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Long v. Ray

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

October 5, 2018

JASON RAY, Defendant.



         Officer Jason Ray seeks summary judgment on a Section 1983 claim brought against him by Marvin Long relating to Officer Ray's deployment of his K-9 partner in the arrest of Mr. Long. Officer Ray says he should get summary judgment because the level of force used in connection with Long's arrest was objectively reasonable under the circumstances and that he is entitled to qualified immunity in any event. The problem for Officer Ray is that there are disputed issues of material fact that preclude judgment at this time. So I will deny his motion.


         While some key factual matters are hotly disputed, most of the basic facts of this case are relatively straightforward and undisputed by the parties.

         Late in the evening on October 20, 2016, the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department was advised by their counterparts in Cass County, Michigan that they were in pursuit of a vehicle which had fled the scene of a burglary in Michigan and was entering Indiana. [DE 55-1.] The suspect crossed the state line, fled his vehicle shortly thereafter and entered a cornfield. The sheriffs' departments set up a perimeter and requested the assistance of a K-9 unit to help locate the suspect. [Id.] Officer Jason Ray and his K-9 partner Zayne of the Elkhart Police Department arrived on the scene shortly thereafter. All of the law enforcement involved then began to conduct a search of the cornfield. They first located a woman named Maranda Barnett-Reed, who admitted to being a passenger in the vehicle that the Cass County Sheriff's Department had been pursuing. She advised them approximately where the driver had fled within the cornfield. The search continued and shortly thereafter, Zayne, Officer Ray and other law enforcement officers found Long amongst the corn stalks. When they came upon him, Long was lying on his stomach in the dirt. [Id.]

         At this point, the stories diverge. On the one hand, according to Officer Ray, he gave orders to Long to show his hands but Long disobeyed, necessitating the use of force. Officer Ray chronicled his version of the events in a “K9 Deployment Report” attached to his affidavit in support of summary judgment which contained the following narrative:

As we got about 10 rows deep into the filed I observed a white male laying in one of the rows. I could not see the male subject completely due to the rows of corn concealing his body from the neck down. I ordered the subject to show me his hands. The subject did not move. I ordered the subject again to show me his hands or he was going to be bitten by my K-9 partner Zayne. The male again did not move or comply with my orders. I gave Zayne his bite command and Zayne gave a bite on the right forearm area. The male continued to not comply with my orders and tucked his right arm up underneath his body. Zayne moved from biting his wrist area up to his bicep area. The male subject continued to not comply with my commands. The male attempted to get up to his knees and I forced him back down to the ground. Cpl. Wrathell came up to take the subject into custody. Cpl. Wrathell got his left hand behind his back. I then took Zayne off the bite and Cpl. Wrathell was able to handcuff his right hand.

[DE 55-1 at 6.]

         Long, on the other hand, tells a different version of the events once he was encountered by Officer Ray. He claims in an affidavit that he “surrendered to arrest by the officers by lying on the ground and complying with all orders for arrest that they gave me. I was ordered by officers to show my hands to them, and I showed them my hands. At no time during my encounter with Corporal Ray did I resist arrest from the police. At no time during my encounter with Corporal Ray did I refuse orders from the police.” [DE 61-1 ¶¶ 8-11.]

         In addition to his own declaration, Long has submitted a video recording of his arrest, presumably created by a camera attached to one of the arresting officers. [DE 63.] Ordinarily, a picture is worth a thousand words. Not so here. The video is largely unhelpful. It was recorded after midnight, in a cornfield illuminated only by flashlights, and without audio. While it depicts the events it does not do so in a way that entirely corroborates either party's version of the encounter. That said, the video makes clear that when Officer Ray and Zayne found Long, Long was lying face down on the ground and it further shows Zayne biting Long. [Id.] The video also shows Long plainly showing his hands to Officer Ray but this occurs only after the dog is already biting him. Whether Long displayed his hands to Officer Ray and fully followed his commands prior to the time the dog was unleashed is not clearly captured in the video.

         Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine dispute as to material facts exist only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In determining whether an such dispute exists, I take “all facts and reasonable inferences from the record in the light most favorable to [] the non-moving party.” Moser v. Ind. Dep't of Corr., 406 F.3d 895, 900 (7th Cir. 2005).


         As stated above, Officer Ray has raised two issues that need to be addressed. First, he claims that summary judgment is appropriate because the use of force was objectively reasonable even if you accept Long's version of the events. Second, Office Ray says ...

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