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Jackson v. Hebert

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

July 13, 2018






         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the Defendants, Mark Hebert (“Sheriff Hebert”), former Sheriff of St. Mary Parish, Deputy Dustin Kennedy (“Kennedy”), and Deputy Ryan Russo (“Russo”). See Record Document 23. Plaintiffs, Shelton Jackson (“Jackson”) and his wife, Delicia Jackson, oppose the motion. See Record Document 25. For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED and all of the Plaintiffs' claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.


         Jackson filed the instant lawsuit pursuant to Title 42, United States Code, Section 1983 and Louisiana state law regarding an incident that occurred on January 15, 2015. Jackson alleges that Defendants violated his constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure), Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments (deprivation of life, liberty or property without due process of law), and the Eighth Amendment (cruel and unusual punishment). See Record Document 1 at ¶ 1. Jackson asserts Section 1983 claims against Kennedy, Russo, and Sheriff Hebert in their individual and official capacities. See Record Document 1 at ¶ 1; Record Document 10.[1] Jackson also alleges that Kennedy, Russo, and Sheriff Hebert are liable to him under Louisiana law for negligence pursuant to La. Civ. Code art. 2315, and assault and battery. See Record Document 1 at ¶¶ 20-2; Record Document 10. Delicia Jackson asserts a claim for damages against Defendants for loss of consortium, mental anguish, and physical illness, including the loss of two pregnancies. See Record Document 1 at ¶ 13; Record Document 10.

         Defendants have filed a Rule 56 dispositive motion seeking the dismissal of all claims. See Record Document 23. Defendants previously invoked the affirmative defense of qualified immunity. See Record Document 4. Defendants also contend that Jackson's claims against Sheriff Hebert fail because no constitutional rights were violated, and alternatively, Sheriff Hebert did not implement (or fail to implement) a policy which was the moving force behind the alleged constitutional violations. Defendants seek dismissal of all state law claims as a matter of law. See Record Document 23-2 at 6.

         On January 15, 2015, Jackson was on the job working as a maintenance man for Morgan City, Louisiana, identifying gas lines along the streets. See Record Document 1 at ¶ C; Record Document 25-2 (Jackson Deposition) at 25. Jackson was wearing a city uniform and was working near a city owned vehicle. See Record Document 1 at ¶ C. Kennedy was driving an unmarked police vehicle en route to the St. Mary Parish Sheriffs office when he noticed Jackson and believed him to be an individual named Johnny Francois who was wanted on an outstanding warrant. See Record Document 23-3 (Kennedy Deposition) at 8-14.[2] Francois had an active arrest warrant for cultivation of marijuana. See id. at 9. Kennedy was not actively in search of Francois on the day this incident occurred. See id. at 11. Kennedy was familiar with Francois's appearance because he interviewed him prior to the issuance of the arrest warrant. See id. at 13, 53. Kennedy believed Jackson to be Francois because of their similar appearance (race, dread locks, and beard) and because Francois previously had a connection with Morgan City, although Kennedy was unaware of Francois's status with city at the time of the incident. See id. at 13, 48. Kennedy testified that after he noticed the individual he believed to be Francois he drove around the block and put on his protective vest with the word “Sheriff” displayed on the front and back. Id. at 14, 34.

         Jackson alleges that Kennedy pulled up next to him in his unmarked pickup truck, rolled down his window, and yelled out, “hey, what's your name?” to which Jackson responded, “why, what's wrong?” Record Document 1 at ¶ C. Jackson states that the window was rolled down half-way, while Kennedy states the window was rolled down completely. See Record Document 25-2 at 30; Record Document 23-3 at 34. Jackson testified that when Kennedy pulled up he did not know that he was a sheriff's deputy, and that Kennedy did not announce himself as such. See Record Document 25-2 at 32. Conversely, Kennedy testified that he pulled up to Jackson he announced himself as “Sheriff's office, ” explained why he stopped and asked Jackson for his name. Record Document 23-3 at 15. Because of the angle in which Kennedy's truck was parked next to Jackson, Kennedy spoke to Jackson from the driver's side of the car through the passenger window. See Record Document 25-2 at 31. Kennedy asked Jackson his name, and Jackson responded by asking why he wanted to know his name. See id. at 32. Kennedy stated, “I am looking for somebody” and described the person as “a black guy with long dreads and a beard.” Id. Jackson answered by stating “I'm not the guy that you looking for.” Id. at 33. Jackson explained that he did not tell Kennedy his name at this point because he didn't know who he was and he could only see Kennedy's face when he was sitting in the truck. See id. Kennedy then asked Jackson “How do I know you're not the guy I'm looking for?” Id. at 35. Jackson replied that he could not be the person because he did nothing wrong, and he does not get into trouble. See Record Document 1 at ¶ C; Record Document 25-2 at 36. Kennedy responded by saying that he was looking for someone who worked for the city or had worked for the city in the past. See Record Document 25-2 at 36. Jackson replied again that he did not have to provide his name. See Record Document 23-3 at 16; Record Document 23-4.

