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Smith v. The Charleston County Sheriff's Office

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

March 22, 2019

Akiliou Smith, Plaintiff,
v.
The Charleston County Sheriff's Office, James L. Jacko, Donald Stanley, John Wiedemann, Zach Lindsay, Matthew Wean in their respective individual capacities, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Bruce Howe Hendricks United States District Judge.

         On December 20, 2016, Plaintiff Akiliou Smith (“Plaintiff”) filed his amended complaint in this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging that Defendants James L. Jacko (“Jacko”), Donald Stanley (“Stanley”), John Wiedemann (“Wiedemann”), Zach Lindsay (“Lindsay”), Mathew Wean (“Wean”) (collectively “Individual Defendants”), and the Charleston County Sheriff's Office (“CCSO”) violated his Fourth Amendment rights during a search of his home and seizure of his person. (ECF No. 32.) Plaintiff also brought related state claims for false imprisonment, invasion of privacy, trespass, and negligence. (Id.) In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2)(d) D.S.C., this matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant, for consideration of pretrial matters. The Magistrate Judge prepared a thorough Report and Recommendation (“Report”) which recommends that Defendants' motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 60) be granted in part and denied in part. (ECF No. 70.) Defendants and Plaintiff filed timely objections to the Report. (ECF Nos. 71 & 72.) Additionally, the parties filed replies to one another's objections. (ECF Nos. 73 & 74.) For the reasons set forth herein, the Court adopts the Report.

         BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The Report sets forth in detail the relevant facts (see ECF No. 70 at 2-7) and standards of law, and the Court incorporates them herein, summarizing below only in relevant part.[1] On December 7, 2015, a woman named Ms. Foggy called 911 to report that she found an unknown man in her house. Ms. Foggy provided a description of the intruder, a black male, including his appearance, his height and weight, and the clothes he was wearing. Defendant Jacko, along with another sheriff's deputy who is not listed as a defendant, responded to the call and interviewed Ms. Foggy at her home. Ms. Foggy gave her description of the intruder to Jacko during the interview. A K-9 officer was requested, whereupon Defendant Lindsay responded to the scene with his police dog. After being provided with a description of the suspect, Lindsay and the K-9 began canvassing the area where the suspect was last seen with several other officers.

         Lindsay and the K-9 came upon Plaintiff who was standing in his driveway smoking a cigarette. Lindsay testified that his dog went into alert status and he saw someone out of the corner of his eye “essentially lurch behind a vehicle, ” gave him reasonable suspicion that something was “going on.” Lindsay further testified that he directed his flashlight toward the subject and yelled “show me your hands, ” at which point the subject ran from behind the vehicle toward the house.

         Plaintiff testified that he was standing in his driveway finishing a cigarette when he noticed a man with a dog. Plaintiff stated that he is not fond of dogs and the dog he observed was big. Plaintiff further testified that he could not tell who the man was because it was dark, but when they noticed each other the man said “Hey, you, come here.” Plaintiff further stated that he never heard Lindsay say he was a sheriff's officer. Plaintiff explained that because the man started running toward him, he did not respond to the individual's statement but ran into his house.

         Lindsay proceeded to the house and began to “pound” on the door. Plaintiff and his family, who were in the house, were distraught, and some of the family began crying as the individual grabbed the door handle and tried to open it. Lindsay and Jacko both testified that they identified themselves as members of the Charleston County Sheriff's Office, but no one answered the door. Plaintiff called 911 to report that a man with a dog had just run at him in his yard. While he was on the phone with the 911 operator, he could hear knocking on the door and someone yelling outside. Plaintiff was not sure what the people at the door were saying, but his wife told them “don't come in here.”

         Plaintiff's mother-in-law, Tonya Davis (“Davis”) was in the house during the incident, and testified that someone was banging on the door and screaming various profanities, such as “open the f****** door.” Ms. Davis stated that when the individual yelled that they were the “f****** police, ” and she asked what they wanted, they asserted that she had let a fugitive into her house. Ms. Davis told them she was not opening her door for them because Plaintiff said he did not know who they were, she did not know who they were, and she did not know what they might do based on the way they were “carrying on and cursing out there.” Ms. Davis further testified that she was afraid as a result of their behavior.

         Another individual in the house, Dominique Smith (“Smith”), testified that the individuals outside the house were yelling “open the f****** door” and saying they were going to “kick this s*** down.” Ms. Smith stated that when she asked the individuals who they were, they identified themselves as the police. She further testified that when she asked “what is wrong? What is the problem . . . I have my kids in here, ” they responded “open it up” and threatened to “kick this mother-f***** down.” Ms. Smith, having “never experienced anything like this, ” said she did not believe the individuals were actually police, and refused to open the door because she was afraid.

         It is undisputed that Plaintiff lived at the residence, that he was not the intruder who had been at Ms. Foggy's house, and that other than being an African-American male he did not fit the description of the intruder that Ms. Foggy provided, with respect to height, weight, or his clothing.

         When the residents of the house would not open the door, Lindsay testified that he kicked the door once in an attempt to kick it in, and then Jacko “kicked the door in maybe twice, and the door kicked in.” The deputies entered the house into a room full of a least five people, most of whom were upset and crying or yelling at them. Jacko stated that the individuals made it clear that the deputies were not welcome and that they wanted the deputies to leave. Jacko also conceded that by this point it was clear that Plaintiff was not an intruder in the residence, and that any exigency that had previously existed had expired.

         Nevertheless, Lindsay and Jacko persisted in their efforts to speak with Plaintiff. Instead of leaving, Jacko demanded to know where Plaintiff was, saying “we need to speak to him.” Plaintiff was located in the house and initially refused to go with the deputies, so Jacko “grabbed his wrist.” Jacko testified that Plaintiff “pulled away from me and so I grabbed it again, and that is when the Defendant Deputy Wean came in and helped me handcuff [Plaintiff].” Jacko stated that Plaintiff was “passively” resisting the officers' verbal commands to go outside, but that once Deputy Wiedemann aimed his taser at Plaintiff and said “you are going to come outside, ” Plaintiff complied. Once outside, the group was met by Defendant Stanley, a Lieutenant, who had since arrived on the scene. Plaintiff was held until Ms. Foggy was brought to the scene and confirmed that Plaintiff was not the intruder who had been in her home, at which point Plaintiff was released.

         On May 18, 2018, Defendants moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 60.) Plaintiff responded (ECF No. 62) and Defendants replied (ECF No. 64) in turn. After consideration of all the relevant briefing and detailed analysis of the record, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report recommending that Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted in part and denied in part. (ECF No. 70.) Specifically, the Magistrate Judge concluded that the motion for summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff's federal claims asserted pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Counts 1-3) should be denied, but that Defendant Stanley should be dismissed as a party on Plaintiff's illegal search claim and that Defendants Stanley and Lindsay should be dismissed as parties on Plaintiff's excessive force claim. (Id. at 13 n.7, 17 n.9, 22.) The Magistrate Judge further found that the CCSO's motion for summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff's state law claims should be granted, and those claims should be dismissed without prejudice. (Id. at 22.) Finally, because the CCSO is only named as a Defendant in the state law causes of action, the Magistrate Judge concluded that the CCSO should be dismissed as a party in this case. (Id.) The Court has reviewed the objections (ECF Nos. 71 & 72) to the Report and finds them to be without merit. Therefore, the Court will enter judgment accordingly.

         STANDARD ...


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