Doran v. Eckold
|06 April 2004
|David DORAN, Appellee, v. Dennis ECKOLD, in his official capacity as President of the Board of Police Commissioners of Kansas City, Missouri; Eric Greenwell, in his official capacity as a police officer of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department and in his individual capacity; Ty Grant, in his official capacity as a police officer of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department and in his individual capacity, Appellants.
|U.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit
Dale H. Close, argued, Kansas City, MO, for appellant.
Stephen R. McCallister, argued, University of Kansas Law School, Lawrence, KS (Walter R. Simpson, Sophie Woodworth and David R. Smith of Kansas City, MO, on the brief), for appellee.
Before LOKEN, Chief Judge, HEANEY and RICHARD S. ARNOLD, Circuit Judges.
At 10:00 p.m. on the evening of August 11, 1998, Kansas City police executed a warrant to search the home of David Doran for drugs and other contraband. Using a tactic called "dynamic entry," the officers announced their presence and purpose but entered the house without knocking and affording its occupants time to answer the door. Officer Ty Grant, serving as "ram officer," yelled "Police, search warrant," simultaneously hitting the front door with his ram, breaking in on the third hit. Officer Mark Sumpter as "point man" was the first officer to enter the house. Sumpter moved quickly through the living room, reached the kitchen doorway, and saw Doran running toward him pointing a handgun. Sumpter testified that he yelled "Police, search warrant, get down," and fired. Doran was shot twice, sustaining serious injuries.
Doran commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting Fourth Amendment damage claims against Officer Sumpter for use of excessive force, Officer Grant for illegal entry, Sergeant Eric Greenwell for failure to supervise Grant, and the Board of Police Commissioners of Kansas City for failure to train its officers regarding Fourth Amendment restrictions on no-knock entries and for deliberate indifference to a custom and practice of no-knock entries. Doran testified that he had been asleep when he heard the ramming. Thinking it was a break-in or a fight on his front porch, he grabbed a pistol from under his pillow, ran from his bedroom into the kitchen, saw laser lights and realized it was the police, and bent to set his gun on the floor when he was shot. Doran denied hearing an officer yell, "Police, search warrant, get down," before he was shot.
Officer Grant testified that Sergeant Greenwell had trained him always to ram the door at the same time as announcing a police presence. Officer Grant had never been trained to knock, nor witnessed another officer knock and announce, before ramming the door. Tr. 241-50.
After a four-day trial, the jury found in favor of Officer Sumpter on the excessive-force claim. It returned a verdict in excess of two million dollars for Doran on the illegal-entry claim against Officer Grant, the failure-to-train claim against Sergeant Greenwell, and the claims against the Board, finding that Doran's injuries were the direct result of those Fourth Amendment violations. The District Court1 held as a matter of law, before the case went to the jury, that the facts known to the police were not sufficient to support a reasonable belief that exigent circumstances justified the no-knock entry. Judgment was entered on this verdict. The Board, Grant, and Greenwell appeal. We affirm.
Kansas City narcotics detective Wesley Williamson obtained the warrant to search Doran's home on August 6, 1998. Williamson did not participate in the execution of the search warrant and did not testify at trial. The warrant and warrant affidavit were not offered into evidence and are not part of the record on appeal. The parties agree that the warrant affidavit was based on an anonymous tip, and that the warrant did not authorize a no-knock entry. Except for running a test on trash found near the Doran home and doing a spot check of the residence, no other corroborating investigation was done.
The task of executing the warrant was assigned to the Police Department's Street Narcotics Unit, a specialized unit whose primary function is to execute search warrants, usually on drug houses. Sergeant Greenwell was in charge of the Unit's entry team. Before executing the warrant, Greenwell talked with the investigating officer and reviewed the warrant and warrant affidavit. He was told of an anonymous tipster's accusations that methamphetamine was being manufactured at the Doran home; that the Dorans were selling crack cocaine and methamphetamine at the front door; that drugs were stored in dresser drawers throughout the house; that guns were kept in the bedroom; and that Doran's 26-year-old son Joseph lived in the house and had recently been arrested for possessing a sawed-off shotgun. Sergeant Greenwell also did a drive-by to verify the location of the house and to "determine any tactical concerns," but did no other corroborating investigation.
