United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division
ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
R. SWEENEY II, JUDGE
Hendricks County Sheriff's deputy conducting a welfare
check at the home of Plaintiff Matthew King fired one fatal
shot at Plaintiff's son, Brad King. Plaintiff,
individually and on behalf of Brad's estate, alleges
federal civil-rights claims and state civil-rights and tort
claims against the Hendricks County Commissioners, the
Hendricks County Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Brett
Clark in his official capacity, and Deputy Jason Hays in his
official and individual capacities. Defendants move for
summary judgment, and that motion is now fully briefed and
ripe for decision.
King lived with his parents, Matthew and Gina King, in
Hendricks County. (M. King Dep. Tr. 8:2-9, ECF No. 40-1 at
4.) He was 29 years old and suffered from paranoid
schizophrenia. (Id. 7:18-22, 14:6-8.) His parents
helped him find and finance treatment-including medication-to
manage his condition. (Id. 19:4-22:2.) His parents
also made sure that he took his medication every evening.
(Id. 23:24- 24:4.) Despite the treatment, Brad had
“good days and bad days.” (Id. 22:3-9.)
On a “good day, ” Brad would be “out
socializing, ” while on a “bad day, Brad
“would be more quiet and stay in his room.” (G.
King Dep. Tr. 21:5-16.) Brad “seemed like he was
confused a lot, ” (M. King Dep. Tr. 62:11-12), and
sometimes “walk[ed] around in a daze” with a
“glazed-over look” in his eyes, (id.
many who suffer from paranoid schizophrenia, Brad fixated on
knives, even sleeping with a small knife under his pillow.
(Id. 33:16-34:8.) Brad's parents were not
worried about this fixation, seeing it as a common symptom of
his condition, and Brad had access to the many knives in the
house. (Id. 35:4-18.) Brad's parents were
worried, however, that Brad might call 911 when he was having
a “bad day” and felt he needed to talk to
someone. (Id. 54:10-21.)
had a history of calling 911. Once, paramedics were
dispatched and took him to a hospital. (Id. 33:1-8.)
Another time, the Hendricks County Sheriff's Department
responded. Brad had a knife; the Sheriff's deputies had
him discard the knife before taking him to the emergency
room. (Id. 33:9-15.) But Brad's father, who
works for a newspaper, had seen news reports where police
misinterpreted symptoms of mental illness as threats, with
fatal consequences. (Id. 7:2-4, 54:1-14, 58:11-24.)
So he insisted that Brad call a family member instead of 911.
November 29, 2016, Brad “was obviously having a bad
day, ” (id. 22:10-11), though his parents did
not notice anything out of the ordinary at the time,
(id. 25:14- 24). Brad typically woke up in the
afternoon and stayed awake until the early morning; that day,
he was still awake when his parents left for work.
(Id. 25:2-12.) Before leaving, his father told Brad
to go to bed. (Id. 25:10-12.)
his parents were at work, Brad called 911, identified himself
as “Brad Grout, ” and said, “Could you come
over to my house real quick? I'm just going through a
little psycho phase.” (Compl. ¶ 12.) Deputy
Hughes, a full-time merit deputy, and Defendant Deputy Jason
Hays, a volunteer reserve deputy, were dispatched to the
Kings' house for a welfare check. (Thomas Dep. Tr.
13:10-20.) Deputies Hughes and Hays knocked on the front door
but there was no response. A dog in the house's picture
window barked loudly. (Hays Dep. Tr. 11:9-14.) The deputies
checked the yard and two mini-barns but did not encounter
anyone. So they left.
the initial welfare check by Deputy Hughes and Deputy Hays,
Brad called 911 again and again, hanging up each time. (ECF
No. 40-12 at 1.) At 2:30 p.m., Deputy Jeremy Thomas, a
volunteer reserve deputy, was dispatched for a welfare check
on “Brad Grout, ” who “called earlier
stating he wasn[']t in right frame of mind.”
(Id.) All the full-time merit deputies were in a
department-wide meeting. (B. Clark Dep. Tr. 10:22-11:4.)
