United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
STEPHEN R. CLARK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Defendant City of St. Louis
and D. Samuel Dotson's Motion to Dismiss Counts I, II, IV
and IV . The Court grants the motion.
January 3, 2019, Plaintiff Dennis Ball-Bey filed an amended
complaint in this Court alleging Defendants Kyle Chandler and
Ronald Vaughn, police officers with the St. Louis
Metropolitan Police Department, used excessive force against
Mansur Ball-Bey in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendments of the United States Constitution; Ball-Bey
alleges Chandler and Vaughn shot and killed
Mansur when Mansur ran away from the officers.
Ball-Bey asserts the following claims: (1) use of excessive
force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Chandler and
Vaughn; (2) wrongful death/assault and battery pursuant to
Missouri Revised Statute §§ 537.080(1) and 516.120
against Chandler and Vaughn; (3) failure to train, supervise,
and control in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Dotson
and the City; (4) failure to train, supervise, and control
against Dotson in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (5)
municipal liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the
City and Dotson.
asserts that the City has two policies and a custom that are
the “moving force” behind the alleged
unconstitutional conduct. He first alleges the two policies:
(1) the “Normal” policy pursuant to which the
City “normally” charges suspects on whom
excessive force is used with resisting arrest in municipal
court (rather than state court); and (2) the
“Rec” policy under which municipal prosecutors
will plea bargain and “recommend” dismissal of
municipal-court-resisting-arrest-charges only if a defendant
will sign a liability waiver releasing the City from any
civil lawsuits. Doc. 21, ¶¶ 26, 51. Ball-Bey then
alleges St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department
(“SLMPD”) has a “custom” of
“using unjustified force or illegally seizing and
searching a citizen and claiming in written reports the
accused victim, ‘resisted arrest'.” Doc. 21,
¶ 59. Ball-Bey describes the “custom” as
“excessive force when the accused victim runs, pulls
away, or protests . . . ”
(“YRYP”). Doc. 21, ¶ 61.
their Motion to Dismiss, the City and Dotson, in his official
capacity only (collectively, “Municipal
Defendants”), seek to dismiss the claims against them
for failure to state a claim, and, for redundancy.
Specifically, Municipal Defendants assert Ball-Bey fails to
state a claim for municipal liability because Ball-Bey fails
to plausibly allege Chandler and Vaughn used excessive force
against Mansur because of Municipal Defendants' alleged
policies, that Municipal Defendants were deliberately
indifferent to a widespread pattern of unconstitutional
misconduct, or that Municipal Defendants failed to train,
supervise, or control its police officers. Municipal
Defendants also argue Ball-Bey's official capacity claim
against Dotson under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is redundant of
the claims against the City.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”)
12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a claim for
“failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” The notice pleading standard of FRCP 8(a)(2)
requires a plaintiff to give “a short and plain
statement . . . showing that the pleader is entitled to
relief.” To meet this standard and to survive a FRCP
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(internal quotations and citation omitted). This requirement
of facial plausibility means the factual content of the
plaintiff's allegations must “allow the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Park Irmat Drug Corp.
v. Express Scripts Holding Co., 911 F.3d 505, 512 (8th
Cir. 2018) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). The
Court must grant all reasonable inferences in favor of the
nonmoving party. Lustgraaf v. Behrens, 619 F.3d 867,
872-73 (8th Cir. 2010).
ruling on a motion to dismiss, a court must liberally
construe a complaint in favor of the plaintiff. Huggins
v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., 592 F.3d 853, 862
(8th Cir. 2010). However, if a claim fails to allege one of
the elements necessary to recovery on a legal theory, the
Court must dismiss that claim for failure to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. Crest Constr. II, Inc.
v. Doe, 660 F.3d 346, 355 (8th Cir. 2011). Threadbare
recitals of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678;
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). Rule 8 does not “unlock the doors of discovery
for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than
conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. At 678-79.
“A pleading that merely pleads labels and conclusions
or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action, or naked assertions devoid of factual enhancement
will not suffice.” Hamilton v. Palm, 621 F.3d
816, 817 (8th Cir. 2010) (internal quotations omitted).
Although courts must accept all factual allegations as true,
they are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion
couched as a factual allegation. Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 555 (internal quotations and citation omitted);
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-78.
complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a
motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.
Therefore, a court must determine if the well-pleaded factual
allegations “plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief.” Id. This
“context-specific” task requires the court to
“draw on its judicial experience and common
sense.” Id. at 679, 682. In determining the
plausibility of a plaintiff's claim, Iqbal and
Twombly instruct the Court to consider whether
“obvious alternative explanations” exist for the
allegedly unconstitutional conduct. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 682; Twombly, 550 U.S. at 567. The Court must
then determine whether the Plaintiff plausibly alleges a
violation of the law. Id. The well-pleaded facts
must permit more than the “mere possibility of
misconduct.” Id. “Where a complaint
pleads facts that are ‘merely consistent with' a
defendant's liability, it ‘stops short of the line
between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to
relief.'” Id. at 678 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
ALLEGATIONS IN THE COMPLAINT
Iqbal, the Court must parse out the factual
allegations that it must accept as true and the conclusory
allegations it can disregard. Here, the Court first
summarizes all of Ball-Bey's allegations, factual and
conclusory, to provide context to the Court's analysis
alleges that on August 19, 2015, Chandler and Vaughn, along
with other police officers, went to a residence located at
1241 Walton Avenue in St. Louis to execute a search warrant.
Chandler and Vaughn, along with an ATF agent, were assigned
to cover the backyard of the residence. Mansur and a 14-year
old (whom the Amended Complaint does not otherwise identify),
were walking in an alleyway behind 1241 Walton when they
first made visual contact with Chandler and Vaughn. Ball-Bey
alleges Chandler and Vaughn drew their guns and chased Mansur
and the 14-year old. The 14-year old stopped running and hid
behind an abandoned car while Mansur kept running southbound
in the alleyway.
