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Yates v. Terry

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

March 31, 2016

BRIAN KNITE YATES, Plaintiff - Appellee,
v.
CHRISTOPHER BLAIR TERRY, Defendant - Appellant, and JON R. ZUMALT; CITY OF NORTH CHARLESTON; NORTH CHARLESTON POLICE DEPARTMENT; JOHN DOE DEFENDANTS, Defendants

         Argued January 27, 2016

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina, at Charleston. (2:11-cv-02289-CWH). C. Weston Houck, Senior District Judge.

         ARGUED:

         Robin Lilley Jackson, SENN LEGAL, LLC, Charleston, South Carolina, for Appellant.

         Jason Scott Luck, SEIBELS LAW FIRM, P.A., Charleston, South Carolina, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

         Gordon H. Garrett, GARRETT LAW OFFICES, North Charleston, South Carolina, for Appellee.

         Before WYNN and HARRIS, Circuit Judges, and Loretta C. BIGGS, United States District Judge for the Middle District of North Carolina, sitting by designation. Judge Biggs wrote the opinion, in which Judge Wynn and Judge Harris joined.

          OPINION

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          LORETTA COPELAND BIGGS, District Judge

         Officer Christopher Blair Terry (" Terry" ) appeals the district court's order denying his motion for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

Page 881

         I.

          In reviewing the district court's denial of Terry's motion for summary judgment, we view the facts in the light most favorable to Brian Yates (" Yates" ), the non-moving party, as we are required to do. See Plumhoff v. Rickard, 134 S.Ct. 2012, 2017, 188 L.Ed.2d 1056 (2014); Waterman v. Batton, 393 F.3d 471, 473 (4th Cir. 2005).

         On December 27, 2008, Yates, a first sergeant and Iraq War veteran, was driving a 1972 customized Buick Skylark on a highway in North Charleston, South Carolina. His mother, Patricia Yates, and brother, Kelvin Brown, were in a separate vehicle following behind him. Yates drove past two police cruisers when one of the cruisers, driven by Terry, pulled out and began to follow him. At some point, Terry activated his lights; however, there was a vehicle between Terry and Yates, which led Yates to believe that the officer was attempting to stop another vehicle. Yates then changed lanes, using his turn signal, to allow Terry to pass. When Yates realized that Terry was behind him, Yates pulled over at a gas station. At the gas station, Terry approached Yates' vehicle and requested Yates' driver's license. Yates responded that he did not have his driver's license but that he did have military identification. Terry then opened the car's door and forced Yates out of the car. Around this time, Yates' mother and brother arrived at the gas station. Terry ordered Yates to place his hands on the car. Yates complied. Terry informed Yates that he was under arrest, which prompted Yates to inquire as to the basis for the arrest. Terry failed to provide an explanation. With Yates' hands on top of the car and Terry behind him, Yates turned his head to the left and Terry deployed his taser in " probe mode." [1] Yates fell to the ground. Yates' brother then asked Terry why he tased Yates, and Terry responded, " Back up[,] or do you want some too[?]" J.A. 23, 68-69, 82, 479-80. While Yates was still on the ground and having made no attempt to get up, Terry tased him a second time. Following the second application of the taser, Yates told his brother to call his commanding officer and then reached for his cell phone, which was clipped to his waist, when Terry tased Yates a third time. Yates' mother passed out after the third taser deployment.

         Following these events, other officers arrived on the scene and Yates was placed into handcuffs. EMS also arrived and provided medical care to Patricia Yates. The officers searched Yates' vehicle. Yates was charged with an excessive noise violation, no license in possession, and disorderly conduct, all of which were nol prossed.

         II.

         On July 21, 2011, Yates filed this action in state court, alleging multiple state claims and federal claims against Defendants Terry, the City of North Charleston, the North Charleston Police Department, Chief Jon R. Zumalt, and unnamed John Does. The suit was removed to ...


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