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McDaniel v. Jackson

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

September 27, 2019

Roymad Shaquil McDaniel, Plaintiff,
v.
Jacob Scott Jackson, K-9 Magnum, Richard A. Finch, Jr., Anderson City Police Department, Defendants.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          MARY GORDON BAKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, a federal inmate, has filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis. Before the Court are Defendant Richard A. Finch, Jr.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 49); and Defendants Anderson City Police Department, K-9 Magnum, and Jacob Scott Saxon's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 50). Pursuant to the provisions of Title 28, United States Code, Section 636(b)(1) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e), D.S.C., all pretrial matters in cases involving pro se litigants are referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for consideration. For the reasons stated herein, the undersigned recommends granting both Defendant Richard A. Finch, Jr.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 49); and Defendants Anderson City Police Department, K-9 Magnum, and Jacob Scott Saxon's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 50).

         BACKGROUND

         A. Plaintiff's Allegations

         The events giving rise to the instant action occurred the evening of February 25, 2017, during a vehicle and foot pursuit of Plaintiff by Defendants Jacob Scott Saxon, a City of Anderson police officer, and Richard A. Finch, a South Carolina Highway Patrolman. In his verified pro se Complaint, [1] Plaintiff alleges that he was “riding with someone” and “kept going” when the police attempted to pull the car over. (Dkt. No. 1 at 3.) According to Plaintiff,

During the chase, the driver lost control, causing the vehicle to hit another vehicle and speed and [spin] and flip over multiple times. This left me scared and very dizzy. After attempting to run, I passed out. When I regained consciousness, I was in the ambulance in extreme pain. I was told I got bitten by the police dog for resisting arrest.

(Id.) Plaintiff admits that he “fled the scene of a[n] accident, ” but maintains that because he was unconscious, he was not resisting arrest. (Id.)

         Plaintiff alleges that once he got to the hospital, “they cut all my clothes off, exposing my private part to everyone. (Id.) He alleges that a “dozen officers” took pictures of him, thereby “humiliating” him. (Id.) Plaintiff further alleges that he did not receive proper medical treatment for his leg once he arrived at the Anderson County Detention Center. (Id.) Under injuries, the Complaint alleges, “dog bite to my upper left leg. They stitched up my leg. I received nothing for my pain.” (Dkt. No. 1-2 at 6.)

         The Complaint alleges the violation of Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment rights under § 1983. (Id. at 4.) Under “Relief, ” the Complaint states, “Money for the injuries, pain an[d] suffering, public embarrassment and the hospit[al] bill, treatment I will need for my leg. For allowing this to happen while [Plaintiff was] unarmed, not moving, and not resisting. $300, 000.” (Id. at 6.)

         In addition to the allegations made in the Complaint, Plaintiff's responses to the Motions for Summary Judgment provide further clarification of his claims. Plaintiff's allegations against Defendant Finch focus on his conduct in initiating the traffic stop. Plaintiff alleges that Finch “initiated a traffic stop due to racial profiling of seeing two innocent, defenseless, and non-threatening civilians traveling by vehicle. . . At the time, Trooper Finch had no reason to initiate a traffic stop on the Plaintiff other than a direct violation of his constitutional rights.” (Dkt. No. 66 at 1-2.) He alleges the racial profiling “also showed deliberate indifference, causing this whole chain of events to be brought along.” (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff acknowledges that Finch “is not the K-9 handler.” (Dkt. No. 77 at 1.) He states it “is Officer Saxon's weight to carry as to the K-9 Magnum.” (Id. at 2.) However, Plaintiff refers to “the physical assault by Defendants, ” and implies that Finch is also responsible for the alleged attack by the K-9. (Dkt. No. 77 at 2.)

         Plaintiff alleges that “Jacob S. Saxon is named as a defendant for his role as the K-9 handler and the part he played in this excessive force suit.” (Dkt. No. 77 at 1.) He alleges that Defendant Saxon “showed deliberate indifference as he maliciously used the K-9, whom is acting as law enforcement as a violent attack dog, before, during, and after the physical brutality Plaintiff endured.” (Id.) He also alleges that “the K-9 officer caus[ed] medical damage by releasing an attack dog/animal on an unconscious human being.” (Dkt. No. 66 at 2.)

