United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L. BROOKS JUDGE
Drancy Arnold alleges that police conducted a traffic stop
without probable and then used excessive force to effectuate
his arrest. Arnold seeks vindication of his rights under the
Constitution and damages for violations of the Arkansas Civil
Rights Act (“ACRA”), outrage, battery, and
assault. Named as Defendants are the three officers involved
in the stop and subsequent arrest: Washington County Deputy
T.J. Rennie and Fayetteville Police Officers Jason McDaniel
and Tanner Jones. Arnold has also sued Washington County and
its Sheriff, Tim Helder; as well as the City of Fayetteville,
and its Police Chief, Greg Tabor.
case is now before the Court on Motions for Summary Judgment
filed on behalf of Deputy Rennie, Sheriff Helder, and
Washington County (collectively, the “County
Defendants”) (Doc. 31); and separately by Officers
McDaniel and Jones, Chief Tabor, and the City of Fayetteville
(collectively, the “FPD Defendants”) (Doc. 28).
For the reasons explained below, the County Defendants'
Motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN
PART, and the FPD Defendants' Motion is
morning of November 27, 2013, along a busy interstate highway
near West Fork, Arkansas, Deputy Rennie initiated a traffic
stop of Mr. Arnold after observing that he was following a
vehicle too closely. (Doc. 28-2 at 6). Once stopped on the
highway's shoulder, Rennie approached Arnold's
passenger side door to explain the purpose of the stop.
Identifying information was obtained and a records check
performed. Officer McDaniel arrived on the scene and spoke
briefly with Rennie. Rennie to returned to Arnold's
passenger side door, while McDaniel approached the
driver's side. Officer Jones arrived a few minutes later
and stood next to McDaniel. Rennie told Arnold that he was
smelled the odor of marijuana and needed him to step out of
the car. Arnold refused, denied the possession of marijuana,
and protested the stop as a totally bogus pretext. In the
course of this lengthy dialogue, Arnold refused multiple more
commands to exit his vehicle. Rennie and Jones upholstered
their Tasers and warned Arnold that he would be tased if
necessary. Arnold remained steadfast in his defiance. But
when McDaniel applied physical force to Arnold's left
hand and arm, he succumbed and agreed to voluntarily exit his
vehicle. The undisputed events described thus far occurred
over 15 minutes.
parties disagree, however, about what happened during the
course of the next 30 seconds-beginning with Arnold freely
walking to the back of his car, and ending with Rennie tasing
Arnold in the back of the neck. Arnold contends that he was
complying with the officers' commands when Rennie
unlawfully tased him. The officers contend that Arnold was
resisting their efforts to cuff him, and the resulting use of
the Taser was reasonable and necessary to effectuate to
effectuate the arrest.
Arnold's Version of Events
Arnold, a barber, testified that he was traveling from Little
Rock to Fayetteville to cut hair for his clients, who were
athletes at the University of Arkansas-something he did
“once every two weeks or so.” (Doc. 8 at 18).
Arnold was a few miles south of Fayetteville when he first
saw Rennie's blue lights. Although he initially believed
that a different vehicle was being stopped for speeding, when
Arnold realized that he was being stopped, he
complied and pulled over to the shoulder of the highway.
approached on foot, leaned into Arnold's passenger-side
window, and began asking questions. After “talk[ing]
back and forth” for ten to fifteen minutes, Rennie said
that he smelled marijuana and asked Arnold to get out of his
vehicle. Arnold refused. (Doc. 33-8 at 27). Arnold explained
that he “was on a time frame. [He] was trying to get up
there and cut hair and get back home to be with [his] family
for Thanksgiving.” Id. at 88. Arnold denied
possessing any marijuana, but said that his cousin had been
driving the vehicle the night before-so perhaps that was the
residual source of the odor. Arnold complained that he had
not been following the vehicle in front of him too closely,
and that Rennie had no legitimate reason to pull him over in
the first place.
an African American, subsequently explained that he was
reluctant to get out of his car and feared for his life,
because of police encounters he had seen on television and
the Internet. Id. at 27. He believed the police
pulled “a lot of black people over just for
nothing.” Id. at 33. Arnold told Rennie that
he had been “pulled over a lot, ” id.,
perhaps more than fifteen times between 2007 and 2013,
id. at 34. Arnold later testified that he wanted a
police supervisor present before he exited the vehicle, but
admitted that he did not ask Rennie to call for one.
