328 F.3d 244 (6th Cir. 2003), 01-4097, Thacker v. City of Columbus

Docket Nº:01-4097
Citation:328 F.3d 244
Party Name:Jeffrey M. Thacker; Jessica Gallagher, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. City of Columbus; Dick Gustavo Elias, Ronald G. Bosley, and Steven R. Stack, individually and in their capacity as Columbus Division of Police; Jeffrey M. Wentworth, individually and in his capacity as an agent, employee, or representative of the City Of Columbus Division of Fire, Def
Case Date:April 30, 2003
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 244

328 F.3d 244 (6th Cir. 2003)

Jeffrey M. Thacker; Jessica Gallagher, Plaintiffs-Appellants,

v.

City of Columbus; Dick Gustavo Elias, Ronald G. Bosley, and Steven R. Stack, individually and in their capacity as Columbus Division of Police; Jeffrey M. Wentworth, individually and in his capacity as an agent, employee, or representative of the City Of Columbus Division of Fire, Defendants-Appellees.

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No. 01-4097

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

April 30, 2003

Argued: March 14, 2003

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio at Columbus, No. 99-00561-Edmund A. Sargus, Jr., District Judge.

COUNSEL

ARGUED:

James D. McNamara, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellants.

Jeffrey S. Furbee, COLUMBUS CITY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, DEPARTMENT OF LAW, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellees.

ON BRIEF:

James D. McNamara, Columbus, Ohio, Anthony O. Mancuso, Gahanna, Ohio, for Appellants.

Jeffrey S. Furbee, Gordon Bradley Hummel, COLUMBUS CITY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, DEPARTMENT OF LAW, Columbus, Ohio, for Appellees.

Before: COLE, GILMAN, and BRIGHT, Circuit Judges.[*]

OPINION

R. GUY COLE, JR., Circuit Judge.

Plaintiffs Jeffrey Thacker and Jessica Gallagher appeal the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants, three police officers, Sergeant Ronald Bosley, and Officers Dick Elias and Steven Stack, and a paramedic, Jeffrey Wentworth, all employed by the City of Columbus, Ohio. Plaintiffs brought this civil rights action after defendants came to their home in response to a 911 call reporting an injury to Thacker, and, ultimately, arrested Thacker for a domestic violence offense. Plaintiffs assert that defendants violated their Fourth Amendment rights and state tort law by unlawfully entering their home, handcuffing Gallagher, and arresting and prosecuting Thacker. Because plaintiffs cannot demonstrate that a constitutional violation occurred, and, in any event, because defendants are entitled to qualified immunity for their actions, we AFFIRM the judgment of the district court.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual History

On September 5, 1998, Jessica Gallagher and her live-in fiance, Jeffrey Thacker, Page 249

went out drinking with friends and were driven home after having a number of alcoholic drinks. Gallagher and Thacker were probably intoxicated when they arrived home and Thacker continued to drink. According to Thacker, once at home, he dropped a beer bottle on the kitchen floor, slipped, and fell on the broken bottle, cutting his wrist. Upon discovering that Thacker had been cut and had blood on his hands, legs, and boxer shorts, Gallagher called 911. The following exchange took place between Gallagher and the 911 dispatcher:

Dispatcher: 911. What is your emergency?

Gallagher: Well, uh, my emergency is, um, somebody here at 2035 . . .

D: What's the emergency?

G: The emergency is he is cut.

D: What?

G: He is cut. And he's bleeding.

D: How'd he get cut?

G: Um, I don't know.

D: Did he get in a fight? Did he cut his own wrists, or what, what's the story?

G: I think I . . . I don't know. [sounds like crying]

D: Ok. He's cut.

G: He, my fiancee is cut.

D: Where?

G: I don't know . . . . Jeff, where you cut? [unintelligible voice in background] His wrist.

D: So, he cut his wrists?

G: No, he didn't. [tell her (unintelligible)]

D: Is it one wrist, or two?

G: It, it, its [sic] one.

D: One. Ask him how it, how it happened.

G: Jeff. [yes?] Jeff, how'd your wrist get cut? [well I was . . .] Jeff, [yeah] Jeff, how's your [unintelligible] Jeff. I don't know. He won't answer me.

At approximately 4:00 a.m., Columbus paramedics Curtis Kaiser and Jeffrey Wentworth were dispatched to Thacker and Gallagher's residence to attend to an incident labeled by the dispatcher as an attempted suicide. Officers Dick Elias and Steven Stack of the Columbus Police Department were dispatched to the same location on a Code 10-14, which refers to either a cutting or stabbing. Code 10-14 is a high priority code that indicates that the injured person may be the victim of a crime, and requires that at least two officers respond. The paramedics arrived first, but waited outside for the police officers to arrive and secure the scene.

