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London v. Brule County

United States District Court, D. South Dakota, Southern Division

September 23, 2019

BONNIE LONDON, Plaintiff,
v.
BRULE COUNTY, ITS AGENTS, SUBSIDIARIES, AND EMPLOYEES; BUFFALO COUNTY, ITS AGENTS, SUBSIDIARIES, AND EMPLOYEES; TORY ENGEL, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; BRANDON NEITZERT, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; WAYNE WILLMAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY; and JOHN DOES 1-50, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          KAREN E. SCHREIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Bonnie London, brought this action for money damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Docket 1. The named defendants are Tory Engel, Brandon Neitzert, and Wayne Willman in their individual and official capacities, Brule and Buffalo Counties, and John Does 1-50. Id. Pending before the court are two summary judgment motions. Dockets 15, 27. The first motion was filed by defendants Buffalo County, Brandon Neitzert, and Wayne Willman. Docket 15. The second was filed by defendants Brule County and Tory Engel. Docket 27.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The facts, viewed in the light most favorable to Bonnie London, the non-moving party, are as follows:

         On January 7, 2015, Bonnie London received a phone call from her son, Donald London. Docket 26 ¶ 2. Donald told her that he was at her mother’s residence five to six miles outside of Kimball, South Dakota, in rural Brule County. Id. ¶¶ 1, 2. He stated he missed his late wife and needed psychiatric help. Id. ¶ 2. Donald suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Id. ¶ 14. Michael London, Bonnie London’s ex-husband, was also at the residence. Id. ¶ 3. Donald was upset about interactions he had with law enforcement the day prior. Id. ¶ 14. Law enforcement had been notified Donald was threatening to kill the Chamberlain police chief. Id. ¶ 1.

         On January 6, 2015, the previous day, Bonnie London called Brule County sheriffs’ deputies to the residence because Donald was having an “issue” and she was not sure if Michael would be able to “keep him under control.” Docket 29 ¶ 3.[1] Sheriff Darrell Miller, accompanied by two City of Chamberlain police officers, went to the residence. Id. ¶ 6. The officers found Donald in the basement, cradling a rifle in his hand. Id. ¶ 9.

         Sheriff Miller called Steve Smith, director of mental health, to seek a mental health hold on Donald. Id. ¶ 14. Rather than pursuing a mental health hold, Michael offered to take Donald to the mental health hospital in Sioux Falls where Donald had received treatment previously. Id. ¶ 15. Smith authorized this plan, so long as all weapons in the house were locked up. Id. ¶ 16.

         Donald and Michael left town. Id. ¶ 17. Sheriff Miller verified that the two actually left the city, in accordance with the plan to get Donald treatment in Sioux Falls. Id. But Donald and Michael stopped and turned around at Salem instead of continuing on to Sioux Falls. Id. They then visited a local mental health clinician who Donald had seen in the past. Id. ¶ 18. The clinician advised Donald to cease taking all his mental health medication. Id. ¶ 19.

         The following day, January 7, 2015, Michael called Sheriff Miller because Donald was upset, believing agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives were coming to the residence. Id. ¶ 21. At around 12:15 p.m., Michael informed Sheriff Miller that Donald had left the residence for Kimball to retrieve guns. Id. ¶ 22. At around 12:56 p.m., Michael informed Sheriff Miller that Donald had successfully obtained guns from Michael’s trailer home in Kimball. Id. ¶ 23. He also informed Sheriff Miller that Donald was very upset and was planning to go to Chamberlain to shoot an officer who had pointed a gun at him the day prior. Id. ¶ 24. Around half an hour later, Michael told Sheriff Miller that Donald was back at the residence, “packing up gear” in preparation to leave for Chamberlain and carry out his threat. Id. ¶ 25.

         That afternoon, between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., Bonnie London drove to the residence. Docket 26 ¶ 3. When Bonnie London arrived, Donald was on the phone with Sheriff Miller. Id. ¶ 4. A few minutes later, Michael notified Donald and Bonnie London that there were vehicles in the driveway. Id. ¶ 4. Donald became upset, believing someone was after him. Id. ¶ 4. Bonnie London then drove her car down the driveway to identify the vehicles. Id. ¶ 5.

         Before Bonnie London drove down the driveway, Special Agent Brandon Neitzert arrived at the property. Id. ¶ 6. Neitzert did not approach the home, but instead, interviewed Michael Urban, Donald’s uncle. Id. ¶ 7. Urban told Neitzert that Donald had a history of anger toward law enforcement, and that Donald had made threats to law enforcement in the past. Id. ¶ 8. He also indicated Donald had fired a gun inside the home and may be suicidal. Id.

         As the interview with Urban concluded, Bonnie London was in the driveway. Id. ¶ 5. Unmarked law enforcement stopped Bonnie London and searched her person. Id. ¶ 10. Neitzert ordered other officers to search her vehicle. Id. London asserts that the officers held her at gun point while searching her person, Neitzert did not have a warrant to search her car, and she was not arrested. Id. The officers seized her cell phone and car keys. Id. ¶ 11.

         Defendant, Brule County Sherriff’s Deputy Tory Engel, then escorted Bonnie London to his patrol vehicle and placed her in the back cage. Id. ¶ 12. Engel did not handcuff her. Id. Shortly thereafter, Neitzert removed Bonnie London from Engel’s patrol vehicle and escorted her to his own vehicle for an interview. Id. ¶ 13. Neitzert placed her in the front seat of his vehicle and did not handcuff her. Id.

         During the interview, Bonnie London told Neitzert that Donald had a general dislike of law enforcement and that he had had incidents with law enforcement on the previous two days. Id. ¶ 14. She said he was upset officers were currently outside the house. Id. London asserts that she also told Neitzert that Donald was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, but that the situation was manageable and he would be resuming treatment. Id.

         According to Bonnie London, at the end of the interview, she became concerned because she saw armed men dressed in black and more trucks with armed men arriving on the property. Id. ¶ 15. London asserts that she asked Neitzert if the men were there to kill her son. Id. He did not respond. Id. Both parties agree that Agent Neitzert informed Bonnie London that until law enforcement knew what the situation was at the residence, she would not be allowed to leave the scene. Id. ¶ 16.

         Bonnie London was once again placed in Engel’s patrol vehicle. Id. ¶ 17. She was not handcuffed or restrained and was not further interviewed. Id. According to Bonnie London, officers were instructed to hold her in the car at the scene. Id. Eventually, the ...


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