         After Jackson refused to identify himself, Kennedy exited his vehicle. See Record Document 25-2 at 37; Record Document 23-3 at 16. Kennedy testified that he was only in the truck a few seconds during his conversation with Jackson before he decided to exit his vehicle. See Record Document 23-3 at 45. Kennedy also testified that at this point he turned on his audio recording device on. See id. at 16. Jackson testified that when Kennedy exited his vehicle he noticed the “sheriff” logo on Kennedy's vest. Record Document 25-2 at 38.

         Jackson testified that Kennedy exited the vehicle and said “so you ain't going to tell me your name, boy?” Id. at 40. Jackson asked - “did you say - boy, ” to which Jackson claims Kennedy replied, “No, I said Bub.” Id. at 40-41. Kennedy testified that he has no recollection of referring to Jackson as “boy.” Record Document 23-3 at 38-39. Neither the audio nor the video contains the exchange alleged by Jackson. Kennedy is heard later on the audio recording asking “what's your name ‘bub' or ‘bud?'” Record Document 23-4.[3] Kennedy then asked Jackson for his name again, but Jackson did not reply and instead turned around to continue his work. See Record Document 25-2 at 41, 44. Jackson testified that he knew Kennedy was a law enforcement officer at this point, but did not tell him his name because believed he had done nothing wrong. See id. at 42. Kennedy continued to ask Jackson for his name. See id. at 48.[4] Jackson responded by saying he was not going to provide his name because he had not done anything wrong, and that he doesn't get into trouble. See Id. at 48, 60. Jackson suggested that Kennedy call the city or the sheriff to verify that he was not the subject of the warrant. See id. at 48, 60. At this point, Jackson's coworker, Demond Madise, began a video recording the incident on his cell phone. Id. at 24, 26, 61; Record Document 23-5, Ex. C (Manual Attachment of January 15, 2015 video recording).

         The audio recording of the incident reveals that Kennedy fully informed Jackson at least three times that he was looking for a subject who matched his physical appearance to execute an arrest warrant. See Record Document 23-4, Ex. B. Kennedy also informed Jackson that the person he was looking for worked for the city. See Id. Kennedy is heard on the audio requesting Jackson to provide his name numerous times. See id. Jackson refused to comply by responding alternatively with, “it ain't me, ” “you can't just stop me, ” “I'm not the suspect, ” “you're not getting my name, ” “you've got to stop me for a cause, ” or “I'm over here working.” Id. Kennedy also asked Jackson for his Id. See id. Jackson stated that he did not have an ID with him. See Id. Kennedy described Jackson's behavior as confrontational, noting that Jackson talked over him while he was trying to explain what was happening. See Record Document 23-3 at 36, 42. At some point during his conversation with Jackson, Kennedy radioed for backup. See id. at 16-17, 58.

         After attempting unsuccessfully to obtain Jackson's name (at least 11 attempts are heard on the audio), Kennedy proceeded to detain Jackson to investigate further. See Record Document 23-3 at 56; Record Document 23-4, Ex. B. Jackson states that Kennedy grabbed his left wrist and attempted to place handcuffs on him. See Record Document 25-2 at 61. Jackson testified that at this point he believed that Kennedy was going to put him in handcuffs and try to hurt or kill him. See id. at 66-67. However, Jackson's subjective feelings are not supported by the video, which shows Kennedy speaking to Jackson in a calm and nonconfrontational manner. See Record Document 23-5, Ex. C. The video demonstrates that while Kennedy was holding Jackson's left wrist, Jackson offered up his wrists to Kennedy and said “put them right here.” Id. When Kennedy attempted to place the handcuffs, Jackson resisted by jerking his arm away from Kennedy and lifting his arms in the air. See id. Jackson then held his arms up in the air, refusing to tell Kennedy his name. See id. Kennedy is heard instructing Jackson to “quit resisting” (at least 7 times), and he also instructed Jackson to “turn around” (at least 25 times), which Jackson refused to do. Id.; Record Document 23-4, Ex. B. Kennedy held Jackson in place until backup arrived, occasionally attempting to move Jackson's left arm behind his back, which Jackson repeatedly resisted. See Record Document 23-5, Ex. C.[5]

         Russo, who was working patrol nearby, arrived on the scene. See id.; Record Document 23-3 at 59. With Russo's assistance, Jackson was placed in handcuffs. See id. at 17, 59. According to Jackson, Russo told him to “stop resisting” while putting him in handcuffs to which Jackson replied “I'm not resisting.” Record Document 25-2 at 77. Kennedy continued to ask Jackson for identification or his name. See Record Document 23-3 at 17. Jackson continued to reply that he did not have to provide that information. See id. at 17. Jackson then told the officers to “read me my rights, ” prompting either Kennedy or Russo (it is unclear which from the audio and video) to read Jackson his Miranda rights. Record Document 23-4, Ex. B; Record Document 23-5, Ex. C.

