United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Florence Division
BRYAN HARWELL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Thomas Bradford Waters brought this action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 asserting claims relating to his arrest
and detention on March 12, 2015. Before filing this action,
Plaintiff had been indicted, tried, and convicted in this
District for being a felon in possession of a firearm; his
conviction stemmed from the March 2015 arrest. The Court
issued an order granting Defendants' motion for summary
judgment as to Plaintiff's unlawful seizure and civil
conspiracy claims, reserving a ruling on his excessive force
claims, and permitting the two remaining Defendants-Lake City
Police Officers John Stewart and Mark Strickland-to
supplement their motion as to the excessive force claims.
See ECF No. 184. Defendants then filed a
supplemental motion with additional argument and evidence.
See ECF No. 206. Plaintiff filed a response in
opposition. See ECF No. 222.
matter is now before the Court for consideration of
Plaintiff's objections to the Report and Recommendation
(“R & R”) of United States Magistrate Judge
Thomas E. Rogers, III, who recommends granting
Defendants' supplemental motion for summary judgment and
dismissing the excessive force claims with
prejudice. See ECF Nos. 228 & 232.
Review of the R & R
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court.
The Magistrate Judge's recommendation has no presumptive
weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination
remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S.
261, 270-71 (1976). The Court must conduct a de novo review
of those portions of the R & R to which specific
objections are made, and it may accept, reject, or modify, in
whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge
or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).
Court must engage in a de novo review of every portion of the
Magistrate Judge's report to which objections have been
filed. Id. However, the Court need not conduct a de
novo review when a party makes only “general and
conclusory objections that do not direct the [C]ourt to a
specific error in the [M]agistrate [Judge]'s proposed
findings and recommendations.” Orpiano v.
Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence
of specific objections to the R & R, the Court reviews
only for clear error, Diamond v. Colonial Life & Acc.
Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005), and the
Court need not give any explanation for adopting the
Magistrate Judge's recommendation. Camby v.
Davis, 718 F.2d 198, 199-200 (4th Cir. 1983).
judgment is appropriate when no genuine issue of material
fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Reyazuddin v. Montgomery Cty., Md.,
789 F.3d 407, 413 (4th Cir. 2015); see Fed. R. Civ.
P. 56(a) (“The court shall grant summary judgment if
the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.”). “A party asserting that a fact
cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion
by: (A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record
. . .; or (B) showing that the materials cited do not
establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or
that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to
support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). The facts and
inferences to be drawn from the evidence must be viewed in
the light most favorable to the non-moving party,
Reyazuddin, 789 F.3d at 413, but the Court
“cannot weigh the evidence or make credibility
determinations.” Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of
the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 569 (4th Cir. 2015).
“the mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of
material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). “A dispute of
material fact is ‘genuine' if sufficient evidence
favoring the non-moving party exists for the trier of fact to
return a verdict for that party.” Seastrunk v.
United States, 25 F.Supp.3d 812, 814 (D.S.C. 2014). A
fact is “material” if proof of its existence or
nonexistence would affect disposition of the case under the
applicable law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
summary judgment stage, “the moving party must
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Once the moving party has met his burden, the nonmoving party
must come forward with some evidence beyond the mere
allegations contained in the pleadings to show that there is
a genuine issue for trial.” Baber v. Hosp. Corp. of
Am., 977 F.2d 872, 874-75 (4th Cir. 1992) (internal
citation omitted). Summary judgment is not warranted unless,
“from the totality of the evidence, including
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
affidavits, the [C]ourt believes no genuine issue of material
fact exists for trial and the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Whiteman v.
Chesapeake Appalachia, L.L.C., 729 F.3d 381, 385 (4th
Cir. 2013); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).
explained in the Court's two prior orders,  Plaintiff's
only remaining claims are his excessive force claims and the
only remaining defendants are John Stewart and Mark
Strickland (collectively, “Defendants”), the two
Lake City police officers who arrested him on the evening of
March 12, 2015. See ECF Nos. 184 & 220.
