Argued: March 22, 2018
from the United States District Court for the District of
Maryland, at Greenbelt. William Connelly, Magistrate Judge.
Aubrey Harper, LAW OFFICES OF GEORGE HARPER, Upper Marlboro,
Maryland, for Appellant.
Gessesse Teferi, PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY OFFICE OF LAW,
Upper Marlboro, Maryland, for Appellees.
M. McCarthy, County Attorney, Andrew J. Murray, Deputy County
Attorney, PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY OFFICE OF LAW, Upper
Marlboro, Maryland, for Appellees.
GREGORY, Chief Judge, and KEENAN and FLOYD, Circuit Judges.
BARBARA MILANO KEENAN, CIRCUIT JUDGE
Wilson was shot several times during an encounter with
Officer Brendan Gill, a Prince George's County, Maryland,
police officer. The incident occurred while Officer Gill was
investigating an emergency call that Wilson had committed a
burglary of his former girlfriend's dwelling and had
filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Officer Gill
and Prince George's County (collectively, the
defendants), alleging excessive force in violation of the
Fourth Amendment. Wilson also alleged in his complaint that
Officer Gill's conduct violated certain provisions of
Maryland state law. The district court awarded summary
judgment in the defendants' favor, holding that Officer
Gill was entitled to qualified immunity, and that the County
was not liable because no constitutional violation
our review, we hold that the district court erred in
determining that Officer Gill's conduct did not violate
Wilson's Fourth Amendment rights. Nevertheless, we affirm
the district court's determination that Officer Gill is
entitled to qualified immunity, because we hold that the
constitutional violation was not clearly established when the
incident occurred. We also affirm the court's judgment on
the common law intentional infliction of emotional distress
claim against Officer Gill and on the respondeat superior
claim asserted against the County. However, because questions
of immunity under state law remain, we vacate the court's
award of summary judgment on Wilson's remaining state-law
claims against Officer Gill, and remand those claims to the
district court for further proceedings.
parties largely agree on the events that occurred from the
moment that Officer Gill first saw Wilson until the time that
Officer Gill fired his weapon. We note any disputes of fact
October 7, 2012, late in the afternoon, Wilson walked to the
home of his former girlfriend, Mynia Johnson, because he
wanted to see his two daughters who were in Johnson's
care. After "knocking" and "banging" on
Johnson's apartment door and receiving no response,
Wilson began shouting that he wanted to see his children. As
his anger increased, Wilson "kicked down" the front
door of Johnson's apartment and walked inside, cursing
and yelling at Johnson and one of her male guests.
greeting one daughter, Wilson left the apartment. Johnson
followed him outside and, during an argument that ensued,
Wilson slapped Johnson. When Johnson threatened to call the
police, Wilson attempted to take her phone, which fell into a
left the area and walked to his brother's home. Because
his brother was preoccupied with other matters, Wilson once
again became angry, seized a pocket knife, and left his
brother's home. Wilson walked back toward Johnson's
apartment, intending to commit suicide in front of her so
that she would blame herself for his death.
Johnson had placed a telephone call to a 911 operator and had
informed the operator that her ex-boyfriend had broken into
her apartment and had assaulted her. Officer Gill arrived at
the apartment in response to the 911 call. Johnson showed
Officer Gill the damaged apartment door, and informed him
that Wilson had assaulted her after breaking into the
apartment. Johnson later accompanied Officer Gill outside the
building. As Officer Gill and Johnson were leaving the
building, Johnson observed Wilson some distance away and
identified him to Officer Gill, who directed Johnson to
return to her apartment.
Gill began walking toward Wilson, attempting to engage him in
a dialogue. Moments later, Wilson pulled a shiny object out
of his pocket. However, due to the distance between him
and Wilson, Officer Gill was unable to identify the object.
Wilson continued walking in Officer Gill's direction,
Officer Gill drew his service weapon and commanded Wilson
between ten and fifteen times to drop the object in his
hands, which object Officer Gill later identified as a knife.
After Wilson failed to drop the knife, Officer Gill called
for assistance on his radio. Wilson told Officer Gill to
leave so that Wilson could "do what [he] wan[ted to]
do." Wilson ignored Officer Gill's repeated command
that Wilson drop the knife.
Wilson began directing obscene remarks at Johnson. Rather
than drop the knife, Wilson took some steps forward, started
"poking" himself with the knife, and "slit his
throat." He then took a few more steps toward Officer
Gill, and began "stab[bing]" and "poking"
himself in the chest, which he testified caused ...