         Jackson's supervisor, Kawaika Kai (“Kai”), arrived on the scene around the same time as Russo. See Record Document 25-2 at 71. Kai provided Jackson's identity to Kennedy. See Record Document 23-3 at 18. Kennedy returned to Jackson and asked him if his name was Shelton Jackson, stating he could not let him go unless he confirmed his identity. See Record Document 25-2 at 74-75. The audio demonstrates that Kennedy stated “if that's your name I'm taking those off.” Record Document 23-4, Ex. B. Jackson replied, “Yes, that's my name.” Record Document 25-2 at 75. Once Jackson's identity was established, Kennedy released him from the handcuffs. See id.; Record Document 23-3 at 18. Kennedy apologized to Jackson for the inconvenience, shook his hand, and then Kennedy and Russo left the scene. See Record Document 25-2 at 79-81.

         Jackson testified that Russo “roughed up” his left arm, and was “pushing” his shoulder up. Id. at 76. Jackson also testified that Kennedy was twisting his wrists. See id. After Jackson was released, he went to a local urgent care center. See id. at 84-85. He told the doctor that he had pain in his left arm and his head hurt. See Id. Jackson stated that his head hurt from Russo grabbing his hair. See id. at 84. The video indicates that Russo grabbed the back of Jackson's head while trying to cuff him, although it is not clear from the video whether he grabbed Jackson's hat or hair. See Record Document 23-5, Ex. C. Urgent care released Jackson with a return to work date of January 19th with light duties until January 26th. See Record Document 25-2 at 85-88. Jackson sought additional treatment from an orthopedist on March 12, 2015, who suggested that he visit a chiropractor for his pain. See id. at 90. Jackson did see a chiropractor, but testified that the chiropractor's adjustment caused the pain on the left side of his body to increase such that he now feels pain in his left ribcage area. See Id. at 107.

         At the time of Jackson's deposition he had not returned to work because he claims his left arm is still injured and his shoulder hurts from tendonitis. See id. at 106-107, 109. Jackson also claims to have daily headaches and insomnia. See id. at 107-108. He stated that he cannot sleep at night because of the pain and stress from the incident because he felt like the deputies were trying to kill him and that police are still “coming after him.” Id. at 111. Jackson also claims that he has nightmares, night sweats, and talks in his sleep because of the incident. See id. at 115. He also testified that he is now afraid to leave his house. See id. at 116.


         I. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is proper pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure when “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Quality Infusion Care, Inc. v. Health Care Serv. Corp., 628 F.3d 725, 728 (5th Cir. 2010). “A genuine issue of material fact exists when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” See id. “Rule 56[(a)] mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Patrick v. Ridge, 394 F.3d 311, 315 (5th Cir. 2004). If the movant demonstrates the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact, “the nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Gen. Universal Sys., Inc. v. Lee, 379 F.3d 131, 141 (5th Cir. 2004). A nonmovant cannot meet the burden of proving that a genuine issue of material fact exists by providing only “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, by conclusory allegations, by unsubstantiated assertions, or by only a scintilla of evidence.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994). Where critical evidence is so weak or tenuous on an essential fact that it could not support a judgment in favor of the nonmovant, then summary judgment should be granted. See Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., 402 F.3d 536, 540 (5th Cir. 2005).

         In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court is to view “the facts and inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Tubos de Acero de Mexico, S.A. v. Am. Int'l Inv. Corp., Inc., 292 F.3d 471, 478 (5th Cir. 2002); see also Harris v. Serpas, 745 F.3d 767, 771 (5th Cir. 2014). However, when there is video evidence available in the record, the court is not bound to adopt the nonmoving party's version of the facts if it is contradicted by the record, but rather should “review [ ] the facts in the light depicted by the videotape.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 381, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776 (2007); see also Carnaby v. City of Houston, 636 F.3d 183, 187 (5th Cir. 2011) (“Although we review evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, we assign greater weight, even at the summary judgment stage, to the facts evident from video recordings taken at the scene.”). Further, the court should not, in the absence of any proof, presume that the nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary facts. See Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.

         II. Official Capacity Claims

         Jackson has asserted Section 1983 claims against Kennedy and Russo in both their official and individual capacities. See Record Document 1 at ¶ 1. Defendants argue that the official capacity claims against Kennedy and Russo are redundant, and should be dismissed. See Record Document 23-2 at 4.

         A suit brought against a defendant in his official capacity is, effectively, a suit against the governmental unit that employs the defendant. Monell v. Dept. of Soc. Serv., 436 U.S. 658, 690, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 2035 n. 55 (1978); Brooks v. George County, Miss., 84 F.3d 157, 165 (5th Cir. 1996). Therefore, an official capacity suit against a municipal official “generally represents only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.” Monell, 436 U.S. at 690 n.55. It is firmly established that a municipality cannot be held liable for the unconstitutional acts of its non-policy making employees under the theory of respondeat superior. Id. at 691. Therefore, it is appropriate to dismiss ...

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