United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Eastern Division
OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case involves Plaintiff's allegations that he was shot
without provocation by Leeds city police officers, who then
tampered with the evidence of their unlawful actions. This
matter is before the court on Defendants' “Motion
for Summary Judgment.” (Doc. 9). Plaintiff filed a
Response. (Doc. 43). The court determined that it did not
require a reply. Additionally, Defendants filed their Motion
for Summary Judgment before filing a motion to dismiss.
Therefore, the court must deal with Plaintiff's untested
claims and assume they state a claim. For the reasons stated
in this Memorandum Opinion, the court will GRANT IN PART and
DENY IN PART the Motion for Summary Judgment.
Standard of Review
judgment allows a trial court to decide cases when no genuine
issues of material fact are present and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56. When a district court reviews a motion for
summary judgment, it must determine two things: whether any
genuine issues of material fact exist, and whether the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
moving party “always bears the initial responsibility
of informing the district court of the basis for its motion,
and identifying those portions of ‘the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any, ' which it
believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56).
the moving party meets its burden of showing the district
court that no genuine issues of material fact exist, the
burden then shifts to the non-moving party “to
demonstrate that there is indeed a material issue of fact
that precludes summary judgment.” Clark v. Coats
& Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991).
response, the non-moving party “must do more than
simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the
material fact.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The
non-moving party must “go beyond the pleadings and by
[its] own affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, answers
to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ' designate
‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial.'” Celotex, 477 U.S.
at 324 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)) (emphasis added).
court must “view the evidence presented through the
prism of the substantive evidentiary burden, ” to
determine whether the non-moving party presented sufficient
evidence on which a jury could reasonably find for the
nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254. The
court must refrain from weighing the evidence and making
credibility determinations because these decisions belong to
a jury. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 255 (1986).
all evidence and inferences drawn from the underlying facts
must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party. See Graham v. State Farm Mut. Ins. Co., 193
F.3d 1274, 1282 (11th Cir. 1999). After both parties have
addressed the motion for summary judgment, the court must
grant the motion only if no genuine issues of
material fact exist and if the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56.
court initially denied Defendants' summary judgment
motion as premature. (Doc. 16). Upon motion by the
Defendants, the court vacated that order and directed the
parties to brief the Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 25).
In its initial Order setting a briefing schedule on the
Motion for Summary Judgment, the court directed the Plaintiff
to file a response by June 10, 2016 and noted that the Order
did not preclude Mr. Hunter from filing a Rule 56(d) motion,
which he could do no later than May 27, 2016. (Id.).
Mr. Hunter did not file a response but filed a Rule 56(d)
motion that the court has already denied. (Doc. 40).
ruling on that motion, the court indicated that it would
consider Mr. Hunter's statement of facts in his Rule
56(d) motion and the evidentiary submissions attached to that
motion in ruling on Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment. (Id.). Between the time Mr. Hunter filed
his Rule 56(d) motion and the court's ruling on it, his
attorney, Ms. Valerie Hicks Powe, withdrew from representing
Mr. Hunter, and the court suspended deadlines for 30 days to
give Mr. Hunter time to obtain new counsel. (Doc. 37). Mr.
Hunter filed an untimely request for additional time to
obtain counsel; the court gave Mr. Hunter three weeks to both
acquire counsel and respond to the Motion. (Docs. 39, 40).
Hunter acquired new counsel and filed a timely response.
(Doc. 23). The court concludes that it does not require a
reply from Defendants to decide the Motion for Summary
Statement of Facts
December 16, 2013, following two 911 calls, the Leeds City
Police Department dispatched officers Robert Kirk and Brian
Chalian, Sergeant Ron Reaves, Investigator Alan Holman, and
Police Chief Byron Jackson to Frisco Avenue in Leeds. The
officers were dispatched to investigate a report of a male
holding a child hostage at gunpoint at apartment 122 of the
Marlee Villa Apartments. Dispatch informed the officers, as
they were en route to the apartments, that gunfire had been
exchanged; that the suspects had left the apartment; and that
one of the suspects, Ronald Hunter, was sitting in a yellow
Monte Carlo directly in front of apartment 122.
