N.S., Only child of decedent, Ryan Stokes, by and through her natural mother and next friend, Brittany Lee; Narene James Plaintiffs - Appellees
Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners; Michael Rader; Leland Shurin; Angela Wasson-Hunt; Alvin Brooks; Mayor Sly James; David Kenner Defendant's, William Thompson Defendant-Appellant Darryl Forte Defendant
Submitted: April 16, 2019
from United States District Court for the Western District of
Missouri - Kansas City
LOKEN, WOLLMAN, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.
William Thompson shot and killed Ryan Stokes during a police
chase. The district court ruled that Thompson was not
entitled to official or qualified immunity. We vacate and
remand for reconsideration.
on patrol early one morning, Thompson and his partner
received a radio message that other officers were pursuing
two men suspected of theft. Just seconds later, Thompson
spotted Stokes, who matched the description of one of the
suspects, running into a parking lot. Stokes headed toward
the driver's side of a parked car and briefly opened the
door. He then quickly turned and moved in the direction of a
pursuing officer, who by that point was "very
close" to him. Thompson fired at Stokes three times,
hitting him twice in the back. Stokes died shortly
these basic facts, the parties' accounts differ. Thompson
claims that he saw Stokes with a gun when he entered the
parking lot and believed that he intended to ambush the
pursuing officer. Stokes's family argues that Stokes
never possessed a gun and was attempting to surrender when he
was shot. The parties also dispute whether Thompson said
anything to Stokes before firing.
evidence supports Thompson's account. The police
discovered a handgun on the driver's seat of the car,
which could mean that Stokes was armed when he entered the
parking lot but then tossed the gun into the car. And
witnesses who saw Stokes running said that he appeared to be
"holding up his pants as he ran," which is arguably
consistent with Thompson's perception that Stokes was
holding a gun. Finally, Thompson's partner claims to have
heard Thompson order Stokes to "get on the ground."
evidence supports the family's account. No one besides
Thompson observed Stokes with a gun, nor was any gun found on
or near his body. The car's owner, who was Stokes's
friend, claimed that the gun recovered from the car belonged
to him and that it had been there all night. Moreover, some
officers did not recall hearing Thompson shout anything
during the encounter, and at least one officer thought Stokes
was trying to surrender when Thompson shot him.
family sued Thompson for excessive force, see 42
U.S.C. § 1983, and wrongful death, see Mo. Rev.
Stat. § 537.080. Thompson moved for summary judgment,
claiming qualified immunity from the federal claim and
official immunity from the state claim. In its order, the
court recounted the parties' general allegations and then
denied both forms of immunity.
in which a district court denies qualified immunity at the
summary-judgment stage typically follow one of two paths on
appeal. First, we may affirm, but only when it is apparent
that, if the plaintiff's version of the facts is right,
the officer violated a clearly established right. See
Raines v. Counseling Assocs., Inc., 883 F.3d 1071, 1074
(8th Cir. 2018). Second, we may reverse because, even under
the plaintiff-friendly version of the facts, there was no
constitutional violation or the underlying right was not
clearly established. See id. ("We have
authority to decide the purely legal issue of whether the
facts alleged by the plaintiff are a violation of clearly
established law." (brackets and citation omitted)). This
case falls into a third category.
the district court fell short in its threshold duty to make
"a thorough determination of [Thompson's] claim of
qualified immunity." Robbins v. Becker, 715
F.3d 691, 694-95 (8th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). In its
summary-judgment order, the court did little more than
summarize the parties' allegations and decide that the
combination of a "general . . . right to be
free from excessive force" and the ...