Id. at 37.
to Arnold, Rennie “started pointing the Taser at [his]
head” and said if he did not get out of the vehicle,
Rennie was “going to shoot him with the Taser right
there in [his] face.” Id. at 27. Arnold
believed the situation was getting intense. He testified to
being scared, and that his heart was beating fast.
Id. at 28, 35. Arnold claims the fear for his life
occurred when Rennie took aim with his Taser. Id. at
around this time that Arnold recalls the two Fayetteville
police officers arriving on the scene. Id. at 27-28.
Arnold admits that all three officers told him to get out of
his car, and in fact, they did so “quite a few
times.” Id. at 94. Nevertheless, he refused,
“because there's no telling what would've
happened. Somebody could lose control; you could get hit by a
vehicle; or there's just a whole bunch of stuff that
could happen.” Id. at 35. Arnold said just
being on the side of the interstate made him “scared
because you've got cars going 70 mph, and you never know
what could happen.” Id. at 35. He concedes,
however, that he never expressed these concerns to the
officers. Id. at 87.
testified that the FPD officers then “kind of started
trying to yank [him] out of the vehicle.” Id.
at 91. One officer was pulling Arnold's arm, and one was
pulling his leg. Eventually, Arnold exited his vehicle
because he thought “the officer was going to break
[his] arm; it was hurting pretty bad.” Id. at
92. After getting out of the car, Arnold walked back toward
Rennie's patrol unit. Arnold recalls being told to put
his hands on the trunk of his own vehicle. He testified that
as he was placing his hands down, “they just started
jerking my arms and pulling my arms” back. Id.
at 93. Arnold denies that he resisted, pushed off the car, or
arched his back. Id. at 39, 93. He stated that
Rennie “kind of started smashing me, grabbing me, and
he just shot me with the Taser and put it close to my neck.
He put it close to my neck and shot me.” Id.
at 28. Arnold admits that the tase did not cause him to fall
down, but he did see a “white light.”
Id. at 95.
probes had been discharged at extremely close range and
lodged in Arnold's neck. One of the probes was removed at
the scene. But the second probe had penetrated so deeply as
to require a trip to the hospital. Id. at 28, 96-98;
See also, Doc. 33-13 at 6 (records of Washington
Regional Medical Center). Medical personnel had to make two
.25-centimeter incisions to remove the second probe.
Id. at 9. The wound was irrigated with betadine and
left open. When the bleeding was controlled, a dressing was
applied. Id. Arnold was also given a tetanus shot
and a prescription for antibiotics. Id. at 6, 8. His
neurologic review at discharge was negative. Id.
Arnold was receiving medical treatment, the police discovered
a large amount of marijuana in the trunk of his car. So
Arnold was transported from the hospital to the Washington
County Detention Facility, where he was held for possession
of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, using force
to resist arrest, and following too closely. (Doc. 28-5 at 3;
Doc. 33-2 at 6-7). Arnold was held overnight, but he bonded
out of jail at approximately 3:00 p.m. on November
December 27, 2013, County prosecutors filed a felony
information against Arnold, charging him with possession of a
controlled substance with the purpose to deliver. (Doc. 33-2
at 17). On February 2, 2015, Arnold entered a negotiated plea
of guilty to the charge. (Doc. 28-6 at 2; Doc. 33-8 at 80).
He was given credit for time served and was sentenced to
The Defendants' Version of the Events
1. The County Defendants
Rennie's affidavit, reproduced in part below, summarizes
his recollection of the traffic stop with Arnold:
On November 27, 2013, I was conducting routine patrol when I
observed Plaintiff following too closely behind another
vehicle. I engaged my emergency lights and pulled the
Plaintiff over for following another vehicle too closely.
