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Williams v. Brooks

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

March 9, 2015

TRACY M. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
BRANDON BROOKS, in his individual capacity, GREG KEHL, in his individual capacity, and SHANNON TRUMP, in her individual capacity, Defendants.

ORDER

JANE MAGNUS-STINSON, District Judge.

Presently pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Brandon Brooks, Greg Kehl, and Shannon Trump. [Filing No. 40.] For the reasons that follow, the Court grants the motion.

I.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). As the current version of Rule 56 makes clear, whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Hampton v. Ford Motor Co., 561 F.3d 709, 713 (7th Cir. 2009). In other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome determinative. Harper v. Vigilant Ins. Co., 433 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir. 2005). Fact disputes that are irrelevant to the legal question will not be considered. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed. 202 (1986).

On summary judgment, a party must show the Court what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable factfinder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp., 512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011). The Court need only consider the cited materials, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has "repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to scour every inch of the record for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them, " Johnson, 325 F.3d at 898. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Ponsetti v. GE Pension Plan, 614 F.3d 684, 691 (7th Cir. 2010).

A significant twist on the normal standard of review is at play here: When the record evidence includes a videotape of the relevant events, the Court should not adopt the non-movant's version of the facts when that version contradicts what is depicted on the videotape. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 379-80, 127 S.Ct. 1769 (2007) (where plaintiff's account of high-speed chase contradicted videotape of chase, and there were no allegations that videotape was "doctored or altered in any way, nor any contention that what it depicts differs from what actually happened, " lower court "should have viewed the facts in the light depicted by the videotape"). Accordingly, the Court relies primarily on videos taken from the dashboard cameras of the police vehicles present at the scene of Mr. Williams' traffic stop and arrest.[1]

II.

BACKGROUND

The Court finds the following to be the undisputed facts, supported by admissible evidence in the record:

A. The Initial Traffic Stop

Defendant Brandon Brooks has been a law enforcement officer for the City of Noblesville Police Department since 2009. [Filing No. 42-1 at 1.] He is a graduate of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy ("ILEA") and has received all of the training required by the State of Indiana for his position as a police officer. [Filing No. 42-1 at 1.]

On October 5, 2011 at approximately 1:15 a.m., Officer Brooks was on duty and travelling north on State Road 37 before its intersection with Greenfield Avenue in Noblesville. [Filing No. 42-1 at 1.] Approaching this intersection, State Road 37 has a dedicated left turn lane which begins approximately 600 feet from the intersection, splits from the inside lane, and is separated from the inside lane by a solid white line. [Filing No. 42-1 at 2; Filing No. 42-4.] Officer Brooks observed a Chrysler 300 - which he later learned was driven by Plaintiff Tracy Williams - move from the outside lane on State Road 37 to the left turn lane without activating its turn signal. [Filing No. 42-1 at 2.] Officer Brooks, who was approximately 100 to 150 feet behind Mr. Williams, also observed that Mr. Williams entered the turn lane several feet north of where the turn lane began, crossing the solid white line that divides the two lanes to do so. [Filing No. 42-1 at 2.] Officer Brooks observed that Mr. Williams did not activate his left turn signal until he had travelled several feet in the left turn lane, when he was about 100 feet from the intersection with Greenfield Avenue. [Filing No. 42-1 at 2.] Officer Brooks interpreted this signal to be for the turn onto Greenfield Avenue. [Filing No. 42-1 at 2.] Mr. Williams testified that his normal habit is to put his turn signal on as he enters a turn lane, but was not able to testify that he was certain he had done so that night. [Filing No. 42-5 at 3-4 (stating that he was "sure I did it the same way I usually do" and did not "know why I would do it in a different way, " but that he did not "have a present memory of exactly that point" when he moved into the turn lane).]

Because Officer Brooks did not want Mr. Williams to pull over in the intersection, he waited to activate his emergency lights until after Mr. Williams began turning onto Greenfield Avenue. [Filing No. 42-1 at 2.] When he activated his emergency lights, Officer Brooks' camera inside his police vehicle turned on, recording approximately ten seconds before that moment and the events that followed. [Filing No. 42-1 at 2; Brooks Video at 1:18.]

