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Whitt v. City of St. Louis

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

August 14, 2019

DAVID WHITT, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ST. LOUIS, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RONNIE L. WHITE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the following motions directed at the original Compliant (ECF No. 1): Motion to Dismiss Count V by Defendant City of St. Louis (ECF No. 8); Motion to Dismiss Count II by Defendant Bobby D. Baine (ECF No. 11); Motion to Dismiss Count VIII by Baine (ECF No. 13); Motion to Dismiss Count II by Defendants Ryan J. Linhorst, Matthew T. Karnowski, and Matthew A. Shaw (ECF No. 23); and Motion to Dismiss Count VIII by Defendant Linhorst (ECF No. 25). On October 3, 2018, Plaintiff David Whitt filed a First Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 38) Because the motions listed above (ECF Nos. 8, 11, 13, 23, & 25) were directed at the original Complaint and the First Amended Complaint is now the operative complaint, the Court denies these motions to dismiss as moot.

         Also before the Court are the following motions directed at the First Amended Complaint: Motion to Dismiss Count II by Defendants Linhorst, Karnowski, Shaw, and Baine (ECF No. 43); Motion to Dismiss Count V by the City of St. Louis (ECF No. 45); and Motion to Dismiss Count VIII by Defendants Linhorst and Baine (ECF No. 47). These motions are fully briefed and ready for disposition. After careful consideration, the Court grants the motion to dismiss Count VIII and denies the motions to dismiss Counts II and V.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff David Whitt is a member of Cop Watch, which is a network of community-based groups of individuals who purport to monitor and document police activity. Plaintiff alleges he is a well-known member of Cop Watch in the St. Louis area and frequently records video of police activity on a camcorder.

         In August 2016, Plaintiff was riding his bicycle in the City of St. Louis when he observed five police vehicles, multiple police officers from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department ("SLMPD"), and one individual in custody in a police cruiser. Plaintiff was recording video on his camcorder and asserts he maintained a reasonable distance away from the police officers and the man in custody. Plaintiff alleges the following events transpired:

a. Defendant Linhorst drove a police cruiser toward Whitt, placing the vehicle between Whitt and the other police vehicles, pushing Whitt onto the sidewalk. At the same time, Linhorst instructed Whitt to back up. Whitt complied.
b. Defendant Karnowski instructed Whitt to back up again. Again, Whitt complied, coming to a stop approximately 50 feet away from the police cruiser in which the individual was detained.
c. Whitt then stated that he could see the individual detained in backseat of a police vehicle, at which point Defendant Karnowski looked off camera and remarked, "Yeah." Defendants Karnowski, Linhorst, and Shaw then moved forward to arrest Whitt.

(ECF No. 38, at ¶ 25) According to Plaintiff, video of the encounter was recorded on his camcorder. Plaintiff was taken into custody, booked, and detained for ten hours. He was released on a $50 bond and issued a property receipt for his camcorder and bicycle. Linhorst, with assistance of Baine, executed an affidavit in support of a warrant application to search the contents of camcorder, which was issued. Plaintiff did not receive his camcorder until January 2017. He alleges the camcorder was damaged and police had attempted to erase all video recordings from the memory card.

         In October 2016, Plaintiff was charged with violating section 15.10.010 of the St. Louis City Municipal Ordinance Code, which makes it a misdemeanor to, among other things, "hinder, obstruct, resist or otherwise interfere with any City officer in the discharge of his official duties." The City of St. Louis dropped the charge against Plaintiff via nolle prosequi in May 2017.

         Plaintiff brought this lawsuit against the City of St. Louis, SLMPD officers Linhorst, Karnowski, Shaw, and Baine (collectively referred to as "SLMPD Defendants"), and three unidentified police officers ("Doe Defendants") who assisted in his August 2016 arrest. Specifically, the First Amended Complaint (ECF No. 38) asserts the following counts pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983: Unlawful Seizure/False Arrest against Defendants Linhorst, Karnowski, Shaw, and Doe Defendants (Count I); Malicious Prosecution against SLMPD Defendants (Count II); Retaliation for Exercise of First Amendment Rights in Violation of First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution against Defendants Linhorst, Karnowski, Shaw, and Does (Count III); Unlawful Search against Defendants Linhorst and Baine (Count IV); and a claim for municipal liability pursuant to Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 685 (1978), for violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments against the City of St. Louis (Count V). Plaintiff also bring the following claims pursuant to the Missouri Constitution: False Arrest against Defendants Linhorst, Karnowski, Shaw, and Doe Defendants (Count VI); Malicious Prosecution against SLMPD Defendants (Count VII); and Unlawful Search in Violation of Article I, Section 15 of the Missouri Constitution against Defendants Linhorst and Baine (Count VIII).

         SLMPD Defendants have moved to dismiss Count II (ECF No. 43), the City of St. Louis has moved to dismiss Count V (ECF No. 45), and Defendants Linhorst and Baine have moved to dismiss Count VIII (ECF No. 47). Plaintiff has filed a single Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Counts II and V. (ECF No. 49) In his memorandum, Plaintiff notes he did not respond to Defendants Linhorst and Baine's Motion to Dismiss Count VIII and seeks leave to dismiss Count VIII without prejudice. (ECF No. 49, at 2 n.1) Accordingly, the Court grants the Motion to Dismiss Count VIII and dismisses that claim without prejudice.

         LEGAL ...


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