439 F.3d 191 (4th Cir. 2006), 05-1556, Ingle ex rel. Estate of Ingle v. Yelton

Docket Nº:05-1556.
Citation:439 F.3d 191
Party Name:Deborah Jean INGLE, Administrator of the ESTATE OF Christopher James Burt INGLE, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Mike YELTON, in his official and individual capacities; City of Asheville; Chris Young, in his official and individual capacities; Joe Johnson, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:March 08, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
 
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Page 191

439 F.3d 191 (4th Cir. 2006)

Deborah Jean INGLE, Administrator of the ESTATE OF Christopher James Burt INGLE, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Mike YELTON, in his official and individual capacities; City of Asheville; Chris Young, in his official and individual capacities; Joe Johnson, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 05-1556.

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit.

March 8, 2006

Argued: Feb. 1, 2006.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, at Asheville, CA-03-199-1, Lacy H. Thornburg, District Judge.

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ARGUED:

Kyle William King, Weaverville, North Carolina, for Appellant .

Frederick S. Barbour, MCGUIRE, WOOD & BISSETTE, P.A., Asheville, North Carolina, for Appellees.

ON BRIEF: Rendi L. Mann-Stadt, MCGUIRE, WOOD & BISSETTE, P.A., Asheville, North Carolina; Curtis W. Euler, OFFICE OF CITY ATTORNEY FOR THE CITY OF ASHEVILLE, Asheville, North Carolina, for Appellees.

Before WILLIAMS, MOTZ, and KING, Circuit Judges.

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OPINION

DIANA GRIBBON MOTZ, Circuit Judge:

Deborah Ingle brought this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2000) excessive force action against the Asheville, North Carolina, Police Department and three of its officers after the officers fatally shot her son. Ingle asserted, inter alia, that the district court could not rule on the defendants' summary judgment motion without providing her an opportunity to discover whether cameras installed in police vehicles on the scene recorded videotapes of the incident. In granting summary judgment for the defendants without allowing that discovery, the district court abused its discretion.

I.

Shortly after 3:00 a.m. on July 15, 2001, Christopher Ingle and his father, Burt Ingle, had a physical altercation concerning Christopher's sister, Tina Ingle. Burt was restraining Tina, who had just run away from a youth facility, while Christopher unsuccessfully tried to free her. Christopher left and returned with his father's 12-gauge shotgun. He fired three rounds, striking both his father and sister with the final shot. They were taken to the hospital in critical condition but survived.

Christopher then took the shotgun and fled in his father's red pickup truck. The Buncombe County Sheriff's Department broadcast a description of the vehicle Christopher was driving. At approximately 3:30 a.m., Asheville Police Department ("APD") Officer Owen Jones spotted a vehicle matching that description. Officer Jones chased Christopher at high speed in his police cruiser until Christopher pulled into the parking lot of a Holiday Inn Sun Spree motel.

Several officers, including the defendants, submitted affidavits about what happened next. Officer Jones, who is not a defendant, stated that Christopher began to get out of the truck with his hands raised in the air but then lunged back into the truck to get his shotgun, which he pointed at Officer Jones. According to Officer Jones, as backup units began arriving on the scene, Christopher jumped back into his truck, put it in reverse, and drove under the breezeway and past the motel's main entrance. Officer Jones heard a shotgun blast as Christopher passed by Officer Smith. Then, Officer Jones maintains, Christopher came to a stop and pointed the barrel of the gun out the driver's side window. When Christopher lowered the barrel to aim the weapon at other officers, they shot him. Officer Jones did not fire.

The defendants offered consistent accounts. Officer Mike Yelton stated that after he arrived on the scene in his vehicle, he heard a shotgun blast and turned to see the red pickup truck passing under the breezeway. When the truck stopped, he observed the driver open the door and step out holding the gun over his head, as if to surrender. Officer Yelton then saw the driver climb back into the truck, lean away from the driver's side door, and point the barrel of the shotgun out the window. He yelled for the driver to drop the gun, but Christopher instead lowered the barrel until it was aimed at Officer Yelton. The officer then fired at Christopher with his rifle.