Mr. Williams pulled into a gas station parking lot located on the northwest corner of the intersection of State Road 37 and Greenfield Avenue, and Officer Brooks pulled in behind him. [Brooks Video at 1:19.] Just as Officer Brooks exited his police vehicle and began to approach Mr. Williams' vehicle, Officer Greg Kehl arrived at the scene. [Filing No. 42-7 at 1.] Officer Kehl has been an officer with the Noblesville Police Department since 2007, is a graduate of the ILEA, and has received all of the training required by the State of Indiana for his position as a police officer. [Filing No. 42-7 at 1.]

When Officer Brooks approached Mr. Williams' vehicle, he observed that Mr. Williams' window was rolled down only two inches, which was an item of interest to Officer Brooks because he had learned in his training that lowering the window a small amount "is common to people who want to avoid detection by odor of their breath or inside of their car." [Filing No. 42-1 at 2.] Officer Brooks requested that Mr. Williams roll his window down, and he rolled it down approximately another inch. [Filing No. 42-1 at 2; Brooks Video at 1:19.] Officer Brooks then advised Mr. Williams why he had been pulled over, and asked him for his license and registration. [Brooks Video at 1:19.] Officer Brooks also asked Mr. Williams whether he had been drinking, and Mr. Williams advised that he had not. [Brooks Video at 1:20.] At that point, Officer Brooks did not observe any signs that Mr. Williams was intoxicated. [Filing No. 42-1 at 3.] Officer Brooks did believe, however, that Mr. Williams "had an attitude." [Filing No. 42-1 at 2.] Officer Brooks said to Mr. Williams "you're acting like you kind of have an attitude with me right now. Like I pulled you over for no reason." [Brooks Video at 1:20.] Mr. Williams responded that he normally puts his turn signal on, and that it had been a long day. [Brooks Video at 1:20.] Mr. Williams gave Officer Brooks his license and registration and Officer Brooks told him to "hang tight, " and that he would be right back. [Brooks Video at 1:21-1:22.]

Officer Brooks returned to his car, ran Mr. Williams' license plate and registration, and determined that "[e]verything checked out." [Filing No. 42-1 at 3.] Although Officer Brooks believed that Mr. Williams had engaged in a traffic violation by failing to signal his movement into the left turn lane, he decided to issue him a warning. [Filing No. 42-1 at 3.] Officer Brooks told Officer Kehl he could leave the scene and proceeded to print Mr. Williams a warning ticket. [Filing No. 42-1 at 3; Brooks Video at 1:22.] After checking Mr. Williams' license plate and registration and printing out the warning ticket, all of which took about three minutes, Officer Brooks got out of his squad car to return to Mr. Williams' car. [Brooks Video at 1:22 to 1:25.]

B. Mr. Williams Exits His Car and Gets Back In

As Officer Brooks exited his car and started to approach Mr. Williams' car, Mr. Williams abruptly began to exit his car. [Filing No. 51-2 at 51; Brooks Video at 1:25.] Officer Brooks had learned through his training that his position - away from his own car with no cover - was one of the most vulnerable positions for an officer to be in during a traffic stop. [Filing No. 42-1 at 3; 51-2 at 51.] Officer Brooks also had never encountered a person getting out of their car and leaving the scene during a traffic stop. [Filing No. 42-1 at 3.]

Officer Brooks said "Hey, you need to stay in the car" and, when Mr. Williams kept exiting his car, Officer Brooks said "Get in your car." [Brooks Video at 1:25.] Mr. Williams kept walking away from his car, and Officer Brooks again said "Get in your car. I'm not playing games with you. Get in your car. Get back in the car now." [Brooks Video at 1:25.] Mr. Williams did not get back in the car and stated that he was getting a paper towel to clean his side mirror. [Brooks Video at 1:25; Filing No. 42-2 at 2.] Officer Brooks said "Listen, get back in the car, " and Mr. Williams said "Don't pick a fight with me, dude." [Brooks Video at 1:25.] Officer Brooks then drew his taser and said "Get back in your car now or I will tase you, " and Mr. Williams again said "Don't pick a fight with me, " and started to get back in his car. [Brooks Video at 1:25.]

At that point, Officer Brooks radioed for Officer Kehl to return to the scene. [Brooks Video at 1:25. Mr. Williams closed his car door and started to say to Officer Brooks "I understand what you're...." [Brooks Video at 1:25.] Officer Brook said "I don't care if you appreciate it. If I tell you get back in the car, you get back in the car. What is your deal? What's your deal?" and "why would you get out of the car on a traffic stop is what I'm asking you." [Brooks Video at 1:26.] Mr. Williams responded that he had a dirty mirror and wanted to clean it, and Officer Brooks again asked Mr. Williams if he had had anything to drink, to which Mr. Williams responded "no." [Brooks Video at 1:26.]

