United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
Daniel Watson as the Personal Representative of the Estate of David W. Watson, Plaintiff,
Robert A. Adams, in his individual capacity as a police officer with the Town of Chesterfield; Eric Hewett, in his individual capacity as Chief of Police for the Town of Chesterfield; Leslie Davis, in his individual capacity as Lance Corporal with the South Carolina Highway Patrol; Town of Chesterfield; and South Carolina Department of Public Safety, Defendants.
ORDER AND OPINION
Howe Hendricks, United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on three motions for summary
judgment: (1) Motion for Summary Judgment by South Carolina
Department of Public Safety (ECF No. 125); (2) Renewed Motion
for Summary Judgment by Leslie Davis (ECF No. 127); and (3)
Motion for Summary Judgment by Robert A. Adams, Town of
Chesterfield, and Eric Hewett (ECF No. 128). For the reasons
set forth below, the motions are denied in part and granted
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
action arises out of the seizure and arrest of David W.
Watson (“Watson”), a former detective with the
Cheraw Police Department. The defendants in this case are
three law enforcement officers, Leslie Davis
(“Davis”), Robert Adams (“Adams”),
and Eric Hewett (“Hewett”) (collectively,
“Law Enforcement Defendants”) as well as the
state and local authorities who employ or employed them.
Defendant Adams was or is a police officer under the command
of Defendant Hewitt, who was or is the chief of police for
the defendant Town of Chesterfield. Defendant Davis was a
lance corporal in the South Carolina Highway Patrol, employed
by the defendant the South Carolina Department of Public
the evidence in the light most favorable to Plaintiff and
according him the benefit of all reasonable inferences, the
facts of this case may be summarized as follows. At
approximately 10:30 p.m. on June 2, 2012, Watson was sitting
in his unmarked police vehicle in the parking lot of a
Bojangles restaurant located at 1202 West Boulevard in
Chesterfield, SC. Watson's vehicle was a white Ford
Taurus without a permanent tag or other markings that would
distinguish it as a police vehicle. It did however, have
darkly tinted windows. Earlier that day, Watson had been at
the house of Mary Florence (“Florence”), his
estranged wife. (ECF No. 70-3 at 2-3.) According to Florence,
Watson had “a reasonable amount” to drink that
day and did not display any signs of intoxication when he
left her house between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. (Id. at
approximately 10:49 p.m., Davis called Chesterfield Dispatch
Emergency Services 911 (“Dispatch”) to report a
phone call he received. Davis told Dispatch, “My
grandmother just called me. She's sitting in Bojangles.
There's a white car with tinted windows come up and just
parking outside. Nobody can see in it and they just want
somebody to come by and check it out.” (ECF No. 12-2 at
2.) He stated that the car was parked outside and has
“just been backing up . . . around a[n] 18-wheeler . .
. [and] they just can't figure out what [the driver of
the car] is doing.” (Id.) It is undisputed
that Davis fabricated at least the source of this
information-neither of his grandmothers were living at the
relayed the information received from Davis to Adams.
Specifically, Dispatch said that Davis claimed his
grandmother called him from Bojangles, reporting “a
white car, a four-door car with tinted windows that's out
there in the gravel parking lot part.” (ECF No. 12-3 at
2.) Dispatch explained to Adams that the car “keeps
backing up and going forward and backing up and going forward
and been out there for a long time, and they don't know
what it's doing. They want . . . somebody to go out there
and check it.” (Id.) Adams then asked,
“And [Davis] called?”, to which dispatch
responded, “Yeah, his grandma called him. . . .
She's in there, but she called him.” (Id.)
point that evening, Davis texted Hewett, “You need to
check on your boy, ” apparently referring to Watson.
(ECF No. 70-5 at 4.) Hewett subsequently contacted
Davis-whereupon Davis told him that someone reported a white
car driving erratically in the Bojangles parking lot and that
he thought it might be Watson. (Id.) Hewett then
spoke to Adams and Watson in turn, the order is uncertain.
After speaking with Dispatch, Adams suspected that the car at
Bojangles might belong to Watson. (ECF No. 128-2 at 9.) Adams
called Hewett to ask “how to handle this.”
