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Roten v. City of Minden

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

April 18, 2017

JERRY ROTEN
v.
CITY OF MINDEN, ET AL.

          HAYES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

MEMORANDUM RULING

          S. MAURICE HICKS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Record Document 15) filed by Defendants, the City of Minden (“the City”), Officer Russell Engi (“Engi”), and Lieutenant Seth Young (“Young”). Defendants seek dismissal of all federal claims against Engi and Young on the ground of qualified immunity. They seek dismissal of the Monell claim against the City on the grounds that there is no evidence of a deficient training program and no evidence of deliberate indifference. Finally, Defendants seek dismissal of the state law claims. Plaintiff Jerry Roten (“Roten”) opposes the Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing there are genuine disputes of material fact on issues such as probable cause. See Record Document 19. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED and all claims against Defendants are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On March 23, 2015, Engi and Young of the Minden Police Department were notified that there was a suspect causing a disturbance at the Magnolia Motel located on Shreveport Road in Minden, Louisiana. See Record Document 15-2 at ¶ 1; Record Document 19-1 at ¶ 1. The suspect had barricaded himself inside of a room and was refusing to exit. See id. Engi and Young were also informed that the suspect was armed with either two axes or two swords. See Record Document 15-2 at ¶ 2; Record Document 19-1 at ¶ 2.

         Two other officers, James and Curry, arrived at the scene first, followed by Engi. See Record Document 15-2 at ¶ 3; Record Document 19-1 at ¶ 3. Engi was made aware that the suspect had been sprayed with pepper spray and had refused to leave the room or drop his weapons. See id. When Engi arrived on scene, he retrieved a can of “clearout” brand tear gas that he kept in his vehicle. See id. He deployed it in the room but the suspect still did not exit the room. See id.

         On this same date, Roten was at the Louisiana Fried Chicken fast food restaurant located on Shreveport Road in Minden, Louisiana. See Record Document 28 at ¶ D(1). He noticed three City of Minden police cars in the Magnolia Motel parking lot. See id. at ¶ D(2). The Magnolia Motel is located next door to the Louisiana Fried Chicken restaurant. See id. Roten began video taping the police activity with his cell phone. See id. at ¶ D(3); Record Document 15-2 at ¶ 7; Record Document 19-1 at ¶ 7. Engi's vehicle, as well as the vehicles of James and Curry, had in place mobile video systems that also recorded the relevant events of March 23, 2015. See Record Document 15-2 at ¶ 6; Record Document 19-1 at ¶ 6.

         After his initial arrival on scene, Engi moved his patrol car so that it was perpendicular to the entrance to the motel courtyard. See Record Document 15-2 at ¶ 4; Record Document 19-1 at ¶ 4. According to Engi, he did this for two reasons: (1) to make clear that vehicles were not to enter the motel courtyard; and (2) to assist officers by providing cover in the event that they were required to retreat from in front of the motel room. See id. Young then arrived on scene and placed his vehicle to the south of Engi's vehicle. See id. at ¶ 5; Record Document 19-1 at ¶ 5.[1]

         Roten was initially to the south of Young's vehicle. See Record Document 15-2 at ¶ 8; Record Document 19-1 at ¶ 8. Thus, he was also to the south of Engi's vehicle, to the south of the vehicles of James and Curry, and to the south of the motel room. See id. Roten moved from the south of Young's vehicle between Engi's vehicle and Young's vehicle. See Record Document 15-2 at ¶ 9. Roten contests this fact, submitting that he was never between any police vehicles. See Record Document 19-1 at ¶¶ 9-10; Record Document 19-2 at ¶ 5 (Roten Sworn Declaration). Yet, in his earlier deposition, Roten testified:

Q. You're in between Lieutenant Young's vehicle and Officer Engi's vehicle?
A. I am.

Record Document 19-3 at 104, lines 1-3. At approximately 3:48 of Roten's cell phone video, Roten pans his cell phone camera from Engi to his left, i.e., south. See Record Document 15-6 (Roten Cell Phone Video). The video clearly captures Young's vehicle, which is behind Roten. See id.[2]

         Engi saw that Roten had moved between his patrol vehicle and Young's vehicle. See Record Document 15-2 at ¶ 10. Engi submitted an affidavit attesting:

I believed that it was necessary for the safety of the officers and Mr. Roten for Mr. Roten to remain beyond the police vehicles and to not get between or among the police vehicles, and initially he was in a safe location. As an officer I have been taught to use police vehicles as “cover.” If the suspect ran out of the room we could retreat and engage the suspect from a position of safety behind our vehicles. Each of the patrol vehicles were left unlocked so they could be accessed easily, but they also contained additional weapons and equipment.

Id. at ¶ 11, citing Record Document 15-4 at ¶ 4 (Engi Affidavit).[3] Young shared these concerns, as evidenced by his affidavit. See Record Document 15-5 at ¶ 6 (Young Affidavit). Young also attested that it was unknown as to whether the suspect was armed with other weapons such as firearms. See id. at ¶ 4. Roten admits that Engi did not know him and did not know what involvement he had in this incident, if any, or what risk he may have posed to the officers. See Record Document 15-2 at ¶ 13.

         The communications between Roten and the officers are recorded, both on the MVS recording as well as the cell phone video. See Record Document 15-2 at ¶¶ 16, 18; Record Document 19-1 at ¶¶ 16, 18. Defendants have submitted a transcript of the pertinent portions of the interaction between Roten and the officers. See Record Document 15-2 at ¶ 18; Record Document 19-1 at ¶ 18; Record Document 15-8. Roten “admits the accuracy” of the transcript cited by Defendants in their Statement of Undisputed Facts. Record Document 19-1 at ¶ 18. The transcript of the communications is set forth below:

Engi: Get behind the police car.
Engi: Get behind the police car.
Engi: Sir.
Roten: I'm not interfering with you.
Engi: This is a, this is a crime scene get behind the police car.
Roten: I'm behind two police cars, I'm behind three police cars.
Engi: Get behind them both.
Roten: I'll tell you what buddy. You're pushing it right now.
Engi: Sir, you don't seem to understand. Get behind the ...

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