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Porter v. Williams

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

September 11, 2019

TERRELL PORTER, Plaintiff,
v.
UNKNOWN WILLIAMS, and UNKNOWN DICKERSON, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN A. ROSS, UND7ED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Desree Dickerson and Arethee Williams's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 19.) Plaintiff Terrell Porter did not respond.[1]

         Facts[2]

         On the morning of July 31, 2013, Dickerson, then a probationary officer with the St. Louis County Police Department, was on patrol with her field trainer, Officer Robert Wallace. Around 9 a.m., Dickerson and Wallace responded to a dispatch for a burglary in progress at 1127 Laredo Avenue in the Spanish Lake neighborhood of St. Louis. The dispatcher reported that two black men had been seen trying to kick down the door. When they arrived on Laredo Avenue, a St. Louis County Police Sergeant told Dickerson and Wallace that he had seen two black men in white t-shirts run out the back door of the home.

         Dickerson and Wallace began searching the area for the men, following tips from several neighbors. The officers soon spotted a black man wearing a white t-shirt hiding behind a tree. When Dickerson approached, the man fled, ignoring the officers' warnings to stop. The officers split up and pursued the man.

         A resident on Reale Avenue signaled Wallace and pointed to his backyard. Wallace entered the yard and saw the man they had been chasing, standing on the concrete patio. Wallace ordered the man to show his hands and noticed what appeared to be "a cutting instrument" in the man's pocket. Wallace slowly approached the man and ordered him to get on the ground. The man did not comply. When he was close enough, Wallace "used a single arm bar" technique to take the man down onto the patio and then climbed on top of the man in order to handcuff him. The man continued to resist, refusing to offer his other arm.

         When Dickerson heard Wallace yelling, she ran to assist. When she got to the yard, she saw Wallace on top of the man, attempting to handcuff him. She noticed what appeared to be a pocket knife clip in the man's pants pocket. Dickerson ran to the patio, pulled the man's arm out from under him, and held it behind his back while Wallace secured the second handcuff. The man was eventually identified as Porter, whom the Sergeant and neighbors recognized as one of the two they had seen fleeing from Laredo Avenue.

         Williams was also on patrol the morning of July 31 and responded to the dispatcher's report of a burglary in progress. She was canvassing the area for suspects as Dickerson and Wallace were pursuing and apprehending Porter. When Porter was in custody, Williams was directed to transport a witness from her home at 1126 Laredo-the house directly across the street from the burglary-to Reale Avenue. Dickerson and Wallace stood with Porter in the front yard. Williams stopped the car and the witness identified Porter as one of the men she had seen trying to kick in the door at 1127 Laredo. Williams then drove the witness back to her home and left the area.

         St. Louis County Police Sergeant Ray Rice drove to the Reale Avenue house to perform a "use of force" investigation. He spoke to a man whose back yard abutted the patio where Porter had been apprehended. The man told Rice that had seen police cars and heard yelling coming from behind his house. When he went outside, he saw Porter refusing to comply with Wallace's orders to get on the ground. He watched Wallace "tackle" Porter and attempt to handcuff him. The man said that he could see Porter resisting until Dickerson arrived and helped secure Porter's arms. He said he could hear Porter yelling, "Stop kicking me!" but never saw either officer kicking Porter.

         Rice then spoke to both Dickerson and Wallace and examined Porter for injury. Medical personnel had placed a gauze bandage over an abrasion on his swollen right cheek. Rice noted the abrasion and swelling were consistent with Wallace's description of using an arm bar to take Porter down on the concrete patio. Rice observed no other injuries and nothing consistent with having been kicked. Porter was transported to the hospital for a "fit for confinement" evaluation.

         Procedural History

         On October 19, 2017, Porter filed this suit, alleging that Dickerson and Williams had used excessive force on the night of his arrest in violation of 28 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1.) He sued both officers in their official and personal capacities and also named St. Louis County as a defendant. (Id.) Porter claimed that he had been kicked in the face and that he had suffered "injuries to the face, lacerations, scars, fractured cheek bone, fractured eye socket[J concussion[, and] hospitalization." (Id. at 5.) He alleged that the injuries resulted in "loss of life," mental and emotional stress, "loss of job funds etc.," and sought $250, 000 in compensatory damages plus $750, 000 in punitive damages. (Id. at 5-6.)

         On initial review, this Court dismissed Porter's claims against St. Louis County and his official-capacity claims against Dickerson and Williams. (Doc. 6.) The officers then filed this Motion for Summary Judgment, arguing that Dickerson's use of force was reasonable and that Williams never got out of her cruiser. (Doc. 20.)

         Legal ...


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