686 F.3d 644 (8th Cir. 2012), 11-2091, Carpenter v. Gage

Docket Nº:11-2091.
Citation:686 F.3d 644
Opinion Judge:COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Norman Jay CARPENTER, Appellant, v. Deputy Harold D. GAGE; Deputy Kenneth D. Paul; Benton County, Arkansas; Sheriff Keith Ferguson, Benton County, Appellees.
Attorney:Norman Douglas Norwood, argued, Rogers, AR, for appellant. Jason E. Owens, argued and on the brief, Michael R. Rainwater, on the brief, Little Rock, AR, for appellees.
Judge Panel:Before SMITH, COLLOTON, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges. SMITH, Circuit Judge, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
Case Date:July 27, 2012
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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686 F.3d 644 (8th Cir. 2012)

Norman Jay CARPENTER, Appellant,


Deputy Harold D. GAGE; Deputy Kenneth D. Paul; Benton County, Arkansas; Sheriff Keith Ferguson, Benton County, Appellees.

No. 11-2091.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

July 27, 2012

Submitted: Nov. 16, 2011.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Norman Douglas Norwood, argued, Rogers, AR, for appellant.

Jason E. Owens, argued and on the brief, Michael R. Rainwater, on the brief, Little Rock, AR, for appellees.

Before SMITH, COLLOTON, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

COLLOTON, Circuit Judge.

Norman Jay Carpenter brought a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against two deputy sheriffs in Benton County, Arkansas, alleging that they unlawfully entered his home, detained him, employed excessive force against him, and denied him emergency medical care. Carpenter also asserts a failure-to-train claim against Benton County and its sheriff. The district court 1 granted summary judgment for the defendants. The court ruled that Carpenter had not presented sufficient evidence to prove a constitutional violation, and that the defendants were thus entitled to qualified immunity. Carpenter appeals, and we affirm.


On April 4, 2008, Carpenter was sleeping at his home in Benton County with Connie Gunem, his girlfriend. When Gunem awoke, she saw that Carpenter " looked horrible." Carpenter was slurring his speech to the point of incomprehensibility. His face was drawn, saliva was dripping from his mouth, and he kept falling over. After Gunem said she would call an ambulance, Carpenter argued with her, so Gunem went outside to call 911. When the first responders arrived, one paramedic

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started to enter the house behind Gunem. At that point, Carpenter met them in a front hallway, denied that he needed medical aid, and ordered them to leave his house, saying " I got a baseball bat that says you will get out of here." Gunem and the first responder backed out through the door.

Harold Gage, a Benton County deputy sheriff, arrived shortly thereafter. Gage responded to a call from a dispatcher that first responders had been threatened with a baseball bat. Gage spoke with Gunem, who said she believed that Carpenter may have suffered a stroke. Gunem informed Gage that Carpenter had a rifle in the house, but that she did not know where he kept it. The first responders told Gage that Carpenter had chased them out of the house with a baseball bat. Gage pulled his car to the front of the house, walked up to the porch, and knocked on the door.

Meanwhile, Kenneth Paul, another Benton County deputy sheriff, arrived in response to the same information that Gage had received. Paul learned that Carpenter might have a rifle in his house, and joined Gage on the porch. Carpenter eventually answered the door, and Gage identified himself. Paul then asked Carpenter what was the problem. Carpenter responded by pointing to Paul's badge and saying, " that's the f- - -ing problem right there." Carpenter stepped back inside the house, and the two deputies followed him. Both deputies testified that they entered because they feared Carpenter could be retrieving a weapon.

Once inside, Gage ordered Carpenter to stop moving about and threatened to deploy a taser gun if Carpenter refused to comply. Gage and Paul claim that Carpenter took a swing at them; Carpenter denies ever raising his hand or swinging at the deputies. In either case, the deputies took Carpenter to the ground and told him to give them his hands so he could be handcuffed. All parties agree that Carpenter neither remained still nor presented his hands to the deputies. According to Paul, Carpenter resisted and would not offer his hands. Carpenter explains that he tried to use the couch for support because he could not breathe. Paul then deployed his taser against Carpenter; the taser strike caused Carpenter to begin to buckle. Paul deployed the taser again, and the deputies were able to restrain Carpenter.

Following the scuffle, a first responder entered the house and looked over Carpenter. The deputies then transported Carpenter to jail, where he was processed, cited for third degree assault, and released.

Gunem told Carpenter's children what had happened. The children drove down from Michigan and took Carpenter to the hospital. An emergency room doctor determined that Carpenter had suffered a stroke, and admitted him to the hospital. Carpenter alleges that the stroke caused permanent damage to his vision and hearing, which in turn has limited his employment and undermined interpersonal relationships.