Officer Christopher Young maintained that as he arrived on scene in his police car he heard another officer say that shots had been fired. Officer Young observed that the truck had come to a stop near the motel's front entrance and he heard Officer Yelton yelling at the driver to drop his weapon. He saw Christopher lean sideways, away from the driver's door of his truck, and point the barrel of his gun at

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Officer Yelton. Officer Young then fired at the truck.

Officer Joseph Johnson stated that he heard a shotgun blast as he approached the scene in his police cruiser. He turned into the parking lot and saw Christopher driving the truck toward him. After veering to avoid a collision, Officer Johnson drove past the truck and stopped his car next to Officer Jones's vehicle. Officer Johnson got out of the car with his K-9 unit. As he was reaching for the dog's collar, he saw the driver open the door and stick a leg outside. While attaching the leash he heard another shotgun blast and looked up to see Christopher aiming his shotgun at the officers. Officer Johnson drew his weapon and, after hearing shots that he believed came from Christopher, fired at the truck's headrest.

The officers fired approximately thirty rounds at Christopher, six of which struck and killed him. During the shooting, a total of eight law enforcement vehicles were parked either in the motel's driveway or at the entrance to its paved parking lot. Two of those vehicles belonged to the Buncombe County Sheriff's Department, and the remaining six vehicles were from the APD. In addition, three other APD vehicles were located nearby on Holiday Inn Drive.

II.

On July 14, 2003, Deborah Ingle ("Ingle"), Christopher's mother and the administrator of his estate, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-18-1 and -18-2 in North Carolina state court. The defendants--the City of Asheville and APD Officers Yelton, Young, and Johnson--removed the action to federal district court on August 11, 2003, and then answered the complaint and moved to dismiss the case on August 29, 2003. Two weeks later, on September 12, 2003, defendants requested that the court impose Rule 11 sanctions against Ingle.

On October 1, 2003, Ingle moved to extend the time to respond to both the motion to dismiss and the motion for Rule 11 sanctions. In that motion she specifically requested discovery concerning "any videotapes taken during the pursuit of Chris Ingle or at the scene of the shooting." Without addressing the request for videotapes evidence, the magistrate judge denied the motion to extend time to respond to the motion to dismiss. However, he did allow discovery regarding the motion for Rule 11 sanctions, because it relied on information not contained in the pleadings. As part of that discovery, Ingle requested, and the magistrate judge ordered, production of the crime scene photographs.

On April 2, 2004, after the district court, in "an abundance of caution," denied the initial motion to dismiss and the motion for Rule 11 sanctions without prejudice, defendants filed a second motion to dismiss, or in the alternative for summary judgment. Two weeks later, on April 16, 2004, Ingle responded by filing a Rule 56(f) motion to delay consideration of the summary judgment motion until discovery was complete, renewing her request for "production of videotape evidence of the chase and the shooting." She also asserted that summary judgment was inappropriate because the record contained material factual disputes. Ingle posited that Christopher could not have pointed his shotgun out the window, as the officers asserted, because the physical evidence demonstrated that the window was closed when it shattered.

The district court denied the Rule 56(f) motion, finding that the "record appears to be complete as to the perceptions of the officers," and entered summary judgment for the defendants. The court held that they were entitled to qualified immunity

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because, regardless of whether Christopher's truck window was open or closed, the officers reasonably feared for their safety when Christopher aimed his weapon at them.

Ingle then filed a Rule 59(e) motion to amend the judgment in light of "new evidence." She submitted the affidavit of an investigator, Cheryl King, who works for (and is the wife of) Ingle's attorney. King asserts that several unidentified men repeatedly approached her about the Ingle case, and that she eventually accompanied them to an unfamiliar location where she viewed a videotape of the incident. The tape allegedly showed Christopher standing outside his truck with his hands over his head. King heard what sounded like a shot and saw Christopher moving back toward the truck. At the crucial moment...

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