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Rogers v. King

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

March 23, 2018

Skip Rogers, Administrator for the Estate of Marilyn Denise Ambrose-Boyd; Michael Andrew Boyd Plaintiffs - Appellants
v.
Aaron King, Individually and in his Official Capacity as a Police Officer for the City of Ankeny; Gary Mikulee, Individually and in his Official Capacity as Chief of Police for the City of Ankeny, Iowa; Ankeny, Iowa Defendants - Appellees

          Submitted: October 18, 2017

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Des Moines

          Before LOKEN, MURPHY, and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges.

          MURPHY, Circuit Judge.

         During a welfare check, Officer Aaron King shot and killed Marilyn Denise Ambrose-Boyd. Her son, Skip Rogers, and her husband, Michael Boyd, brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Officer King had violated her Fourth Amendment rights and several state laws. Their complaint also named Police Chief Gary Mikulec and the City of Ankeny as defendants, alleging (1) § 1983 liability for inadequate training and supervision of police officers and (2) respondeat superior vicarious liability. The district court[1] granted summary judgment to the defendants, concluding that Officer King was entitled to qualified immunity on the § 1983 claim and that Chief Mikulec and the City of Ankeny could not be held liable because Officer King had acted reasonably. Rogers and Boyd appeal, and we affirm.

         I.

         At around 5:00 PM on the evening of July 5, 2014, Ambrose-Boyd sent Rogers a series of text messages. Ambrose-Boyd told Rogers that she hoped he was happy and that she loved him and her grandchildren. She thanked him for a firearm and said she had "nothing more to live for" and told her son goodbye. Rogers unsuccessfully attempted to contact Ambrose-Boyd by text and phone. While Rogers was trying to reach his mother, his wife dialed 911. She told the 911 operator about the text messages and that Ambrose-Boyd owned a handgun. Officers were then dispatched to Ambrose-Boyd's home. Rogers also called Ambrose-Boyd's husband and asked him to check on Ambrose-Boyd, but did not mention that he was concerned she might be suicidal.

         Officer Lopez was the first to arrive at Ambrose-Boyd's home. There was no response when he knocked at the front door, and he discovered it was locked. After Officers Williams and Christoph arrived, they went to the glass sliding door in the back where there was again no response. Officer Williams then decided to enter through the front door. After Officer King succeeded in kicking the door open, the officers drew their firearms and entered the house. Officers Christoph and King went up the stairs shouting "Police department. Tell us where you're at. Show us your hands."

         Officer Christoph testified that before he could see Ambrose-Boyd, he heard her say she was okay and wanted the officers to go away and leave her alone. He continued up the stairs, however, and saw her come out of a door on the second floor with a handgun in her right hand. Although Officer Christoph heard her identify herself as Denise, he could not recall whether that was while he was still on the stairwell or after he was able to see her. Officers Christoph and King both testified that she did not speak and appeared to be looking right through them. Officer King stated that he "noticed [this] right away" and called it "a thousand yard stare." He described it as "when somebody is looking essentially at you or your direction, but they don't acknowledge your existence. It's like they're looking straight through a hole in your body or a hole in the wall. . . . When you're looking back at them, it's like they're in a trance." Her appearance frightened both officers.

         Officer Christoph stated that Ambrose-Boyd had initially "mov[ed] the gun around with her arm a little bit at her side." She then raised the gun up to her head, but did not hold it there for long before dropping it back down to her side. She continued to move her arm and wave the gun around. Although Ambrose-Boyd did not make any verbal threats or shoot her gun, she refused to comply with their commands to drop it. The officers did not warn her that she could be shot if she did not put the gun down. Both testified that Ambrose-Boyd pointed her gun near Officer Christoph's shins. Officer Christoph later explained that "once I realized the gun . . . had come up a little bit . . . I realized that she may be attempting to shoot me." Officer King fired three rounds at Ambrose-Boyd who died from the injuries she received.

         Rogers and Boyd brought this action against Officer King alleging an excessive force claim under the Fourth Amendment and state law claims of assault and battery. They also asserted claims against Police Chief Mikulec and the City of Ankeny for (1) failure to provide training and supervision in performing welfare checks and (2) liability under a theory of respondeat superior. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of all defendants. The court concluded that Officer King's use of deadly force had been objectively reasonable under the circumstances and that Chief Mikulec and the City of Ankeny could not be held liable for inadequate training or under a respondeat superior theory. Rogers and Boyd appeal.

         II.

         We review de novo a district court's order granting summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity, "view[ing] the evidence in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs and draw[ing] all reasonable inferences in their favor." Dooley v. Tharp, 856 F.3d 1177, 1181 (8th Cir. 2017). Summary judgment is appropriate where "there is no genuine dispute as to any material ...


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