United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Central Division
NANETTE K. LAUGHREY United States District Judge.
Daniels has sued a number of Columbia police officers for
allegedly violating his federal constitutional rights when
they arrested him at the Fieldhouse on October 23, 2013. He
also filed claims for state law violations. The defendant
police officers and the City of Columbia argue that there is
insufficient evidence to show any violation of the U.S.
Constitution or state law, and even if there is such
evidence, the defendant officers are entitled to either
qualified or official immunity. Therefore, the Defendants
argue a judgment should be entered in their favor.
stage of the litigation, the Court's sole role is to
determine whether there is evidence that the Defendants
violated Mr. Daniels' constitutional rights. If such
evidence has been presented, the Court must then determine
whether an objective police officer in the same circumstances
would understand that his or her actions violated the U.S.
Constitution. Unless a court has previously found a
constitutional violation involving similar facts, the police
are not on notice that their actions violate the
Constitution. When notice is lacking, the police are entitled
to qualified immunity even if a constitutional violation
short, the Court does not sit as a super-personnel board to
determine whether defendants acted professionally or
reflected the expectations of the community. Rather, the
Court's job is to follow the law outlined above, as
interpreted by the United States Supreme Court.
these limitations, the Court finds that Summary Judgment
should be granted to all the Defendants on Mr. Daniels'
federal claims. The Court exercises its discretion to dismiss
the state claims without prejudice, meaning they can be
refiled in state court.
evening of October 23, 2013, Officers Terranova and Corcoran
were conducting a routine business check at the Fieldhouse, a
bar in downtown Columbia. [Doc. 54, p. 8]. Near the same
time, Officers German and Sinclair separately entered the
Fieldhouse for a walkthrough. [Doc. 54, p. 8].
Fieldhouse was dimly lit and in some places was crowded that
evening. [Doc. 70, p. 53-54; Exhibit I at 1:11]. Loud music
played over the speaker system. [Doc. 70, p. 53-54; Exhibit I
Nicholas Daniels, an African American man, was at the
Fieldhouse when the police entered. Daniels was a football
coach at Lincoln University and weighed approximately 230
pounds. [Doc. 54, p. 5 and p. 43].
Gettemeier, a tall white man, was working as a Fieldhouse
bouncer that night. [Doc. 54, p. 15]. Gettemeier wore his
black Fieldhouse shirt, which said “The
Fieldhouse” in yellow print on the front. [Doc. 54, p.
Terranova checked the identification of several women,
Corcoran approached Gettemeier and yelled into his ear,
“Just a head's up-there's some real players in
here. There's probably a gun or two in here
tonight.” [Doc. 70, p. 51-2; Exhibit I at 2:13 and
and Corcoran then continued their walk through the bar.
[Exhibit I at 3:38]. As Corcoran followed Terranova toward
the front of the bar, he stopped, grabbed Terranova's
shoulder and said, “Watch this guy. He's coming
around the corner, man.” [Exhibit I at 4:25]. They then
saw Brock Gettemeier, the Fieldhouse bouncer, having a
physical confrontation with Daniels. [Doc. 54, p. 22].
Corcoran and Terranova moved toward them shouting,
“Hey! Police, police, police!” [Doc. 70, p. 64;
Exhibit I at 4:33]. As Gettemeier and Daniels went into the
second dance floor area, Daniels reached up toward
Gettemeier's neck. [Doc. 54, p. 22; Exhibit 1 at 4:31-4:34].
As Terranova and Corcoran closed the distance with Daniels
and Gettemeier, Daniels was trying to choke
Gettemeier. [Doc. 54, p. 24, ¶ 73]. Upon
approaching, Corcoran grabbed Gettemeier's shoulder.
[Exhibit I at 4:33-4:34]. During the altercation, Daniels
heard officers yell, “Freeze” and “Get
down.” [Doc. 54, p. 35, ¶ 125; Doc. 39-1, p.
63 of 202; Exhibit M at 2:52]. Corcoran ordered Daniels to
get on the ground, but he did not get on the ground. [Doc.
54, p. 25].
then pulled Daniels' left arm slightly down, but Daniels
forced it back up level with his head and again spread his
fingers to display his palm. [Exhibit H at 3:48-50; Doc. 54,
p. 24]. During these few seconds, German had also reached the
altercation. [Exhibit H at 3:48]. With Corcoran still on
Daniels' left side as he was pulling down Daniels'
left arm, German faced Daniels and yelled in his face,
“Put your hands behind your back! Put your hands behind
your back!” [Exhibit H at 3:48-3:53]. Daniels' arms
remained raised above his head. [Exhibit H at 3:48-3:53].
this time, Corcoran and Terranova punched Daniels several
times, struck him in the knee, and attempted to sweep his
legs out from under him; Daniels did not get on the ground or
put his arms behind his back. [Docs. 70, p. 67; 39-1, p. 73].
At the same time that German reached the altercation and
ordered Daniels to put his hands behind his back, Sinclair
reached the altercation coming up right behind her. [Exhibit
H at 3:53]. Upon reaching the group, Sinclair grabbed
Gettemeier and pulled him away from the altercation, yelling,
“Get back, get back, get back!” at Gettemeier.
