682 F.3d 481 (6th Cir. 2012), 11-1333, Hoover v. Walsh

Docket Nº:11-1333.
Citation:682 F.3d 481
Opinion Judge:RIPPLE, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Alan HOOVER, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Timothy WALSH; Michael Gondek; Dearborn Heights Police Lieutenant Cummins, Defendants-Appellees.
Attorney:Christina D. Davis, Romano Law, P.L.L.C., Southfield, Michigan, for Appellant. Karen M. Daley, Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho, P.L.C., Livonia, Michigan, for Appellees.
Judge Panel:Before: SUTTON, McKEAGUE, and RIPPLE,[*] Circuit Judges.
Case Date:June 13, 2012
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Page 481

682 F.3d 481 (6th Cir. 2012)

Alan HOOVER, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Timothy WALSH; Michael Gondek; Dearborn Heights Police Lieutenant Cummins, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 11-1333.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

June 13, 2012

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ON BRIEF:

Christina D. Davis, Romano Law, P.L.L.C., Southfield, Michigan, for Appellant.

Karen M. Daley, Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho, P.L.C., Livonia, Michigan, for Appellees.

Before: SUTTON, McKEAGUE, and RIPPLE,[*] Circuit Judges.

OPINION

RIPPLE, Circuit Judge.

Alan Hoover, a combat veteran who served with the United States Marine Corps in Iraq, alleged that police officers violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by stopping his vehicle, prolonging the traffic stop into an investigatory detention, transporting him to a police station and having him committed for psychiatric evaluation, all without justification. He initiated this action in a Michigan state court, asserting a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 along with state law claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, and assault and battery. The defendants removed the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan and moved for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants; it held that their actions did not violate constitutional norms.1

The district court was correct; accordingly, its judgment is affirmed. 2

I

BACKGROUND

A. The Traffic Stop & Investigatory Detention

At approximately 1:20 a.m. on October 19, 2007, Corporal Timothy Walsh and Officer Michael Gondek of the Dearborn Heights, Michigan, Police Department responded 3 to a report of a suspicious vehicle near the intersection of Beech Daly Road and Eton Street, a " regularly patrolled"

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area with a " high incidence of vehicle break[-]ins and home invasions." 4 When they arrived at the intersection of Currier Street and Fellrath Avenue, the officers observed a white Dodge Neon, which they later learned was being driven by Mr. Hoover.5 The officers were stopped at the intersection when the Dodge Neon approached, but they flashed their lights to indicate that it should enter the intersection before them.6 Mr. Hoover then turned east on Currier Street, and the officers turned to follow. From behind the Dodge Neon, they could see that the car was " full of" clothing and household items that blocked the driver's view out of the rear windshield and side windows. 7 As the officers followed the Dodge Neon, it drove east on Currier Street, took the first right to head south on South Beech Daly Road, took the third left to head east on Van Born Road and then made a left onto the first through-street to head north on South Gulley Road. The car then went several blocks north, crossing the intersection with Currier Street.8 This route aroused the officers' suspicions because it was not the most direct path the Dodge Neon could have taken to get from Beech Daly Road to that section of Gulley Road. The officers initiated a traffic stop on Gulley Road near Eton Street, approximately three blocks east and three blocks north of where they first began following Mr. Hoover. The traffic stop was recorded by a camera in the officers' vehicle, and that video is in the summary judgment record.

After stopping the Dodge Neon, Corporal Walsh approached the vehicle and requested that the driver— Mr. Hoover— produce his license and the car's registration. Mr. Hoover did not have his license with him and instead gave Corporal Walsh his military identification card. He did not provide his registration or any other documents. At the time, Mr. Hoover appeared " very nervous" ; he was chain-smoking and refused to make eye contact with officers. 9 During the stop, the officers observed that clothes and other personal items were " piled" 10 or " thrown" 11 into the car; there was no indication that they had been packed. They also observed Mr. Hoover's son, then about one-and-a-half years old, sitting in a child seat in the rear of the vehicle with a bag of diapers on his lap.12 One officer described the child as " virtually underneath a pile of[ ] ... a diaper bag

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and under some clothes. I could only see his face." 13

