing criminal activity. Blair, 524 F.3d at 748, 750; see also U.S. v. Huff, 630 F. App’x
471, 495 (6th Cir. 2015) (Barrett, J., concurring).5 More specifically, “an officer may, consistent
with the Fourth Amendment, lawfully stop a motorist whom he or she has probable cause to
believe committed a traffic violation, including driving with expired tags, regardless of the
officer’s actual motivation for doing so.” U.S. v. Marshall, 233 F. App’x 436, 439 (6th Cir.
Selective enforcement of the law based on considerations of race is a violation of the Equal
Protection Clause, see id., but Daniels’s equal protection claim has been dismissed for
“Whether the police may stop a vehicle based on mere reasonable suspicion of a civil traffic
violation is the subject of a conflict in our [Sixth Circuit] case law.” Blair, 524 F.3d at 753.
2007). Therefore, Daniels’s proffered evidence that Officer Riggs made eye contact with him at
an intersection stop, knew he was black, and issued tickets to more black drivers than white
drivers from December 2012 to December 2013 is irrelevant to the objective determination of
whether Officer Riggs had probable cause to pull over Daniels on the night in question.
Daniels concedes that he was driving a vehicle with an expired license plate on December
26, 2013 when he was pulled over by Officer Riggs. He challenges only whether Officer Riggs
had probable cause to believe that the license plate was expired prior to initiating the traffic stop.
He argues that the facts are disputed whether Officer Riggs had sufficient time to determine that
the license plate was expired based on the dash camera video. He suggests that Officer Riggs
had only ten seconds to observe the license plate. He also relies on the audio recording and
Officer Riggs’s testimony that he did not radio in the license plate number until he was on
Ritchie Avenue, the side street where Daniels pulled over his vehicle.
The Court disagrees and finds that the there are no material facts in dispute. First, the
dash camera video is inconclusive as to how long Officer Riggs drove behind Daniels’s vehicle
because the camera system captured only sixty seconds prior to the time Officer Riggs turned on
his cruiser lights. In the video, Officer Riggs travelled behind Daniels’s vehicle for
approximately 23 seconds before he turned on his cruiser lights to initiate the traffic stop.
(Video 0:00–0:10, 0:47–1:00.) Second, Officer Riggs testified that he “ran a query on the
temporary tag in the computer in the car.” (Riggs Dep., Doc. 48 at PageID 573.) His testimony
is supported by the electronic record of the communications made from the police cruiser.
Officer Riggs completed the license plate query at 8:16 p.m. and informed the dispatcher about
the traffic stop on Ritchie Avenue at 8:18 p.m. (Herzog Aff., Doc. 49-2 at PageID 651–52.)
Third, Officer Riggs told Daniels during the traffic stop when he first approached Daniels’s
vehicle, and before he returned to the cruiser with Daniels’s license and registration, that when
he “run it [the license plate] through the system, it shows it expired on the 16th.” (Video 3:25–
3:31.) This statement suggests that Officer Riggs had checked the license plate before he
stopped the vehicle. It is irrelevant then that Officer Riggs did not radio the police station about
the expired license plate until he was stopping or had stopped on Ritchie Avenue.
In sum, because the material undisputed evidence establishes that Officer Riggs had
probable cause to pull over Daniels for the traffic violation of driving with an expired license
plate, Officer Riggs did not violate Daniels’s Fourth Amendment rights. See Marshall, 233 F.
App’x at 439 (stating that an officer can stop a motorist driving with expired tags consistent with
the Fourth Amendment). Moreover, Officer Riggs is entitled to qualified immunity as a matter
of law. See Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231–32 (2009) (stating that qualified immunity
is applicable if the official’s conduct did not violate a clearly established right).
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 49) is
DATED this 10 th day of January, 2017.
BY THE COURT:
S/Susan J. Dlott
SUSAN J. DLOTT
United States District Judge
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