[Exhibit H at 3:55]. Immediately after, as Sinclair turned
back toward Daniels and the other officers, Sinclair was
punched in the face. [Exhibit H at 3:57]. Sinclair
perceived that he was punched by Daniels, but
Daniels did not punch him. [Doc. 54, p. 33, ¶ 111].
thereafter, Daniels broke away from the altercation with his
hands at his sides. [Doc. 70, p. 73; Exhibit H at 4:00]. As
Daniels began walking away from the officers, Terranova put
his hands on Daniels' shoulders. [Exhibit H at 4:01].
Sinclair then raised his Taser, and shouted “Taser,
Taser, Taser!” [Exhibit H at 4:02]. As Terranova
released his grip on Daniels, Sinclair's Taser fired once
into Daniels' back. [Exhibit H at 4:02-04; Doc. 54, p.
34]. As the Taser fired, Corcoran pulled Daniels' legs
out from under him, and Daniels fell to the ground. [Exhibit
H at 4:04; Doc. 70, p. 71].
Daniels was on the floor, he rolled over onto his back and
did not comply with the officers' orders to roll onto his
stomach. [Doc. 54, p. 26]. At first, Terranova and Corcoran
were unable to turn Daniels onto his stomach to handcuff him.
[Docs. 39-19, p. 2; 54, p. 26]. Once Terranova and Corcoran
did manage to turn him over onto his stomach, they pulled his
hands behind his back and placed them in
handcuffs. [Docs. 39-19, p. 2; 54, p. 26]. At the
police car, Daniels was told he had been arrested. [Doc. 70,
p. 77; Exhibit H at 7:52].
officers did not record a statement about the incident from
Gettemeier or any witnesses, before deciding to arrest
Daniels. [Doc. 70, p. 81]. The officers did not arrest
Daniels was driven to the Boone County Jail, Sergeant Cornman
interviewed him about the incident as part of her use of
force investigation. [Doc. 70, p. 83-84; Exhibit M]. During
the video-recorded interview, Daniels indicated that he could
feel soreness near his armpit on the side of his body. [Doc.
54, p. 44]. He also indicated that the area where the Taser
struck him was sore. [Exhibit M at 8:30-9:30]. Daniels told
Cornman that he suffered “scratches” from the
incident. [Exhibit M at 10:30-13].
Nicholas Daniels' eleven claims are as follows:
• Count I: Violation of Plaintiffs Fourth Amendment
Right Against Unlawful Seizure through False Arrest and
Imprisonment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Asserted against
Officers Terranova, Corcoran, and Sinclair.
• Count II: Violation of Plaintiffs Fourth Amendment
Right Against Unlawful Seizure through Excessive Force under
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Asserted against Officers Terranova,
Corcoran, and Sinclair.
• Count III: Violation of Plaintiffs Eighth Amendment
Right Against Cruel and Unusual Punishment under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Asserted against Officers Terranova and
• Count IV: Violation of Plaintiffs Fourteenth Amendment
Right to Equal Protection of the Law under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. Asserted against Officer Corcoran.
• Count V: Civil Conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1985
to Deprive Plaintiff of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment
Rights. Asserted against Sergeant Cornman and Officers
Terranova, Corcoran, and Sinclair.
• Count VI: Failure to Train, Supervise, and Discipline
Officers to Prevent Violation of Plaintiffs Constitutional
Rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Asserted against Chief
Burton and the City.
• Count VII: Battery under Missouri law against Officers
Terranova, Corcoran, and Sinclair.
• Count VIII: Conspiracy to Commit Battery under
Missouri law against Officers Terranova and Corcoran.
• Count IX: False Imprisonment under Missouri law
against Officers Terranova, Corcoran, and Sinclair.
• Count X: Malicious Prosecution under Missouri law
against Sergeant Cornman and Officers Terranova, Corcoran,
• Count XI: Conspiracy to Maliciously Prosecute under
Missouri law against Sergeant Cornman and Officers Terranova,
Corcoran, and Sinclair.
Summary Judgment Standard
purpose of summary judgment is to “pierce the pleadings
and assess the proof in order to see whether there is a
genuine need for trial.” Matshushita Elec. Indus.
v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 573, 587 (1986). A
movant is entitled to summary judgment “if the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact
and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The rule requires
summary judgment to be entered “against a party who
fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence
of an element essential to that party's case, and on
which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
immunity protects government officials “from liability
for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate
clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of
which a reasonable person would have known.” Harlow
v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982). This defense
“provides ample room for mistaken judgments by
protecting all but the plainly incompetent or those who
knowingly violate the law.” Amrine v. Brooks,
522 F.3d 823, 831 (8th Cir. 2008). Thus, qualified immunity
“allows officers to make reasonable errors so that they
do not always err on the side of caution for fear of being
sued.” Id. Qualified immunity is decided by a
court as a matter of law; it is not decided by a jury.
Bramblett v. City of Columbia, 2016 WL 4136960, at
*4 (8th Cir. Aug. 4, 2016).
Count I - ...