United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division
HON KASSELDER, SPECIAL ADMINISTRATOR AND PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF CURTIS JAMES MEYER; Plaintiff,
CITY OF MITCHELL, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; RUSSELL STEVENSON, INDIVIDUALLY; LYNDON OVERWEG, INDIVIDUALLY; AND DOES 1-3, INDIVIDUALLY AS POLICE OFFICERS AND ADMINISTRATORS FOR THE CITY OF MITCHELL; Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN PART
AND DENYING IN PART
E. SCHREIER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Hon Kasselder on behalf of the estate of Curtis James Meyer,
filed a complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging
violations of Meyer's civil rights and various state law
claims. Docket 1. Defendants City of Mitchell, Russell
Stevenson, Lyndon Overweg, and administrators for the City of
Mitchell filed a motion for summary judgment claiming
qualified immunity. Docket 10.
the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party:
In September 2015, Meyer was a resident of Mitchell, South
Dakota. Docket 16 ¶ 1. Defendant Officer Stevenson was
an officer with the Mitchell Police Department in September
2015. Docket 17 ¶ 1. Meyer had been in an
on-again-off-again dating relationship with a woman named
Kendra Johnson. Docket 16 ¶ 4. On the afternoon of
September 3, 2015, Johnson sent Meyer a snapchat breaking up
with him. Id. ¶ 6. Meyer was upset and
repeatedly attempted to reach Johnson. Id.
evening of September 3, 2015, Johnson and three of her
friends encountered Meyer at a local Mitchell bar.
Id. ¶ 7. They described Meyer as being very
drunk. Id. When Johnson and her friends left the bar
they offered to drive Meyer home, and he accepted.
Id. Johnson and her friends then drove Meyer to his
home and dropped him off. Id. The women then went to
515 North Mentzer Street in Mitchell where Johnson and one of
her friends lived. Id. ¶ 8. Two other men,
including Warren Clark, arrived at the home and a total of
five people played music and beer pong in the garage of the
house. Id. ¶ 8-9.
getting dropped off at his home, Meyer repeatedly called and
texted Johnson but she did not answer. Id. ¶
10. Several of Johnson's friends did answer Meyer's
calls and one of Johnson's friends described Meyer as
sounding calm, sad, drunk, and insistent on talking to
Johnson. Id. Eventually, Johnson blocked Meyer's
calls. Id. Meyer then called one of Johnson's
friends. Id. The last call he made to Johnson's
friend was at 1:48 A.M. on September 4, 2015. Id.
¶ 12. At that time, Clark talked to Meyer on the phone
and Meyer informed Clark that he was outside the garage.
Id. ¶ 13. Clark then went outside to talk to
Meyer. Id. Clark found Meyer sitting alone in the
dark by a nearby garage and laid down on the grass to talk to
Meyer. Id. ¶ 14. While they talked, Clark
noticed that Meyer had a gun. Id. During the
conversation, Clark and Meyer talked about relationships and
Meyer did not make any threats against himself or others.
Id. ¶¶ 14-15.
September 4, 2015, Officer Stevenson received a noise
complaint for the 500 block of Mentzer Street in Mitchell,
South Dakota. Docket 17 ¶ 2. Officer Stevenson was
accompanied by Officer Casey Tegethoff as his training
officer. Id. Both Stevenson and Tegethoff were
dressed in standard, dark navy service uniforms with badges
and name plates. Id. When Officer Stevenson and
Officer Tegethoff arrived at the 500 block of Mentzer Street,
they identified 515 Mentzer Street as the source of the noise
complaint because Officer Stevenson believed there was a
house party at the location. Id. ¶ 3. As the
officers started to approach the home, a flood light in the
alley turned on. Docket 13-2 at 3. While the officers waited
for the flood light to turn off, Officer Stevenson noticed an
older man in a white t-shirt walking down the nearby alley
holding a Coors Light in his hand. Docket 17 ¶ 4; Docket
13-2 at 3. The man would later be identified as Warren Clark.
Docket 17 ¶ 4. Officer Stevenson and Officer Tegethoff
then approached the home. Id. ¶ 5.
Stevenson states that he then double tapped his body camera
and believed it was recording. A later DCI investigation
found that during an independent review of the body camera
“no files [were found] in the memory of the camera. . .
. [and] finding no files in the camera would indicate the
camera had been properly uploaded.” Docket 20-4 at
12-13. Officer Tegethoff and Officer Stevenson made contact
with several people sitting in the garage of the home. Docket
17 ¶ 6. At this point, Officer Stevenson believed the
party was an underage drinking party. Docket 13-2 at 3.
