United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
MARK BARNETT, ET AL. PLAINTIFFS
BILL GILKEY, ET AL. DEFENDANT
OPINION AND ORDER
WEBBER WRIGHT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
and Jessica Barnett bring this action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 on behalf of themselves and their minor son, D.B.,
claiming that D.B. was subject to excessive force during his
detention at the Yell County Juvenile Detention Center
(“JDC”). Plaintiffs name the following
defendants: Yell County (the “County”); the City
of Danville (the “City”); Bill Gilkey
(“Gilkey”); Steve Pfeifer
(“Pfeifer”); Kristi Padgett; Rick Padgett;
Timothy Spears; and Michael Spears.
the Court are (1) a motion for summary judgment by Michael
Spears (ECF Nos. 26, 27, 28) and Plaintiffs' response in
opposition (ECF Nos. 33, 34); (2) a motion for summary
judgment by the City, Padgett, and Steve Pfeifer
(collectively, the “City Defendants”)(ECF Nos.
36, 37, 38), Plaintiffs' response in opposition (ECF No.
52), and the City Defendants' reply (ECF No. 54); (3) a
motion for summary judgment by the County, Gilkey, and Kristi
Padgett (collectively, the “County
Defendants”)(ECF Nos. 43, 44, 45), Plaintiffs'
response in opposition (ECF No. 53), and the County
Defendants' reply (ECF No. 55); and (4) Plaintiffs'
motion to amend the complaint (ECF No. 40), the County
Defendants' response in opposition (ECF No. 46), and
Plaintiffs' reply (ECF No. 49). After careful
consideration, and for reasons that follow, Michael
Spears's motion for summary judgment is granted in part
and denied in part, the City Defendants' motion for
summary judgment is granted, the County Defendants'
motion for summary judgment is granted, and Plaintiffs'
motion to amend is denied. Remaining for trial are
Plaintiffs' individual capacity claims against Timothy
Spears and Plaintiffs' supplemental battery claim against
March 22, 2014, thirteen-year-old D.B. was serving the ninth
day of a ten-day detention at the JDC. That evening, D.B. was
confined in lockdown,  and he became upset when he overheard
other juvenile detainees, who were sitting outside his cell,
making threatening and derogatory remarks about his sister.
D.B. began yelling and pounding on his cell door, and Robin
Barefield (“Barefield”), an assistant
administrator at the JDC, went to D.B.'s cell and
attempted to calm him down. Later, Barefield texted Defendant
Timothy Spears, a Danville police officer, and requested
assistance. In deposition, Barefield testified that she asked
Spears to perform a “walk through, ” which she
described as follows:
They just come and would through the back. The juveniles can
see them. Sometimes they stop and talk to the kids[, ] and
they just come and check on things. . . . Usually, if an
officer comes in from outside and the kids see an officer in
uniform, they're more [respectful] to - - than just
detention officers who wear plain clothes.
further testified that police officers would assist in
restraining juvenile detainees if necessary.
Timothy Spears received Barefield's text, he was at the
Yell County Sheriff's Office talking to his brother
Michael Spears, who was working as a sheriff's deputy.
Together, the brothers responded to Barefield's request
for help, and soon after they arrived at the JDC, they
accompanied Barefield to D.B.'s cell. An inaudible video
of the events that followed shows that Michael Spears
deployed or extended his baton and held it firmly in his
right hand, while Barefield unlocked the door to D.B.'s
cell. Michael Spears stood at the entrance of the door,
looked in and said something, and D.B. immediately walked out
of his cell. Michael Spears, with baton in hand, talked to
D.B. for a brief moment before he abruptly grabbed him by the
neck and turned him 180 degrees toward a wall.
a grip on D.B.'s neck holding his baton, Michael Spears
pushed D.B. into the wall and held him there. Timothy Spears
then approached D.B.'s left side, grabbed D.B.'s left
elbow and held it, while quickly forcing D.B.'s left
forearm up to his head. It appears from the video that
Timothy Spears wrenched D.B.'s arm into an extremely
unnatural position, and it is undisputed that the maneuver
broke the juvenile's left humerus. Timothy Spears held
D.B.'s left arm in the bent position for a moment, said
something to D.B., and then released D.B.'s arm, which
fell limp and dangled at his side. Timothy Spears then
handcuffed D.B. Michael Spears maintained his hold on
D.B.'s neck and held him against the wall during the
entire incident, until Timothy Spears secured the handcuffs.
The video ends with the Spears brothers leading D.B. away in
handcuffs, and D.B.'s left arm appears flaccid, as though
dangling from his left shoulder.
deposition, D.B. described the foregoing events as follows:
I mean, something that's happening that fast, whenever
you get slammed up against a wall like that, I didn't
know what was happening. They told me to stand up and walk
out of my cell. So I stood up and walked out of my cell, and
that's whenever they slammed me up against the wall.
