United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division
PATRICK MICHAEL DUFFY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendants' objection to
United States Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon Baker's report
and recommendation (“R & R”) (ECF Nos. 113
& 110). The Magistrate Judge recommends that
Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted as to
Defendant Walter Criddle, and denied as to Defendant Kyle
Strickland. The Magistrate Judge also recommends that the
Court deny Plaintiff Johnnie Williams' motion for summary
judgment. For the reasons stated herein, the Court overrules
the objection and adopts the Magistrate Judge's
U.S.C. § 1983 action is based on Williams'
allegations that officers from the Beaufort County
Sheriff's Office used excessive force against him when
they arrested him on June 29, 2012. According to
Williams' verified amended complaint, he and his son were
in Beaufort to attend a family event at Williams'
mother's home. While Williams was stopped at a gas
station, Anthony Ancrum asked Williams for a ride to his
sister's apartment, and Williams agreed. Ancrum got in
the back seat because Williams' son was in the front
seat. Williams states that he was doing his friend a favor by
giving him a ride home, and he ended up shot in his back.
Williams claims that Strickland and Criddle were the two
officers that fired their weapons into his car, hitting him
in the back. He also claims that it was Strickland's
bullet that hit him in the back. Williams believes that the
officers were there to ambush him.
allege the following additional details in support of their
motion. According to them, officers Strickland, Criddle, and
Heroux were assigned to a drug task force and
were working on June 29, 2012. Around 9:00 PM, Heroux saw
Williams' car and ran the tag through Beaufort County
Dispatch. He learned that the tag had been stolen, and was
told to stop Williams' car. When Williams turned into the
Canal Apartments where Ancrum lived, Heroux activated his
blue lights and siren. Williams initially stopped, and then
drove toward the rear of the apartment complex. Williams then
stopped the car in a parking space and Heroux got out of his
car and approached the driver's door. Strickland and
Criddle arrived at the scene and also got out of their
vehicle. When Heroux was ten feet away from Williams'
car, the driver looked at Heroux, turned the wheels to the
right, and quickly reversed his car, causing the front end of
the Cadillac to violently whip around in Heroux's
direction. Heroux backed up toward his car and claims that he
believed Williams was trying to kill him with his car. Heroux
drew his duty weapon and started to approach Williams'
car, and saw that Strickland was walking up to the car as
well. Williams then swerved towards Heroux, straightened out
the car, and then accelerated toward Strickland. Heroux
claims to have believed Strickland's life was in danger
and fired three or four times at Williams. Strickland also
fired three or four shots, allegedly into the front
windshield. Criddle never fired his duty weapon.
the shooting was over, Williams' car crashed into a small
tree and the engine stopped. The officers approached the
vehicle and saw that Williams and Ancrum had been shot.
officers handcuffed Williams and Ancrum, and Williams asked
them why they had shot him. Heroux responded, saying that
Williams had tried to kill him by running him over. While
Williams claimed not to have tried to run Heroux over, Ancrum
stated, “Yeah you did!” (Defs.' Mot. Summ.
J., Heroux Aff., ECF No. 57-3, at ¶ 38.) The South
Carolina Law Enforcement Division (“SLED”) took
Heroux's and Strickland's duty weapons at the scene,
and Williams and Ancrum were transported to the hospital.
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court.
The R & R has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility for making a final determination remains with
the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71
(1976). Parties may make written objections to the Magistrate
Judge's recommendations and proposed findings within
fourteen days after being served with a copy of the R &
R. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This Court must conduct a de
novo review of any portion of the R & R to which a
specific objection is made, and the Court may accept, reject,
or modify the Magistrate Judge's findings and
recommendations in whole or in part. Id.
Additionally, the Court may recommit the matter to the
Magistrate Judge with instructions. Id. A
party's failure to object is taken as the party's
agreement with the Magistrate Judge's conclusions.
See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 151-52 (1985).
Absent a timely, specific objection-or as to those portions
of the R & R to which no specific objection is made- this
Court “must ‘only satisfy itself that there is no
clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation.'” Diamond v. Colonial Life
& Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir.
2005) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's
objects to the portion of the R & R in which the
Magistrate Judge recommends that their motion for summary
judgment be denied as it pertains to him. He specifically
objects to the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that there
are genuine issues of material fact that preclude summary
judgment. In his objection, Strickland offers new evidence
that was apparently unavailable at the time they filed their
motion: a SLED report stating that SLED was unable to
determine whether the bullet extracted from Williams was
fired by Strickland. The SLED report contrasts with the
position both Williams and Defendants took when briefing
their respective motions for summary judgment. In those
briefs, the parties seemed to agree that Strickland fired the
shot that hit Williams. Magistrate Judge Baker partially
based her recommendation that the Court deny Defendants'
motion for summary judgment as to Strickland on the
inconsistency between the medical evidence-that Williams and
Ancrum were shot in the back-and Defendants' statement
that it was Strickland's bullet, fired through the front
windshield, that hit Williams. The distinction matters
because the Fourth Circuit has held that after the threat of
immediate harm has passed, an officer may not use deadly
force to apprehend a suspect. Waterman v. Batton,
393 F.3d 471, 482 (4th Cir. 2005).
the new report casts doubt on whether it was Strickland or
Heroux that fired the bullet that struck Williams, that doubt
does not eliminate the genuine issues of material fact.
SLED's report, though relevant, does not conclusively
show that Strickland was not the person who shot Williams. In
fact, according to the SLED report, it is impossible to
determine which officer's bullet struck Williams. Thus,
the SLED report does not confirm Strickland's initial
assertion that he shot Williams through the front windshield.
Instead, there is still an unresolved question of fact as to
who shot Williams, and from where. Accordingly, the Court
agrees with the Magistrate Judge that there are genuine
issues of material fact surrounding the circumstances of the
shooting that preclude summary judgment in favor of
reasons stated herein, it is ORDERED that
Defendants' objection to the R & R is
OVERRULED. Accordingly, the Court
ADOPTS the Magistrate Judge's
recommendation that Defendants' motion for summary
judgment be GRANTED as to Criddle and
DENIED as to Strickland. The Court further
ADOPTS the ...