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Doricchi v. County of Greenville

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

July 15, 2019

Raymond Doricchi, Plaintiff,
County of Greenville, Greenville County Sheriff's Department, Steve Loftis, and Jeremy Jones, Defendants.



         Plaintiff, Raymond Doricchi (“Doricchi”), with the assistance of counsel, filed this action in the Greenville County Court of Common Pleas pursuant to the South Carolina Tort Claims Act (“SCTCA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. (ECF No. 1-1). Defendants removed the action to federal court. (ECF No. 1). On November 12, 2018, Defendant Jeremy Jones (“Jones”) filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 29). Plaintiff responded to the motion (ECF No. 31), and Jones replied (ECF No. 37). On November 13, 2018, Defendants County of Greenville, Greenville County Sheriff's Department, and Steve Loftis (“County Defendants”) filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 30). Plaintiff responded to the motion (ECF No. 35), and County Defendants replied (ECF No. 39).

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and District of South Carolina Local Civil Rule 73.02(B)(2), this case was referred to a magistrate judge for all pre-trial proceedings. The magistrate judge conducted a hearing on both motions for summary judgment on February 27, 2019. (ECF No. 42). Following the hearing, the magistrate judge issued a Report and Recommendation (“Report”), which is now before this court. The Report recommends that the court deny Jones's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 29); dismiss all federal claims against the County Defendants pursuant to the parties' stipulation; and deny in part and grant in part the County Defendants' motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 30). (ECF No. 44). The magistrate judge alerted the parties of their right to file objections. Id. at 19. Jones filed timely objections (ECF No. 47), but no other party filed objections to the Report. Plaintiff filed a response to Jones's objections, stating that he “requests that this Court adopt the Report and Recommendations in its entirety.” (ECF No. 50 at 1). The time for objections has now run.

         I. Facts

         According to Plaintiff, on May 10, 2015, he was walking down Highway 290 with a friend and was carrying a machete in one hand and a dead snake in the other. (ECF No. 1-1 at 4). When Defendant Jones, a deputy sheriff, pulled up and ordered Plaintiff to drop the weapon, Plaintiff admits that he ran away from Jones and that Jones pursued him. Id. at 4-5. Plaintiff contends that he eventually gave up on running from Jones and raised his hands in the air to surrender. Id. at 5. In the process of the arrest, Plaintiff states that Jones unnecessarily broke his arm. Id. Plaintiff contends that at no point after he raised his hands in the air did he fight Defendant Jones or do anything that would cause Jones to fear imminent bodily harm. Id. Plaintiff also alleges that after breaking his arm, Jones stated, “You shouldn't have run, you son of a bitch. I'm a professional arm bar fighter.” Id.

         Jones's account of the arrest is vastly different. Jones contends that when he arrived on the scene, he asked Plaintiff to come speak to him, to which Plaintiff responded with profanity. (ECF No. 29-1 at 2). Jones states that he then drew his weapon and asked Plaintiff to drop the machete, which he did. Id. Having noticed that Plaintiff appeared to be under the influence of illegal substances, Jones states that he alerted Plaintiff that he was under arrest. Id. According to Jones, upon hearing that he was under arrest, Plaintiff fled the scene, and Jones pursued him. Id.

         After chasing Plaintiff for some ways, Jones states that he was able to tackle Plaintiff but that Plaintiff continued to resist. Id. Jones alleges that he was required to administer “close-fisted” strikes to Plaintiff's back and head to attempt to subdue Plaintiff. Id. Subsequently, Jones drew his weapon and ordered Plaintiff to give him his hands or he would shoot. Id. at 3. According to Jones, it appeared Plaintiff was trying to “push up” and get up off the ground. Id. Jones claims that at that time, he holstered his weapon and grabbed Plaintiff's right arm, placing it in an arm bar. Id. He then placed one knee on Plaintiff's back and the other on Plaintiff's shoulders. Id. He states that he “braced Plaintiff's arm, bent Plaintiff's wrist, and started applying pressure with every command” but that Plaintiff continued to resist. Id. Jones contends that during the struggle, Plaintiff's arm was injured. Id. Eventually, Jones was able to handcuff Plaintiff and roll him into a recovery position. Id.

         Dean Bryant (“Bryant”), the owner of the property where the arrest took place, testified at his deposition that he witnessed the events surrounding the arrest. (ECF No. 29-4 at 5-6). Bryant testified that when he saw Jones and Plaintiff, they were on the ground “wrassling (sic).” Id. at 9. Bryant asked Jones if he should call for help, and Jones nodded. Id. at 10. Bryant then called 911. (ECF No. 31-3 at 9). Meanwhile, Jones was able to subdue Plaintiff and get his arms behind his back. Id. at 10. Bryant then saw Jones sit Plaintiff up. Id. Though he was not far away from the scene of the arrest, Bryant states that he could not hear what was being said over the sound of his lawnmower. Id. at 13. However, he does remember Jones “hollering” at Plaintiff. Id.

         Another witness, Michael Johnson (“Johnson”), who was walking with Plaintiff on the road prior to Plaintiff's encounter with Jones, testified by sworn statement stating that he observed Plaintiff either trip or be tackled by Jones and then saw Jones hit Plaintiff in the head seven or eight times. (ECF No. 31-4 at 2 - 4). Johnson states that Plaintiff then remained face- down on the ground and did not fight or resist Jones. Id. at 3. Johnson states that, after Plaintiff was arrested, another police officer asked Johnson what had happened, to which Johnson responded that he had “seen one of [the] deputies beat up [his] friend.” Id. at 4. Johnson states that the officer told him that they would not need his statement. Id.

         A final witness, Thomas Gowens (“Gowens”), who lived in the area, gave a sworn statement that he saw two men (later identified as Plaintiff and Johnson) walking on the shoulder of the road. (ECF No. 31-5 at 1). Gowens then saw Jones skid his car to a stop in the intersection, get out of the car, and point his gun at Plaintiff. Id. at 2. He then saw Plaintiff drop the machete. Id. Gowens states that he was “close enough that [he] should have been able to hear anything the deputy and the man said to each other” but did not “hear the deputy tell the man that he was under arrest.” Id. at 3. Gowens states he saw Plaintiff run down the road and behind a house, and Jones chased him. Id. At that point, Gowens lost sight of Plaintiff and Jones. Id. Eventually, other Greenville County deputies and an ambulance arrived. Id.

         After his arrest, Plaintiff was taken to the hospital for treatment and then transported to Greenville County Detention Center. (ECF No. 1-1 at 5). Plaintiff was charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of methamphetamine, giving false information to law enforcement, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. (ECF Nos. 30-3 at 17-22; 30-6; 30-7).

         Plaintiff pled guilty to resisting arrest and possession of methamphetamine, and his other charges were dismissed. (ECF Nos. 30-3 at 17-22; 30- 6; 30-7). Plaintiff then brought this action alleging that Defendant Jones violated his constitutional rights and that County Defendants were also liable for such violations pursuant to the South Carolina Tort Claims Act. (ECF No. 1-1).

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if, after reviewing the entire record in a case, the court is satisfied that no genuine issues of material fact exist and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue of fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the plaintiff. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Issues of fact are ...

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