(Id.) Hewett told Adams to “do your job”
and offered to call Watson to check his location.
(Id.; ECF No. 72-3 at 14.) Hewett spoke with Watson
at approximately 10:39 p.m. (ECF No. 72-3 at 13.) Based on
their conversation, Hewett believed Watson was inebriated.
(Id. at 17.) To prevent Watson from driving, Hewett
planned to contact Florence and have her drive Watson home.
(Id. at 15.) However, Hewett never learned
Watson's location because Watson “got pissed
off” after hearing that Hewett planned to call
speaking with Hewett, Adams drove to Bojangles, where he
observed a white car leaving the parking lot that matched the
description given by the dispatch operator. Adams'
Incident Report offers the following account of what occurred
when Adams arrived at Bojangles:
RO [Adams] noticed a white vehicle matching the description
leaving Bojangles turning east on Main St. RO stopped at the
stop sign on Tammy St and then proceeded east on Main St. RO
intended to perform a traffic stop to id the subject and
inquire why the subject was in the parking lot at that time
of night. As RO got close to subject vehicle, it slowed and
gave a signal to turn right into a driveway at 911 W. Main
St. RO turned on the Blue Lights and followed the vehicle
into the rear of the house. RO exited the patrol vehicle and
approached the white car. The driver opened the door to exit
and RO noticed that it was David Watson[, ] an investigator
with Cheraw PD. RO then noticed that Watson was wearing
shorts and a T shirt with no shoes on. RO watched as he got
out of the vehicle, he grabbed the door for support and was
unsteady on his feet. Watson closed the door of his vehicle
which was an unmarked Cheraw PD vehicle. Watson then leaned
back on the vehicle while RO talked with him. RO noticed that
Watson had slurred speech and there was an odor of alcohol
coming from the vehicle as well as from his person. Watson
admitted that he had been drinking earlier that day and
suggested that officers not do this. Trooper Davis from SCHP
pulled in behind RO for assistance and began to walk up
during the time of Watson exiting the vehicle. RO told Watson
to wait at the vehicle for a moment and Watson followed RO
toward patrol vehicle. Watson had wide and erratic step,
which inferred that he was impaired. RO then turned the blue
lights off for the purpose of giving a field sobriety test.
RO instructed Watson to stand at the rear of his car. RO
turned to respond to Chief Eric Hewett on the phone when RO
looked back at Watson he was going inside the door of the
house. RO ran to the door calling his name. When RO got to
the storm door Watson was closing the wooden door and locked
it. Watson would not respond to RO and would not unlock the
door. RO had requested that Chief Hewett come and assist.
(Adams' Incident Report, ECF No. 128-2 at 23.)
the Incident Report offers one version of the events that
transpired the evening of June 2, 2012, the Court also has
the benefit of the video recordings from Adams' and
Davis' police cars. Specifically, Adams' police car
camera began recording before he pulled into the drive way
and Davis' police car camera began recording once he
arrive on the scene. The Court has reviewed the video
evidence, and, based on that review, the following is a
description of what can be seen during the stop and arrest of
Watson. This first account is taken from Adams'
is following a car that appears to be staying within its lane
without any difficulty. At 20 seconds into the video, the car
puts on its blinker and turns into a driveway. Adams then
turns on his blue lights and follows the car into the
driveway, parking behind the car. The door of the white car
opens and Watson exits without any apparent difficulty. He
shuts the door behind him, standing straight up. Adams then
comes into view, approaching Watson. They have the following
ADAMS: What's up David?
WATSON: Hey, what's up, man.
ADAMS: How much you had to drink tonight?
WATSON: No, I'm good.
ADAMS: You sure? We got a call that you was backing around in
the parking lot -
WATSON: No, I just -
ADAMS: --hanging around out there at Bojangles . . . woman in
there was worried, 'cause you was acting strange. Backing
WATSON: No, I just went up there to get on the Internet . . .
ADAMS: That's what you were doing in the parking lot?
ADAMS: Well . . . Uh . . . Mary Florence didn't come and
get you? You talk to her?
WATSON: Yeah, she just called.
