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Ledford v. City of Fort Wayne Indiana

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

May 24, 2019




         Plaintiff, Carl Lee Ledford, proceeding pro se, sued Defendants City of Fort Wayne, A. Shefferly, and R. Nystuen, alleging that they violated his rights during a traffic stop that led to his arrest. The following claims are pending: Fourth Amendment claims against Officer Shefferly for false arrest related to the traffic stop, for false arrest related to his arrest, and for use of excessive force during the search incident to arrest; bystander liability claim against Officer Nystuen; and, a corresponding Monell claim against the City.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 138]. Defendants designate as evidence the Affidavit of Officer Anthony Shefferly, the squad car video from the August 1, 2016, traffic stop, and the Affidavit of Officer Ryan Nystuen. These exhibits, they argue, show that Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law for the following reasons: (1) the August 1, 2016, traffic stop was supported by probable cause; (2) Plaintiff's arrest was supported by probable cause;(3) Officer Shefferly conducted an appropriate search incident to arrest; (4) there is no basis for bystander liability; and (5) there is no basis for municipal liability.

         In connection with their Motion, Defendants filed a Notice of Summary-Judgment Motion [ECF No. 140], in compliance with Northern District of Indiana Local Rule 56-1(f). Plaintiff did not file a response. However, he did file his own “Motion for Entry of Default; for Summary Disposition and/or Request for Trial by Jury” [ECF No. 143]. Plaintiff's submission did not meet the requirements for an adequate response to a summary judgment motion or a motion in support of summary judgment. However, because it was not clear whether Plaintiff received the Rule 56-1(f) Notice before submitting his filing, the Court denied Plaintiff's motion and granted him until May 20, 2019, to file a response to the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff has not filed a response.[1]

         For the reasons stated in this Opinion and Order, the Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.


         On August 1, 2016, Officer Anthony Shefferly conducted a traffic stop of Plaintiff and subsequently placed Plaintiff under arrest. He conducted a search of the Plaintiff incident to that arrest.

         On August 1, 2016, shortly before 2:00 p.m., Officer Shefferly was in his fully marked squad car on Anthony Boulevard in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Officer Shefferly- who has received specific training on observing whether drivers and other occupants of vehicles are wearing seatbelts-observed Plaintiff driving and not wearing a seatbelt. Plaintiff looked at Officer Shefferly and then fastened his seatbelt. Officer Shefferly activated his lights and siren to initiate a traffic stop. Plaintiff pulled onto a side street and stopped.

         Officer Shefferly approached the driver's side of the vehicle and began speaking with Plaintiff. Plaintiff was argumentative, accused Officer Shefferly of harassment, and complained about frequently being the subject of traffic stops. Officer Shefferly informed Plaintiff that he pulled him over for not wearing a seatbelt.

         Shortly after the stop was initiated, Officer Nystuen arrived on the scene to stand by as back up. He primarily stood by and observed while Officer Shefferly conducted the traffic stop.

         Officer Shefferly obtained Plaintiff's identification and returned to his squad car to run a BMV records check. The check revealed that Plaintiff's driving status was “Driving While Suspended Prior, ” meaning that Plaintiff had a suspended license and had previously been convicted of driving with a suspended license. Officer Shefferly returned to the vehicle, asked Plaintiff to exit, arrested the Plaintiff, and placed him in handcuffs.

         After placing Plaintiff under arrest, Officer Shefferly performed a search of the Plaintiff's person. Plaintiff was not cooperative, which made it difficult for Officer Shefferly to determine whether Plaintiff had any weapons or contraband on his person.

         One area that was made particularly difficult to search because of Plaintiff's movements was near the groin area, where officers are trained to check for weapons and contraband. Officer Shefferly was able to confirm that Plaintiff did not have any weapons. The only item recovered during the search was money from Plaintiff's front pocket.

         After Plaintiff was searched, Officer Shefferly's placed him in the squad car. Plaintiff insisted that his license was not suspended, but he did not have any documents showing the status. Officer Shefferly asked dispatch to confirm Plaintiff's driving status. Dispatch confirmed that Plaintiff was listed as Driving ...

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