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Trent v. Wade

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

January 29, 2015

ROGER DALE TRENT; VICKIE DARLENE TRENT; RICHARD DALE TRENT; and RANDAL DEAN TRENT, Plaintiffs--Appellees,
v.
STEVEN WADE and MATTHEW WALLING, Defendants--Appellants

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

For ROGER DALE TRENT, VICKIE DARLENE TRENT, RICHARD DALE TRENT, RANDAL DEAN TRENT, Plaintiffs - Appellees: Brian Patrick Shaw, Jr., Esq., Shackelford, Melton, McKinley & Norton, L.L.P., Dallas, TX.

For STEVEN WADE, MATHEW WALLING, Defendants - Appellants: William Wayne Krueger, III, Esq., Holly Danielle Craig, Kevin Michael Curley, Esq., McKamie Krueger, L.L.P., Richardson, TX.

Before DAVIS, ELROD, and COSTA, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

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JENNIFER WALKER ELROD, Circuit Judge:

We sua sponte withdraw the prior panel opinion, Trent v. Wade, No. 13-10960, 2015 WL 148989 (5th Cir. 2015) and substitute the following:

This appeal follows the district court's denial of the defendants--appellants' motion for summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds. The plaintiffs--appellees are members of the Trent family--father, mother, and two sons, in the order listed in the caption. At all times relevant, the defendants--appellants were police officers in Rowlett, Texas--Steven Wade a patrol officer and Matthew Walling the Chief of Police. The Trents filed a lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging, inter alia, violations of their Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Particular to this appeal, the claims against Wade, in his individual capacity, involve a nighttime vehicle chase that concluded with: (1) Wade entering and searching the Trents' home

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without knocking and announcing his presence; and (2) Wade seizing and impounding the Trents' all-terrain vehicle (" ATV" ). The claim against Walling is not premised upon his actions the night of the chase. Instead, the Trents allege that Walling, in his official capacity as a policymaker for Rowlett, is liable under Monell v. Department of Social Services of the City of New York, 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978).

The district court concluded that there were genuine issues of material fact as to Wade's entry into the Trents' house without knocking and announcing and denied Wade qualified immunity. On appeal, Wade argues that the factual issues are not material because there is a per se hot pursuit exception to the knock and announce rule. We disagree. It is clearly established that there is no per se hot pursuit exception to the knock and announce rule. Because the district court was correct in ruling that hot pursuit does not automatically excuse an officer from knocking and announcing, we affirm with respect to the knock-and-announce claim. See, e.g., Juarez v. Aguilar, 666 F.3d 325, 334 (5th Cir. 2011). The district court also found genuine issues of fact with respect to the ATV seizure. Because Wade did not violate clearly established law, even on the Trents' version of the facts, we reverse as to the ATV claim. Finally, because qualified immunity is not at issue in the claim against Walling, we dismiss Walling's appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

I.

A.

The district court's thorough opinion describes the events giving rise to this litigation. See Trent v. Wade, No. 3:12-CV-1244, *2-16 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 9, 2013). We recount the most pertinent facts here.[1] The record reflects that, several years prior to the night in question, some " friction" developed between the Trents and the police department in Rowlett. For example, Walling was a member of an association that attempted, via referendum, to obtain civil service status for the police department. Spearheading the effort to defeat the referendum was Roger Trent. Roger also was arrested for (but was never convicted of) stealing campaign signs associated with that referendum. Furthermore, Roger supported a particular mayoral candidate who, the Trents contend, was disfavored by the police department. In their complaint, the Trents allege that members of the police department, in response to Roger's political activism, engaged in " harassment and intimidation against the Trents, culminating in an illegal middle-of-the-night raid into their home." This alleged raid is the subject of the dispute on appeal.

One night in November 2011, at approximately 2:00 a.m., Wade was patrolling the President George Bush Turnpike in Rowlett.[2] Wade had received reports of criminal activity in the area. After seeing two ATVs racing southbound on the closed portion of the turnpike's northbound lane, Wade turned on his emergency lights in an attempt to make a traffic stop. One of the drivers (later identified as Richard Trent) steered past Wade's cruiser, turned into an open pasture, and accelerated off-road. Wade pursued the ATV. Less than one minute into the pursuit, Wade and Richard

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both arrived at the Trents' home. Richard parked the ATV under the porte cochere and ran to an exterior door of the home, which was several feet from the parked ATV. In turn, Wade pulled up and parked his cruiser within several feet of the ATV. Wade was familiar with the Trents' property (and was also aware of the " friction" between the Trents and the police department). As he ran through the door and into the home, Richard looked back at Wade. Wade testified that he did not see Richard throw out or pick up any potential evidence or any weapon.

Up to this point, for purposes of this appeal, no unconstitutional activity is alleged to have occurred. Then, approximately ten seconds after Richard ran into the home, Wade walked up to the house, opened the same door, and--without hesitation and without knocking or announcing his presence--stepped across the threshold of the Trents' home, forming the basis of the first of two claims against Wade at issue on appeal.

Upon entry into the home, Wade yelled: " Get out here." Wade also requested backup, relaying to the dispatcher: " I'm at Roger Trent's location." Still in the home, Wade again yelled for Richard to exit the residence: " Better get out here. Get out here." Wade testified that he heard several people moving upstairs. After standing inside the door for approximately ninety seconds, Wade went outside to meet the backup officers, who arrived in a matter of minutes. Wade then marched back into the home through the same door, gun drawn, and shouted back to the officers: " They're upstairs." Again, Wade did not knock and announce his presence. Two other officers followed behind through the same door; neither knocked or announced his presence.

Moving farther into the home, the officers encountered the other members of the Trent family. Wade and Roger had the following exchange:

Wade: Get back. Get back. I got a felony in progress. Get back. You better get your a-- back. Back up.
Roger: You pulled a gun on me.
Wade: You bet I did. Get back.
Roger: What do you want me to do? Go back to bed?
Wade: No. I want the kid that ran in the house.
Roger: Yeah. Well, who is that?
Wade: You tell me.
Roger: I just, you just woke me up.

After directing one of the other officers to " check under the bed," Wade repeatedly asked: " Where's the kid at?" In response, Vickie Trent expressed confusion: " I really don't know what's going on." Still failing to find Richard, Wade spoke again to one of the other officers: " Did you look under the beds and everything? . . . Just check it again. Sweep it."

Wade and the other officers soon discovered Richard inside the home. Richard was arrested for evading on a vehicle and taken out of the home. Simultaneously, Roger and Vickie attempted to explain that, as a " special child," [3] Richard probably did not understand what was happening. Wade warned Roger: " Back up or you're going to jail." Wade also told Roger and Vickie: " Okay, I risked my life chasing him through the streets and over here."

After the arrest, Wade had the following exchange with the other officers:

Officer: So you just f--king went in after (descriptive sound).
Wade: I chased him through that field.

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Officer: Did you really? He left that door open, or what?
Wade: No.
Officer: ...

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