United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
JERRY W. CHAPPELL, as Administrator of the Estate of Wendy Chappell Price, Plaintiff,
ADAM EZEKIEL, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Jerry W. Chappell filed this suit against Defendants Adam
Ezekiel, Jessica Mims, and Jason Reeves asserting claims of
Excessive Force in Violation of the Fourth Amendment and
Wrongful Death. Doc. 1. This lawsuit arises from the fatal
shooting of Wendy Chappell Price on June 17, 2015. Now before
the court are the Motions for Summary Judgment filed by
Defendants Adam Ezekiel (Doc. 77) and Jessica Mims and Jason
Reeves (Doc. 78). Also pending before the court is a Motion
to Exclude Testimony of Plaintiff's Expert. Doc. 82.
After careful consideration of the parties' submissions,
the applicable law, and the record as a whole, the court
concludes that the Motions for Summary Judgment (Docs. 77
& 78) are due to be GRANTED, and that the Motion to
Exclude Testimony (Doc. 82) is due to be DENIED.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims in this
action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367. The
parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue, and
the court finds adequate allegations to support both.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “The purpose of summary judgement
is to separate real, genuine issues from those which are
formal or pretended.” Tippens v. Celotex
Corp., 805 F.2d 949, 953 (11th Cir. 1986). “Only
disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of
summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute of material
fact is genuine only if “the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Id. at 248.
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 [dispute] of material fact.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)
(internal quotation marks omitted). In responding to a
properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving
party “must do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material fact.”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Indeed, the nonmovant
must “go beyond the pleadings” and submit
admissible evidence demonstrating “specific facts
showing that there is a genuine [dispute] for trial.”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (internal quotation marks
omitted). If the evidence is “merely colorable, or is
not significantly probative, summary judgment may be
granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249 (citations
district court considers a motion for summary judgment, it
“must view all the evidence and all factual inferences
reasonably drawn from the evidence in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party, and must resolve all
reasonable doubts about the facts in favor of the
nonmovant.” Rioux v. City of Atlanta, Ga., 520
F.3d 1269, 1274 (11th Cir. 2008) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). The court's role is not to
“weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the
matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. “If a
reasonable fact finder evaluating the evidence could draw
more than one inference from the facts, and if that inference
introduces a genuine issue of material fact, then the court
should not grant summary judgment.” Allen v. Bd. of
Pub. Ed. for Bibb Cnty., 495 F.3d 1306, 1315 (11th Cir.
2007) (citation omitted). Importantly, if the nonmovant
“fails to adduce evidence which would be sufficient . .
. to support a jury finding for [the nonmovant], summary
judgment may be granted.” Brooks v. Blue Cross
& Blue Shield of Fla., Inc., 116 F.3d 1364, 1370
(11th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted).
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
all factual inferences in favor of Chappell, the nonmovant,
the facts are as follows.
night of June 17, 2015, Alabama State Trooper Christopher
Nunn was working the construction zone detail at Exit 238 on
the southbound side of Interstate 65 in Alabaster, Alabama
when a man ran up to him and said, “My wife's
crazy. She's got a gun and threatened to kill me.”
Doc. 79-5 at 4-5. Nunn jumped out his patrol car, and asked
the man to repeat himself. Doc. 79-5 at 5. “She's
crazy. She's got a gun. She's threatened to kill
me.” Doc. 79-5 at 5. The man pointed his wife's car
out, a reddish Chevy Blazer, which was stuck in heavy
traffic. Doc. 79-5. Nunn drove his patrol car behind her,
activated his blue lights and siren, and attempted to pull
her over. Doc. 79-5. Jon Brummitt, another state trooper
working the construction zone, followed behind Nunn in his
own vehicle. Doc. 79-5 at 6. Although they were driving
slowly, the woman refused to stop until the group had
traveled approximately ten miles. Doc. 79-5 at 5-6.
following the woman, Nunn explained on his radio that someone
had told him that his wife was trying to kill him, and that
Nunn was behind her vehicle, trying to get it stopped. Doc.
79-5 at 6. When the woman, Wendy Chappell Price, reached Exit
228, she stopped her car in middle of the interstate under
the overpass. Doc. 79-5 at 6. She did not pull her car onto
the shoulder or off the road, but remained in the right lane
of traffic. Doc. 79-1. Other units from the Calera Police
Department arrived to assist the troopers and blocked
northbound traffic and the southbound on-ramp. Doc. 79-5 at
6. At least five police cars were present. Doc. 79-1. The
cars were parked behind Price's Chevy Blazer with their
lights and sirens activated. Doc. 79-1. A number of officers
exited their vehicles and stood around Price's car. Doc.
used his public address system to give Price commands,
instructing her to roll down her window and show her hands.
Doc. 79-5 at 7. Price rolled her window down slightly, but
she refused to open her door or roll the window down
completely. Doc. 79-1 at 15:32. Nunn could hear that she was
yelling, but he could not make out what she was
saying. Price blew her horn repeatedly, and for an
extended duration, during the stop at Exit 228. Doc. 79-1.
She also yelled continually. Doc. 79-1. At one point,
Brummitt began to walk towards her vehicle from behind. Doc.
