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Hosea v. City of St. Paul

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 14, 2017

David L. Hosea Plaintiff- Appellant
v.
City of St. Paul; Officer Eric Stevens; Officer Richard McGuire Defendants - Appellees

          Submitted: May 11, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis

          Before SMITH, Chief Judge, COLLOTON and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

          SMITH, CHIEF JUDGE

         On April 28, 2014, Officers Eric Stevens and Richard McGuire responded to a 911 hang-up call and arrested David Hosea at the scene. Hosea brought unlawful-arrest and excessive-force claims against the officers. The district court[1] granted the officers' motion for summary judgment, holding that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity on both of Hosea's Fourth Amendment claims. For the reasons explained below, we affirm.

         I. Background

         On the evening of April 28, 2014, David Hosea was arguing with his then-girlfriend, Jennifer Steines, in their home. The argument escalated; Hosea dialed 911 but hung up before speaking to an operator. St. Paul police dispatch sent Officers Stevens and McGuire to investigate. The officers parked their squad car two houses away and upon exiting their car, they immediately heard yelling from the residence. As the officers approached the residence, they saw a sign directing visitors to "[p]lease use [the] back door." The officers proceeded to the back door, found the rear entry doors unlocked and, without knocking or announcing themselves, entered the residence.

         Hosea was standing over Steines from approximately three feet away as Steines sat on the couch crying. Hosea heard the "door go boom" when the officers entered the residence and turned toward the noise. The officers testified that Hosea seemed agitated, addressed the officers in a loud voice, appeared ready to fight, and displayed indicators of aggression, including a "bladed" stance, clenched fists, and flared nostrils.

         According to Hosea, he saw the officers but did not initially recognize them as police officers. Hosea asked, "Who is you-all?" The officers replied, "You get down, " to which Hosea responded, "Why?" The officers ordered Hosea a second time to get on the ground, and Hosea again asked, "For what?" Hosea's son entered the room and said, "They police." Hosea then recognized that Stevens and McGuire were police officers and told them that he had a leg injury as he began to lower himself to the ground. Hosea had his left knee and right hand on the ground when, according to Hosea, one of the officers "tackled" him or "jumped on [his] back" and forced him to the ground. As a result, Hosea injured his right hand. The officers handcuffed Hosea and transferred him to the squad car. It is undisputed that Hosea offered no physical resistance.

         After transferring Hosea to the car, the officers uncovered more about the heated dispute that precipitated their dispatch to the scene. A domestic dispute between Steines and Hosea apparently went from verbal to physical when Steines hit Hosea in the face with a slipper. The officers learned that Steines had actually never been afraid of Hosea. Hosea was charged with obstructing legal process. After he was released the next day, Hosea went to a doctor and learned that his right hand was fractured and required surgery. The obstruction charges were eventually dismissed.

         Hosea brought this action against the City of St. Paul and Officers Stevens and McGuire in their individual and official capacities.[2] Hosea alleged that the officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights by arresting him without probable cause and using excessive force when arresting him. Hosea also brought state-law claims for battery, false arrest, and false imprisonment. The officers moved for summary judgment and the district court held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity on Hosea's constitutional claims.[3]

         The court held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity on Hosea's unlawful-arrest claim because "arguable probable cause supported Hosea's arrest for, among other things, domestic assault."[4] The court noted that, under Minnesota law, "domestic assault is an act committed with intent to cause fear of immediate bodily harm or death in a family or household member." (Citing Minn. Stat. § 609.2242, subd. 1(1).) Hosea argued that probable cause was lacking because the officers did not know why Steines was crying and later learned that Steines was not afraid of Hosea. The court rejected this argument because "the reasons behind the altercation do not undermine Hosea's objective appearance to the officers when they entered his home." Hosea "was standing over Steines from only three feet away-striking distance-as they argued" with "his hands down at his side, his fists balled up, " blocking the officers' view of Steines. "On these facts, " the district court "determine[d] that an officer reasonably could have concluded Hosea was acting with intent to cause a household member fear of imminent bodily harm."

         The court also held that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity on Hosea's excessive-force claim because "[c]onsidering the totality of the circumstances, a reasonable officer in such a situation could have feared for his own safety, as well as Steines's." At the district court, Hosea argued that the use of force was unreasonable because the officers never orally identified themselves and "he had begun complying with the officers' order to get on the ground when one of the officers 'tackled' him or 'jumped on his back.'" The court held that the lack of oral self-identification did not render the use of force objectively unreasonable. Because Hosea did "not dispute that he addressed the officers with clenched fists and in the same loud tone with which he addressed his girlfriend" and "it is undisputed that Hosea ignored the officers' initial commands to 'get on the ground, '" the court concluded there was "no genuine issue regarding the reasonableness of the officers' use of force to secure Hosea."

         On appeal, Hosea argues that the officers are not entitled to qualified immunity on his unlawful-arrest claim because the officers did not have arguable probable cause to arrest him for either obstruction of legal process or domestic assault. Also, Hosea argues that the officers are not entitled to qualified immunity on his excessive-force claim because he did not commit a crime in the officers' presence, he did not pose a threat to the safety of the officers or others, he ...


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