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James v. Cheatham

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

September 12, 2019




         Plaintiff David N. James brings this action pro se under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution against defendants North Little Rock Police Officer Eric Cheatham (“Officer Cheatham”) and Chief of the North Little Rock Police Department Mike Davis (“Chief Davis”), in both their individual and official capacities (Dkt. No. 2). Defendants Officer Cheatham and Chief Davis move for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 51). Mr. James has not responded to the motion for summary judgment, despite filing several other documents during the relevant time (Dkt. Nos. 55, 57). For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion for summary judgment.

         I. Factual Background

         The following facts are taken from Officer Cheatham and Chief Davis's statement of undisputed material facts in support of motion for summary judgment, to which Mr. James did not respond (Dkt. No. 53-1). Pursuant to Local Rule 56.1(c) of the Local Rules of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, all material facts set forth in defendants' statement of material facts shall be deemed admitted unless controverted by a statement filed by plaintiff. Mr. James did not file a statement controverting Officer Cheatham and Chief Davis's filing. Therefore, the Court deems admitted the facts stated by Officer Cheatham and Chief Davis.

         Mr. James is an African-American male, who was arrested by former North Little Rock Police Officer Cheatham on July 28, 2015, for fleeing and failure to submit to arrest. Officer Cheatham is also an African-American male, formerly employed as a police officer by the City of North Little Rock, Arkansas. Officer Bruce Moyster is a current police officer with the City of North Little Rock, Arkansas.

         On July 28, 2015, at approximately 4:49 p.m., Officer Moyster advised over the police radio that he was attempting to apprehend an African-American male wearing a black shirt who was fleeing from Officer Moyster on foot. Officer Moyster advised the subject he was chasing was last seen around the 2100 block of Schaer.

         Officer Cheatham arrived in the area of the 2100 Schaer moments later, and Officer Cheatham began traveling west in the 800 block of West 21st Street. Officer Cheatham observed an African-American male with no shirt quickly walking east on West 21st Street. However, the individual was carrying a black shirt and unknown shiny object in his left hand. Officer Cheatham exited his car and began walking toward the individual. The individual, later identified as Mr. James, looked at Officer Cheatham, asked, “What did I do?” and then fled on foot from Officer Cheatham toward West 22nd Street. Officer Cheatham engaged in a foot pursuit.

         Officer Cheatham gave several commands for Mr. James to stop and identified himself as a police officer. Nevertheless, Mr. James continued to flee. Mr. James fled toward a residence marked “707” and Officer Cheatham briefly lost sight of him. Officer Cheatham then noticed Mr. James hiding in bushes; once Mr. James noticed Officer Cheatham, Mr. James again fled south toward the opposite side of the residence.

         Mr. James then lost his footing and fell to the ground; he was then laying on his stomach with his hands, the t-shirt, and the unknown shiny object underneath his body. Officer Cheatham gave Mr. James two loud commands to show his hands which remained under Mr. James's body. Mr. James refused to comply with either command. Officer Cheatham perceived a threat due to the shiny object and Mr. James's refusal to reveal it.

         Due to the threat Officer Cheatham perceived, he deployed his department issued Taser at Mr. James. Officer Cheatham deployed one five-second cycle of projectile probes at Mr. James, which struck Mr. James in his upper back and the back of Mr. James's right arm. Following the use of the Taser, Officer Cheatham again gave Mr. James commands to remove his hands from underneath his body and to place them to his sides with his palms up. At this time, Mr. James complied. The shiny object was determined to be sunglasses. Medical personnel responded to the scene and removed the Taser probes from Mr. James.

         Sergeant Kenneth Livingston was made aware of the incident, as he was patrol sergeant. Sergeant Livingston reviewed the incident and spoke to witness Erma Sheard and determined that the incident was compliant with Police Department policy. Ms. Sheard did not indicate in her written statement any information contrary to what Officer Cheatham relayed to Sergeant Livingston. Chief Davis had no involvement in the arrest of Mr. James, in the use of the Taser against Mr. James, and was not present at the scene.

         Officer Cheatham attended Black River Technical College for law enforcement training, ending in November 2012. He received 620 hours of law enforcement training at Black River Technical College. Officer Cheatham received his Bachelor's Degree in Criminology from Arkansas State University in May 2012. Officer Cheatham was hired by North Little Rock in August 2012 as a patrol officer. He received inter-departmental training at the North Little Rock Police Department on subjects including, but not limited to, Taser Training, Racial Profiling, and Defense Tactics before the incident involving the arrest of Mr. James in July 2015.

         The City of North Little Rock has specific policies regarding officers' use of force, officers' requirements to report uses of force, and the use of Tasers. The City of North Little Rock investigates complaints of wrongdoing against police officers and, where sustained, discipline up to and including termination is imposed. Use-of-force incidents are likewise investigated by various personnel within the police department to determine compliance with policy and the law.

         A background investigation was conducted on Officer Cheatham prior to his hire with the City of North Little Rock. Such investigation included a criminal history check through the National Crime Information Center (“NCIC”) and the Arkansas Crime Information Center (“ACIC”), a background check from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a review of Officer Cheatham's employment history, a psychiatric evaluation for fitness for duty, a polygraph examination, personal interviews, and interviews with ...

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