ADAMS: How 'bout step back here with me . . . You sure
you ain't had nothing to drink?
WATSON: No, I'm good.
[unintelligible conversation . . . ]
WATSON: That's where I get on the internet.
(Adams video, ECF No. 80-17, 22:01:48 - 22:02:33)
are talking, Adams steps closer to Watson, and Watson appears
to be slightly leaning against his car. He does not appear to
need the car for support; rather, it looks like he is
casually standing against the car to allow for more room
between him and Adams. When Adams asks Watson to move towards
his police car, Watson follows him without any apparent
difficulty. They continue their conversation, moving almost
out of frame. Adams then takes a phone call and they both
move out of frame. At about five minutes into the video,
Watson moves back into the frame, walking behind his car to
the passenger door. He easily opens the door and grabs
something from the passenger seat. He then shuts the door,
locks the car, and opens the door to a house. Adams can be
heard shouting, “Hey! Hey!” and runs into the
frame, towards the house. Adams cannot get into the house
because Watson has locked the door. Adams steps away from the
house and walks back towards his patrol car, out of frame. At
this point, Adams' microphone turns off, and the Court
turns to Davis' recording.
police car camera records him arriving at the scene just as
Adams' initial interaction with Watson is taking place.
Before exiting his car, Davis calls into dispatch that he is
out for a possible “10-55” (a DUI). Adams
approaches' Davis' car and Davis steps out to meet
him. Watson steps into the frame. Adams appears to take a
phone call as Davis and Watson have the following
DAVIS: How much you had to drink tonight, David?
WATSON: I just went over there and got on the Internet.
That's all I did.
DAVIS: How much you had to drink tonight?
WATSON: I haven't had much drinking at all. Leslie
don't do this.
DAVIS: It was his stop [Motioning toward Adams. Adams is off
the phone and joins Davis and Watson].
WATSON: I mean, what's the stop for?
ADAMS: Well . . . like I said, I had a call there's a
suspicious white vehicle in the parking lot, backing around,
moving around, lights off, tinted windows and the women
inside was a little nervous.
WATSON: Well, I was backing- ADAMS: They wanted us to check
it out. So I pulled up there, I was watching the car. And
before I got down there to the parking lot, you pulled out .
. . and that's why I followed you up here and stopped
WATSON: I was backing up to get Internet service.
ADAMS: And you haven't had nothing to drink?
ADAMS: I can't believe that, David.
(Davis video, ECF No. 80-18, 23:05:22 - 23:06:26)
conversations with both Davis and Adams, Watson appears to
speak clearly and coherently. After speaking with Watson,
Davis walks towards his car and can be heard getting into the
car. He begins to call Watson's supervisors, explaining
that he is with Watson. He can be heard telling Adams,
“Don't let him go in the house, ” at the
point where Watson enters his house and locks the door. Davis
then steps out of the car. He connects with one of
Watson's supervisors and tells him Watson was driving his
patrol car “hammered.” Adams tells Davis that
Watson entered the house and locked the door. Davis reports
this to Watson's supervisor.
not shown on the recordings, Adams' Incident Report
indicates that a search warrant was eventually obtained. (ECF
No. 128-2 at 24.) Chief Hewett was called to the scene and he
was able to convince Watson to leave his house.
(Id.) Adams placed Watson under arrest for Driving
Under the Influence of Alcohol (“DUI”).
(Id.) The Incident Report further states:
RO [Adams] advised Watson of his Miranda rights and offered
him a Field Sobriety Test which he refused prior to placing
him into the vehicle. RO then looked inside Watson's
vehicle for any open containers, there were no open
containers, but a prominent odor of alcohol in the vehicle.
There was a duty weapon lying in the front seat along with 2
laptop computers. Keith Thomas of Cheraw PD took possession
of the vehicle and duty weapon. RO transported Watson to the
County Jail and charged him with DUI. Upon arrival at the
jail RO placed Watson in the datamaster room for examination.
RO removed the cuffs and started the video. RO advised Watson
of his Miranda rights again. Watson then responded that he
understood them. Watson refused to sign any paperwork
involved with this arrest. RO then asked if he would give a