         Plaintiff appears to conflate Defendant “K-9 Magnum” with Officer Saxon. He argues that

K-9 Magnum should not be removed as a defendant as he acted in his official capacity as the K-9 handler and had full control of the K-9 and knowing that Plaintiff McDaniel was unconscious, knowingly released the K-9 on the unconscious person showing direct deliberate indifference as he acted out of anger for having to engage in pursuit of Plaintiff.

(Dkt. No. 66 at 1.)

         Plaintiff does not mention Defendant Anderson City Police Department in his briefings. He alleges that Defendants violated his constitutional rights under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments and asks that the Court “grant summary judgment in favor of Plaintiff and pursue charges of police brutality, excessive force, and officer neglect for the direct deliberate indifference and injustice.” (Dkt. No. 77 at 2.)

         B. Procedural Background

         Defendants filed their separate Motions for Summary Judgment on April 24, 2019. (Dkt. Nos. 49; 50.) Plaintiff filed a Motion for Extension in response, appearing to seek an extension of time to amend his complaint rather than to respond to the pending dispositive motions. (Dkt. No. 53.) Based on Plaintiff's Motion, the Court issued an Order on June 7, 2019, liberally construing the Complaint as alleging a Fourth Amendment violation in addition to the claims already stated therein. (Dkt. No. 54.) The Court allowed Defendants to file supplemental briefing on their dispositive motions to the extent they wanted to further address the merits of the Fourth Amendment claims. Defendants filed their separate supplemental briefings on June 12, 2019. (Dkt. Nos. 56; 57.) On June 29, 2019, Plaintiff filed a response to the Motions (Dkt. No. 66), and he also filed a Motion to Compel (Dkt. No. 65), asking for “all video, body camera, and dash camera footage of the alleged pursuit and the incident that occurred on February 25, 2017.” The Court granted the Motion to Compel by Text Order on August 19, 2019. (Dkt. No. 75.) On August 29, 2019, Defendants filed a certificate of service stating that they produced to Plaintiff “a disc containing the requested body cam footage from Defendant Saxon.” (Dkt. No. 78.) Defendants also provided the body cam footage to the Court. The Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment have been fully briefed and are ripe for the Court's review.

         C. Evidence Provided by Defendants

         1. Evidence from Defendant Finch

         In support of his Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendant Finch has submitted an affidavit in which he avers that he did not violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights. (Dkt. No. 49-2.) Specifically, Finch avers that he was “on patrol in Anderson County” on the date of the incident when he “observed a vehicle driving in a reckless manner, including driving at a speed above the posted speed limit and failing to stop for a stop sign.” (Id. at 1.) Finch avers that he pulled the speeding vehicle over. Finch then approached the vehicle on foot when “the driver suddenly pulled away at a high rate of speed.” (Id.) Finch “ran back to [his] vehicle and initiated pursuit.” (Id.)

         Finch avers that Defendant Saxon “had observed” Finch stop the speeding car and “was turning around to determine if [Finch] needed any assistance.” (Id.) After a car chase spanning “less than one mile in duration, ” Plaintiff “struck a parked car and flipped his vehicle.” (Id.) Finch avers that he observed Plaintiff climb out of the vehicle and beg[in] running into a baseball field which was adjacent to a wooded area, ” after which he “lost sight” of Plaintiff.[2] (Id. at 1-2.) Finch “did not observe any other individuals exit the vehicle” and he “checked and confirmed that there were no other individuals in the vehicle.” (Id.)

         According to Finch, Defendant Saxon, “arrived shortly after Plaintiff wrecked his vehicle and offered his assistance, ” which Finch accepted. (Id.) He avers that Defendant Saxon went to search for Plaintiff in the wooded area with his K-9. (Id. at 2.) Finch “remained at the edge of the baseball field and did not enter the wooded area, but was in communication with dispatch to set up a perimeter around the area.” (Id.) Finch “did not have a line of sight” when “Saxon and the K-9 located the Plaintiff in the wooded area and Plaintiff was restrained.” (Id.) Finch avers that EMS then came and transported Plaintiff to the hospital. (Id.) Finch then searched Plaintiff's vehicle and “found approximately 1 pound of marijuana and a handgun which had an extended 30 round magazine.” (Id.) Finch avers that a few hours later, he checked on Plaintiff at the hospital and “instructed medical personnel to notify the Highway Patrol once the Plaintiff was ready to be discharged.” (Id.)

