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King v. City of Warrior

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

August 24, 2017

TRINELL KING, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF WARRIOR, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KARON OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED JUDGE

         This civil rights case is before the court on “Motion for Summary Judgment on Count 2" (doc. 32), filed by individual Defendants Ricky Pridmore, Corey Archer, Jimmy Rodgers, Dylan McCoy, Ray Horn, and Andrew Hill. In Count Two, the Plaintiff asserts that, in coercing him “through law or the legal process” to participate involuntarily in the dangerous plan to apprehend a fleeing suspect, the Defendant officers “violated the prohibition against involuntary servitude provided by the Thirteenth Amendment.” (Compl. Doc. 1, at 12-13). The Plaintiff has responded (doc. 42), and the individual Defendants replied (doc. 45); this motion has received thorough briefing. For the reasons stated in this Memorandum Opinion, the court WILL GRANT the motion.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is an integral part of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Summary 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: (1) whether any genuine issues of material fact exist; and if not, (2) whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

         FACTS

         For the limited purposes of this motion, the Defendants do not dispute the factual allegations of Plaintiff Trinell King's Complaint to the extent that they are relevant and non-conclusory. (Defs' Br. Doc. 33, at 2 n. 2). Accordingly, any citations regarding the facts refer to the Complaint itself instead of to evidentiary filings. The court recognizes that the individual Defendants have filed this motion for summary judgment long before the deadlines for such motions and for completion of discovery, asserting their right to qualified immunity from suit.

         On the morning of September 28, 2015, Plaintiff King, who is a black man in his mid-twenties, drove his girlfriend's car and picked up his passenger, Donovan Brown, in Warrior, Alabama, to drive Brown to Birmingham. At the time King picked up Brown, he had no knowledge that Brown was carrying a gun or that Brown had outstanding warrants for his arrest. Shortly after King picked up Brown, Defendant Warrior police officer Ricky Pridmore, who is white, stopped King's vehicle in an “overwhelmingly white suburb” of Warrior and requested that King and Brown produce identification. King complied; however, Brown had no identification and gave the officer a false name.

         After conducting a background check, Officer Pridmore discovered that Brown had not given his real name, and he asked Brown why. Brown then candidly responded that he did so because he had four outstanding warrants for his arrest and was presently carrying a gun illegally. According to the facts, this conversation somehow occurred while Officer Pridmore was in his own vehicle, and when the officer then returned to King's car, Brown opened the passenger door and ran away on foot. Officer Pridmore removed King from his car, handcuffed him, and placed him in the backseat of the patrol vehicle.

         Other police officers, all of whom were white, arrived on the scene to help locate Brown. For the next two hours, King remained handcuffed in Officer Pridmore's vehicle. According to King, at most, the officers had evidence that King was guilty of driving on an expired tag with a suspended license. Nevertheless, they told King that “you are in serious trouble, ” “we are going to put some serious charges on you unless you cooperate with us.” (Compl. Doc. 1, at 6 ¶ 25).

         King answered the officers' questions, giving them Brown's real name. However, the officers wanted more. They took King's cell phone and put together a plan to catch Brown that would involve King arranging to give Brown a ride and the officers surrounding King's car at the pick up spot and apprehending Brown. The officers told King he had no choice but to cooperate with them, and, if he did not, they threatened to file charges against him, tow his car, and take him to jail. At no time did the officers advise King that he was free to leave or that he could choose not to participate in their scheme to apprehend Brown, and King insists that his participation was not voluntary. Further, they did not offer to pay him to assist them. Despite their knowledge that Brown had outstanding warrants, was carrying a gun, and had a history of felony convictions, the officers gave King no training about keeping himself safe and gave him no equipment, such as a Kevlar vest, with which to protect himself.

         Following the officers' plan, King called Brown with the officers listening on the phone's speaker, telling him that the officers had let him go, when they had not yet done so; asking Brown where he was at the time; and offering to pick up Brown. Brown agreed to meet King.

         Officer Pridmore then removed the handcuffs, gave him back his car keys, told him to drive to the agreed location at a normal speed, and reminded him that serious consequences would ensue if he varied from the plan. Officer Pridmore instructed King that the officers would be a short distance behind him and out of sight so that Brown would not see the trap.

         Seconds after King drove to the designated location and Brown got into the passenger seat of his car, Defendant Officers converged on the scene in their vehicles. Officer Pridmore stopped his vehicle on the passenger side of King's vehicle, pointed a gun at Brown, and told Brown to show his hands. Brown then pulled his own gun and shot Officer Pridmore in the chest. Other Defendant Officers fired shots into King's car, injuring both Brown and King in the gunfight. Defendant officers shot King five times, resulting in surgery to save his life, permanent injuries to his arm, pain and suffering, medical bills and costs, and the loss of his ability to earn a living. As a result of this trap, the officers apprehended Brown.

         King never received compensation for assisting Defendant Officers in catching Brown. King was never charged with any criminal offense or a traffic violation relating to the traffic stop on September 28, 2015 or that day's subsequent events.

         The Complaint in this case asserts a number of claims against the Defendant Officers-Count One: Fourth Amendment/§ 1983; Count Two: Thirteenth Amendment/§ 1983; Count Three: Fourteenth Amendment Substantive Due Process/§ 1983; Count Four: State Law Negligence; Count Five: State Law Wantonness; Count Seven: State Law False Imprisonment-but the motion ...


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