Carpenter brought claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Deputies Gage and Paul, Sheriff Keith Ferguson, and Benton County itself. Five claims are the subject of this appeal: (1) that Gage and Paul unlawfully entered Carpenter's home; (2) that the deputies lacked probable cause to detain or arrest Carpenter; (3) that the deputies' physical contact with Carpenter and use of a taser constituted an excessive use of force; (4) that the deputies' failure to obtain treatment for Carpenter's stroke unlawfully denied him emergency medical care; and (5) that Sheriff Ferguson and the county failed properly to train Gage and Paul how to recognize and treat a

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person exhibiting symptoms of a stroke. The district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. The court cited qualified immunity, but actually concluded that Carpenter failed to establish that either Gage or Paul deprived him of a constitutional right, and that the absence of an underlying constitutional violation defeated Carpenter's failure-to-train claims.


We review de novo the district court's order granting summary judgment and view the evidence in the light most favorable to Carpenter, drawing all reasonable inferences in his favor. Schoelch v. Mitchell, 625 F.3d 1041, 1045 (8th Cir.2010). In § 1983 claims, qualified immunity shields government officials from liability and the burdens of litigation unless their conduct violated a clearly established constitutional or statutory right of which a reasonable official would have known. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982). To overcome the deputies' assertion of qualified immunity, Carpenter must produce sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of fact as to whether they violated a clearly established right.


Carpenter first argues that the deputies entered his house in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Absent consent, an officer's entry into a home generally requires a warrant. See Payton v. New York, 445 U.S. 573, 589-90, 100 S.Ct. 1371, 63 L.Ed.2d 639 (1980). An " exigent circumstances" exception to the warrant requirement, however, permits a warrantless entry when the needs of law enforcement are so compelling that a warrantless search is objectively reasonable. Mincey v. Arizona, 437 U.S. 385, 393-94, 98 S.Ct. 2408, 57 L.Ed.2d 290 (1978). Such exigencies include the need to render emergency aid to an injured occupant, hot pursuit of a fleeing suspect, and the need to prevent the destruction of evidence. Kentucky v. King, ---U.S. ----, 131 S.Ct. 1849, 1856, 179 L.Ed.2d 865 (2011). A warrantless entry is lawful if officers reasonably believed that exigent circumstances existed. Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 641, 107 S.Ct. 3034, 97 L.Ed.2d 523 (1987).

A reasonable deputy sheriff could have believed that exigent circumstances justified entering Carpenter's home without a warrant. Deputies Gage and Paul both received reports that Carpenter had threatened first responders with a baseball bat. Although Carpenter denies wielding a bat while ordering the first responders out of his house, the relevant question is whether the deputies reasonably believed that he had used a baseball bat. See Radloff v. City of Oelwein, Iowa, 380 F.3d 344, 348 (8th Cir.2004). Here, the deputies were advised by a reliable source that Carpenter had done so. The deputies also were advised by Carpenter's companion that Carpenter kept a rifle in the home. In light of these facts and Carpenter's belligerence toward the first responders and the deputies, it was reasonable for Gage and Paul to believe that Carpenter may have withdrawn abruptly into his home to retrieve a gun. As neither deputy knew where Carpenter's rifle was located, it was reasonable for them to fear that they lacked time to make a safe retreat. A reasonable officer therefore could have concluded that allowing Carpenter to go unaccompanied back into his home posed a threat to the lives of the law enforcement officers and first responders outside the house. See United States v. Ball, 90 F.3d 260, 263 (8th Cir.1996). For these reasons, the district court correctly dismissed Carpenter's claim alleging an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment.

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Carpenter also asserts that Gage and Paul lacked probable cause to arrest him, and that the seizure violated the Fourth Amendment. Carpenter argues that there is a genuine issue for trial because he disputes the deputies' account that he swung at them.

Regardless of whether Carpenter assaulted the deputies, there was probable cause to arrest Carpenter based on his conduct toward the first responders. Both Gage and Paul reported to the scene based on information that Carpenter had threatened first responders with a baseball bat. Although neither deputy witnessed this conduct, officials may rely on hearsay statements to determine that probable cause exists. See Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 241-42, 103 S.Ct. 2317, 76 L.Ed.2d 527 (1983). The report from the dispatcher provided reasonably trustworthy information that Carpenter had assaulted the first responders, so the deputies had probable cause to arrest him. That the deputies' subjective reason for arresting Carpenter may have been different does not invalidate the arrest. Devenpeck v....

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