Specifically, as the Magistrate Judge explains, “the
only issues left in this case are Plaintiff's claims of
excessive force during  his arrest and  then after
their arrival at the detention center.” R & R [ECF
No. 228] at p. 10. The Magistrate Judge recommends granting
Defendants' supplemental motion for summary judgment as
to both excessive force claims. Id. at pp. 10-19.
Plaintiff has filed objections to the R & R. See
Pl.'s Objs. [ECF No. 232]. Defendants have not filed a
response to Plaintiff's objections.
Plaintiff alleges two instances of excessive force: (1)
tasing and handcuffing at the arrest scene and (2) tasing at
the jail. See Verified Complaint [ECF No. 1]. The
Court will address each claim below in conjunction with
First Claim: Use of Force at Arrest Scene
Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable seizures
bars the use of excessive force on free citizens, whether it
be “in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or
other ‘seizure.'” Graham v. Connor,
490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989); see Wilson v. Prince
George's Cty., 893 F.3d 213, 219 (4th Cir. 2018).
The Court must apply an “objective
reasonableness” standard in determining whether an
officer has used excessive force when seizing a free citizen.
E.W. by & through T.W. v. Dolgos, 884 F.3d 172,
179 (4th Cir. 2018). “The question is whether a
reasonable officer in the same circumstances would have
concluded that a threat existed justifying the particular use
of force.” Anderson v. Russell, 247 F.3d 125,
129 (4th Cir. 2001).
objective inquiry is based on the totality of the
circumstances, and it requires an examination of the
officer's actions in light of the facts and circumstances
confronting him, without regard to his underlying intent or
motivation-subjective motives, intent, and/or propensities
are irrelevant. Dolgos, 884 F.3d 179. The Court
“must give careful attention to the facts and
circumstances of each particular case, including three
factors in particular:  the severity of the crime at
issue,  whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to
the safety of the officers or others, and  whether he is
actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by
flight.” Smith v. Ray, 781 F.3d 95, 101 (4th
Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted)
(“Graham factors”). “Evaluating
the reasonableness of the officer's actions requires a
careful balancing of the nature and quality of the intrusion
on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against
the countervailing governmental interests at stake.”
Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).
and Defendants agree that Plaintiff was tased and handcuffed
at the arrest scene. However, the parties disagree as to
certain facts about the tasing and handcuffing.
version of the facts is located in his verified
complaint and testimony at the suppression hearing
in his criminal case. See Ver. Compl. at p. 3;
United States v. Waters, No. 4:15-cr-00158-BHH-1,
Suppression Transcript [ECF No. 96] at pp. 75-82 (D.S.C.).
Plaintiff alleges he was standing in his yard when Stewart
and Strickland jumped out their cars, ran up to him with
their guns pointed at him, and told him to get on the ground.
Ver. Compl. at p. 3; Suppr. Tr. at p. 76-77, 80. He claims
both Defendants “shot me multiple times all from the
back while I was face down on the ground. I was hit 4 times
with an electronic stun gun/taser. This was done while I was
unarmed[, ] on the ground[, ] and not being a threat to
either officer.” Ver. Compl. at p. 3. Plaintiff asserts
he was tased “once in the back, once in the back of my
right hand, once in the back of my left hand, and once in the
back of my right leg.” Id. He further alleges
that “Stewart also put the handcuffs on super tight
cutting my wrist all up, and makeing [sic] me lose
feeling in both of my hands for hours.” Id.
Plaintiff has also submitted photographs of his alleged
injuries. See ECF Nos. 1-1 & 15-1.
version of the facts is located in their summary judgment
affidavits, testimony at the suppression hearing, and
testimony at Plaintiff's criminal trial. See
Stewart Affidavit [ECF No. 206-3]; Strickland Affidavit [ECF
No. 206-4]; Suppr. Tr. at pp. 3-64; United States v.
Waters, No. 4:15-cr-00158-BHH-1, Trial Transcript [ECF
No. 142] at pp. 38-85. They assert Plaintiff had a gun, refused
to get on the ground or raise his hands, resisted
Stewart's efforts to handcuff him, reached for a gun in
his back ...