ARLEAN K. BROWN, as the Personal Representative of Melvin K. Lawhorn, Plaintiff - Appellee,
BRIAN ELLIOTT; JIM MATTHEWS, individually and in his official capacity as the Sheriff of Kershaw County; KERSHAW COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE; KERSHAW COUNTY, Defendants - Appellants. ARLEAN K. BROWN, as the Personal Representative of Melvin K. Lawhorn, Plaintiff - Appellant,
BRIAN ELLIOTT; JIM MATTHEWS, individually and in his official capacity as the Sheriff of Kershaw County; KERSHAW COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE; KERSHAW COUNTY, Defendants - Appellees.
Argued: September 15, 2017
from the United States District Court for the District of
South Carolina, at Columbia. J. Michelle Childs, District
Thomas Morgan, Jr., DUBOSE-ROBINSON, PC, Camden, South
Carolina, for Appellants/Cross-Appellees.
Christopher Calloway, MCGOWAN, HOOD & FELDER, LLC, Rock
Hill, South Carolina, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant.
V. Phillips, MCGOWAN, HOOD & FELDER, LLC, Rock Hill,
South Carolina, for Appellee/Cross-Appellant.
MOTZ, TRAXLER, and KEENAN, Circuit Judges.
GRIBBON MOTZ, Circuit Judge:
case arises from the fatal police shooting of Melvin Lawhorn.
His personal representative, Arlean Brown, brought this
action in state court, asserting Fourth Amendment excessive
force claims, pursuant to § 1983, and various state law
claims against Kershaw County, the County Sheriff's
Office, Sheriff Jim Matthews, and Deputy Sheriff Brian
Elliott (collectively, "the Defendants"). After the
Defendants removed the case, the district court dismissed Ms.
Brown's § 1983 claims against the County and the
Sheriff's Office and against Sheriff Matthews and Deputy
Elliott in their official capacities. The court then granted
summary judgment on Ms. Brown's claims against Sheriff
Matthews and Deputy Elliott in their personal capacities,
holding them entitled to qualified immunity, and remanded the
state law claims to state court. In the course of litigation,
the district court also imposed a monetary discovery sanction
on the Defendants. The Defendants appeal that discovery
sanction. Ms. Brown cross-appeals, challenging the discovery
sanction as insufficient and contending that Sheriff Matthews
and Deputy Elliott are not entitled to qualified immunity.
For the reasons that follow, we affirm.
traffic stop at the center of this case occurred on February
28, 2012, around 8:23 p.m. That evening, officers with the
Kershaw County Sheriff's Office, including Deputy
Elliott, received a tip from a confidential informant that
Melvin Lawhorn would be purchasing and transporting a large
quantity of cocaine in a truck along a given rural road and
that Lawhorn "usually carr[ies] a gun . . . when he goes
and picks up dope." The detectives set up a perimeter
along the route. When the truck passed Deputy Elliott, it was
speeding and crossed the center line, so he initiated a
traffic stop by activating his blue lights. The truck pulled
over. Deputy Elliott approached the truck from the passenger
side, where Lawhorn, the suspect, was sitting with his window
halfway down. Deputy Mickey Sellers approached the truck from
the driver's side. The driver, Darryl Herbert, kept his
foot on top of the accelerator with the truck's engine
Deputy Elliott arrived at the passenger door, Lawhorn jumped
toward the driver's seat, put his left foot on top of the
driver's foot on the gas pedal, and attempted to shift
the truck into drive. The deputies shouted "freeze"
and "don't move." Deputy Elliott leaned inside
the passenger-side window to grab Lawhorn. However, Lawhorn
successfully shifted the truck into drive, and the truck
began moving forward. Moments later, Deputy Elliott, who
stated that he feared for his life and that of the other
officers, reached for his gun and fired one shot into the
truck, striking Lawhorn in the back and killing him.
magistrate judge recommended and the district court held that
Deputy Elliott (and Sheriff Matthews) were entitled to
qualified immunity, because, even viewing the evidence in the
light most favorable to Ms. Brown, Deputy Elliott did not