79-1 at 16:36. She then flashed her revolver at him. Doc 79-1
at 16:50. Brummitt called out, “Whoa, she's got a
gun, ” and “She flashed her revolver at
me.” Doc. 79-1 at 16:50-17:03. Nunn did not personally
see the weapon, but he heard Brummitt's statements and
told dispatch that Brummitt had seen the weapon. Doc. 79-1 at
16:50-17:04. Price remained in her vehicle for another 18
minutes. Doc. 79-1. She continued to yell and blow her car
horn. Doc. 79-1. Then, without warning, she drove off again.
Doc. 79-1 at 35:10. In total, Price was stopped at Exit 228
for over 30 minutes. Doc. 79-1 at 2:04-35:10.
Price drove off, law enforcement followed behind her at a
speed of around 90 miles per hour. Doc. 79-5 at 7. Brummitt
drove ahead of Price and deployed spike strips in an effort
to stop Price's car. Docs. 79-4 at 11 & 79-5 at 8. At
least one of Price's tires was punctured by the spike
strips, but she continued to drive around 80 miles per hour.
Doc. 79-5 at 8. Eventually her speed decreased to about 50
miles per hour. Doc. 79-1 at 44:41. As the group approached a
rest stop at Exit 219, one of her tires blew out. Doc. 79-1
at 45:57. She continued to drive until she reached Exit 212.
Doc. 79-1 at 47:25. Individual accounts of the car chase
the high-speed pursuit, dispatch contacted Jessica Mims of
the Chilton County Sherriff's Department and requested
that she help to stop traffic because a woman was barricaded
in her car at Exit 228. Doc. 79-3 at 7. Dispatch also told
Mims that they needed a negotiator. Doc. 79-3 at 7. Mims
drove to the county line and blocked traffic on the
interstate. Doc. 79-3 at 7. After about 15 minutes, she
deployed her tire spikes across the southbound lanes of
travel on I-65. Doc. 79-3 at 8. Mims saw the Chevy Blazer
drive by her followed by law enforcement vehicles. Doc. 79-3
at 8. The spikes did not stop Price's vehicle, so Mims
picked them up, put them back in her car, and joined the
pursuit. Doc. 79-3 at 8.
Alabama State Trooper Adam Ezekiel was headed home from
Clanton, Alabama and, as he usually does, he took Exit 228
off the northbound lanes of Interstate 65. Doc. 79-4 at 7. He
noticed several police cars stationed underneath the
interstate overpass, and stopped to ask if he could assist.
Doc. 79-9 at 8. A Calera police officer informed Ezekiel that
a state trooper had been involved in a chase with an armed
woman. Doc. 79-4 at 8. Ezekiel notified dispatch that he
would be assisting at the scene, grabbed his patrol rifle,
and took a position on the overpass. Doc. 79-4 at 8. It was
dark outside, but a police spotlight lit the scene. Doc. 79-4
at 9. Ezekiel could see an SUV underneath the overpass, and
he claims that he saw a woman stick her arm out of the
SUV's window several times while holding a firearm. Doc.
79-4 at 9. He also heard her blow the car horn repeatedly.
Doc. 79-4 at 9. Ezekiel could not see inside the vehicle.
Doc. 79-4 at 9. After he had been on the scene for eight to
ten minutes, the woman put her car back in gear, steered
around a set of spike strips, and drove away. Doc. 79-4 at
10. Ezekiel then joined in the pursuit. Doc. 79-4 at 11. As
Ezekiel approached Exit 212, his rear tires were hit by spike
that day, Jason Reeves of the Chilton County Sherriff's
Department was at the local courthouse working on reports and
catching calls. Doc. 79-2 at 6. He could hear radio traffic,
and overheard that Mims had driven to Exit 228 to put out
spike strips. Doc. 79-2 at 6. He then heard that the female
suspect was mobile again and possibly had two guns. Doc. 79-2
at 6. When he heard that the group had passed the county
line, he thought the suspect might get off the interstate at
Exit 219. Doc. 79-2 at 6. He told dispatch that he was going
to see if he could help, then got in his car and drove to the
rest area near Exit 219. Doc. 79-2 at 7. Price passed by in
her vehicle with a pack of law enforcement officers behind
her. Doc. 79-2 at 7. Reeves pulled behind the cars and joined
in the chase. Doc. 79-2 at 7. As the caravan got closer to
Exit 212, the officers from Calera moved out of the way, and
Reeves moved up to the front of the pack. Doc. 79-2 at 7.
the vehicle pursuit was ongoing, City of Clanton Officer
Derrick Bone was at the Peach Park in Clanton, near Exit 205,
completing a report. Doc. 79-6 at 4. He overheard radio
traffic about a vehicle pursuit. Doc. 79-6 at 4. Bone decided
to drive to Exit 212 once he heard that the caravan had
passed Exit 214. Doc. 79-6 at 4-5. He sat and waited at Exit
212 until he heard over the radio that the group was exiting
the interstate. Doc. 79-6 at 5. He then drove backwards down
the southbound exit ramp. Doc. 79-6 at 6. Price's car
came up the ramp toward him at a slow pace and finally
stopped. Doc. 79-6 at 16. The other officers stopped ...