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Heyward v. Tyner

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

March 20, 2018

Bryant Heyward, Plaintiff,
v.
Keith Tyner, Richard Powell, Eric Watson, Mitch Lucas, and Al Cannon, Individually and in their Official Capacities; Charleston County Sheriff's Office; Charleston County Consolidated 911 Center, Defendants.

          ORDER

          DAVID C. NORTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the court on Magistrate Judge Mary Gordon Baker's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”), ECF No. 17, that the court grant in part, deny in part, and find to be moot in part defendants' Keith Tyner (“Tyner”), Richard Powell (“Powell”), Eric Watson (“Watson”), Mitch Lucas (“Lucas”), Al Cannon (“Cannon”), and Charleston County Sherriff's Office's (“CCSO”) (collectively, “moving defendants”) partial motion to dismiss, ECF No. 5. For the reasons set forth below, the court fully adopts the R&R.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Because the R&R ably recites the relevant facts of the case, the court summarizes the key portions of the complaint that relate to this motion to dismiss. Bryant Heyward (“Heyward”), an African-American male, alleges that armed men burglarized his home in Hollywood, South Carolina on May 5, 2015. ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 14-15. After the armed men fired gun shots into Heyward's home, he retrieved his brother's gun and returned fire. Id. Heyward claims that he called 911 and told the operator about the incident, informing the operator that he was hiding in his laundry room in the rear of the home and was armed with a weapon. Id. at ¶¶ 16, 18-19.

         Tyner and Powell responded to the 911 call and arrived at Heyward's home. Id. at ¶ 23. They entered through the partially open back door of Heyward's residence, where Heyward was hiding in his laundry room. Id. at ¶ 24. Heyward claims that within one second of first seeing Heyward, Tyner shot him while simultaneously yelling “show me your hands.” Id. Heyward was shot in the neck and fell to the ground. Id. After shooting Heyward, Tyner and Powell allegedly dragged Heyward out of the laundry room, causing further damage to his spinal cord and lacerations to his back requiring stitches. Id. at ¶ 26. They later realized that Heyward was not an intruder, but rather the homeowner who had called 911. Id. at ¶ 27. Heyward was placed into an ambulance with a CCSO detective who recorded an interview with him while paramedics rendered him care. Id. at ¶¶ 28-29. As a result of the gun shot, Heyward is now a quadriplegic. Id. at ¶ 14.

         One month prior to the incident, Walter Scott, an African-American male, was shot and killed by police officer Michael Slager in North Charleston. Id. at ¶ 30. Heyward alleges that the increasingly high tensions between law enforcement and the North Charleston community this incident led moving defendants to attempt to quell the unrest that would result from Heyward's shooting. Id. Heyward claims that moving defendants sought to change the narrative of the events surrounding the shooting by portraying Heyward as a threat who disregarded the police officer's instructions, did not drop his weapon when commanded, and was accidentally shot. Id. at ¶ 31. Heyward further alleges that, in an attempt to support this narrative, moving defendants intentionally filed and released various false reports both internally and to the public, and purposefully made false statements regarding the events surrounding the shooting. Id. at ¶¶ 34, 36, 38-39, 41.

         Heyward filed this suit on May 4, 2017 in the Charleston County Court of Common Pleas, and defendants removed it on June 13, 2017. Heyward brings the following causes of action: (1) gross negligence against Rivers, individually and in her official capacity; (2) gross negligence against Charleston County Consolidated 911 Center (“CCCC”) and Lake, individually and in his official capacity; (3) gross negligence against CCSO and Lucas and Cannon, individually and in their official capacities; (4) negligent hiring, supervision, retention against CCSO and CCCC; (5) battery against Tyner and Powell, individually and in their official capacities; (6) assault against Tyner, individually and in his official capacity; (7) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for violation of Heyward's civil rights under the Fourth and Eighth Amendments of the United States Constitution by Tyner and Powell, individually and in their official capacities; (8) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for violation of Heyward's civil rights under the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution by Tyner and Powell, individually and in their official capacities; (9) 42 U.S.C. § 1985 claim for civil conspiracy as to CCSO and Tyner, Powell, Watson, Lucas, and Cannon, individually and in their official capacities. Id. ¶¶ 46-107.

         On July 3, 2017, moving defendants filed a partial motion to dismiss, claiming that: Cannon and Lucas are entitled to dismissal from Heyward's gross negligence claim; CCSO and Tyner, Powell, Watson, Lucas, and Cannon, are entitled to have the § 1983 claims brought against them in their official capacities dismissed, based on Eleventh Amendment immunity; and Heyward's § 1983 Second and Eighth Amendment claims, as well as his § 1985 civil conspiracy claim, should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. ECF No. 5 at 1. After full briefing on the motion, [1] Judge Baker issued an R&R on November 29, 2017, recommending that the court grant in part, deny in part, and find to be moot in part moving defendants' motion to dismiss. Judge Baker concluded that: (1) moving defendants are immune from any § 1983 claims brought against them in their official capacities;[2] (2) Heyward should not obtain punitive damages against moving defendants for claims brought against them in their official capacities under § 1983; (3) the § 1983 Second Amendment claim against Tyner and Powell should be dismissed for failure to state a claim; and (4) moving defendants' motion to dismiss the conspiracy claim should be denied. Moving defendants filed their objections to the R&R on December 13, 2017, and Heyward filed his reply on January 26, 2018. The motion has been fully briefed and is now ripe for the court's review.

         II. STANDARD

         A. De Novo Review

         This court is charged with conducting a de novo review of any portion of the magistrate judge's R&R to which specific, written objections are made. 28 U.S.C. 636(b)(1). The court may adopt the portions of the R&R to which the petitioner did not object, as a party's failure to object is accepted as agreement with the conclusions of the magistrate judge. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149-50 (1985). The recommendation of the magistrate judge carries no presumptive weight, and it is this court's responsibility to make a final determination. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976).

         B. Motion to Dismiss

         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted “challenges the legal sufficiency of a complaint.” Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted); see also Republican Party of N.C. v. Martin, 980 F.2d 943, 952 (4th Cir. 1992) (“A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) . . . does not resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.”). To be legally sufficient, a pleading must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion should not be granted unless it appears certain that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would support his claim and would entitle him to relief. Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court should accept all well- pleaded allegations as true and should view the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Ostrzenski v. Seigel, 177 F.3d 245, 251 (4th Cir. 1999); Mylan Labs., Inc., 7 F.3d at 1134. “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

         III. ...


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