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Davis v. City of Apopka

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

December 5, 2019

CITY OF APOPKA, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Timothy Allen Davis, Sr.'s remaining claim concerns a chief evil: the unlawful search of his home in the aftermath of Mr. Davis fatally shooting his son.[1] The pressing question for the Court is whether Defendant City of Apopka (“City”) can be liable for this chief evil based on its Chief of Police's involvement in the search. Both parties moved for summary judgment. (Doc. 203 (“City Motion”); Doc. 205 (“Davis Motion”).) Each side responded and replied. (Docs. 212, 218, 224, 225.) On review, the Davis Motion is due to be granted and the City Motion denied.

         I. Background[2]

         Around dusk on October 1, 2011, a domestic dispute culminated in Mr. Davis shooting his son, who died as a result. (See Doc. 205-4, p. 3.) Apopka Police Department (“APD”) officers, including Chief of Police Robert Manley, III, [3] were dispatched to the scene. (Doc. 205-2, ¶ 4; Doc. 205-3; Doc. 205-11, p. 9:6-16.[4]) Officers Rafael Baez and Mark Creaser were first to respond, arriving minutes after the shooting, around 6:24 p.m. (Doc. 205-3; Doc. 205-4, pp. 3, 5; Doc. 206-5, p. 28:10-12.) Officer Baez noticed Mr. Davis's son bleeding from the chest and Mr. Davis on top of him trying to talk to him. (Doc. 205-4, p. 3.) Several neighbors gathered nearby. (Id. at 3, 5.) Officer Creaser immediately detained Mr. Davis and retrieved a handgun from his front pocket. (Id.)

         Chief Manley arrived around 6:30 p.m., at which point paramedics had arrived and were tending to Mr. Davis's son. (Doc. 205-3, p. 4; Doc. 205-11, pp. 10:19-11:12, 13:9- 12.) Mr. Davis was in handcuffs, complaining of knee pain, so Chief Manley instructed the officers to take Mr. Davis into the garage and allow him to sit down. (Doc. 205-2, ¶ 5; Doc. 205-7, pp. 18:23-19:5; Doc. 205-8, p. 26:2-9; Doc. 205-11, p. 14:1-15; Doc. 206-5, pp. 29:3-10, 20-24.) Mr. Davis refused to sit and continued to complain of pain, so Chief Manley called another ambulance to attend to Mr. Davis's injuries. (Doc. 205-7, p. 19:7- 16; Doc. 205-11, p. 14:17-22; Doc. 206-5, pp. 29:20-30:6.) Mr. Davis went to a local hospital while his son, daughter, and wife went to a different hospital-no family members remained on scene.[5] (Doc. 205-2, ¶¶ 6-7; Doc. 205-4, pp. 3, 5; Doc. 205-8, p. 33:16-18.) Chief Manley called Deputy Chief Donald Heston to the scene and told him to make sure APD does its best work. (Doc. 205-10, pp. 4:2-15, 5:25-15, 8:13-23; Doc. 205-11, pp. 25:5- 14, 46:20-47:2, 52:2-9.) This all happened within 15 to 30 minutes of officers arriving on scene. (Doc. 205-8, p. 26:19-20; Doc. 206-5, p. 33:3-7.) Chief Manley left shortly after Mr. Davis and his family, [6] leaving Deputy Chief Heston as the highest-ranking officer on scene. (Doc. 205-8, p. 33:13-15; Doc. 205-11, pp. 16:20-22; 17:21-25, 25:5-8, 46:20-47:2, 52:2-9.)

         At issue is what followed during the Davis family's absence. Here's the story as told by those on scene: Detective Ruben Torres, the lead detective in charge of the investigation, arrived and remained throughout the night, departing only to take written statements from witnesses and canvass the neighborhood. (Doc. 205-4; Doc. 205-5, pp. 16:25-17:1; Doc. 205-6, pp. 60:11-22, 64:18-21; Doc. 214-11, p. 5:2-12, 22-24.) Detective Matthew Reinhardt arrived around 7:15 p.m., noticed officers in front of the garage, spoke to Detective Torres, read the witness statements, and left shortly after to prepare a search warrant and affidavit for permission to search the home. (Doc. 205-5, pp. 15:22- 24, 16:2-17:6, 18:2-7.) Captain Jerome Miller and Lieutenant David Call also arrived around this time. (Doc. 206-3, pp. 4:14-6:19, 9:15-11:22; Doc. 214-4, p. 4:22-24.)

