Mason v. Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Government, 111015 FED5, 14-30021
|Opinion Judge:||PRISCILLA R. OWEN, Circuit Judge:|
|Party Name:||BRENDA MASON, Individually and on behalf of Quamaine Dwayne Mason; BILLY C. MASON, Individually and on behalf of Quamaine Dwayne Mason, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. LAFAYETTE CITY-PARISH CONSOLIDATED GOVERNMENT; JAMES P. CRAFT, In His Official Capacity as Chief of Police; MARTIN FAUL, Individually and in His Official Capacity, Defendants-Appellees.|
|Judge Panel:||Before JOLLY, HIGGINBOTHAM, and OWEN, Circuit Judges. PATRICK E. HIGGINBOTHAM, Circuit Judge,|
|Case Date:||November 10, 2015|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit|
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana
Officer Martin Faul fatally shot Quamaine Mason while responding to a reported armed robbery. Mr. Mason's parents, Brenda and Billy Mason (together, the Masons), sued Faul asserting Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment violations. The Masons also brought Monell1 claims against Faul's employer, Lafayette City–Parish Consolidated Government (Lafayette), and James Craft, Lafayette's Chief of Police. The complaint also included claims against all three defendants under Louisiana state law. Faul raised the defense of qualified immunity. The district court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissed all of the Masons' claims. Because there are material fact issues that preclude summary judgment in favor of Faul on the basis of qualified immunity, we reverse the summary judgment as to Faul on the Masons' Fourth Amendment and state law claims and remand them to the district court. We otherwise affirm the district court's judgment.
Because the district court disposed of the case on summary judgment, we state the facts of the case in the light most favorable to the Masons, the nonmovants below.2 At the time of his death, Mr. Mason was dating Racquel Babino. Mr. Mason knew that Paul Pitkins, the father of Babino's child, was coming to her apartment one evening regarding a phone bill. Mr. Mason did not know that Babino planned to prepare dinner for Pitkins and his cousin, Jeremy Richardson, to celebrate Pitkins's recent college graduation.
Mr. Mason came to Babino's apartment that evening to pick up his dog. He saw Babino through the apartment window and became upset, banging on the door and yelling. Babino asked her roommate to answer the door, and Babino locked herself in her bedroom with Pitkins and Richardson. Mr. Mason entered the apartment and attempted to pry open the bedroom door with a spoon.
Babino eventually opened the bedroom door. Mr. Mason entered the bedroom carrying a gun and ordered Pitkins and Richardson to leave. Mason threatened to "pistol whip" someone, but Babino states that the gun remained pointed at the ground at all times. Babino and Mr. Mason later exited the bedroom, and Mr. Mason eventually "got calm." They discovered that Mr. Mason's dog was missing and intended to leave the apartment to search for the dog.
In the meantime, Richardson had called 911. He told the operator that an armed individual had "broken into" Babino's apartment to get a dog. He stated that he did not know the individual but that Babino and Pitkins knew him. Richardson described the suspect to the operator as a black male, approximately six feet tall and weighing 200 pounds, wearing black jeans and a black shirt.
Officer Martin Faul volunteered to respond to an incident described as an armed robbery that had been reported at Babino's apartment. The Masons contend we must conclude that Faul approached the incident with no additional information because of his statements during his post-incident interview with the Louisiana State Police. The following exchange occurred between Faul and Frank Garcia, the State Police investigator:
[GARCIA]: You volunteered for the call, okay. Where were you when y'all got dispatched out there?
[FAUL]: I was en route to another armed robbery call around approximately Saint Christopher and Johnston.
. . .
[FAUL]: Yeah, I was going to Marshall's Department Store.
. . .
[GARCIA]: When the call came over, when dispatch put the call out, were there any particulars, any notes or comments in the comment section on the call?
[FAUL]: Yes, I didn't read them, but she verbally dispatched them.
[GARCIA]: Okay. What were the comments?
[FAUL]: Armed robbery, 200 Theater, Campus Crossing Apartments, Black male, black pants, black shirt with a gun still in the apartment, apartment 712.
[GARCIA]: Okay, alright. And is there any particular reason why you decided to go out here instead of going to Marshall's?
