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Hamilton v. Williams

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

October 31, 2019




         This motion comes before the Court on the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, Dkt. 31, Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, Dkt. 17. The Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. 35. After reviewing these documents, the Court denies Defendants' motion.


         This matter is before the Court on the Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights. Dkt. 17. The Plaintiff, Rodrecius Hamilton, makes Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violation claims against the Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Defendants, Jeremy Williams, Joel Mailly, and Justin King are police officers with the Lakeland Police Department.

         The Plaintiff alleges that on April 19, 2016 at approximately 11:15 PM, the Defendants “snuck up and surrounded the Plaintiff's home[.]” Dkt. 17 at 4-5. It is undisputed that the “reason for this intrusion was to investigate a misdemeanor battery which allegedly occurred the day prior, April 18, 2016 at approximately 3 PM.” Dkt. 17 at 5; Dkt 17-1 at 5; Dkt. 31 at 6. According to the police reports, there was an argument between the Plaintiff and David Rogers which led to the Plaintiff putting “Rogers in a ‘headlock' and repeatedly [striking] him in the face with a closed fist[.]” Id. A third person was able to separate them, and Rogers left the area and contacted the police. Id. Rogers did not know where he was and gave the wrong address, so the officers could not pick him up, but he went to the police station to file a report. Id. The officer noted that he “observed swelling and redness around Roger's right eye, which was almost swollen shut, as well as both of his eyes were bloodshot due to the strikes to the face.” Id. Yet the officer listed the extent of these injuries as being “minor injuries” in his report. Id.

         The Plaintiff alleges and Defendants do not dispute that the Defendants did not obtain an arrest or search warrant before approaching his home. Dkt. 17 at 5. The Plaintiff alleges that he “[sensed] the men dressed in dark clothing running towards his home. The men never identified themselves as police officers.” Id. The Defendants dispute this and claim that they did identify themselves and that they were wearing Lakeland Police uniforms which are black with orange patches on both sleeves. Dkt. 17-1 at 8-9. Further the Defendants assert, per their police reports which were attached to the Second Amendment Complaint, that the Plaintiff stated post Miranda “that he saw us and knew we were the police and that was why he ran back inside.” Dkt. 17-1 at 7-8.

         Defendant Williams' police report, stated that as “[the Defendants] approached the residence the [Plaintiff] came outside onto the covered patio at the rear of the residence.” Dkt. 17-1 at 8. It is undisputed that upon seeing the Defendants the Plaintiff ran back into his home. Dkts. 17 at 5 & 17-1 at 9. It is also undisputed that Defendant Williams chased the Plaintiff into his home by forcing his way through the closed door. Dkt. 17 at 5; Dkt. 17-1 at 9; Dkt. 31 at 8. At which point the Plaintiff alleges Defendant Williams “release his K-9” and the dog attacked him. Dkt. 17 at 5. Defendant Williams asserts that he “began to give [Plaintiff] verbal commands to come here and stop or I'd release the dog ([Plaintiff] had begun to slowly move backwards towards a hallway).” Dkt. 17-1 at 9. Defendant Williams stated the Plaintiff did not follow his instructions and instead “began to yell at me what was going on” and retreated “back down the hallway.” Id. According to Defendant Williams, this is when he released the dog which bit the Plaintiff in his lower left leg. Id. Defendant Williams asserts that Plaintiff tried to push the dog away and yelled at him to get the dog off. Id. But Defendant Williams did not remove the dog because he “saw no indication that the [Plaintiff] was surrendering or complying with my commands.” Id. Defendant Williams then “moved in while the dog was still holding the bite on his leg and physically placed [Plaintiff] on his stomach, moved his arms to a position behind his back and handcuffed him.” Id. Then Defendant Williams removed the dog. Id. It is undisputed that at some point during this altercation the dog bit the Plaintiff's other leg, but it is not clear when that occurred. Id.

         At this point the Defendants assert that Defendant King took the Plaintiff to Lakeland Regional Medical Center. Id. However, the Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Williams “kick[ed] him several times in the ribs and legs.” Dkt. 17 at 7. Further, the Plaintiff alleges that both Defendant Mailly and King entered his home and kicked and beat him. Dkt. 17 at 8. Plaintiff alleges he sustained “lacerations, bruises, dog bites to both legs, and bruised ribs” from this encounter. Id.

         The Plaintiff claims the Defendants violated his Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure and was subject to excessive force. Dkt. 17 at 3. The Plaintiff also claims that Defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. Id. The Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss and asserted a qualified immunity defense. Dkt. 31.


         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must plead sufficient facts to state a claim that is “plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citation omitted). In considering the motion, the court accepts all factual allegations in the complaint as true and construes them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Pielage v. McConnell, 516 F.3d 1282, 1284 (11th Cir. 2008) (citation omitted).

         Courts should limit their “consideration to the well-pleaded factual allegations, documents central to or referenced in the complaint, and matters judicially noticed.” La Grasta v. First Union Sec., Inc., 358 F.3d 840, 845 (11th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). Courts may also consider documents attached to a motion to dismiss if they are (1) central to the plaintiff's claim; and (2) undisputed or, in other words, the “authenticity of the document is not challenged.” Horsley v. Feldt, 304 F.3d 1125, 1134 (11th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted).


         First, the Court must address the relevance and weight given to the police reports attached to the Second Amended Complaint. Then, the Court will review the Defendants' assertion that they are entitled to qualified immunity for the claims.

         I. Police Reports Attached to the Second Amended Complaint

         It is the established law in this Circuit that “when the exhibits contradict the general and conclusory allegations of the pleading, the exhibits govern.” Crenshaw v. Lister, 556 F.3d 1283, 1292 (11th Cir. 2009). The Eleventh Circuit in Crenshaw specifically noted that “the police reports add several relevant facts to the operative version of the incident, which, notably, do not conflict with any of [plaintiff's] allegations.” Id. at 1291. In Crenshaw the court did not credit the “conclusory and speculative allegations about what the officers saw” and instead relied on the policer reports. Id. at 1292. While the court used the police reports instead of the complaint for conclusory allegations about what the officers saw or thought, the court still relied on the plaintiff's version of events to determine whether there was a constitutional violation. Id. at 1291-92.

         In addressing this issue, a court in this District held that when the allegations in the complaint “are not general and conclusory, but are specific as to [defendant], the police report does not ‘govern or control' in this case, even though the police report contradicts [plaintiff's] allegations against [defendant].” Miffin v. Bradshaw, No. 8:08-CV-592-T-33EAJ, 2009 WL 1953534, at *8 (M.D. Fla. July 6, 2009); but see, Morris v. City of Orlando, No. 6:10-CV-233-ORL, 2010 WL 4646704, at *5 n.3 (M.D. Fla. Nov. 9, 2010) ...

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