Officers Kirk, Reaves, and Chalian arrived at the complex,
they found Mr. Hunter in the Monte Carlo in front of
apartment 122. The officers present at the scene aver that
Officer Kirk drew his gun and instructed Mr. Hunter-who
remained in the car- to show him his hands numerous times,
but Mr. Hunter did not comply. Mr. Hunter declares that while
he sat in his car in front of the Marlee Villa Apartments, he
saw Leeds police arrive but did not see Officer Kirk or any
other officer point a weapon at him, nor hear Officer Kirk or
any other officer direct him to exit his vehicle. He believed
the officers had arrived to arrest another man for shooting
at him. He pulled away from the curb to drive home.
officers involved contend that they then engaged in a car
chase with Mr. Hunter that ended at his home, during which he
sped, drove erratically and in the opposing lane of traffic,
and ran a red light and a stop sign. Mr. Hunter declares that
on his drive home, he never noticed a police car following
him; did not hear sirens or see police lights; did not run
stop signs or stop lights or drive in the opposing lane of
traffic; did not speed; and, as was his custom, blew his horn
as he passed a neighbor sitting on her porch and received a
wave in return. Officer Kirk maintains that at one point
during the car chase, Mr. Hunter stopped the car and, with
his right hand, pointed a gun through his back window toward
Hunter declares that he saw the officers' vehicles in his
rearview mirror as he pulled into his driveway. The parties
agree that Officer Kirk shot Mr. Hunter while Mr. Hunter was
still seated in his car, on the passenger side, with the
passenger door open.
to Defendants' evidence, upon arrival at Mr. Hunter's
home, the officers exited their vehicles. Officer Kirk again
directed Mr. Hunter to show him his hands and Mr. Hunter
again did not comply. As Officer Kirk continued to give him
orders, Mr. Hunter did not comply, and began moving from the
driver's side of his vehicle to the passenger side. Mr.
Hunter opened the passenger side door and turned to face
Officer Kirk. Officer Kirk, observing that Mr. Hunter held a
black handgun, directed him to drop his weapon, but instead
Mr. Hunter pointed it directly at Officer Kirk. Officer Kirk
fired approximately three rounds at Mr. Hunter. After Mr.
Hunter leaned back into the vehicle for a moment, he again
leaned out of it and pointed his gun in the direction of
Officer Kirk, and Officer Kirk fired two to three more rounds
at Mr. Hunter.
Hunter, conversely, declares that his driver's side door
was jammed, so he moved to the passenger side of his car; as
he opened the passenger door, he was shot in the stomach. He
states that once he opened the passenger door, he heard
someone direct him to throw out his gun, and so he dropped it
through the opening of the door. As he opened the door, an
officer opened fire on him, hitting him in the stomach. When
he opened the door wider to get out of his vehicle, he heard
shots from several directions and was shot multiple times. He
maintains that “[a]t no time during the drive to my
home or after I arrived home did I point my gun or make it
visible to anyone, including the officers.” (Doc. 29 at
police report states that “[t]he victim [Officer Kirk]
reported over the radio that he saw a handgun in the
suspect's right hand. . . . The suspect came out of the
car on the passenger side and pointed his gun at the
victim.” (Doc. 9 at 12). A warrant issued for Mr.
Hunter's arrest on January 14, 2014, alleging that
“Ronald Hunter did, with intent to commit the crime of
murder . . .attempt to intentionally cause the death of
another person, Robert Kirk, by pointing a pistol at peace
officer Robert Kirk . . . .” (Doc. 11 at 2).
being indicted for attempted murder “by pointing a
pistol at Officer Kirk, ” Mr. Hunter pled guilty to
menacing on January 25, 2016. (Doc. 11 at 4). In relevant
part, the terms of Mr. Hunter's signed “Proposed
Plea Agreement” provide: “Reduce Att Murder to
Menacing 13A-6-23. 6 Mos to serve.” (Doc. 12 at 24).
Similarly, the plea signed by the Jefferson County Circuit
Court judge shows that Mr. Hunter pled guilty to “Att
Murder reduced to Menacing.” (Doc. 12 at 25). At his
plea hearing, Mr. Hunter stated that he pled guilty to the
charge of attempted murder “reduced to menacing.”
(Doc. 23-6 at 16).
Hunter claims violations of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth
Amendments of the U.S. Constitution; of the Alabama state
constitution; and unspecified state and federal statutes. He
brings his federal constitutional claims pursuant to 42