United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
October 2013 and November 2014, deputies of the Pike County,
Missouri Sheriff's Office executed search warrants on
plaintiff Richard Scott Thiel's property. They seized
various items and arrested Thiel. In this action, Thiel
brings claims against Pike County Sheriff Stephen Korte and
Deputy Sheriffs Joseph Minor and Josh Baker under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, alleging that the searches and seizures,
including his arrest, were unlawful under the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments and that Sheriff Korte's continued
retention of his seized property violates his Fourteenth
Amendment due process rights. Thiel also seeks a writ of
replevin under Missouri law for return of his property. For
the reasons that follow, I will grant defendants' motion
for summary judgment on Thiel's constitutional claims,
and deny Thiel's motion for partial summary
judgment. I decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over Thiel's state law claim.
determining whether to grant summary judgment, I must view
the facts - and any inferences from those facts - in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S.
574, 587 (1986). The movant bears the burden of establishing
that (1) it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law and
(2) there are no genuine issues of material fact.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the movant has met this burden,
the nonmoving party may not rest on the allegations in its
pleadings but must, by affidavit or other evidence, set forth
specific facts showing that a genuine issue of material fact
exists. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1), (e). Where a factual record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for
trial. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587.
filing of cross motions for summary judgment does not
necessarily indicate that there is no dispute as to a
material fact, or have the effect of submitting the cause to
a plenary determination on the merits.” Wermager v.
Cormorant Twp. Bd., 716 F.2d 1211, 1214 (8th Cir. 1983).
Instead, each summary judgment motion must be evaluated
separately on its own merits to determine whether a genuine
issue of material fact exists and whether the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Husinga v.
Federal-Mogul Ignition Co., 519 F.Supp.2d 929, 942 (S.D.
Before the Court on the Motions
Thiel owns several acres of property in Pike County,
Missouri. His residence and at least four other buildings
used for business and farming are on a parcel of property
located at 16644 Pike 9166, Louisiana, Missouri. Thiel's
business is managing foreclosed properties, which includes
general maintenance, making repairs, and removing abandoned
property, including abandoned vehicles. He stores several
abandoned vehicles on his property at 16644 Pike 9166. Thiel
has no employees but hires several individuals as independent
contractors on an as-needed basis. His friend, Amanda
Sherwin, is his business partner.
2013 Search and Seizure
October 8, 2013, Deputy Minor received information that a
white Ford Expedition that had been stolen from Enid,
Oklahoma, was on Thiel's property. The following day,
Deputies Minor and Baker went onto the property of
Thiel's neighbor, from where they saw a white Ford
Expedition located toward the rear of Thiel's property.
Minor and Baker then went on to Thiel's property and took
photographs of the vehicle. Minor thereafter contacted the
Enid, Oklahoma Police Department who confirmed that the
description of the Ford Expedition on Thiel's property
matched the description of the vehicle stolen from Enid in
July 2013. Minor then submitted an affidavit to the Pike
County Prosecuting Attorney, who applied for a search warrant
for Thiel's property related to the stolen vehicle.
October 10, 2013, a circuit judge issued a search warrant
authorizing a search of Thiel's property and the seizure
of the “2003 White Ford Expedition, VIN
1FMPU17L93LB45057.” Minor and Baker and other deputies
executed the warrant that same day and seized the vehicle.
Minor observed that the keys were not in the vehicle, so the
search of Thiel's property continued for the keys. A Ford
key and key-fob were eventually located in a shed on the
property and seized.
the execution of the search warrant, the deputies noted a
camera surveillance system on Thiel's property. They then
located in Thiel's house a digital video recorder (DVR)
and related equipment that was connected to the surveillance
system. Believing the equipment could contain recorded
evidence of the Ford vehicle coming onto the property, the
deputies seized the DVR, two external hard drives, and ten
computer memory cards. (Minor Depo., ECF 44-4 at pp. 52-53;
Baker Depo., ECF 44-6 at p. 26.) Thiel claims, and defendants
deny, that the deputies also seized two pistols and $200
cash. The computer memory cards were later returned to and
retrieved by Amanda Sherwin. Defendants claim, and Thiel
denies, that the hard drives, recording system, and Ford key
and key-fob were also returned to Sherwin.
was not home when the search of his property began. Upon
learning of the search, he attempted to go home but was
stopped by Deputy Carroll (not a defendant) when he entered
his driveway. Deputy Carroll then arrested him. (ECF 44-2,
Thiel Depo. at pp. 81-83.) Thiel was released from the
sheriff's office later that evening. (Id. at pp.
Korte did not personally conduct any search of Thiel's
property on October 10.
criminal proceedings were ever brought against Thiel relating
to the white Ford Expedition or the October 10 search of his
2014 Search and Seizure
the evening hours of November 28, 2014, Bonnie Murray
traveled to Thiel's residence with Nicholas Echternkamp
and Darren Jones to collect checks from Thiel for work they
had performed for him. Murray went into the house to ask
about the checks; Echternkamp and Jones stayed in their
truck, which was parked on the road at the end of the
driveway. Thiel gave Murray her check but did not give checks
for either Echternkamp or Jones. After Murray got her check,
she left the residence and walked down the driveway toward
the road, at which time she heard what she thought were
gunshots coming from the house. Believing that Thiel was
shooting at her, Murray ran to the truck and she,
Echternkamp, and Jones drove away from the property. Murray
called 911 and reported that Thiel shot at her when she was
leaving his residence. Murray, Echternkamp, and Jones then
met with Pike County deputy sheriffs and gave statements. In
her statement, Murray also described the firearm she observed
on Thiel when she retrieved her check from him.
receiving the report, Minor and Baker went to Thiel's
residence and spoke to Thiel about the alleged incident.
