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Coleman v. Lee

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

September 28, 2018





         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Record Document 79) filed by Defendants, Sherlon Cone (“Cone”) and Harrison Shaver (“Shaver”) (collectively “Defendants”). Plaintiff, Erwin Darnell Coleman (“Coleman”) opposes the Motion. See Record Document 81. Defendants seek dismissal of all Coleman's claims. For the reasons stated in the instant Memorandum Ruling, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby DENIED.


         On the morning of January 27, 2015, Shreveport Police Department officers (“SPD officers”) arrived at Coleman's residence after being advised by Coleman's neighbor that he was involved in criminal activity. Also present at Coleman's residence when the SPD officers arrived were Defendants. Defendants' presence at the residence during the events at issue is undisputed. At all times relevant to these proceedings Coleman was on parole supervision, and Defendants were employed as probation and parole Officers by the Louisiana Department of Corrections.

         It is undisputed that SPD officers knocked on Coleman's door, and that when Coleman exited his residence, he was handcuffed and arrested by SPD officers. The exact details surrounding Coleman's arrest are disputed; however, it is undisputed that Cone and Shaver made no physical contact with Coleman on January 27, 2015.

         Coleman alleges that SPD officers engaged in excessive force when they arrested him. Cone and Shaver are not alleged to have used excessive force at all against Coleman. Specifically, he alleges that upon exiting the front of his residence, after being prompted to do so by the SPD officers, those officers immediately grabbed him and placed handcuffs on him. He alleges that after he was handcuffed, one of the SPD officers slammed him onto the concrete ground face-first, causing him to lose three teeth and causing injuries to his abdomen and groin areas. He further alleges that he was then kicked in the head and lower body repeatedly. See Record Document 81-2 at 2 & 3. According to Coleman and his mother, Ruthie Coleman, these events lasted for over a minute. See Record Document 81-2 at 3 & Record Document 81-5 at 14. SPD Officer Lee testified, however, that he effected a takedown of Coleman, and that only after taking Coleman to the ground, did he place handcuffs on him. See Record Document 81-4 at 121-122.

         While there is a dispute in this case as to whether the SPD officers even used excessive force or not in their arrest of Coleman, the claim of Plaintiff against Cone and Shaver is a failure to intervene issue. Despite their observations, Coleman alleges, Defendants failed to “intervene or stop the use of force, ” despite having enough time to do so. See Record Document 81-2 at 3. Because the acts of the SPD officers during Coleman's arrest are not at issue in this Motion for Summary Judgment, these acts, whatever they may have been, shall hereafter be referred to as the “Acts.” What is at issue in this Motion is whether Defendants observed, or were even in a position to observe, the Acts. The facts regarding this issue are disputed.

         Coleman alleges that Defendants were in the immediate vicinity of the Acts as they unfolded. See Record Document 81-2 at 2 & 3. Specifically, he alleges that he could “see two female officers toward one end of the front porch on the grass within 10 feet of his location. One he recognized as Cone. Shaver was next to Plaintiff while he was being handcuffed. Shaver was within five feet of Coleman at that time.” Record document 81-2 at 3.

         It is undisputed that Shaver was in the immediate vicinity of the Acts. See Record Document 79-6 at 15. However, Shaver denies seeing anything after the beginning of Coleman's takedown, because he was “looking in the other direction.” Record Document 79-6 at 11. He alleges that after seeing the beginning of the SPD officers' takedown of Coleman he turned to watch “what was going on in the residence to make sure that there was no one else in there who may be a problem . . . .” Id. at 11 & 19. Shaver testified in his deposition that he looked in the other direction for “around a minute, ” and that when he turned back around Coleman was already handcuffed. 19. However, when Coleman's mother, Ruthie Coleman, was asked about the behavior of those present at the scene as the Acts occurred, she stated, “[t]hey were just looking, you know.” Record Document 81-5 at 13.

         Cone specifically contradicts Coleman's allegations as to her location during the Acts. She testified in her deposition that upon arriving at Coleman's residence, she immediately “went to the back of the residence” because she “figured he'd run out the back.” Record Document 79-7 at 6. She alleges that she remained at the back “until [the other officers] said [Coleman] was in custody.” Id. at 7-8. In support of this testimony, SPD officer Skinner testified that at the time Coleman was taken down to the ground by SPD officer Lee, the two female officers were “[o]n the back of the house.” Record Document 82-2 at 4. Additionally, the other female officer present, SPD Officer Haley, testified in her deposition that she was at the back of the residence with Cone, and that Cone was not in a position to witness Coleman's takedown. See Record Document 79-8 at 4 & 9. Shaver also testified that Cone was at the rear of the residence; however, he further testified that he did not recall the point in time at which Cone came back around to the front. See Record Document 79-6 at 18. Finally, SPD Officer Lee stated in his deposition that Cone was at the rear of the residence during the time that SPD officers were knocking on the front door of Coleman's residence; however, he also stated that he was not sure whether she was present at the time he placed the handcuffs on Coleman, as he did not see her until Coleman had already been handcuffed and placed in a chair. See Record Document 79-9 at 4-5.


         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 [dispute] of material fact exists when the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. at 728. During this stage, courts must look to the substantive law underlying ...

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