And the next thing I know, I just heard a big pop and seen
stars. So one of them was holding a baton, so I thought they
hit me with the baton, but it turned out to be my
further testified that when Timothy Spears put him in
handcuffs, his arm started hurting and he was nauseous.
on the foregoing events, Timothy and Michael Spears faced
state charges for third-degree battery. Michael Spears
pleaded no contest, and a jury found Timothy Spears guilty as
charged. On June 27, 2014, Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit
under § 1983, charging that D.B. endured excessive force
in violation of his constitutional rights. Plaintiffs also
bring supplemental state claims under the Arkansas Civil
Rights Act (“ACRA”) and state tort law.
charge that Michael Spears used excessive force against D.B
in violation of his constitutional rights, and they bring
supplemental state law claims for battery and intentional
infliction of emotional distress. Michael Spears moves for
summary judgment on all claims.
Force Claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and
Section 1983 provides a cause of action for constitutional
deprivations caused by persons acting under color of state
law. However, the doctrine of qualified immunity shields
government employees acting within the scope of their duties
from suit under § 1983 so long as their conduct does not
“violate clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would
know.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818
(1982). Michael Spears asserts that he is entitled to
qualified immunity, arguing that the amount of force that he
personally used against D.B. was slight and did not rise to
the level of a constitutional violation.
whether a defendant is entitled to qualified immunity
involves a two-step inquiry. The first question is whether,
taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the facts
show that the defendant's conduct violated a
constitutional right. See Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S.
194, 201, 121 S.Ct. 2151, 2156 (2001). If the answer is no,
the inquiry is over because the defendant is entitled to
qualified immunity. If the answer is yes, the second question
is whether the constitutional right at issue was clearly
plaintiff claims that he was subjected to excessive force
while in custody, the applicable constitutional standard
varies according to whether the plaintiff was an arrestee, a
pretrial detainee, or a convicted inmate. See Andrews v.
Neer, 253 F.3d 1052, 1060-62 (8th Cir. 2001). Here, D.B.
was confined to the JDC for a ten-day period, and his status
was comparable to a pretrial detainee. Accordingly, the Court
finds that his excessive force claims should be analyzed
under an objective, Fourteenth Amendment standard. See
Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473, --- U.S.
--- (2015). Plaintiffs must show that the force that Michael
Spears purposely or knowingly used against D.B. was
objectively unreasonable. See id.
the application of force was unreasonable turns on the facts
and circumstances of each particular case, and “the
actions of each officer [must be assessed] ‘from the
perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, including
what the officer knew at the time, not with the 20/20 vision
of hindsight.'” Ryan v. Armstrong, 850
F.3d 419, 427 (8th Cir. 2017)(quoting Kingsley, 135
S.Ct. at 2473)(quoting Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S.
386, 396, 109 S.Ct. 1865 (1989)). Factors relevant to
assessing the objective reasonableness of force include
“the relationship between the need for the use of force
and the amount of force used; the extent of the
plaintiff's injury; any effort made by the officer to
temper or to limit the amount of force; the severity of the
security problem at issue; the threat reasonably perceived by
the officer; and whether the plaintiff was actively
undisputed that Michael Spears grabbed D.B. by the neck and
spun him around to face a wall. It is also undisputed that
while Michael Spears held D.B. against the wall, Timothy
Spears manipulated D.B.'s left arm in a manner that
caused a serious bone fracture. However, D.B. testified in
deposition that Michael Spears's actions, specifically,
grabbing him by the neck and holding him against the wall,
did not injure him. While it does not appear from the silent
video that D.B. was actively resisting orders or that he
posed a threat to anyone, the record shows that the amount of
force employed by Michael Spears was de minimis and
did not rise to the level of a constitutional violation.
Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 539 n.21, 99 S.Ct.
1861, 1874 n.21 (1979)(quoting Ingraham v. Wright,
430 U.S. 651, 674, 97 S.Ct. 401(1977)(“There is, of
course, a de minimis level of imposition with which
the Constitution is not concerned.”).
time of the incident in this case, it was clearly established
that a state actor may be liable under § 1983 if he
fails to intervene to prevent the use of force by another
official. See Putman v. Gerloff, 639 F.2d 415, 423
(8th Cir. 1981). “This duty of a police officer to
intervene to prevent the excessive use of force-where the
officer is aware of the abuse and the duration of the episode
is sufficient to permit an inference of tacit
collaboration-was also recognized in numerous appellate
decisions as of 2006, without any serious dispute from other
quarters.” Krout v. Goemmer, 583 F.3d 557, 565
(8th Cir. 2009)(citations omitted). Here, however, Plaintiffs
do not claim that Michael Spears knew that Timothy Spears was
using excessive ...