Deputy Thomas called Deputy Hays and asked him to go along to
the Kings' home since Hays had been there earlier that
day. (Thomas Dep. Tr. 13:1-9; Hays Dep. Tr. 11:4-9.)
to the radio log, Hays and Thomas arrived separately at the
Kings' home at 2:42 p.m. (ECF No. 40-12 at 1.) Deputies
Thomas and Hays walked up the driveway to the front door.
(Hays Dep. Tr. 12:9-12.) Thomas knocked on the door
repeatedly and announced, “Sheriff's
Department.” (Id. 12:14-16.) The dog barked as
before. (Id. 12:21-22.) Having received no response,
the deputies made their way to the north side of the house.
(Id. 12:25-13:2.) They checked two other doors,
which were shut and locked, before heading around to the back
of the house. (Id. 13:3-6.) They checked the back
windows but did not see any movement or signs of distress.
Thomas then walked across the yard toward two mini-barns, and
Deputy Hays walked toward the south side of the house.
(Id. 14:4-9.) Hays peeked around the south side of
the house and saw nothing. (Id. 14:10-12.) Hays told
Thomas that he had checked the mini-barns on the earlier
dispatch, and they were locked. (Id. 14:12-14.) So
the two deputies started walking toward the northeast corner
of the house-back the way they had come. (Id.
15:4-11.) About two minutes had passed since they arrived.
deputies approached the northeast corner-at an angle to each
other forming a “V” or pie shape-they noticed
Brad walking toward them along the northeast side of the
house. (Id. 15:4-16:2; Thomas Dep. Tr. 21:9-14.)
Brad was wearing shorts and a hooded sweatshirt; he stared
straight ahead and had his hands in the front pockets of his
shorts “very awkwardly.” (Thomas Dep. Tr.
22:19-23:5; Hays Dep. Tr. 16:5-10.) Deputy Thomas asked Brad
to identify himself, and he told the deputies he was
“Brad Grout.” (Thomas Dep. Tr. 22:16-17; Hays
Dep. Tr. 16:19-20.) About twenty feet separated Brad from the
deputies-close enough that they “didn't have to
yell”-and Brad and the deputies continued to walk
toward each other. (Hays Dep. Tr. 16:22-17:7.)
parties dispute what happened next.
Thomas and Hays testify that Thomas asked Brad to remove his
hands from his pockets. (Thomas Dep. Tr. 23:16-17; Hays Dep.
Tr. 17:5-8.) The deputies were just farther than arms reach
from each other, (Thomas Dep. Tr. 24:15-21), and about ten
feet separated them from Brad, (Hays Dep. Tr. 17:5-8). Brad
withdrew his hands from his pockets to reveal a knife in his
left hand-the hand closest to Deputy Thomas-and took a few
“short, choppy steps” toward the deputies.
(Thomas Dep. Tr. 23:18-20, 24:4-8, 28:16-20.) Deputy Thomas
ordered Brad to drop the knife. (Thomas Dep. Tr. 23:18-20.)
Deputy Hays then noticed the knife, too, and ordered Brad to
drop it. (Hays Dep. Tr. 17:9-14.) As they ordered Brad
multiple times to drop the knife-in a “very
authoritative, loud, direct manner”-the deputies
backped-aled with their service weapons drawn. (Hays Dep. Tr.
17:15-17, 18:2-4, 21:4-5; Thomas Dep. Tr. 24:9-13.) In these
first few seconds, the deputies backpedaled at an angle from
Brad, increasing the distance between the deputies while Brad
advanced forward generally-not toward either deputy more than
the other. (Thomas Dep. Tr. 28:21-29:14; Hays Dep. Tr.
had a “very blank stare”-“his face looked
just emotionless.” (Thomas Dep. Tr. 26:8-9; Hays Dep.
Tr. 27:18.) He raised his hands to ear-level, holding the
knife with the blade sticking out from the heel of his left
hand, toward the deputies. (Thomas Dep. Tr. 23:19-24; Hays
Dep. Tr. 18:6-19:9.) He turned his head quickly between
Deputy Thomas and Deputy Hays. (Hays Dep. Tr. 20:18-20.) Brad
then turned “hard right” toward Deputy Hays
and-still holding the knife ear-level, blade toward Deputy