On the basis of this information, alleged by the informant but not well corroborated, and his experience with methamphetamine labs, Sergeant Greenwell concluded that this would be a high-risk entry and instructed his team to enter without knocking. On the evening of August 11, the entry team gathered at an assembly point a few blocks from the Doran home. Because of the hazards associated with methamphetamine labs, Greenwell arranged for a fire department pumper and an ambulance to wait at the assembly point, and members of the entry team other than Officer Grant wore respirators to reduce the risk from chemical fumes. After Sergeant Greenwell briefed the entry team, the team proceeded to Doran's house and executed the warrant. Doran was shot soon after Officer Sumpter entered the house. The police completed the search after tending to Doran, finding one ounce of marijuana but neither a methamphetamine lab nor other illegal drugs. Doran had no prior criminal convictions and was not charged with an offense as a result of the search. This lawsuit followed.
The defendants argue that because the jury found that Officer Sumpter's use of force was reasonable, no proximate cause could exist against the other officers and the Board on the illegal-entry and failure-to-train claims. They argue that an act found reasonable by the jury starts anew the chain of causation. We disagree.
Both parties agree that a suit brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 sounds in tort. City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 709, 119 S.Ct. 1624, 143 L.Ed.2d 882 (1999). Issues of causation in § 1983 suits are decided by looking to the common law. See e.g., Ricketts v. City of Columbia, 36 F.3d 775, 779 (8th Cir.1994). The issue presented by the defendants is not foreign to our jurisprudence. In Trudeau v. Wyrick, 713 F.2d 1360 (8th Cir.1983), a state prison warden was sued for violating an outside minister's First Amendment rights. The minister, a gay man, had sent an inmate a response to a personal ad and a three-dollar check. Id. at 1362. The warden, thinking the inmate was attempting to exploit the minister, turned the letter over to the prison chaplain to "handle it." Id. at 1363. The chaplain reported the incident to the monsignor who, upon discovering that the minister was gay, took an adverse employment action against him. Ibid. The minister then brought suit against the warden and won. On appeal, the warden claimed that the act taken by the prison chaplain broke the chain of causation, relieving him of any tort liability under § 1983. Id. at 1366. We did not accept the argument then, and we do not accept it now. Foreseeable intervening acts, be they lawful or unlawful, do not break the chain of causation.
"The question of proximate cause is ... normally one for the jury." Ibid. The defendants had every opportunity to argue this issue in closing. The jury found a link between the defendants' actions and Mr. Doran's injury, and we see no reason to dispute that factual finding.
Further, we question the logic of the defendants' argument. The jury was asked whether it was reasonable for Officer Sumpter, given the circumstances he faced once inside the home, to shoot Mr. Doran. Our review of the Board's and the two officers' conduct starts at a wholly different time. It begins with the custom of disregarding the knock-and-announce rule, and specifically the disregard of the rule in the search of the Doran home, and asks whether it was foreseeable that such disregard could result in injury to Mr. Doran. The reasonableness of Officer Sumpter's actions does not control that question.
Next, the defendants argue that the District Court erred when it ruled as a matter of law that no exigent circumstances existed. We disagree.
In Richards v. Wisconsin, 520 U.S. 385, 117 S.Ct. 1416, 137 L.Ed.2d 615 (1997), the Supreme Court held that "the police should be required to make [a showing of exigency] whenever the reasonableness of a no-knock entry is challenged." Id. at 394-95, 117 S.Ct. 1416. The burden of proving exigency "is not high." Id. at 394, 117 S.Ct. 1416. Even so, there is some flesh to the burden, and we do not think the police sufficiently demonstrated that exigent circumstances existed to justify their "dynamic entry" into the Doran home.2
The knock-and-announce rule posits that, unless countervailing law-enforcement interests are sufficient, officers executing a search warrant at a person's home must knock and announce their presence before entering. See Wilson v. Arkansas, 514 U.S. 927, 936, 115 S.Ct. 1914, 131 L.Ed.2d 976 (1995), and see also United States v. Mendoza, 281 F.3d 712, 717 (8th Cir.2002). The police can show a superseding interest by demonstrating a reasonable belief that the announcement would put...
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