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Toney v. Dickson

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Hot Springs Division

December 20, 2018

JAMES L. TONEY PLAINTIFF
v.
CORPORAL HEATH DICKSON, Malvern Police Department “MPD”; SERGEANT KEITH PRINCE, MPD; ASSISTANT CHIEF JIM BAILEY, MPD; and CHIEF OF POLICE DONNIE TABER, MPD DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HON. P. K. HOLMES, III CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is a civil rights action filed pro se by Plaintiff, James L. Toney, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Currently before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendants Heath Dickson, Keith Prince and Jim Bailey. (ECF No. 55). Plaintiff filed a Response (ECF No. 60) and Defendants filed a Reply. (ECF No. 63). The matter is ripe for consideration.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is currently an inmate in the Arkansas Department of Correction, Tucker Unit. This case arises from events that occurred on August 23, 2017, while Defendants Dickson and Prince were attempting to execute an arrest warrant on Plaintiff at his home. At the time of the incident, Defendants Dickson and Prince were officers with the City of Malvern Police Department and Bailey was the Assistant Chief of Police. Viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the relevant facts are as follows.[1]

         On August 23, 2017, Defendants Dickson and Prince arrived at Plaintiff's residence at 9:09 p.m. to execute an arrest warrant that came through the National Crime Information Center (“NCIC”).[2] Defendant Dickson knocked on Plaintiff's door and Plaintiff opened the door. (ECF No. 57-2, p. 1). Defendant Dickson advised Plaintiff that there was a warrant for Plaintiff's arrest and that Defendant Dickson was going to take Plaintiff in for possession charges. Id. Defendant Dickson then asked Plaintiff if he had been given papers on a warrant when he was arrested a few days earlier. Plaintiff stated he was not served papers on a warrant. Id. Defendant Dickson asked Plaintiff a second time if he was served papers on a warrant. Plaintiff then told Defendant Dickson that he did have the papers in his billfold. Id.

         Defendant Dickson asked Plaintiff to show him the papers. Defendants Dickson and Prince followed Plaintiff inside his home while he began searching for the warrant papers. Plaintiff yelled toward the back of his home and asked an unidentified person if they knew where his billfold was. Defendants Dickson and Prince followed Plaintiff throughout his living room and into the kitchen using their flashlights to look around. (ECF No. 57-1). Defendant Prince moved toward the kitchen counter where there appeared to be a billfold. Plaintiff told him not to touch it because the billfold belonged to someone else. Plaintiff then advised Defendants Dickson and Prince that his billfold must be in his truck and he walked toward the front door.

         Defendants Dickson and Prince followed Plaintiff outside of the home to his vehicle and watched Plaintiff search the vehicle for the warrant. While Plaintiff was looking in the front seat of his vehicle for the warrant papers, Defendants Dickson and Prince received a call concerning an assault with physical injury at another location. Defendants asked Plaintiff to find the warrant so that they “didn't have to take him in.” (ECF No. 57-1). Defendants Dickson and Prince then left Plaintiff's residence. (ECF No. 57-2). The entire incident lasted just under three minutes. (ECF No. 57-1).

         Approximately twenty (20) minutes after Defendants Dickson and Prince left Plaintiff's home, the warrant for Plaintiff's arrest that Defendants Dickson and Prince had relied on was cleared rendering it inactive. (ECF No. 57-2, p. 7). After learning that the warrant had cleared the NCIC system that evening, Defendants Dickson and Prince returned to Plaintiff's residence. Defendant Dickson knocked on Plaintiff's door, but Plaintiff did not open it. Defendant Dickson advised Plaintiff through the closed door that the warrant was invalid, and that they would not be coming back.[3] Id. at p. 2.

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint on September 25, 2017. (ECF No. 1). On February 12, 2018, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint naming Corporal Heath Dickson, Sergeant Keith Prince, and Assistant Chief Jim Bailey as Defendants. (ECF No. 20). Plaintiff initially asserted three claims in his Amended Complaint: (1) violation of his Fourth Amendment Rights during the attempted execution of an arrest warrant on August 23, 2017; (2) unlawful seizure of his property on August 30, 2017, by Defendant Dickson; and (3) “superior aware of harassment…wrongfully Charge's victimize by Malvern Police Department” against Defendant Jim Bailey. Id. at pp. 4-13. On August 9, 2018, Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed claims 2 and 3 of his Amended Complaint leaving only the claims against Defendants Dickson, Prince and Bailey for the alleged violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. (ECF No. 46).[4]

Specifically, Plaintiff claims:
…Around 9:00 p.m. …I heard Someone knocking At my Door, I thought it was my Brother but when I opened The Door it was officer Heath Dickson And Sgt. Prince, The Pushed me Aside And barged into my house…Officer Dickson Stated He Had a Warrant He and Sgt. Prince Started Searching my Residence. I Asked To See The Warrant Officer Dickson Stated (Shut your mouth I don't need one.) Officer Dickson Shined his flash light Down My hallway and Sgt. Prince Searched my Kitchen. He picked up my Brothers Wallet from The Counter and Searched it. I Asked Him To put it Down and To See Their warrant for the Second Time and They Refused. I Asked Them To leave…They Refused. About five or Ten minutes had Past They Received A Call and Left…I Reported This Incident To officer Bailey and he never Responded. About 10:30 p.m. officer Dickson And Sgt. Prince Returned. They Beat on my door for about Five minutes and left.

(ECF No. 20, p. 5). Plaintiff is suing Defendants Dickson, Prince and Bailey in their individual and official capacities. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. (ECF No. 20, p. 13).

         On September 14, 2018, Defendants filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment and a Memorandum Brief in Support of the motion, arguing that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law because: (1) Defendants did not violate Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure; (2) they are entitled to qualified immunity; and (3) Plaintiff has not identified any policy or custom of the City of Malvern which violates his constitutional rights. (ECF No. 56). On October 12, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Reply restating his claims against Defendants. (ECF No. 60).

         II. ...


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