United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. 76)
CARAM STEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the court is Defendant Chris Hampton's motion for summary
judgment, which has been fully briefed. The court heard oral
argument on April 22, 2019, and took the matter under
advisement. For the reasons explained below, Defendant's
motion is denied.
case arises from a fatal police shooting. On December 23,
2015, Dearborn Police Officer Chris Hampton was in the midst
of a traffic stop when he noticed Kevin Matthews walking by.
Hampton knew that Matthews was wanted for trespass and
larceny as a result of an incident that occurred hours
earlier at a gas station, when he was accused of trying to
steal a can of Red Bull. At the time, Matthews fled from
officers. Hampton had dealt with Matthews on prior occasions
because of similar trouble at the gas station. Matthews
suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, with a
history of threatening behavior, although it is not clear
that Hampton was aware of this background. See Doc.
76-5, 76-6, 76-7.
Matthews walked by Hampton, the officer decided to take
Matthews into custody. See Doc. 76-13 (Hampton's
report). He concluded the unrelated traffic stop and drove
his police vehicle in the direction that Matthews had
travelled. He caught up with Matthews and ordered him to
stop. As Matthews fled, Hampton exited his police car and ran
running about 130 yards, Matthews entered a backyard and
climbed over a chain-link fence. Hampton followed, jumping
over the fence and landing on top of Matthews. Hampton was
the larger man at 6 foot 2 inches tall and 215 pounds;
Matthews was about 5 foot 9 inches and 140 pounds. Matthews
had fractured his left (dominant) arm four weeks before, on
November 26, 2015, and had his soft cast removed on December
top of Matthews, Hampton informed police dispatch that he was
“code green, ” meaning he believed he was safe.
Doc. 76-11; Doc. 76-12 at 89-91, 99-100. According to
Hampton, Matthews struggled free and was able to grab
Hampton's pepper spray from his duty belt and stand over
him. Doc. 76-12 at 94-96. At this point, Hampton punched
Matthews twice in the jaw, took the pepper spray, and threw
it over the fence. Id. While they continued to
struggle, Matthews stated the he was not going with Hampton
and that he “didn't do anything.” Doc. 76-13.
broke free and attempted to run; Hampton grabbed
Matthews' sweater and pushed him into the garage door.
According to Hampton, both men hit the garage door and fell
to the pavement. While Hampton remained on his back, Matthews
stood over him and grabbed his ammunition magazine. Doc.
76-12 at 129-31. Matthews then dropped the magazine and
reached for Hampton's gun. Id. As Hampton
described in his report, “I had my hand on my firearm
for retention purposes, though Matthews' hand was also at
the top of the gun/holster. I realized that my weapon was
unholstered and Matthews was still grabbing the firearm. As
we both struggled for control of my firearm, I was in fear
that he would use it to harm and kill me to elude capture. As
I was gaining control of my service weapon I fired at
Matthews' body and shot him multiple times, stopping the
threat.” Doc. 76-13.
there were no eyewitnesses to the shooting, Angela
Graysaw the two men fighting from her window.
Docs. 91-23, 91-24. After they moved out of her view, she
heard a high-pitched voice scream “Get off me. Get off
me.” Doc. 91-24. She then heard gunshots. Id.
testified that his gun was in a double-lock holster, which
requires two safety mechanisms to be released before the gun
can be accessed. Doc. 76-12 at 138. Hampton stated that when
Matthews “was going after” his gun, Hampton
“grabbed it and realized it was free, it was
loose” in his holster. Id. at 140. Hampton
could not explain how his gun became loose, but stated that
he did not release the safety mechanism. Id. at
138-47, 151-52. See also Doc. 91-20 (Plaintiff's
expert, Roger Clark, discussing the safety mechanisms).
testified that he was “supine” on the ground and
Matthews was leaning over him, about 12 to 13 inches away,
when Hampton shot him in the chest. Doc. 76-12 at 153.
Matthews was struck nine times. Hampton notified dispatch
that shots were fired at 12:29 p.m., two minutes after he
first approached Matthews on foot and one minute after he
told dispatch he was “code green.” Doc. 76-11.
Matthews died from his injuries.
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff's complaint
alleges claims under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments
against Officer Hampton and the City of Dearborn. The parties
stipulated to the dismissal of the Fourteenth Amendment equal
protection claim and the claims against the City of Dearborn,
leaving Plaintiff's excessive force claim under the
Fourth Amendment. Plaintiff also “relies upon the
substantive and procedural benefits of the Michigan Wrongful
Death Act” in support of the estate's claim for
damages. Doc. 19 at ¶ 85.