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Kramer v. David Farmer

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri.

August 15, 2017

Ernest J. Kramer and Ella I. Kramer, Co-Guardians and Co-Conservators of the Estate of Christopher Thomas Kramer, Protectee, Plaintiffs,
v.
Trooper Jim David Farmer, in his Official and Individual Capacities,, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Fernando J. Gaitan, Jr. United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court are: (1) Defendants Rucker, Salsbury, Vaught and Hann's Partial Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 11); (2) Defendant Farmer's Motion to Dismiss and Suggestions in Support (Doc. No. 15); and (3) Defendant Farmer's Unopposed Motion to [file] Reply Suggestions in Support of Motion to Dismiss Out of Time (Doc. No. 24). As an initial matter, Defendant Farmer's motion to file reply suggestions out of time will be GRANTED, and the Court considers Defendant Farmer's proposed reply suggestions (Doc. No. 24-1) as timely filed.

         I. Background

         The plaintiffs bring this suit on behalf of Cristopher Kramer (“Mr. Kramer” or “Chris”), claiming Mr. Kramer was “unlawfully seized in that he was detained without reasonable, articulable suspicion and that during being detained, he was subject to excessive force, all in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment…” (Complaint, Doc. No. 1, at 2). Mr. Kramer is alleged to have autism, and was a special education high school student at the time as well as a member of the high school track team. Relevant to this matter, one evening while out exercising, Mr. Kramer allegedly stopped in a state trooper's yard to tie his shoelace, and was later approached by police, who forcefully restrained and tasered him. Plaintiff brings a two count complaint: Count I against all defendants, a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 wrongful detention claim, that the defendants were driven by an evil motive or were recklessly or callously indifferent to or disregarding of Mr. Kramer's constitutional rights when they stopped and detained him in the absence of articulable, reasonable suspicion; and Count II against Defendants Rucker, Salsbury, Vaught and Hann, a claim of excessive force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, that defendants' conduct “was willful, wanton, reckless, and malicious, and, further shows a complete and deliberate indifference to, and conscious disregard for [Mr. Kramer's] constitutional rights.” (Doc. No. 1, at 19). Both motions to dismiss seek dismissal of Count I only.

         Plaintiffs specifically allege that Mr. Kramer was running home from school. Mr. Kramer's route took him past Trooper Farmer's residence. (Doc. No. 1, at 22). Because there is no sidewalk in front of Trooper Farmer's residence, Mr. Kramer ran along the edge of the property and stopped on the edge to tie his shoe. (Doc No. 1, at 23). Trooper Farmer approached Mr. Kramer and asked, in effect, “Can I help you with something?” Id. Mr. Kramer has a form of autism that causes impairment in comprehension and speech. (Doc. No. 1, at 14.) Mr. Kramer became frightened, did not respond and resumed running. (Doc. No. 1, at 23). Trooper Farmer yelled at Mr. Kramer to stop running and briefly pursued him on foot. (Doc. No. 1, at 24-25). Trooper Farmer then ceased pursuit and called the Maryville Police Department, identified himself as a Missouri State Highway Patrolman, and requested the intervention of Maryville Police.

         In his phone call to dispatch, Trooper Farmer allegedly said: “Well, there's a kid. He's in a red t-shirt, grey shorts with a white stripe, tennis shoes. He started up through my yard there. When I hollered at him, he took off runnin'. Now he was kinda headed toward my front door. Then, then when I hollered at him he took off runnin' and he's goin', he's goin' down West 16th right now.” (Doc. No 19, at 4).

         Maryville dispatch then sent out a message to defendant Rucker: “Maryville 214 [PSO Rucker], respond to the area of West 16th and Main, the area of Casey's. Uh, RP390, that's Trooper Farmer, said a teenage male individual came up to his front door. Farmer confronted him and the kid took off running.” - - PSO Rucker: “Copy. Any other information as to what he did when he walked up to the door?” - - Dispatch: “Farmer said that the individual walked through his yard and acted as if he was going to go the individual's go to [sic] Farmer's front door. . . .” (Doc. No. 19, at 6).

         Officers Rucker and Hann arrived at the scene at the same time as they saw a male, later identified as Mr. Kramer. “Deputy Hann pulled his vehicle up behind [Mr. Kramer] and, as he did so, Officer Rucker began to pull his patrol car around the front side of Hann's vehicle.” (Doc. No. 1, at 11). As the officers angled their vehicles to contain Mr. Kramer, Mr. Kramer began to run, Officer Rucker and Deputy Hann began to give chase on foot. The officers shouted commands at Mr. Kramer but he did not stop. (Doc. No 1, at 12). “Officer Rucker removed his taser from his holster, pointed it at [Mr. Kramer] and ordered him to stop or be tased.” (Doc. No 1, at 12). Around this time, Officer Salsbury arrived in his patrol car and twice attempted to position his vehicle in front of the fleeing Mr. Kramer, to stop his progression. (Doc. No 1, at 12). After being unable to halt Mr. Kramer by positioning his vehicle, Officer Salsbury got out of his vehicle and also gave chase on foot. (Doc. No. 1, at 12). “Within a short distance, Officer Salsbury caught up with [Mr. Kramer] and tackled [him], taking him to the ground. ¶45. As Officer Salsbury and [Mr. Kramer] were wrestling on the ground, Deputy Hann caught up with them and began to try to assist Salsbury.” The complaint alleges the interaction proceeds as follows:

¶ 46. Officer Salsbury and Deputy Hann began shouting commands at Chris [previously referred to as Mr. Kramer] to “quit resisting” and to “get on the ground” . . . Chris began wailing, screaming, “I don't”, “no”, “I want”, and crying. Chris got off of the ground, but was again taken to the ground.
¶ 47. As Chris continued to wail and scream in fright, Officer Rucker then advised Salsbury and Hann that he was going to deploy his Taser. Rucker shot two probes into Chris' right shoulder, then placed his Taser on Chris' buttocks and “drive stunned” Chris with the Taser again. . . .
¶ 48. Just as the Taser's effect decreased, Chris again managed to get off the ground and to his feet and attempted to flee. Rucker tased him again, but that did not result in getting control of Chris.
¶ 49. Officer Salsbury and Deputy Hann again took Chris to the ground and continued shouting commands at him. Officer Rucker tased Chris a fifth time. Chris continued to struggle and wail, now not only frightened but in pain as well, but managed to again gain his footing.
¶ 50. Officer Rucker then tackled Chris, taking him to the ground once again.
ΒΆ 51. Officer Salsbury then began to strike Chris in the legs with an expandable baton to ...

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