The officers asked Mr. Hoover where he was going. According to Mr. Hoover, he told them that he was driving from one friend's house to another's, and he provided the names of both friends and described where they lived, but apparently without providing exact addresses.14 The officers also asked about the personal property in the car and about the child. Mr. Hoover said that the personal property belonged to him and that the child was his son. At some point during the conversation, Mr. Hoover also told the officers that he was driving to his mother's house in Ohio and indicated that he was visiting friends to say goodbye.15 When the officers inquired as to the whereabouts of the child's mother, Mr. Hoover told them that his wife would be joining him in Ohio and that she was aware that he was leaving the state with the child.16 He initially told the officers that he did not know where his wife was at the time, but he later suggested that she might be at her parents' house and gave the officers their phone number and address.17 When asked whether he and his wife had been involved in a domestic dispute, he denied that such was the case. During the traffic stop, Lieutenant Keith Cummins responded to the officers' request for a supervisor.

Through their dispatcher, the officers requested that an officer with the Allan Park Police Department go to Mr. Hoover's in-laws' house to confirm his story. Thereafter, the dispatcher informed the officers that Mr. Hoover's wife was reporting that " there was a domestic incident and [that] she does believe the father is trying to escape town with the child." 18 When confronted with his wife's statements, Mr. Hoover admitted that he and his wife had been involved in a domestic dispute. He told the officers that his wife had assaulted him and that she also had done so on previous occasions. 19

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The officers then decided to transport Mr. Hoover to the police station for further investigation. Approximately thirty-seven minutes after they initiated the traffic stop,20 the officers ordered Mr. Hoover out of his vehicle and handcuffed him, which is " [s]tandard procedure" before Dearborn Heights police officers transport someone.21 After Mr. Hoover was handcuffed and secured in a police vehicle, the officers learned that his father-in-law, the registered owner of the vehicle that Mr. Hoover had been driving, did not want the Dodge Neon taken out of the state.22 The officers later stated that they believed that further investigation was needed into possible domestic violence, parental kidnapping and the taking without permission of a vehicle. As far as officers knew at the time, there were no outstanding warrants for Mr. Hoover's arrest or police reports regarding the child. When the officers began driving Mr. Hoover to the police station, a total of about fifty minutes had elapsed from the time of the stop.

B. The Station Interview

At the police station, Mr. Hoover spoke with Corporal Walsh.23 He told Corporal Walsh that he had experienced " flashbacks," presumably relating to his military experiences in Iraq, and that he had been using " distraction techniques" while talking to the officers at the scene of the traffic stop. 24 Corporal Walsh later testified that Mr. Hoover told him that he had been having " problems" since returning from Iraq.25 Mr. Hoover also told Corporal Walsh that the police station was " full of improvised weapons" and that he could unlock his handcuffs with a pen.26

Mr. Hoover's wife came to the police station and spoke with Officer Gondek and Lieutenant Cummins. According to Officer Gondek's later testimony, she told the officers " [t]hat there had been a domestic violence [incident] at the residence and Mr. Hoover fled with the child." 27 Additionally,

[s]he stated that, the specifics of the domestic violence, items being thrown around, Mr. Hoover having problems adjusting from his service in Iraq, stating he was becoming increasingly violent. She stated that he was, made suicidal comments to her, attempted to, suicide by ramming his head through the drywall numerous times. She stated that

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he threw the TV at her almost hitting the crib[ ]....

She was concerned for her safety, the safety of her child and safety of her husband.[28]

An affidavit later supplied by Mr. Hoover's wife supports Officer Gondek's account, stating that, while she was at the police department, she " advised the Dearborn Heights police officers of the events of October 18, 2007." 29 According to that affidavit:

On October 18, 2007, Alan [Hoover] accused me of having an affair. He disrobed and attempted to force me to have sex with him. I refused and he began destroying things in the house. Alan picked up our son's TV and threw it into our son's crib, destroying the crib. Alan threw his shoulder into the bedroom wall, putting a hole through the drywall. Alan then walked through the house tipping over and destroying furniture. He was yelling, screaming and bashing his body into walls. He went into the bedroom and turned over the bed and mattresses.

In response to Alan's tirade, I attempted to leave the residence. I started filling a bag with children's clothing. Alan tore the bag open. I attempted to fill a pillow case which Alan dumped out. Alan then ripped my son from my hands, took the car keys and walked toward the door. I attempted to stop Alan. He ran into me, shoved me to the side and left the residence in our car with our son on his lap.

...

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