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Lincoln v. Scott

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

April 5, 2018

ERIN LINCOLN, Individually and as Representative of the Estate of John Lincoln, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
SANDRA SCOTT; KYLE MEEKS, Defendants - Appellees ERIN LINCOLN, Individually and as Representative of the Estate of John Lincoln Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
C. BARNES Defendant-Appellee

          Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas

          Before STEWART, Chief Judge, and CLEMENT and SOUTHWICK, Circuit Judges.

          EDITH BROWN CLEMENT, CIRCUIT JUDGE

         Before the court is Erin Lincoln's appeal of the district court's grant of qualified immunity to three police officers-Sandra Scott, Kyle Meeks, and Clair Barnes-who responded to a shooting incident involving her father. For the reasons set forth below, the district court's grant of summary judgment is affirmed.

         I.

         On December 26, 2013, agents of the Colleyville Police Department ("CPD") responded to a report that a man, armed with a gun, was on his way to an identified location-4101 Lexington Parkway in Colleyville, Texas-to kill his mother. Sergeant Charles Tinsman was initially dispatched, and he arrived at the scene with two other CPD officers; as the incident unfolded, more CPD officers and officers from other agencies also arrived. The dispatcher informed the officers that John Lincoln and his daughter, Erin Lincoln, were inside the house, that Erin had confirmed John was armed, and that she did not feel threatened.[1] During the incident, John repeatedly came to the front door of the house, would open the door, and make comments such as "come and take it, " and "make your move." The officers requested that a SWAT team assemble because John was armed and posed a threat to his mother, his daughter, and the officers. Sgt. Tinsman said that he heard SWAT officers instruct John to "drop the weapon" and shortly after there was a burst of gunfire. The shots were fired at approximately 9:59 p.m.

          John was hit by the gunfire and eventually died from the gunshots. He fell very close to the threshold of the front doorway, and Erin began screaming. SWAT team members immediately secured the scene and ensured John could not access his handgun; the officers requested immediate medical attention for John. Erin was the only other person in the home and rushed to her father's side as soon as the shots were fired. SWAT officers had to physically remove Erin from her father's side to secure the scene and provide John medical attention. When the officers removed Erin, she was handcuffed, taken through the back exit of the house, and placed in the back seat of a CPD officer car. The officers stated that Erin was kicking and screaming when they removed her. Erin was eventually uncuffed and waited in the police car while the other responding officers-including Kyle Meeks, Sandra Scott, and Clair Barnes- performed initial investigatory work, partly in preparation for Erin's interview. Sgt. Tinsman stated that each time he checked on Erin in the vehicle, another officer was with her; he also stated that Erin never told him that she wanted to leave.

         A. Sandra Scott

         Sandra Scott worked as a CPD Officer at the time of the incident. When Scott was first dispatched to the scene, her role was to patrol pedestrians and vehicles entering the neighborhood. She did not witness the circumstances that led to the ultimate shooting of John. Roughly two hours after the shooting, Scott was summoned to the house where John was shot and asked to transport Erin in a police car to the CPD station. Scott stated that she transported Erin from the scene around 12:40 a.m. on December 27, 2013.

         At the time she transported Erin, Scott knew only that Erin was a member of the family that lived at the house where the incident occurred, that she was John's daughter, and understood that Erin was a witness who Detective Meeks was to interview. Scott was not present during Erin's interview at the CPD station. After Erin's interview concluded, Scott took pictures of a few scrapes and abrasions on Erin's body that happened during her removal from the scene. Scott had no further interaction with Erin. Scott asserted that Erin never expressed any wish not to give an interview or not to be transported to the CPD station. She tacitly assumed that Erin was a cooperative witness.

         B. Kyle Meeks

         Kyle Meeks was the on-call detective for the CPD when he was advised, around 10:43 p.m. the night of the incident, that he needed to respond to 4101 Lexington Parkway. Officers already on the scene briefed Meeks on the events surrounding the shooting. The officers also instructed Meeks that Erin rushed to her father's side immediately after he was shot and that she was hysterically screaming. Meeks was also told that Erin had to be physically removed from the scene to ensure medical personnel could assist John and also to ensure the officers could secure the scene and remove John's handgun.

         When Meeks found out that Erin was waiting in a police car, he went to the car, where Erin was sitting with a female officer, and asked Erin if she was okay and if she needed anything. Erin told Meeks that she was okay, and after checking on her, he believed it was reasonable for her to wait in the car for a number of reasons. The officers needed to remove Erin from the scene to prevent any continuing interference with the efforts to secure the scene for investigation, to remove John's handgun, and to provide him medical attention. Further, it was a cold night, so he assumed having her stay inside a warm car would be preferable because she was not warmly dressed. Also, at the time Erin was waiting in the car, it was not known to what extent she was involved as either a victim, witness, or even a suspect.

         Meeks and Scott (who transported Erin) left the scene and headed to the CPD station around the same time, where Ranger Clair Barnes was waiting to interview Erin. Meeks also understood that other members of Erin's family were also going to the CPD station and had agreed to a voluntary interview. At the station, Meeks conducted an initial interview with Erin that lasted about 11 minutes. Meeks asked Erin if she would write a statement about the incident; Erin agreed and wrote a five page statement. Erin remained at the ...


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