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Parkins v. Nguyen

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

October 12, 2018

MICHAEL JUSTIN PARKINS PLAINTIFF
v.
DETECTIVE ALISON NGUYEN; DETECTIVE CHAD POMIETLO; and DEPUTY ROY BROOKS, JR. Benton County Sherriffs Office DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TIMOTHY L. BROOKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff proceeds In this matter pro se and in forma pauperis pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 23). For the reasons set forth in the following Opinion, the Motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on October 30, 2017. He is currently incarcerated in the Arkansas Department of Corrections, Ester Unit. Plaintiff alleges several violations of his constitutional rights by detectives in the Benton County Sheriff's Office ("BCSO") on March 16, 2017. (Doc. 1, p. 4-7). He claims his Fourth Amendment rights were violated by Defendants when they executed a traffic stop on his vehicle without either probable cause or reasonable suspicion to do so. Id. at 4. Plaintiff alleges the BCSO has a custom or policy of violating Fourth Amendment rights by conducting searches and seizures without probable cause. Id. at 5, 6. He further alleges officers are not adequately trained and records will show a pattern of violations. Id. at 5.

         Plaintiff next alleges that Defendants Pomietlo and Brooks used excessive force against him during his arrest when Defendant Brooks used "a couple of hammer fist to the side of [his] head," which resulted in the "grinding of [his] skull into the asphalt." Id. Plaintiff alleges he was "in no way combative" and instead asked the detectives why they were hitting him. Id. He believes that these Defendants were trained "never to hit someone in the head or other places that can cause death or specific undue harm." Id. He claims he suffered injuries, including emotional pain and distress, as a result of certain customs and policies of BCSO. Id. at 6.

         Lastly, Plaintiff contends that all Defendants violated his rights with their malicious prosecution of him. Id. Plaintiff points out that the prosecuting attorney dropped all but one of the charges contained in the probable cause affidavit, thus indicating that Defendants acted with malice against him in by filing the charges in the first place. Id. Plaintiff alleges it is the policy or custom of BCSO to deprive American citizens of their constitutional rights through illegal actions and contacts. Id. at 7.

         Plaintiff attached the probable cause affidavit for his state criminal case to his Complaint, and it provides a description of Plaintiffs stop and arrest. (Doc. 1, pp. 10-12). In March of 2017, Defendant Nguyen received information from a reliable confidential informant that drug trafficking, mainly methamphetamine, was taking place at the Baymont Hotel in Bentonville. Due to this report, Defendants Pomietlo and Brooks were patrolling the area in two cars on March 16, 2017, at approximately 2:00 a.m. They noticed a vehicle driving slowly around the hotel and parking at the back of the hotel with the headlights left on. As Brooks approached the vehicle, the headlights were turned off, but the occupants remained in the vehicle. Brooks aimed a flashlight into the vehicle and noted two passengers. Id. at 10. He activated his emergency lights and ordered the female driver to show her hands, as both occupants were stiff and rigid in their seats. Then Brooks ordered the passenger of the vehicle, the Plaintiff, to show his hands, as well. Plaintiff only raised his right arm. Brooks reported that this "made the hair on the back of his neck stand up." Id. at 11.

         Next, Brooks gave loud verbal commands for the occupants of the vehicle to raise their hands so he could see them. The female driver complied; Plaintiff did not. Brooks turned his attention to Plaintiff and gave "louder more aggressive orders for him to show both of his hands." Id. Brooks heard a loud thud, as though something heavy had been dropped in the vehicle, and Plaintiff then jumped out of the vehicle and attempted to flee the scene. He ignored Brooks's orders to stop. Brooks radioed for backup. While running, Brooks saw Plaintiff concealing something in front of him with his hands, which Brooks believed could be a weapon of some kind.

         Defendant Pomietlo stopped Plaintiff's flight by wrapping his arms around his waist and taking him to the ground. Defendant Brooks then took control of Plaintiff's left wrist. Plaintiff refused to obey orders to place his free hand behind his back and "continued to reach for his waist with his right hand and curl his hand under his body." Id. Brooks then executed "a couple hammer fists" to the side of Plaintiffs head and was able to gain compliance. Id. Plaintiffs head began to bleed "slightly." Id. Plaintiff was then taken to the emergency room at Northwest Medical and medically cleared. Id.

         The item Plaintiff had been concealing at his waist was a small purse containing what was later determined to be 241.1 grams of methamphetamine. A small pink and black handgun was located near the driver's side of the vehicle. It was believed that Plaintiff had dropped the weapon to the floor of the vehicle and the female driver had thrown it out the vehicle window. Id. at 12.

         Plaintiff was charged with trafficking a Controlled Substance (Class Y felony), Possession of a Controlled Substance with the Purpose to Deliver (Class A felony), Simultaneous Possession of Drugs and Firearms (Class Y felony), Possession of a Firearm by Certain Persons (Class B felony), Resisting Arrest (Class B misdemeanor), and Fleeing (Class C misdemeanor). Id.

         Plaintiff now proceeds against Defendants in their official and personal capacities as to all his claims. Id. at 4-6. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as freedom from jail and prison and a mental health evaluation. Id. at 7.

         The sentencing order provided along with Defendants* Motion for Summary Judgment indicates that Plaintiff was assigned a public defender for the charges associated with the facts set forth above. Plaintiff eventually pleaded guilty to Trafficking a Controlled Substance and Possession of a Firearm by Certain Persons on August 7, 2018. (Doc. 25-2 at 33-34). Medical records from Northwest Medical Center show that Plaintiff was treated for a closed head injury without loss of consciousness and head lacerations. (Doc. 25-4 at 2). His examination and head CT were normal. (Doc. 25-4 at 6). His patient care orders directed him to clean the wounds and apply Neosporin. (Doc. 25-4 at 7).

         Plaintiff was deposed by Defendants on February 28, 2018. (Doc. 25-9). During the deposition, Plaintiff testified that Defendant Brooks told him and the female driver to raise their hands "[q]uite a few times" while they were in the vehicle. Id. at 26. Plaintiff admitted that he had raised one hand while "getting the drugs" with the other. Id. at 25. Plaintiff soon jumped out of the vehicle and started running from police while carrying the methamphetamine. He was only able to run for about ten or fifteen feet before he was tackled by an officer. Id. at 26. After he was tackled, he "got into the fetal position; got into a ball" while keeping his hands on the bag at his waist. Id. at 27. The officers told him to give them his hands. Plaintiff understood they wanted to handcuff him, but Plaintiff did not give ...


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