United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
PATRICIA L. COHEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the motion to dismiss the
amended complaint and supporting memorandum filed by
Defendants City of St. Louis and Officers Wallace and Burns
(collectively, “Movants”) pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF Nos. 16 & 17). The
motion to dismiss is denied.
facts, as alleged in the amended complaint, are as follows:
At approximately 6:00 p.m. on February 6, 2015, Plaintiff was
jogging on a trail that loops in and around Tower Grove Park,
when he observed a traffic stop conducted by City of St.
Louis police officers. (ECF No. 14). According to the amended
complaint, Plaintiff, who was wearing “a nylon jogging
suit, a bright yellow t-shirt for visibility, a colored
sweatband around his head, and gloves” and carrying on
his person only a house key, “stopped to observe the
traffic stop from a distance of approximately 30 feet, across
Arsenal Street, while standing on or near the perimeter
jogging trail within Tower Grove Park.” (Id.
at 3-4). Plaintiff stated that he remained silent and did not
interfere with the traffic stop. (Id. at 4). While
observing the stop, Plaintiff was illuminated by the stopped
vehicles' headlamps. (Id.).
alleged that, at approximately 6:05 p.m., Officers Wallace
and Burns approached Plaintiff, and Officer Wallace accused
Plaintiff of behaving suspiciously. (Id.). Officer
Wallace asked Plaintiff for his name and address and frisked
him. (Id.). After Plaintiff identified himself,
Officer Wallace ordered Officers Burns and Ludwig to handcuff
Plaintiff, and “Defendant Police Officers handcuffed
[Plaintiff].” (Id.). Plaintiff remained in
handcuffs until approximately 6:25 p.m., when a sergeant
appeared on the scene and ordered Plaintiff released.
stated that he filed a complaint with the Internal Affairs
Division (IAD) of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police
Department on February 20, 2015. (Id. at 5). On
October 27, 2015, IAD Commander Lt. Adam Koeln telephoned
Plaintiff and advised him that, “pursuant to St. Louis
Police policy, people who merely stop to watch police action
are engaging in suspicious behavior that subjects them to
stop, frisk, and arrest.” (Id.). In a letter
dated March 1, 2016, Lt. Koeln informed Plaintiff that
“an allegation of misconduct could not be sustained
against any of the officers involved in this incident.”
(Id. at 6). Lt. Koeln sent Plaintiff a second letter
on March 15, 2016 advising Plaintiff that IAD had completed
and closed the investigation. (Id.).
filed a two-count petition under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
alleging violations of his Fourth Amendment rights. In Count
I, Plaintiff alleged unlawful detention and arrest against
Officers Wallace and Burns in their individual capacities.
(ECF No. 14 at 7-8). In Count II, which Plaintiff brought
against the City of St. Louis only, he claimed
“unlawful detention and arrest caused by
unconstitutional municipal policy.” (Id. at
9-10). In both counts, Plaintiff requested damages “for
psychological and emotional injury, humiliation,
embarrassment, costs and expenses, and for attorney's
fees as provided by 42 U.S.C. §
1988.” (Id. at 8, 10).
filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6),
contending that Plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts
to support a plausible claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
(ECF No. 16). Officers Wallace and Burns further claim that
they are protected by qualified immunity. (Id.).
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only “a short
and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551
U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). A viable complaint must include “enough facts
to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when
the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). When considering a
motion to dismiss, the reviewing court must accept the
plaintiff's factual allegations as true and construe them
in the plaintiff's favor. Id.
Count I - Section 1983 claim against Officers Wallace and
Wallace and Burns move to dismiss Plaintiff's Section
1983 claims against them in their individual capacities on
the basis of qualified immunity. More specifically, they
argue that Plaintiff did not establish a violation of a
constitutional right because “the stop alleged by
Plaintiff meets the Fourth Amendment standard of
reasonableness as a matter of law.” (ECF No. 17 at 4).
In response, Plaintiff asserts that Officers Wallace and
Burns are not entitled to qualified immunity because a
“suspicionless stop, frisk, and arrest for watching
police conduct a traffic stop violates well-established
Fourth Amendment rights.” (ECF No. 18 at 6).
immunity shields federal and state officials from money
damages unless a plaintiff pleads facts showing (1) that the
official violated a statutory or constitutional right, and
(2) that the right was ‘clearly established' at the
time of the challenged conduct.” Ashcroft v.
al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 735 (2011) (citing Harlow v.
Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). “Requiring
the alleged violation of law to be ‘clearly
established' balances . . . the need to hold public
officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly
and the need to shield officials from harassment,
distraction, and liability when they perform their duties
reasonably.” Wood v. Moss, 134 S.Ct. 2056,
2067 (2014) (quoting Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S.
223, 231 (2009)). To prevail on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss on the basis of qualified immunity, ...