During the traffic stop, I smelled the odor of marijuana
coming from the Plaintiff's vehicle. I called for back up
officers to assist with the arrest.
The Plaintiff was asked to get out of his vehicle multiple
times by myself and back up officers from Fayetteville Police
Department and refused each time.
I warned the Plaintiff more than once that he would be tased
if he did not comply both before he exited the car and after.
Plaintiff is 6'2” tall which is taller than I am.
* * *
[B]ecause the Plaintiff was continuing to move his arms and
body, resisting arrest and refusing to allow officers to
handcuff him, Plaintiff was warned he would be tased and, in
accordance with my training, I attempted to use the taser in
drive stun mode because I was close to the Plaintiff.
When I engaged the Taser, the device malfunctioned and,
instead of operating in drive-stun mode, the prongs deployed,
and the device delivered only a partial cycle of electric
Doc. 33-10, pp. 1-2.
goes on to testify that he completed all “requisite
training to carry a Taser prior to the traffic stop with
Plaintiff in 2013. Id. at 2. The training
“requires the use of drive stun mode at very close
ranges because there is no[t] sufficient space for the probes
to spread out if the subject is too
Rick Hoyt, with the Washington County Sheriff's Office,
confirmed that Deputy Rennie successfully completed the
county's Taser training course, and further, than on June
7, 2011, he was issued the Taser (Model X-26) that was
deployed upon Mr. Arnold. (Doc. 33-11). Hoyt states that
officers “are trained to use the Taser device from a
distance by aiming the device at the suspect and discharging
the cartridge which deploys two metal probes into the surface
(typically either clothing or skin) with which contact is
made.” Id. at 1-2. However, “[o]fficers
are trained to use the device in ‘drive stun' mode
as a pain compliance technique which delivers a lower level
of force than the probes. The drive-stun mode may be used when
the subject is combative and the officer is not far enough
away from the subject to allow a sufficient spread of the
probes.” Id. at 2. From Hoyt's
perspective, after viewing the video of the traffic stop, he
believes Rennie's “use of a Taser in drive stun
mode in the manner that he attempted in this case was
consistent with the training and the policy of the Washington
County Sheriff's Office.” Id. (emphasis
Helder testified that he employs “a chain of command to
supervise the employees in the various divisions of the
sheriff's department.” (Doc. 33-9 at 1). Hoyt heads
the enforcement chain of command. Id. “When
problems arise or are alleged, ” Helder relies on his
chain of command to “handle those problems to the
extent they are able.” Id. He does not become
“personally involved unless the problem is systemic or
not capable of resolution by [his] staff.” Id.
Helder further maintains that he was not “personally
involved in any of the incidents referenced in the
Plaintiff's Complaint.” Id.
The FPD Defendants
denies that he used excessive force against Arnold. (Doc.
28-3 at 4). He also denies that he witnessed Rennie or Jones
using excessive force against Arnold. Id. at 4-5.
According to McDaniel, “[a]fter Arnold exited his
vehicle, I secured Arnold's right arm, but Arnold began
to lock out his arms so they could not be handcuffed, ”
and then Rennie used the Taser. Id. at 4. After
Arnold was placed under arrest, McDaniel assisted in
searching Arnold's vehicle and located “[a] black
plastic trash bag with many pounds of marijuana . . . in the
trunk . . . .” Id. at 5. Jones' affidavit
is much the same as McDaniel's, but he adds that “I
feared that [Rennie] might create a situation on a busy
highway where one of us could be pushed, thrown or fall into
one of the lanes of traffic.” See Doc. 28-4 at
4. Jones also believes that neither he nor the other two
officers used excessive force. Id. at 4.