         While Detective Reinhardt was away working on the search warrant, on-call Crime Scene Technician (“CST”) Nichole Dunn arrived around 7:21 p.m. and noticed other APD officers in the driveway and garage-the garage door was open. (Doc. 205-2, ¶ 9; Doc. 205-3, p. 4; Doc. 205-5, pp. 28:20-29:5; Doc. 206-4, pp. 5:23-6:2.) According to CST Dunn, a group of detectives formulated the plan for processing the scene and investigating. (Doc. 206-4, pp. 27:18-28:1; Doc. 214-1, p. 31:6-12.) During this meeting, a higher ranking official ordered her to enter Mr. Davis's garage to take photographs and process the area of the altercation between Mr. Davis and his son, but she doesn't recall who.[7] (Doc. 205-2, ¶ 27; Doc. 205-5, p. 33:2-7; Doc. 206-4, p. 27:18-24.) Her photos reveal she complied, taking pictures inside Mr. Davis's garage as early as 7:45 p.m. (Doc. 205-2, ¶¶ 11-12; Doc. 205-5, pp. 29:6-22, 30:22-31:15; Docs. 205-13-205-15; Doc. 206-4, p. 11:11- 13.) After taking pictures, she searched for evidence in the garage, put down markers for processing, and took more photographs. (Doc. 205-5, pp. 31:20-23, 32:2-18, 37:2-38:7; Docs. 205-14-205-16; Doc. 206-4, pp. 13:1-13, 24:11-15.) After this, a higher ranking official instructed CST Dunn to go inside the house to photograph, which she says she did alone around 9:00 p.m. (Doc. 205-2, ¶¶ 11-12; Doc. 205-5, pp. 38:8-10, 40:19-41:13; Doc. 205-16; Doc. 206-4, pp. 24:16-21, 26:19-28:15.)

         CST Dunn wasn't the only person to enter Mr. Davis's garage and house. While CST Dunn was processing the scene, APD officers-including some of the highest-ranking ones-went into the garage, house, or both. (Doc. 205-3; Doc. 205-4, p. 14; Doc. 205-18.) CST Dunn says other officers searched with her for evidence in the garage, including shell casings, bullets, and blood droplets. (Doc. 205-5, pp. 33:17-19, 34:18-25, 35:22-24.) And both Deputy Chief Heston and Captain Miller admit to going into the house and the garage. (Doc. 205-10, pp. 9:8-11; Doc. 206-3, pp. 11:5-22, 13:1-13.) Deputy Chief Heston recalls going into the house to look at a door jam and going into the garage to see what evidence was there; Captain Miller recalls going into the garage and upstairs. (Doc. 205-10, pp. 10:15-19, 13:10-21; Doc. 206-3, pp. 11:9-22, 13:1-18.)

         Chief Manley returned to the scene around 9:00 p.m. for an update and to see if anyone needed anything. (Doc. 205-11, pp. 18:18-23, 21:23-24.) During this trip to the scene, he talked to Captain Fernandez, Captain Miller, Lieutenant Call, and Deputy Chief Heston. (Doc. 205-7, pp. 22:25-23:5.) Despite this, he says he never asked whether there was a warrant and didn't know whether one had been obtained. (Doc. 205-11, pp. 19:9- 11, 40:11-16.) He also claims he never went into the garage or house or saw other officers enter. (Doc. 205-11, pp. 17:3-9, 19:4.) Chief Manley says he was only there for around 20 minutes. (Doc. 205-7, pp. 22:25-23:5; Doc. 205-11, p. 33:12-14.) And he insists he never instructed any officer or CST to search Mr. Davis's home before the execution of the search warrant. (Doc. 205-11, pp. 52:21-53:2.)

         All this happened before 9:45 p.m., when Detective Reinhardt arrived at Judge Alice Blackwell's residence with the search warrant and affidavit. (Doc. 205-2, ¶¶ 18-19; Doc. 205-4, p. 6; Doc. 205-5, p. 10:10-21; Doc. 206-7.) After briefly reviewing the affidavit, Judge Blackwell signed the search warrant a little before 10 p.m., at which point Detective Reinhardt called Lieutenant Call to alert him. (Doc. 205-2, ¶¶ 20-21; Doc. 205-5, pp. 12:17- 20, 19:22-25; Doc. 206-6, pp. 1-2.) Detective Reinhardt returned to the scene with the warrant around 10:45 p.m. (Doc. 205-5, p. 13:14-17.) CST Dunn, Lieutenant Call, and Detective Torres then walked through Mr. Davis's home, and CST Dunn took more photographs of evidence found during this search. (Doc. 205-5, pp. 21:6-12, 42:6-11, 48:20-22; Doc. 205-6, pp. 76:21-77:3; Doc. 206-4, p. 24:21-25; Doc. 214-11, pp. 10:9-13:24.)

