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Jennings v. Fuller

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

July 2, 2015



AVERN COHN, District Judge.


This is a 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 excessive force case. Plaintiff William Jennings (Jennings) is suing Genesee County Officers Patrick Fuller, David Kenamer, Kyle Guest, Mark Wing, and Lieutenant Robert Nuckolls (collectively, Defendants), claiming excessive use of force during an altercation following his arrest on September 18, 2010. In a one-count complaint (Doc. 1), Jennings claims unreasonable seizure and excessive use of force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution; he demands that a jury decide his claim.

Now before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 39). For the reasons that follow, this motion is DENIED.



Because the Court addresses Jennings's claims in response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to Jennings.[1]


On September 18, 2010, Jennings was arrested for operating an automobile while intoxicated. He was arrested by Flint Township Police Sergeant Frank Hartner and was admittedly drunk at the time of his arrest. Earlier in the evening, Hartner had been investigating the source of six gunshots fired in the area of Jennings's residence. During the investigation, one of Jennings's neighbors said that he had been in an altercation with Jennings at a bar, and that Jennings had fired the gunshots to threaten him. The neighbor also said that Jennings had been smoking crack cocaine.

Hartner encountered Jennings after Jennings's vehicle was stopped by another Flint Township police officer. Hartner observed that Jennings's eyes were watery, bloodshot, and droopy, and that he could smell a strong odor of intoxicants coming from his person. Hartner gave Jennings a field sobriety test, which revealed possible intoxication by drugs. Jennings also consented to a breathalyzer test, which showed a blood alcohol content of 0.120. (Incident Report, Doc. 40, Ex. D at 3-4). Jennings states that although he was intoxicated by alcohol, he denies being intoxicated by drugs. This was confirmed by blood test results taken three hours after the altercation with police, which were negative for the use of any drugs. (Lab Test Results, Doc. 43, Ex. 12 at 1-2). Further, although Defendants claim that Jennings was "uncooperative" during the encounter with Hartner, Hartner's incident report contains no indication that Jennings was uncooperative or resisted arrest in any way.[2] (Incident Report, Doc. 40, Ex. D) Additionally, Hartner has stated that although Jennings was intoxicated, he was compliant as he was taken to the jail. (Hartner Dep., Doc. 43, Ex. 2 at 28-30)


Following the arrest, Hartner took Jennings to the Genesee County jail and turned him over for booking. From this point forward, video captured approximately three hours of activity.[3] What follows is a fair appraisal of what the video shows.

The video begins by showing Jennings, approximately 5'8" and 140 pounds, being lead into the booking room with no sign of aggression or resistance to the officers' commands-contrary to Defendants' statements. The video then shows Fuller, approximately 6'4" and 290 pounds, physically searching Jennings, while Jennings was standing and leaning over a metal bench with his hands against a wall. At one point, Jennings briefly dropped his left arm and Fuller reacted by grabbing the back of his shirt and pushing him against the wall. Jennings turned his head and shoulders approximately 45 degrees to the right toward Fuller. Fuller and Kenamer immediately took Jennings down, pinning him the metal bench and then to the floor.

From there, the video shows that Jennings continued to resist for approximately nine minutes, until he was ultimately strapped to a restraint bed and held in a confinement cell. During the extended altercation, Jennings's voice can be heard as several officers attempted to subdue him. The video show that at one point, while Jennings was pinned to the floor, an officer had his hand placed over Jennings's face. Later, another officer can be seen placing his knee on Jennings's head and pinning it against the floor. Eventually, the video shows the officers using what appears to be pepper spray and a taser to subdue him. Once Jennings was subdued, the officers placed a spit hood over his face and strapped face down to a restraint bed. He remained strapped to the bed for over two-and-a-half hours and when he was released, there ...

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