         Finch avers that he has “no advanced medical training and had no involvement in or control over the medical care provided to Plaintiff.” (Id.) He further avers that he does “not own the K-9” involved in the incident at issue and has no knowledge “concerning the training of the K-9.” (Id. at 3.) Finch avers that shortly after the incident, he “was contacted by members of the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.” (Id.) Finch avers that this organization “handled the case and charges against the Plaintiff.” (Id.) Finally, he avers that he does “not work at the Anderson County Detention Center and had no involvement with the incarceration of Plaintiff at that facility.” (Id.)

         2. Evidence from Defendants Saxon, K-9 Magnum, and Anderson City Police Department

         In support of their Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants Saxon, K-9 Magnum, and Anderson City Police Department have submitted the Incident Report related to the incident at issue, Plaintiff's Detention Report, and Plaintiff's Release Report. (Dkt. Nos. 50-2; 50-3; 50-4.) As mentioned above, they have also provided body cam footage from Defendant Saxon. (Dkt. No. 78.)

         The Incident Report contains Defendant Saxon's account of the February 25, 2017 incident. Saxon states that he observed Trooper Finch initiate the traffic stop and then engage in a car chase, pursuing Plaintiff's vehicle. He states,

I then utilized my blue lights and sirens as all I could keep in my sight was Trooper Finch's blue lights. The pursuit continued on Glenn St where Trooper Finch and the suspect, Roymad McDaniel, took a right onto D St. I continued my attempt to catch up due to my knowledge that Trooper Finch was the only man in the chase and I also had no knowledge of how my [sic] times that Mr. McDaniel's vehicle was occupied. Once at D St and Mill St, I observed that there was a collision that occurred to a separate vehicle but still no sight of Mr. McDaniel's vehicle. I then looked to my right and observed Trooper Finch's vehicle in the field behind the baseball field off of Mill St. I then observed Trooper Finch running by himself towards a wood-line that led into the back yard of a residence off of Cochran Block. I exited my patrol vehicle and heard Trooper Finch yelling that he had lost the suspect, Mr. McDaniel, and needed my assistance along with my K-9. I then deployed PSD Magnum for a track where PSD Magnum tracked Mr. McDaniel. Mr. McDaniel was found laying behind a brush pile and PSD Magnum did bite his upper left leg. Once PSD Magnum was on the bite, Mr. McDaniel appeared to have went unconscious as his body became limp, and just for the Officer's safety I gave PSD Magnum his release command once the handcuffs were on and secure. PSD Magnum did release on command and was placed back inside of my patrol vehicle once the scene was secured. EMS was immediately notified and Mr. McDaniel was transported to the emergency room. I did make contact with Trooper Finch after the incident was over with where I did confirm that he was requesting for Anderson City Police Department to assist with the chase. As I made my way back to Mr. McDaniel's vehicle, in the front passenger seat, I observed a book bag that contained a large amount of an airtight seal of a green leafy substance (unknown weight at this time) that was consistent with Marijuana, Also inside of the same compartment of the book bag was a tan handgun (unknown make or caliber at this time) that had an extended magazine inserted into it. Also, Mr. McDaniel is a convicted felon and is wanted through our agency for two felony gun charges (possession by persons unlawful). South Carolina Probation and Parole also had a warrant for his arrest for burglary. A DHEC bite form was completed along with a use of force form. I did have Officer Johnson respond to the hospital for photographs of the dog bite. Mr. McDaniel was taken in custody by Highway Patrol but I did advise to place a hold on him for our agency. Nothing further.

(Dkt. No. 50-2 at 1-2.)

         The Detention Report indicates that Plaintiff was arrested on April 27, 2017 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in Anderson, SC. (Dkt. No. 50-2 at 2.) The Release Report indicates that Plaintiff was released from the Anderson Police Department Detention Center on October 1, 2018, when he was transferred to the “federal system.” (Dkt. No. 50-4.) ...


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