Officer Stevenson asked an attendee where the man in the
white shirt went, and the attendee indicated that Clark
exited the garage and walked west down the alley. Docket 17
¶ 8. Officer Stevenson exited the garage to talk with
Clark while Tegethoff stayed in the garage. Id.
¶ 9. Officer Stevenson found Clark lying in the grass.
Id. ¶ 9. He approached Clark with his
flashlight in his left hand and asked him to come back into
the garage, and Clark complied. Docket 16 ¶ 35. He did
not identify himself as a police officer to Clark. Docket
13-2 at 3-4. The area in the alley was dimly lit. Docket 16
Stevenson asked Clark why he was lying in the grass and he
stated that he was talking to his friend. Docket 17 ¶
10. Clark then pointed out his friend to Officer Stevenson.
Docket 20-3 at 21. The friend was Meyer. Id. Officer
Stevenson would not have seen Meyer without Clark pointing
him out because of where Meyer was sitting. Docket 16 ¶
38. Meyer was reportedly sitting with his legs crossed near
the garage. Id. Officer Stevenson states that he
asked Meyer to come back to the garage and Meyer refused.
Docket 20-3 at 21-22. Officer Stevenson states that he then
saw the firearm between Meyer's legs. Id. at 22.
point, Officer Stevenson has provided a few variations of
what transpired when Officer Stevenson tried to obtain the
gun from Meyer. Officer Stevenson has previously stated that
he asked Meyer about the gun “as he was reaching to
secure the gun.” Docket 20-3 at 22. But he has also
claimed that he asked Meyer about the gun and Meyer replied,
“That's my forty-five” at which point Meyer
began to point the gun toward Officer Stevenson. Docket 13-1
¶¶ 14-15. And Officer Stevenson has also testified
that he told Meyer “give me the gun” or
“stop” when Meyer would not let go of the gun.
Docket 16 ¶ 47. No. one reports hearing Officer
Stevenson say anything to Meyer. Docket 17 ¶ 12. And
Officer Stevenson acknowledges that he did not identify
himself as a police officer to Meyer. Docket 16 ¶ 41.
Officer Stevenson also previously said that he did not recall
saying anything to Meyer and did not recall Meyer saying
anything to him. Docket 16 ¶ 54.
Stevenson and Meyer then struggled for control of the gun.
Docket 17 ¶ 15. Officer Stevenson maintains that he
could not use his radio because someone else was on the
radio. Id. at 9; Docket 13-2 at 4. Stevenson has
also stated that he did not feel comfortable reaching for his
own gun because he thought he would lose control of
Meyer's gun. Docket 17 ¶ 15. During the struggle,
Meyer was on the ground and Officer Stevenson was either
standing over the top of Meyer or kneeling next to Meyer.
Docket 13-2 at 6. Officer Stevenson testifies that he
eventually felt the grips on the weapon and pulled the
trigger. Docket 17 ¶ 20. Officer Stevenson shot Meyer
under his chin. Docket 16 ¶ 60. At that point, Meyer
fell and released the gun. Id. ¶ 21. At 1:52
A.M. Officer Stevenson radioed dispatch, informed them of
shots fired, and requested medical assistance. Docket 17
¶ 21. After the request for assistance, a few officers
arrived. Docket 16 ¶ 18. Tegethoff, Clark, and the other
partygoers stated that they did not hear anything other than
the gunshot. Docket 16 ¶¶ 64-65.
judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is
no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). “[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears
the initial responsibility of . . . demonstrat[ing] the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).
The moving party must inform the court of the basis for its
motion and also identify the portion of the record that shows
there is no genuine issue in dispute. Hartnagel v.
Norman, 953 F.2d 394, 395 (8th Cir. 1992) (citation
avoid summary judgment, “[t]he nonmoving party may not
‘rest on mere allegations or denials, but must
demonstrate on the record the existence of specific facts
which create a genuine issue for trial.' ”
Mosley v. City of Northwoods, 415 F.3d 908, 910 (8th
Cir. 2005) (quoting Krenik v. County of Le Sueur, 47
F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995)). “[T]he mere existence
of some alleged factual dispute between the parties is not
sufficient by itself to deny summary judgment . . . .
Instead, ‘the dispute must be outcome determinative
under prevailing law.' ” Get Away Club, Inc. v.
Coleman, 969 F.2d 664, 666 (8th Cir. 1992) (quoting
Holloway v. Pigman, 884 F.2d 365, 366 (8th Cir.
1989)). On a motion for summary judgment, the facts and
inferences drawn from those facts are “viewed in ...