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Wheeler v. Billingslea

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

June 19, 2019

DAMIAN WHEELER, Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD BILLINGSLEA, And HAKEEM J. PATTERSON, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. 23)

          GEORGE CARAM STEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 excessive force suit arises out of an incident at a gas station in which Defendant Detroit Police Officer Richard Billingslea allegedly removed Plaintiff Damian Wheeler's semiautomatic pistol from his person, slammed him against a door, and held his gun to Wheeler's neck. Wheeler alleges that Defendant Detroit Police Officer Hakeem J. Patterson watched the alleged assault with his weapon drawn. Wheeler has also sued the City of Detroit and two John Doe defendants. Now before the court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion shall be denied as to the claims against the individual officers, but shall be granted as to the Monell claim against the City.

         I. Background Facts

         The court construes the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, here, Wheeler. On the evening of April 18, 2017, Wheeler and his friend, Rondale Miller, stopped at a gas station at 17406 Harper in Detroit to purchase fuel. Wheeler testified to the following at his deposition. When he arrived at the service station, four Detroit police officers were parked in a police cruiser sitting near the gas pumps. (Doc. 25-3 at PgID 287-88). The officer sitting in the driver's seat was a light skinned African American, and the other three officers were white. Id. at PgID 288. After exiting his vehicle, Wheeler greeted the police officers through the open windows of their vehicle. Id. at PgID 304. Then, the police officer who had been in the driver's seat, stormed out of the vehicle, and forcefully removed Wheeler's semiautomatic pistol breaking its holster, spun him around, drew his gun and pressed the gun to Wheeler's neck. Id. at PgID 304-14.

         Wheeler further testified that the officer said to him, “Mother fucker, do you have a license for this? You think you fucking tough? Nigger, get your ass up on this wall.” Id. at PgID 316. Wheeler testified that the other three officers exited the police vehicle with their weapons drawn. Id. at PgID 314. At some point, Wheeler presented the officer with a copy of his concealed pistol license, and the officer told him to “get [his] ass off the street, ” and Wheeler was able to leave the gas station. Id. at PgID 322. Wheeler treated at the hospital the next day for headaches, back pain, and a sprained arm. Id. at PgID 325.

         Wheeler then brought this excessive force suit under § 1983 against Officers Billingslea and Patterson and two unidentified John Doe Officers, and the City of Detroit. Wheeler also brought supplemental state law claims of assault and battery, gross negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The parties stipulated to the dismissal of the City of Detroit as to Count I only. The parties did not stipulate to the dismissal of Wheeler's Monell claim against the City of Detroit for negligent supervision, training, and discipline as pled in Count III.

         Wheeler testified that he saw the name tag of the officer who allegedly assaulted him which read, “Billingslea.” Id. at PgID 293. Wheeler also submitted an affidavit that he saw a photograph of Defendant Billingslea and identified him as the officer who pulled his gun on him and assaulted him. (Doc. 25-4, PgID 372 at ¶ 5). In his affidavit, he also identified a photograph of Defendant Patterson as one of the officers present during the incident. Id. at ¶ 6. Wheeler's companion, Miller, also submitted an affidavit that he recognized a photograph of Officer Billingslea as the officer who pulled the gun on Wheeler, (Doc. 25-5, PgID 379 at ¶ 5), and recognized a photograph of Officer Patterson as an officer who was present at the time of the incident. Id. at ¶ 6.

         II. Standard for Summary Judgment

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) empowers the court to render summary judgment "forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See Redding v. St. Eward, 241 F.3d 530, 532 (6th Cir. 2001). The Supreme Court has affirmed the court's use of summary judgment as an integral part of the fair and efficient administration of justice. The procedure is not a disfavored procedural shortcut. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986); see also Cox v. Kentucky Dep't of Transp., 53 F.3d 146, 149 (6th Cir. 1995).

         The standard for determining whether summary judgment is appropriate is "'whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.'" Amway Distributors Benefits Ass'n v. Northfield Ins. Co., 323 F.3d 386, 390 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)). The evidence and all reasonable inferences must be construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Tolan v. Cotton, 572 U.S. 650, 660 (2014); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original); see also National Satellite Sports, Inc. v. Eliadis, Inc., 253 F.3d 900, 907 (6th Cir. 2001).

         If the movant establishes by use of the material specified in Rule 56(c) that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the opposing party must come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." First Nat'l Bank v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 270 (1968); see also McLean v. 988011 Ontario, Ltd., 224 F.3d 797, 800 (6th Cir. 2000). Mere allegations or denials in the non-movant's pleadings will not meet this burden, nor will a mere scintilla of evidence supporting the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 252. Rather, there must be evidence on which a jury could reasonably find for the non-movant. McLean, 224 F.3d at 800 (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).

         III. Analysis

         Defendants argue that the individual Defendants and the City of Detroit are entitled to summary judgment. The court ...


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