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 D. Samuel
Dotson's Motion to Dismiss  and Defendant City of St.
Louis's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim
. The Court grants the Motions, in part.
April 19, 2019, Plaintiff Tawana Scruggs filed a complaint
in this Court alleging Defendant Ryan Murphy, a police
officer with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department,
used excessive force against Jorevis Scruggs in violation of
the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States
Constitution; Scruggs alleges Murphy shot and killed
Joreviswhen Jorevis ran away from Murphy. Scruggs
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 Murphy in his individual and
official capacities; (2) failure to train and supervise in
violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Dotson and the City; and (3)
wrongful death/assault and battery pursuant to Missouri
Revised Statute §§ 537.080(1) and 516.120 against
asserts that the City has two policies and a custom that are
the “moving force” behind the alleged
unconstitutional conduct. She 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. 1, ¶¶ 20-22. Scruggs then
alleges St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department
(“SLMPD”) has a “custom” of
“using unjustified force with impunity in any case that
an offender runs, pulls away, or protest [sic].” Doc.
1, ¶ 47. Scruggs labels the “custom” as
“you run, you pay” (“YRYP”). Doc. 1,
¶¶ 56, 57.
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 Scruggs fails to
state a claim for municipal liability because Count I is
premised on a theory of respondeat superior, Scruggs
fails to plausibly allege Murphy used excessive force against
Jorevis 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 its
police officers. Municipal Defendants also argue Scrugg's
official capacity claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Dotson 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 summarizes all
of Scrugg's allegations, factual and conclusory, to
provide context to the Court's analysis below.
alleges, that on April 19, 2016, Officer
Streckfuss and Murphy followed a vehicle they allege
was involved in an earlier criminal offense. As the vehicle
came to a stop, Jorevis, a 15-year-old minor, at the time,
exited the vehicle and began to run through an alley.
According to Scruggs, Jorevis was not armed with any weapon
and did not present a threat to Murphy or Officer Streckfuss.
Before Officer Streckfuss stopped his vehicle, Murphy exited
the passenger side door and started shooting at Jorevis as he
ran. Officer Streckfuss allegedly yelled at Murphy to stop
firing because Officer Streckfuss was in the line of fire.
Scruggs alleges Officer Streckfuss observed Jorevis run
across the alley along a fence. Murphy fired at the back of
Jorevis and Jorevis collapsed on the ground from multiple
gunshot wounds to his back.
alleges the excessive force Murphy used against Jorevis was
the result of a widespread custom in the SLMPD of “you
run, you pay” that was caused by the “Rec &
Normal” policies. According to Scruggs, the “Rec
& Normal” policies were created in 2012, when the
SLMPD Chief of Police updated a special order and trained
officers to “normally” charge any resisting
arrest charge in municipal court rather than state court when
the offender did not use force or threaten to use force, i.e.
the “Normal” policy. Scruggs alleges the City
also enforced a mandatory policy, called the “Rec
Policy.” In exchange for a city prosecutor's
recommendation to dismiss a municipal-court charge for
resisting arrest, the defendant signs a release of any civil
liability that the City may have for use of excessive force
against the defendant.
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 the Rec & Normal policies directly and indirectly
motivate SLMPD officers to use excessive force or make false
arrests with the protection of the City's municipal
court. Scruggs claims this shield, “whether or not
individually known to each SLMPD officer, was embedded in
SLMPD training policies and practices.”
to Scruggs, prosecutors escorted unrepresented defendants
into the hallway and explained that the prosecutor will
dismiss or amend the charge if the defendants sign a blank
form titled “Release.” Generally, the prosecutors
complete the remaining lines of the form and defendants
“have only seconds to decide to release his/her rights
or face up to 90 days in jail.” Scruggs alleges
“without legal representation, many of the accused
victims were pressured and forced to sign the release in
exchange for their freedom, even when they were innocent of
alleges she 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 cause
censorship and prior restraints on accused victims…to
petition the courts for redress of civil rights
violations… Prosecutors and legal practitioners have
been aware of the psychological effects of release agreements
alleges SLMPD and Dotson learned of the release policy
because executed release agreements were regularly sent to
the SLMPD once completed. The release form specifically
states the releasor agrees not to sue the SLMPD for injuries
sustained during his/her arrest. Scruggs claims that but
for the blanket policy, the SLMPD could have
investigated the underlying facts precipitating the need for
a release. Instead, the facts were ignored and the case
considered closed because the SLMPD had an executed release
agreement from the accused victim.
alleges the Rec & Normal policies caused and concealed a
widespread pattern of civil rights abuses throughout the City
that began with unlawful searches or excessive-use-of-force
incidents and then escalated to illegal arrests and
unjustified deadly force. Scruggs alleges if the individual
runs, protests, or walks away from an officer, the officer
will use excessive to deadly force as his/her primary means
of detaining the individual. Therefore, Scruggs alleges the
Rec & Normal policies have established widespread
systematic patterns of unlawful arrests and searches as
retaliation for recording or protesting an officer's
“defines SLMPD's widespread police misconduct as
tyrannical practices” including the “use of
excessive and unjustified deadly force when the accused
victim runs, pulls away, or protests[, ]” and
“unlawful arrests to search and destroy
evidence.” The Complaint lists 15 examples of SLMPD
“pattern cases” between 2013 through the present.
Scruggs alleges by 2018, the alleged pattern and practices
were so pervasive and widespread that SLMPD officers beat an
undercover officer and claimed the officer resisted arrest.
According to Scruggs, 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.
Motions to Dismiss, Municipal Defendants argue Scrugg's
Complaint fails to state a claim for municipal liability.
Specifically, Municipal Defendants claim Scruggs fails to
plausibly allege that Murphy caused Jorevis'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
its officers on the use of excessive force. Because the
claims against Murphy in his official capacity are
essentially claims against the City, the City asks the Court
to dismiss the claims against Murphy for the same reasons.
Finally, Municipal Defendants assert Scrugg's § 1983
claim against Dotson in his official capacity is redundant of
the municipal liability claims against the City.
1983 of Title 42 allows individuals to bring causes of action
for violations of the ...