C. Officer Brooks Orders Mr. Williams To Get Out of His Car for a Pat-down Search and Field Sobriety Test

Because Mr. Williams had exited his car and because of his demeanor, Officer Brooks believed he might be impaired and determined that he should perform a pat-down search and field sobriety test. [Filing No. 50-1 at 16-21.] Officer Brooks asked Mr. Williams if he minded stepping out of the car, Mr. Williams said something unintelligible, and Officer Brooks said "because I'm asking you to step out of your car." [Brooks Video at 1:26.] Mr. Williams then asked Officer Brooks if he had probable cause, and Officer Brooks responded "will you step out of the car?" [Brooks Video at 1:26.] Mr. Williams again asked if Officer Brooks had probable cause, and Officer Brooks said "I'm asking you to step out of the car right now. You need to listen. I can ask you to step out of the car in a traffic stop so get out of the car. Get out of the car. Get out of the car." [Brooks Video at 1:26.] Mr. Williams said something and Officer Brooks responded "because I want to run you through field sobriety because apparently you're not getting what's going on." [Brooks Video at 1:26.]

Mr. Williams then got out of the car, and was facing Officer Brooks. Officer Brooks said "face that way for me, " pointing for Mr. Williams to face toward his own car. [Brooks Video at 1:26.] Mr. Williams took a step toward Officer Brooks and said he should give him a breathalyzer. [Brooks Video at 1:26.] Officer Brooks again said "face that way for me, " then "turn around, " and grabbed Mr. Williams' right arm and pushed him toward his car. [Brooks Video at 1:26.] Mr. Williams said something unintelligible, and Officer Brooks said "I'm not playing with you." [Brooks Video at 1:26.] Mr. Williams pushed against the car with his left hand, back toward Officer Brooks, and said "if you're going to do this, you're going to visit with my attorney, son." [Brooks Video at 1:26.] Officer Brooks said "listen" and "quit resisting, " and Mr. Williams said "I'm not resisting, " but again pushed against the car with his left hand back toward Officer Brooks. [Brooks Video at 1:27.]

Officer Brooks then radioed asking Officer Kehl to "step it up a little bit." [Brooks Video at 1:27.] At that point, Officer Brooks was trying to get both of Mr. Williams' hands behind his back, and Mr. Williams was pushing back against Officer Brooks, causing them both to move back away from the car. [Brooks Video at 1:27.] Officer Brooks pushed Mr. Williams into the side of his car. [Brooks Video at 1:27.] Mr. Williams then spun to the right, so he was facing Officer Brooks, and Officer Brooks lost his grip on Mr. Williams' left arm and eventually on both arms so that Mr. Williams was then facing Officer Brooks. [Brooks Video at 1:27.] Mr. Williams took a step toward Officer Brooks, and twice Officer Brooks told Mr. Williams to "turn around." [Brooks Video at 1:27.] Mr. Williams said "are you on video by the way?, " and Officer Brooks responded "yes, I'm on video." [Brooks Video at 1:27.] Mr. Williams shrugged his shoulders, and Officer Brooks said "Turn around. Turn around. Put your hands above your head." [Brooks Video at 1:27.] Rather than turning to face his vehicle, Mr. Williams made a 360 degree turn, so he was still facing Officer Brooks. [Brooks Video at 1:27.] Mr. Williams briefly put his hands above his head and said "what do you want from me?" [Brooks Video at 1:27.]

D. Officer Kehl Returns to the Scene

Officer Kehl then arrived back at the scene. [Brooks Video at 1:27.] He ordered Mr. Williams to turn around three times then, when Mr. Williams did not, grabbed Mr. Williams and turned him so he was facing his car. [Brooks Video at 1:27.] Officer Kehl ordered Mr. Williams twice to put his hands behind his back, then pulled Mr. Williams' hands behind his back when Mr. Williams did not comply. [Brooks Video at 1:27.] Officer Kehl then handcuffed Mr. Williams. [Brooks Video at 1:27.] Mr. Williams said "Guys, this is gonna be really bad. You're going to put me in handcuffs? For what? This is gonna be a really bad video for you guys." [Brooks Video at 1:27.] Officer Kehl said "I just saw what you did to him. That's assault on a police officer." [Brooks Video at 1:27.] Mr. Williams denied that it was assault on a police officer. [Brooks Video at 1:27.]