When Officers Elias and Stack arrived, they knocked on the apartment door. Thacker and Gallagher answered. When the front door was opened, the officers noticed that there was broken glass on the kitchen floor and an indentation in one wall with a liquid stain beneath it. Thacker's hand was bleeding profusely, and he was bloodied. Visibly intoxicated and immediately belligerent, Thacker used profanity as he spoke to the officers. Without explaining the cause of his injury, Thacker exclaimed that he had called for the paramedics-not the police. Thacker then invited the paramedics, but not the police officers, to "[c]ome on in" to the apartment. At no time did Thacker give Elias and Stack permission to enter the home, although he also did not expressly prohibit the officers from entering either.

After this initial exchange, the officers concluded that Thacker was not a reliable source of information and entered the apartment to investigate a possible crime, assist Thacker and any other injured persons, and determine whether it was safe for the paramedics to enter the apartment. Page 250

Once inside, although the officers still were unsure precisely how Thacker had been injured, they determined that Thacker and Gallagher were the only people present in the apartment, Thacker needed medical attention, and it was safe for the paramedics to enter as long as the officers remained in the apartment. Officer Elias signaled for the paramedics to enter the apartment, and they entered and began treating Thacker. Officers Elias and Stack remained in the apartment for the safety of the paramedics because this was their general practice, and because Thacker, who was still intoxicated, acted alternately belligerently and cooperatively. Kaiser determined that Thacker needed stitches and offered to transport him to the hospital. Thacker refused.

While Thacker was being treated, Officer Elias noticed that Gallagher had a bruise on her right upper arm and mentioned it. Officer Stack and paramedics Kaiser and Wentworth then noticed the bruising, which was on Gallagher's legs as well. The paramedics described the bruises as recent or "fresh."

At first Gallagher told the officers that she received the bruises when she fell out of bed. At the officers' request, Gallagher showed them her bed, which was only a mattress on the floor. At this point, Gallagher explained that she received the bruises when she tripped over the bed and fell into a dresser. Later that night, Gallagher again changed her explanation for the bruising, telling the officers that some of the bruises were the result of a fall on the front steps to the apartment.

Officer Stack claims that he and Gallagher then spoke outside the apartment, and Gallagher confessed to him that Thacker had struck her a week earlier, causing the bruises. Thereafter, the paramedics questioned Gallagher about the bruises. During this questioning, both Wentworth and Kaiser noted that Gallagher was apprehensive about answering Wentworth's questions in Thacker's presence. Accordingly, Wentworth brought Gallagher, willingly, to the paramedics' van so that he could inspect her bruises. Inside the van, Wentworth questioned Gallagher about the bruises. He claims that, ultimately, she told him that "she deserved it-that she and Mr. Thacker had gotten into an argument, that she made him mad, and that he started hitting and kicking her." After speaking with Gallagher, Wentworth told Elias that Gallagher had admitted that Thacker had beaten her.

At approximately 4:30 a.m., after receiving this information, Elias contacted his supervisor, Sergeant Bosley, who came to the scene. Officer Stack testified that he informed Bosley that Gallagher had told himself and Wentworth that Thacker had caused the bruises on her body.

Upon his arrival, Bosley spoke with Thacker, who, Bosley claims, explained that he had been arguing with Gallagher but had not struck her. Bosley then spoke with Gallagher inside the apartment, but, when Thacker repeatedly interrupted the conversation, they finished the conversation outside. Bosley described the exchange as follows:

[S]he and Mr. Thacker had gone out, they had both been drinking, they argued, and Mr. Thacker threw a beer bottle at her. At first, Ms. Gallagher told me that she got the bruises falling out of bed. Ms. Gallagher was nervous and shaking. I told her that the bruises looked as if they were the result of an assault, that if she had been assaulted, she needed to tell me the truth, that otherwise she could be obstructing justice, and that her safety was our first and foremost concern. Ms. Gallagher then said that Thacker had hit her.

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Gallagher maintains that she never stated to anyone that Thacker had struck her or caused the bruises.

Sergeant Bosley directed Elias and Stack to arrest Thacker for domestic violence. Officers Elias and Stack placed Thacker under arrest for domestic violence and assault. The officers photographed Gallagher's bruises. Elias then telephoned Gallagher's father and told him that Thacker had been arrested for domestic violence. Stack then completed a police report.

Although Gallagher claims that the officers handcuffed her for approximately one minute so that they could photograph her bruises, each of the defendants testified that Gallagher was never handcuffed. Gallagher also claims that the officers...

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