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Hammond v. County of Oakland

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

October 29, 2019

KURT HAMMOND, Plaintiff,
COUNTY OF OAKLAND, et al., Defendants.



         I. Introduction

         This is a case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff Kurt Hammond (Hammond) is suing the following defendants: Oakland County, Deputy Sheriff Christopher Cadotte (Cadotte), Deputy Sheriff James Salyers (Salyers), and Deputy Sheriff D. Welch (Welch).[1] The incident involves the use of force by deputies and a canine, Odin. Cadotte is Odin's handler. The complaint asserts the following claims:

I. Violation of § 1983 - unreasonable search and seizure, unlawful use of excessive force
II. Violation of § 1983 - municipal liability
III. Willful and Wanton Misconduct, Deliberate Indifference/Gross Negligence

         Before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment.[2] For the reasons which follow, the motion will be denied. Hammond has more than carried his summary judgment opposition burden, demonstrating he has a right to present his case against all defendants to a jury.

         II. Background

         The facts as gleaned from the parties' papers follow.

         A. Events Before Deputies Arrived - Undisputed.[3]

         A few days prior to the incident, Hammond met a woman at a local gas station. On the date of the incident, the woman called him and asked to be picked up. Hammond, along with a male friend, picked up the woman from outside of a house and went to a local bar. All of them, except Hammond, began drinking. Eventually, Hammond, the woman, Hammond' male friend, and another woman went to Hammond's house. When they arrived at Hammond's house, the woman got “loud, ” stated she was “off her meds” and asked Hammond to have sex with her. Hammond's male friend and the other woman left. The woman began eating Hammond's food and said she wanted to move in with him. Hammond told her to leave. The woman then became upset, started throwing things around the house, and told Hammond that she was going to call the police and claim he raped her. The woman then picked up a coffee mug and struck Hammond in the head with the mug. Next, the woman pulled out a knife and stabbed Hammond in the chest. The woman then left the house, telling Hammond she was going to call her biker friends to come back to the house. Hammond then closed and locked his doors. He believes he then fainted. Once he came to, he noticed his chest was bleeding and went to his bathroom to tend to his stab wound.

         Meanwhile, the woman called 911 and apparently reported she had been raped. Presumably, the call was to a 911 dispatch operator who put out a dispatch. It is not clear who took the call or exactly what information was relayed. Piecing together deposition testimony from the deputies, it appears that Lemke and Salyers were on road patrol and responded to the dispatch. Welch, a deputy trainee, was with Lemke and Salyers. The deputies began searching for the woman. It also appears that Lemke and Salyers were informed that the woman reported she had stabbed her attacker with a knife. While the deposition testimony references reports and narratives, the record does not contain any reports, narratives or investigative notes from the deputies who responded. Indeed, it is not clear if the deputies were going to Hammond's house to investigate the woman's claim or to arrest him.

         What is known is that Salyers and Lemke located the woman at a house down the street from Hammond's. The woman led them to Hammond's house and turned over the knife she used to stab Hammond. Cadotte arrived shortly after with Odin. In total, five deputies and a police dog[4] arrived at Hammond's house. The deputies were Lemke (who has since been dismissed), Salyers, Cadotte, Welch, and another deputy (presumably one of the other dismissed deputies).

         Hammond's house is approximately 500 square feet and is comprised of a front room, kitchen, bathroom, and a small bedroom.

         B. Events After Deputies Arrived - Disputed

         The parties have differing accounts of what occurred once the deputies arrived at Hammond's house.

         1. Hammond's Version

         Hammond says he heard banging on his back door and thought it was the woman's biker friends coming to hurt him. Hammond yelled for them to go away or he would call the police. He then heard “we are the police!” Hammond then told them to come to the front door. Hammond opened the door for the deputies, who entered the house along with a canine. He then retreated into the bedroom to tend to his stab wound. When Hammond stepped out from the bedroom, he says he was tackled by the deputies and bitten by the canine on his back.

         Hammond also says that he was holding his chest to stop the bleeding while the deputies tackled him. Hammond asked the officers to stop and help him. Hammond did not know why the deputies were on top of him. He says that Odin continued to bite his right leg while the deputies stood and watched. He denies actively resisting prior to being bitten on the leg. Hammond says he could hear his bones snapping in his head while the canine continued to chew on his leg. At one point he heard a deputy give a command to Odin, but Odin did not comply. Hammond also denies kicking his legs toward Odin's face because he says his legs were pinned at the time. Hammond says that he never resisted. He also said the incident seemed to last forever.

         2. Defendants' Version

         When the deputies arrived at Hammond's house, Lemke went to the front door while Salyers and Welch went to the back door. The deputies knocked on both doors, announced their presence, and requested Hammond come outside and speak with them. When they received no response, the deputies contacted a sergeant and were given permission to try and kick the door in because there was a possible stabbing victim inside. They were unable to kick in either door. At some point, the deputies heard a male voice from inside the house indicating he needed 911. Welch responded that they were 911. Salyers then made visual contact with Hammond, observing him through a window pacing back and forth between the living room and a doorway to an unknown location. While he was pacing, Hammond yelled that he could not come to the door because he was in the bathroom.

         Cadotte says could not see what was going on inside the house and Hammond was not complying with the deputies' directions; he did not know if Hammond was arming himself, trying to destroy evidence, or bleeding out. Cadotte further says when Hammond opened the door, he ordered Hammond to come out onto the front porch with his hands up. Hammond failed to comply. Instead, Hammond retreated into a bedroom, out of sight. Cadotte gave a verbal command to come out or he would send his canine into the house, which he says he repeated three to five times. When Hammond failed to respond or comply, Cadotte sent Odin into the house without a leash. Odin went to the doorway that led to the bedroom, barked, and returned to Cadotte, which indicated that Hammond was still in the room. Cadotte further says that he considered Hammond's retreat from the front door as an attempt to flee.

         Cadotte and Welch both testified that because they could not see Hammond's hands when he stepped out of the bedroom, Cadotte pulled Hammond into the living room and took him to the ground. Welch said he assisted by grabbing Hammond while he was on the ground. During that time, Odin bit Hammond on his back. Cadotte and Welch ordered Hammond to show his hands and get on the floor. Cadotte fell on top of Hammond's right shoulder and chest, while Salyers and Welch attempted to handcuff him. During the struggle, Odin started to bite Hammond's right foot. Odin also bit Cadotte during the struggle. According to Cadotte, upon seeing Odin on the bite, Cadotte got off of Hammond, stood back, and had Odin release the bite and heel. However, Salyers testified that he grabbed Hammond's right side so Cadotte could release and remove Odin. Salyers and Welch continued to wrestle with Hammond until they placed him in handcuffs.

         After Hammond was handcuffed he began flailing his legs and kicked toward Odin's face. Odin then re-engaged Hammond's leg, which the deputies say was appropriate because Odin was protecting himself from the kick. Cadotte then grabbed Odin's collar, pulled him away, put him on a leash, and walked Odin out the door. The entire incident lasted about 20 seconds.

         C. Subsequent Events - Undisputed

         Hammond suffered injuries from the incident, including several broken bones in his foot which required medical treatment.

         Hammond was arrested and charged in Oakland County Circuit Court with unlawful imprisonment and CSC Second Degree. He was unable to make bond. The woman twice failed to appear in court. Undaunted, prosecutors eventually located her out of state where she was incarcerated, ironically, for stabbing another individual. The prosecution has moved forward. ...

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