Officer Brooks then proceeded to pat Mr. Williams down, and asked him again if he had had anything to drink that night. [Brooks Video at 1:28.] Mr. Williams said "I've told you no several times. Why do you keep asking me?" [Brooks Video at 1:28.] Officer Brooks responded "because normal people that haven't been drinking don't act like you're acting right now." [Brooks Video at 1:28.] Mr. Williams said "Look, I've had a very long day. I was up since 6 a.m. this morning, I had meetings beginning early, and I had meetings running late." [Brooks Video at 1:28.] Officer Brooks walked Mr. Williams to his squad car and placed him in the back seat. [Brooks Video at 1:28.] Mr. Williams said "this is gonna be really bad on your report, son" to Officer Brooks. [Brooks Video at 1:28.] At that point, Officer David Lindenschmidt arrived at the scene. [Brooks Video at 1:28; Lindenschmidt Video at 1:28.] Mr. Williams said "this is uncomfortable on my wrists, " and Officer Kehl said "it's not supposed to be comfortable, okay." [Brooks Video at 1:29.] Officer Brooks said "we'll be with you in a second, " and Mr. Williams said "you guys are about to head into deep water." [Brooks Video at 1:29.]

E. Witness Joshua Jones Observes the Altercation

Joshua Jones was working at the gas station the evening of October 5, 2011, observed the traffic stop, and completed a Voluntary Statement Form that evening in which he stated:

It appeared that the officer was trying to get the driver to cooperate and the driver was not cooperating. The officer attempted to restrain the driver. It appeared the driver swung an elbow at the officer. That was when 2 other officers arrived on the scene and where [sic] able to cuff the driver.

[Filing No. 42-11.]

F. Sergeant Trump Arrives at the Scene

Shortly after Officer Brooks placed Mr. Williams in his squad car, Sergeant Shannon Trump, the shift supervisor that evening, came to the scene and spoke to Mr. Williams while he was in the back seat of Officer Brooks' squad car. [Brooks Video at 1:34; Filing No. 42-9 at 2.] Sergeant Trump has been employed by the Noblesville Police Department as a law enforcement officer since 2002, attended the ILEA, and has received the training required by the State of Indiana for her position as a police officer. [Filing No. 42-9 at 1.]

Mr. Williams asked Sergeant Trump if he could meet with the Chief of the Noblesville Police Department in the morning, and said that Officer Brooks was "very hostile and aggressive, " that he did not know why Officer Brooks had pulled him over, that he complied with everything Officer Brooks asked of him, that Officer Brooks wanted to do a field sobriety test, and that he had asked whether Officer Brooks had probable cause to administer the test. [Brooks Video at 1:34.] Sergeant Trump told Mr. Williams they did not need probable cause to do a field sobriety test. [Brooks Video at 1:34.] Mr. Williams told Sergeant Trump that Officer Brooks "got aggressive" with him "slammed [him] against the car, " put him in handcuffs, and that he understood how these things worked because he had several friends who were state troopers. [Brooks Video at 1:34-1:35.] He said "I understand the job, and I respect it, and I appreciate it." [Brooks Video at 1:35.] Mr. Williams said he had no disrespect for the officers involved but that "I think you've got an officer who's a little bit over-aggressive, and probably needs to be reined in a little bit." [Brooks Video at 1:35.] Mr. Williams stated that he was a business owner and had several people that were depending on him being in the office the next day. [Brooks Video at 1:35.] He said "sitting here is extraordinarily inappropriate, " especially in handcuffs that were hurting his wrists. [Brooks Video at 1:35.] Mr. Williams said he would "be happy to" take a field sobriety test or submit to a breathalyzer, but that "for some reason [Officer Brooks] decided to slam [him] against the car and put [him] in handcuffs." [Brooks Video at 1:35.] Mr. Williams again stated that it was inappropriate, and that the video and audio tape would support that. [Brooks Video at 1:35.] When Sergeant Trump asked Mr. Williams if Officer Brooks had told him not to walk away from his car but he did walk away, Mr. Williams said that Officer Brooks was giving him contradictory messages by telling him first to stay in the car, then to get out of the car. [Brooks Video at 1:36.] Mr. Williams explained that he noticed his side mirror was dirty, so he had decided to go get a paper towel and wipe it off. [Brooks Video at 1:36.] When Sergeant Trump said to Mr. Williams that, especially since he has friends in law enforcement, he must understand that when an officer tells him to do something during a traffic stop, he must do it unless it is unlawful, Mr. ...


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