Thiel told them that he could not shoot a firearm because of
arthritis, but later said that he fired a shotgun that
morning to scare cats from his porch. Thiel was then advised
that he would be detained and that an application would be
made to obtain a search warrant for the house. Thiel was
taken into custody and transported to the sheriff's
submitted an affidavit for search warrant to the prosecuting
attorney along with affidavits from Murray, Echternkamp, and
Jones, each stating that Thiel had discharged a firearm in
Murray's direction. An associate circuit judge issued a
search warrant granting authority to search the residence and
seize “any and all handguns and evidence of a firearm
being fired at the residence in the last 7 hours including
but not limited to a gunshot residue test of Richard Scott
Thiel and the clothes of Richard Scott Thiel for purposes of
testing for gunshot residue.” Minor and Baker and other
deputies executed the warrant at Thiel's residence and
seized various handguns, holsters, two .38 caliber rounds,
and a Samsung DVR. Thiel's clothing and shoes were seized
from Thiel at the sheriff's office to test for the
presence of gunshot residue. Thiel was released from the
sheriff's office a few hours after being taken into
custody. (Thiel Depo., ECF 48-2 at p. 130.)
Korte did not personally conduct any search of Thiel's
property on November 28.
criminal proceedings were ever brought against Thiel relating
to the alleged shooting or the November 28 search of his
property. None of the property seized on November 28 has been
returned to Thiel.
raises several Fourth Amendment claims challenging the search
of his property, the seizure of his personal property, and
his arrest. In addition to his claims against the defendants
in their individual capacities, Thiel alleges that the
unlawful searches were conducted under official policy, or
custom or practice, as promulgated by Korte. He also
challenges Korte's refusal to return his seized property,
claiming that such deprivation violates his Fourteenth
Amendment right to due process.
reasons that follow, I agree with defendants that Minor and
Baker are entitled to qualified immunity on Thiel's
Fourth Amendment claims, and Korte is entitled to summary
judgment in both his individual and official capacities. I
also agree that the State of Missouri provides an adequate
post-deprivation remedy that satisfies due process, and that
Thiel has failed to avail himself of this remedy. I will
therefore grant summary judgment on Thiel's
Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure
initial matter, to the extent Thiel seeks individual
liability against Korte for the alleged unlawful searches,
Korte is entitled to summary judgment. The evidence is
undisputed that Korte did not personally participate in any
search of Thiel's property on either October 10, 2013, or
November 28, 2014; and Thiel does not allege that Korte
failed to supervise and train his officers. See Johnson
v. Blaukat, 453 F.3d 1108, 1113 (8th Cir. 2006)
(supervisors can be individually liable if they directly
participate in a constitutional violation or if they failed
to supervise and train officers).
respect to defendants Minor and Baker, they are entitled to
qualified immunity on Thiel's Fourth Amendment
§ 1983 actions, an individual defendant is entitled to
qualified immunity if his conduct does not violate clearly
established constitutional rights of which a reasonable
person would have known. White v. Pauly, 137 S.Ct.
548, 551 (2017) (per curiam). To be clearly established,
preexisting law must make the unlawfulness of the
officials' conduct apparent so that they have “fair
and clear warning” they are violating the Constitution;
qualified immunity therefore protects “all but the
plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the
law.” Id. at 551-52. Because qualified
immunity protects officials who make bad guesses in gray
areas, Littrell v. Franklin, 388 F.3d 578, 582 (8th
Cir. 2004), it gives them breathing room to make reasonable
but mistaken judgments. Blazek v. City of Iowa City,
761 F.3d 920, 922 (8th Cir. 2014).
has the burden of showing that the law was clearly
established, Hess v. Ables, 714 F.3d 1048, 1051 (8th
Cir. 2013), and that existing precedent places the
constitutional question “‘beyond
debate.'” City & Cty. of S.F., Calif. v.
Sheehan, 135 S.Ct. 1765, 1774 (2015) (quoting
Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 741 (2011)).
However, “‘clearly established law should not be
defined at a high level of generality' and must be
particularized to the facts of the case so that the
unlawfulness of an official's actions [is]
apparent.” Estate of Walker v. Wallace, 881
F.3d 1056, 1061 (8th Cir. 2018) (quoting White, 137
S.Ct. at 552). “Context is critical in determining
qualified immunity in Fourth Amendment cases.”
Id. (citing Mullenix v. Luna, 136 S.Ct.
305, 308 (2015) (per curiam)).
October 2013 Search and Seizure
respect to the October 2013 search and seizure, Thiel claims:
a) that the defendants exceeded the scope of the search
warrant when they continued to search his property after
seizing the target vehicle; b) that the defendants unlawfully
seized personal property that was neither authorized to be
seized by nor reasonably related to the warrant; c) and that
his arrest was unlawful because it was made without a warrant
and without probable cause.