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Henry v. City of Flint

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

June 20, 2019

DAVID HENRY AND HEATHER WILLIAMS, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CITY OF FLINT, MICHAEL HENIGE, SEAN COE, AND NIKOLAS WHITE, Defendants.

          David R. Grand, United States Magistrate Judge

          ORDER AND OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANTS MICHAEL HENIGE, SEAN COE, AND NIKOLAS WHITE'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF #88)

          Paul D. Borman, United States District Court Judge

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs David Henry and Heather Williams (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) are residents of the City of Flint, Michigan. On the night of November 23, 2016, Henry was arrested by Defendant City of Flint Police Officers Sean Coe, Michael Henige, and Nikolas White (“Officers”) and charged with “Disorderly Conduct and Disorderly Persons” in violation of Flint Ordinance Section 31-12 and “Resisting Arrest” pursuant to Section 31-1.[1]

         Plaintiffs filed the instant lawsuit asserting the following federal civil rights violations:

Count I: Violation of Civil Rights under 42 USC §1983 (Fourth Amendment - Unlawful Arrest) Against the Individual Defendants
Count II: Violation of Civil Rights under 42 USC §1983 (Fourth Amendment - Excessive Force) Against the Individual Defendants
Count III: Violation of Civil Rights under 42 USC §1983 (First Amendment - Retaliatory Arrest) Against the Individual Defendants
Count IV: Violation of Civil Rights under 42 USC §1983 (Municipal Liability) Against the City of Flint[2]

         Before the Court is the Officers' Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF #88.) On December 20, 2018, the Officers filed the instant Motion. On January 25, 2019, Plaintiffs filed their Response (ECF #104). On January 31, 2019, the Officers filed their Reply. (ECF #105.) The Court held a hearing on May 3, 2019.

         II. FACTS

         At or around one a.m. on the night of November 23, 2016, while on patrol, Officers Coe and Henige stopped to question a woman who provided information regarding the location of an individual with an outstanding felony warrant. (Dep. of Michael Henige, Mar. 6, 2018, ECF #88-1, 65:5-70:5, PgID 1612-17.) She stated that the individual was possibly located at 1706 Colorado Avenue. (Id.) The Officers then placed her in the rear seat of the patrol car and proceeded to that address in search of the warrant suspect. (Id.)

         Plaintiffs' home was located directly next to 1706 Colorado Avenue, at 1714 Colorado Avenue. (Dep. of Sean Coe, Mar. 7, 2018, ECF #88-3, 111:3, PgID1831.) Upon arrival, Officers Coe and Henige stepped out of their patrol car to investigate 1706 Colorado Avenue using flashlights. Plaintiff Henry, who, at the time was awake and in his living room with his girlfriend, Plaintiff Heather Williams, noticed the lights shining into the windows of his home. (Dep. of David Henry, Oct. 10, 2017, ECF #88-8, 61:9-12, PgID 1978.) This prompted Henry to begin recording with his mobile phone (which he does “everywhere I go”), and Henry and Williams went outside to investigate. (Id. at 61:17-23, 67:3-11.) Henry had installed multiple outdoor security cameras and monitor banks that surveil the perimeter of his home. (Id. at 55:4-24; 59:12-22.) Henry testified that he purposely did not set the front camera to record when he went outside that night because he was recording with his mobile phone. (Id.) Williams testified that she immediately understood that the lights had come from the Officers because she saw marked law enforcement vehicles when she and Henry stepped out on their porch. (Dep. of Heather Williams, Oct. 10, 2017, ECF #88-15, 40:13-15, 42:3-10, PgID 2449, 2451.) Henry testified that upon going outside, he asked what was going on, and one of the Officers informed him that they were the police. (Henry Dep., Oct. 10, 2017, ECF #88-8, 63:23-24, PgID 1980.) At that point, this “conversation” between Henry and Officers Henige and Coe commenced:

Henry: I don't know why they all flashing up in my yard and stuff… Why you all up in the yard and stuff.
Officer Henige: What's up?
Henry: Why you all up in my yard flashing the lights everywhere?
Officer Henige: This is not your yard. This - Do you own this house?
Henry: Somebody was just on the side over there.
Officer Henige: That's the back yard of that house.
Henry: Okay, but I just - I - I seen lights on - I seen lights on the side of my house.
Officer Henige: Well, it's a light.
Unknown Officer: What's going on?
Officer Henige: He told me we were on his property. I said do you own that house? No, no he doesn't.

(Defs.' Mot., ECF #88-7, Cell Video at 0:19-1:05.)

         At this point, the exchange's tone and volume began to escalate:

Henry: You ain't gotta be an asshole. I just asked a question.
Officer Henige: You asked it like an asshole, man.
Henry: I ain't acting like an asshole. I asked what you was doing on the side of my house.
Officer Henige: Is that any of your business right now?
Henry: Yeah, it is my business.
Officer Henige: Tell me how?
Henry: But it is my business.

(Defs.' Mot., ECF #88-7, Cell Video at 1:05-1:20).

         The debate continues as to whether the Officers' activity was Henry's “business, ” and Henry's volume remained elevated. At this point, Officer Coe made a comment to Officer Henige, with the apparent intent that Henry hear it, that, “I think we just got a new project house.”[3] (Defs.' Mot., ECF #88-7, Cell Video at 1:05-1:20). The “project house” comment prompted Henry to “threaten” the Officers that they would “find out who I am downtown.” (Id.)

         Officer White then unsuccessfully attempted to de-escalate the situation, while Officer Coe interjected requests that Henry approach the police vehicle to speak with the Officers:[4]

Henry: You got a new project house? Really. Don't come on my property.
Officer White: I'm just asking you a question.
Henry: What?
Officer White: So, I understand your concerns, bro.
Henry: No. No, I just asked him a simple question on why, why is lights on the side of my house, and you want to be an asshole.
Officer White: Okay, I'm not being an asshole.
Henry: I know you're not, but both of them, talking about he gonna make my house a new project, you gonna run up and find out who I am downtown and stuff - make my house a project.
Officer Coe: Why don't you just come over here, and we'll talk about it.
Henry: You know something, I got freedom of speech. I can walk anywhere I want to. I haven't committed no crime. ...

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