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Sours v. Karr

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southwestern Division

July 18, 2018

CHAD KARR, et al., Defendants.



         This action arises out of Plaintiff William Scott Sours's arrest after a traffic stop in Jasper County, Missouri, on May 19, 2014. Sours sued Officer Chad Karr, Police Chief Tommy Kitch, Officer Jeremy Bland, and Detective Darren McIntosh (collectively “Defendants”), alleging a violation of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Pending before the Court are Defendants Karr and Kitch's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 92), Defendant Bland's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 86), and Defendant McIntosh's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 89). For the reasons explained below, the summary judgment motions are GRANTED.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         A moving party is entitled to summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed R. Civ. P. 56(a). A party who moves for summary judgment bears the burden of showing there is no genuine issue of material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). Summary judgment is also appropriate when the plaintiff fails to establish any element of her prima facie case. Nesser v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 160 F.3d 442, 445 (8th Cir. 1998). A court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and allow the nonmoving party to benefit from all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the evidence. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 588-89 (1986).

         Because Sours is proceeding pro se, the Court is bound to liberally construe his filings in order to do substantial justice. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Native Am. Council of Tribes v. Solem, 691 F.2d 382, 384 (8th Cir. 1982). However, a litigant's pro se status does not excuse him or her from compliance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or Local Rules. McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993).

         Undisputed Material Facts[1]

         On May 19, 2014, Karr-then an officer with the City of Duquesne Police Department- was on patrol in his dash-camera-equipped police car. At approximately 7:16 p.m., Karr stopped a car due to its improper lane use and obstructed rear license plate. Karr saw that the vehicle came from a home known to have residents who possess and manufacture methamphetamine. After stopping the car, Karr approached and made contact with Sours, the driver of the vehicle, and the passenger, Melinda Wisek. The in-dash camera, with audio, recorded the subsequent events.

         Dispatch advised Karr that Sours was on probation and parole for distribution of a controlled substance. Sours told Karr that last year, he was released from federal prison for distribution of a controlled substance. Karr then asked Sours for consent to search the vehicle.

         Sours denied consent. Next, Karr requested assistance from the Joplin Police Department. At approximately 7:29 p.m., Joplin Police K-9 Officer Bland arrived on the scene. Karr informed Bland that the basis for his request for assistance was (1) Sours's history of drug arrests and convictions, (2) Karr's observation of Sours leaving a home known to have residents who possess and manufacture methamphetamine, and (3) Karr's belief that Sours and Wisek's behavior seemed suspicious.

         Bland then led the K9 around Sours's truck. The K-9 alerted at both the driver and passenger doors. Sours then yelled at Bland to get the K-9 away from his vehicle. Karr advised Sours to be quiet. After Sours continued to yell at Bland, Karr took Sours into custody for obstruction and placed him in the back of his patrol vehicle. Karr and Bland then searched Sours's vehicle, finding a cigarette pack containing two used syringes and empty plastic bags. Karr then transported Sours to the Joplin jail.

         The next day, Karr contacted Detective Darren McIntosh of the Joplin Police Department to inform him that Sours had been arrested and his vehicle towed. Throughout March, April, and May 2014, McIntosh had been investigating two thefts for which Sours was the only suspect. The first was a March 23, 2014, attempted theft of a concession trailer from a Food 4 Less grocery store parking lot, and the second was an April 13, 2014, theft of a construction trailer and tools belonging to Crossland Construction Company. The employees of Food 4 Less reported that the license plate of the vehicle owner who attempted to steal the trailer was Missouri 4CT020. Video surveillance at Crossland Construction identified a suspect vehicle with license plate Missouri 4CT020. The vehicle with license plate Missouri 4CT020 is registered to Sours. Additionally, surveillance video from Crossland Construction indicated that the suspect driver had a white Fu Mahchu style mustache, which matched a photograph of Sours.

         After Sours's vehicle was towed, an inventory search was conducted. During the search, officers found a blue Miller welder and a Dewalt grinder matching the description of items that Crossland Construction reported stolen. Based on McIntosh's investigation-including license-plate identification and the items found in Sours's vehicle-he prepared and forwarded a statement of probable cause to the Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney's Office on June 9, 2014. On June 16, 2014, a warrant was issued for Sours's arrest for receiving stolen property pursuant to Mo. Rev. Stat. § 570.080.

         On July 25, 2015, Sours sued Officers Karr and Bland, Detective McIntosh, and Duquesne Police Chief Tommy Kitch, alleging a violation of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Sours's complaint (Doc. 1) includes claims arising out of his traffic stop, the search of his vehicle, his arrest, and the statement of probable cause that led to his arrest. All Defendants now move for summary judgment.


         I. Officer Karr's traffic stop of Sours's vehicle did not violate Sours's constitutional rights, and Karr is entitled to qualified immunity.

         Karr argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity for pulling over Sours's vehicle, searching the vehicle, and arresting Sours. “When performing discretionary functions, government officials are shielded from civil liability so long as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Avalos v. City of Glenwood, 382 F.3d 792, 798 (8th Cir. 2004) (internal citation omitted). Qualified immunity is “available to all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.” Id. (internal citation omitted). “Courts conduct a two-part inquiry to determine whether qualified immunity protects a government official from liability: (1) whether the facts taken in a light most favorable to [Sours] make out a violation of a constitutional . . . right; and (2) whether that right was clearly established at the time of the alleged violation.” See Buckley v. Ray, 848 F.3d 855, 863 (8th Cir. 2017). “Courts may decide ‘which of the two prongs of the qualified immunity analysis should be addressed first in light of the circumstances in the particular case at hand.'” Boude ...

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