[FAUL]: Yes, they had a canine handler already there. . . . I was going to keep rolling in case they you know they needed me. And then like I said when I got around Saint Christopher, the original, the first 64 [armed robbery] went to Charlie, so I put my base radio on Charlie and stopped it from scanning. And then I still had one on me on Alpha. So, I was still listening to Alpha. And when I heard that call come in on Alpha, I was so close. On Alpha, I said, "Headquarters distract from that first 64, show me en route to that one." You know, I don't know if I said I was closer or whatever, but they said, "10-4." And then . . . the computer and [sic] did all this stuff, but I never paid no attention to the computer.
The Masons argue that the "never paid no attention to the computer" statement shows that Faul had no information about the situation he approached.
Faul arrived at the apartment complex and saw that Officers Brittney Dugas and Jace Galland were there. Faul removed his police canine from his car. The three officers encountered Richardson and Pitkins, who directed them toward Babino's apartment.
Mr. Mason and Babino opened the apartment door to find the officers with their guns drawn. Mr. Mason matched the description Faul alleges he received from dispatch. Babino moved in front of Mr. Mason. She positioned herself so that she shielded Mr. Mason from Officers Dugas and Galland. She screamed to the officers, "What are you doing? He's not doing nothing. What's wrong?"
The officers then issued commands to Mr. Mason and Babino, but the witnesses differ as to what commands were issued. According to Babino, the officers only ordered them to put their hands up. Faul asserts that Galland was the only officer to issue commands and that Galland told Mr. Mason and Babino to get on the ground. Dugas and Galland state that the officers issued conflicting orders for Mr. Mason and Babino to keep their hands up and get on the ground.
Although the officers contend that Mr. Mason reacted to the commands by squaring up with Faul and tucking his chin as if he were preparing to fight, Babino claims that Mr. Mason had his hands up and was not moving. Faul saw a gun in Mr. Mason's waistband. Faul yelled "Gun!" and sent his dog towards Mr. Mason. Babino asserts that Mr. Mason only dropped his hands to his crotch after the dog had attacked him, in contrast to Faul, who claims that Mr. Mason's right hand went to his side before he released the dog.
Faul asserts that once the dog had attacked Mr. Mason, Mr. Mason's hand came in contact with his gun, so Faul began shooting. Babino asserts that Mr. Mason never did anything to require the officer to release the dog for an attack, that Mr. Mason never touched the gun, and that Mr. Mason never attempted to resist, assault or fire upon the police.
Faul's initial shot struck Mr. Mason in the chin. The second shot struck Mr. Mason in the right shoulder, moving slightly from the back to the front. The third shot struck the upper back part of Mr. Mason's right arm, fracturing his humerus. Dr. James Traylor, a forensic pathologist for the defense, stated that while the fracture would have severely restricted the movement of Mr. Mason's right arm, he would have been able to flex some at the elbow, though not very effectively, but that moving his arm "would have been extremely painful." Additionally, Dr. Traylor testified that Mr. Mason could still have moved his shoulder but also not very well. The fourth shot struck Mr. Mason in his lateral right chest wall, fracturing a rib. The fifth shot struck Mr. Mason on the upper back portion of the left arm, fracturing the left humerus. Dr. Traylor testified that at the time the fifth shot was fired, Mr. Mason was in a prone position, face down. Faul then temporarily stopped firing.
Faul claims that Mr. Mason then moved his shoulder and elbow as if he were about to spin over, pull out the gun, and start shooting. Officer Dugas asserts that Mr. Mason was "still trying to reach for [the gun]" after the first five shots were fired. Babino, in contrast, states that once Mr. Mason was on the ground she only saw him "pick up his head and put it back down" and that she never saw Mr. Mason "move his body, the trunk of his body." Faul fired two shots into Mr. Mason's back, and Mr. Mason stopped moving. Babino states that after the shooting ended, Mr. Mason's arms were not above his head but at his side.
Faul radioed for an ambulance and put the dog into a police vehicle. When Faul returned, Mr. Mason had been moved to a nearby breezeway, and Faul saw other officers were administering first aid to Mr. Mason. A civilian combat medic also helped care for Mr. Mason, but he died at the scene.
The Masons allege several irregularities in Lafayette's investigation of the shooting. First, police later recovered an eighth bullet lodged in a wall that did not strike Mr. Mason. Murphy Riggs, a relative of Mr. Mason, testified that when he arrived at the scene, a bullet hole in a structure had been patched, and the area had been cleaned with bleach. Second, before Frank Garcia, the State Police investigator, arrived at the scene, Mr. Mason's gun had been moved, and the magazine had been removed. Finally...
To continue readingFREE SIGN UP