The Dashcam Video (Doc. 33-6)
entire stop was captured on a video camera attached to the
dashboard of Rennie's patrol unit. The video begins
with Rennie's patrol unit driving in the left lane of the
interstate's two northbound lanes of traffic, slightly
behind Arnold's vehicle, a gray Impala. Rennie nearly
passes the vehicle but then drops back behind it. Rennie
initiated the traffic stop at 10:12:06 a.m. on Wednesday,
November 27, 2013. Both vehicles come to a stop on the right
shoulder of the highway. The following events occur between
10:13 a.m. and 10:56 a.m., as documented by Rennie's
dashcam and body microphone. The events most critical to the
excessive force claim occur over a mere 25 seconds
between 10:27:37 and 10:28:02.
• 10:13:02. Rennie approaches
Arnold's vehicle on the passenger side, leans against the
open passenger-side window, and begins to engage Arnold in
conversation. Rennie explains that he stopped him because
Arnold was following the vehicle in front of him too closely.
Rennie asks Arnold for his name, date of birth, where he is
coming from, and where he is going. Arnold responds to all
questions. Rennie asks for Arnold's vehicle registration
and insurance information, and then walks back to his patrol
unit to report Arnold's identifying information.
• 10:19:15. McDaniel arrives on the
scene, exits his patrol unit, and speaks briefly to Rennie
while the two are standing on the shoulder of the road.
Rennie returns to the passenger-side window, tells Arnold
that he detects the odor of marijuana, and asks him to step
out of his car. But Arnold does not step out of the
car-despite at least three separate commands by Rennie to do
• 10:20:56. Rennie opens Arnold's
passenger-side door and leans in while explaining to Arnold
the reasons why he must exit his vehicle. Then McDaniel opens
the driver's-side door and gestures for Arnold to get out
of the vehicle. For the next several minutes, both officers
repeatedly direct Arnold to get out of the car. They explain
to Arnold that they smell marijuana and that he must comply
with their directions. Arnold argues with the officers,
saying that he has done nothing wrong, and he suggests that
the traffic stop was racially motivated. Despite numerous
persuasive efforts by the officers, Arnold simply refuses to
exit his car-but he does not demonstrate any violence nor
direct any threats towards the officers.
• 10:25:24. Jones arrives on the
scene-specifically parking his cruiser in the right lane to
create a small safety buffer. Jones then approaches
Arnold's vehicle on foot, joining McDaniel at the
driver's-side door. At this point it has been a full five
minutes since Rennie first instructed Arnold to get out of
the vehicle, and Arnold has still not complied. McDaniel
leans into the car and grasps Arnold's left arm. Rennie
tells Arnold that he will be tased if necessary, and at that
point, Jones unholsters his Taser too.
• 10:26:04. Rennie leans further into
the vehicle with his Taser pointed, which prompts Arnold to
exclaim, “Are you going to stun me because I don't
want to get out of my own car?” Rennie says,
“Yes, get out. You are not complying with what
we're asking you. This is your last warning.” But
Arnold still does not comply, so McDaniel begins pulling,
wrangling, and applying pressure to Arnold's left arm and
• 10:27:37 Arnold finally concedes and
McDaniel releases his hold. Arnold steps out of the vehicle
of his own accord-with no officer pulling, prodding, or even
touching him. Arnold then steps to the rear of his vehicle as
McDaniel guides him from behind. All the while, Jones and
Rennie maintain their Tasers pointed at Arnold.
• 10:27:47. Arnold voluntarily places
his hands on the trunk of his car, but McDaniel quickly
directs him to move further from the roadway.
• 10:27:51. McDaniel says to Rennie,
“Do you want to check him, or what do you want to
do?” “He's going in cuffs right now, ”
replies Rennie. But as Arnold steps partially out of view,
something prompts McDaniel to say, “No . . . No. . . .
No, ” and then “Don't do that. Don't do
• 10:27:54. The three officers quickly
hustle Arnold toward the front of Rennie's cruiser. As
they do so, McDaniel is shown in full control of Arnold's
right arm and Rennie is shown in control of
Arnold's left arm, while both officers are
successfully pushing Arnold from behind. Meanwhile Jones is
walking in front of Arnold with his hand on Arnold's left
shoulder. In ...