         But those involved aren't the only storytellers from that night: Mr. Davis's surveillance cameras draw portions of Chief Manley's version into question. From one angle, showing the driveway from near the front of the garage down to the street, Chief Manley arrives shortly after the shooting and is later seen with Mr. Davis and other officers moving out of view as they head toward the garage. (Doc. 205-17, 18:24-35 (Cam. 4).[8]) Chief Manley reappears on camera from that direction as Mr. Davis leaves, and he chats awhile with Mr. Davis's wife and other officers. (Id. at 18:39-55 (Cam. 4).) Chief Manley walks out of the camera's view around 6:55 pm. (Id. at 18:55 (Cam. 4).) In his absence, other officers and CST Dunn appear; some talk near the street before dispersing. (Id. at 18:56-19:30 (Cam. 4).) CST Dunn periodically heads toward the garage and leaves the camera's view before returning to view, rinse and repeat and sometimes carrying something. (Id. at 19:31-20:57 (Cam. 4).) Other officers do the same-all possibly entering and leaving the garage. (Id. (Cam. 4).) From another camera angle, showing Mr. Davis's front doors and a glimpse inside his foyer through them, an officer walks into Mr. Davis's front door briefly before exiting. (Id. at 19:17-18 (Cam. 2).) CST Dunn and unidentifiable silhouettes of other officers later walk by inside the house. (Id. at 19:31-20:57 (Cam. 2).) Camera flashes and flashlights sporadically illuminate the frame. (Id. (Cam. 2).)

         Back to the driveway angle, Chief Manley briefly appears from the direction of the garage following behind Deputy Chief Heston at 9:02 p.m.-his exact time and place of arrival on scene weren't captured.[9] (Id. at 21:02 (Cam. 4).) Around this time, other officers and CST Dunn come and go in the driveway toward and away from the garage as before. (Id. at 21:02-22:00 (Cam. 4).) From the front door angle, officers continue to occasionally walk by the front door from inside the house. (Id. at 21:02-39 (Cam. 2).) In the final relevant scene, officers gather to talk in the driveway and street until the search warrant is signed-Chief Manley may be amongst them, at least for some time. (Id. at 21:02-22:00 (Cam. 4).) But the darkness and poor video quality obscure most of Chief Manley's return visit and ultimate departure.[10] (Id. (Cam. 4).)

         Based in part on what the surveillance footage showed of that night, Mr. Davis sued the City, Chief Manley, officers, detectives, and the CST involved for various claims under state law and 42 U.S.C. § 1983, including false arrest and unreasonable search and seizure. (See Docs. 1, 122.) After multiple rounds of pleading, settlement with the individuals, and an appeal, all that remains is Mr. Davis's unlawful search claim against the City under § 1983. (see Docs. 1, 3, 38, 114, 122, 133, 162, 164, 171, 172, 193); see also Davis v. City of Apopka, 734 Fed.Appx. 616 (11th Cir. 2018).

         Mr. Davis and the City both move for summary judgment, mainly contesting whether the City can be liable for the unlawful search of the home. (See Docs. 203, 205.) With briefing complete (see Docs. 212, 218, 224, 225), the matter is ripe.

         II. Legal Standards

         Summary judgment is appropriate only if the movant shows there is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact and [it] is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). On issues for which the movant has the burden at trial, it must show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and support its motion with credible evidence demonstrating that no reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party on the essential elements. Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993) (citing United States v. Four Parcels of Real Prop. in Green & Tuscaloosa Ctys., 941 F.2d 1428, 1438 (11th Cir. 1991)).

         On issues for which the nonmovant would bear the burden of proof, the movant has two options: (1) it may simply point out a lack of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case; or (2) it may provide “affirmative evidence demonstrating that the nonmoving party will be unable to prove its case at trial.” Four Parcels, 941 F.2d at 1438 (citing Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 331). “The burden then shifts to the non-moving party, who must go beyond the pleadings, and present affirmative evidence to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists.” Porter v. Ray, 461 F.3d 1315, 1320 (11th Cir. 2006) (citing Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1115-17).

         “A factual dispute is genuine ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'” Four Parcels, 941 F.2d at 1437 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A court must view the evidence and all reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, Battle v. Bd. of Regents, 468 F.3d 755, 759 (11th Cir. 2006), so that “when conflicts arise between the facts evidenced by the parties, [the court] credit[s] the nonmoving party's version.” Evans v. Stephens, 407 F.3d 1272, 1278 (11th Cir. 2005). Yet “[the] court need not permit a case to go to a jury . . . when the inferences that are drawn from the evidence, and upon which the non-movant relies, are ‘implausible.'” Mize v. Jefferson City Bd. of Educ., 93 F.3d 739, 743 (11th Cir. 1996) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 592-94 (1986)). “When opposing parties tell two ...

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