alleges that Mansur turned in the backyard of 1233 Walton
Avenue and began to run eastbound toward the front of the
house. Chandler and Vaughn continued to chase him and fired
multiple shots, striking Mansur once in the back. According
to Ball-Bey, the gunshot wound severed Mansur's spinal
chord causing him to fall face first in the front yard and
die. Ball-Bey alleges Mansur was employed by UPS and was a
youth leader at his church.
alleges Chandler and Vaughn were driven, motivated, and
protected as a direct result of Dotson's “Rec &
Normal” policies. According to Ball-Bey, under the
direction, supervision, and authority of the City
Counselor's office, the City incorporated and enforced a
blanket release practice and policy referred to as the
“Rec Policy.” Ball-Bey further alleges that SLMPD
enacted the “Normal” policy in 2012,
when it updated a special order and trained officers to
“normally” charge any resisting arrest charge in
municipal court rather than state court when an offender does
not use or threaten to use violence against the officer, i.e.
the “Normal” policy.
written “Normal” policy states, in part:
Under normal circumstances, the defendant will be charged
with a city ordinance violation of resisting arrest or
interfering with an officer. The information application will
be made at the City Counselor's Office.
written “Rec” policy states, in part:
Resisting arrest & Interfering [sic] with a Police
Officer charges cannot be amended without first
obtaining a signed release from the defendant (See Sample).
alleges as a “direct result of the Rec & Normal
policies over the last two decades, the practices and
policies of using excessive force and obfuscating or
concealing the officer's conduct grew out of
control.” Ball-Bey claims the Rec & Normal polices
caused a “distinct and clear pattern [to develop] of
using unjustified force or illegally seizing and searching a
citizen and claiming in written reports the accused victim,
to Ball-Bey, the Rec Policy requires the releasor to enter
into a contract under the threat of criminal prosecution.
Ball-Bey alleges he has not found a single case where a
release agreement was legally enforced against a plaintiff in
federal court. The release was created for its
“psychological and marketing effects that resulted and
continue to result, in censorship and prior restraints on
accused victims to petition the courts for redress of civil
rights violations.” Ball-Bey claims the City has relied
on these release agreements to act as legal immunity from
civil rights claims without judicial oversight. Ball-Bey
alleges prosecutors are motivated and base decisions to amend
or dismiss charges solely on the Rec Policy. The City
supervised, controlled, and trained the prosecutors on its
blanket release policy, which has resulted in numerous,
widely known and accepted practices of prosecutorial
overreaching to obtain signatures on blank release forms or
force falsely accused victims to trial, according to
alleges the Normal policy is designed to push claims of
excessive force to the municipal court, where municipal
prosecutors are waiting to obtain a release of all civil
claims. After a SLMPD officer is involved in a resisting
arrest incident, the watch commander and higher ranking SLMPD
officers make the ultimate decision on what charges to
pursue. As a direct result of the Normal policy, Ball-Bey
alleges the use of excessive force continues to be
undetected, concealed, and obfuscated. The Rec & Normal
policies created a “brutal” culture where the
SLMPD use unjustified force any time an alleged offender
walks away, runs, protests his or her innocence, or records
officers violating the civil rights of others.
alleges without the Rec policy, SLMPD's “tyrannical
practices” could not and would not have been concealed.
The policies concealed minor constitutional violations, and
"over the course of decades the minor constitutional
violations adapted into a method of intimidation and
control[.]” Ball-Bey “defines SLMPD's
widespread police misconduct as tyrannical practices”
including the use of “excessive force when the accused
victim runs, pulls away, or protests[, ]” and
“unlawful arrests to search and destroy
evidence.” The Complaint lists 14 examples of SLMPD
“pattern cases” between 2013 through the present.
Ball-Bey alleges the pattern and practices were so entrenched
throughout the SLMPD that SLMPD officers beat an undercover
officer “within an inch of his life” and claimed
the officer resisted arrest. According to Ball-Bey, the
common denominator in all of these cases is that the accused
victim allegedly pulled away, ran, protested, or walked away,
i.e., resisted arrest.
Motion to Dismiss, Municipal Defendants argue Ball-Bey's
Complaint fails to state a claim for municipal liability.
Specifically, Municipal Defendants claim Ball-Bey fails to
plausibly allege that Chandler and Vaughn caused Mansur's
death because of the release policy, that the City
was deliberately indifferent to a widespread pattern of
unconstitutional misconduct, or that the City failed to
train, supervise, or control its officers on the use of
excessive force. Because the claims against Dotson in his
official capacity are essentially claims against the City,
the City asks the Court to dismiss the claims against Dotson
for the same reasons.
1983 of Title 42 allows individuals to bring causes of action
for violations of the ...