Dunigan v. Thomas

Decision Date24 February 2023
Docket Number22-cv-11038
PartiesRENEE DUNIGAN and MICHELLE COLSTON, Individually and as Next Friend of A.C., a Minor, D.W., a Minor, and S.W., a Minor, Plaintiffs, v. TROOPER MICHAEL THOMAS, TROOPER BLAKE ELLSWORTH, TROOPER MAXWELL PRINCE, TROOPER JON TIBAUDO, TROOPER DAN CLISE, TROOPER THOMAS KILL, TROOPER STEVEN CHENET, TROOPER AARON LOCKE, SERGEANT HOFFMAN, SERGEANT PINKERTON, TROOPER PINKERTON, SERGEANT GRUENWALD, DETECTIVE SERGEANT THOMAS DHOOGHE, DETECTIVE SERGEANT JOSHUA DIRKSE, DETECTIVE TROOPER JASON BAXTER, DETECTIVE TROOPER MARK SWALES, TROOPERS ROE #s 1-10, and TROOPERS JOHN DOE #s 1-10, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Michigan
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (ECF NO. 25)

Paul D. Borman, United States District Judge

This case arises out of the April 21, 2021, execution of a search warrant at the home of Plaintiffs, Renee Dunigan, her daughter, Michelle Colston, and Michelle's three minor children, A.C., D.W., and S.W., in Flint, Michigan, by Defendants, Michigan State Police (MSP) officers. Plaintiffs bring five Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment claims, as well as three state law claims, against all Defendants.

Now before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, in which Defendants seeks dismissal of all of Plaintiffs' claims. (ECF No. 25.) The motion has been fully briefed. The Court held a hearing on Defendants' motion on Friday February 10, 2023, at which counsel for Plaintiffs and Defendants appeared.

For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion to dismiss is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
A. Factual Allegations

On or about April 20, 2021, a 16-year-old African-American male was shot and killed during a drive-by shooting in Flint, Michigan. (ECF No. 2, Compl. ¶ 23.) The victim was shot while driving and crashed his vehicle into a tree. Shell casings from two different caliber guns were found at the scene, leading officers to believe that there were two suspects. (ECF No. 25-2, Application and Affidavit for Search Warrant (“S.W. Affidavit”), PageID.195-96) (ECF No. 25-3, Incident Report, PageID.208.)[1] Two handguns were found, concealed, near the victim, but the guns matching the fired casings were not located. (ECF No. 25-3, Incident Report, PageID.207-08.)

Based on eyewitness testimony, surveillance footage, and evidence at the scene, Michigan State Police (MSP) Detective Defendants were able to identify one of the suspects to the shooting as Demaurel Jackson. (ECF No. 25-2, S.W. Affidavit, PageID.197.) In addition, Defendants were able to ascertain the make, model, and ownership of the suspect vehicle involved in the drive-by shooting - a 2015 silver Nissan Altima owned by Breshanna Bailey. (Id.) An arrest warrant for Jackson was obtained, and he was arrested outside of a residence on McClure Avenue in Flint, Michigan. (Id. PageID.198.)

The owner of the suspect vehicle, Bailey, was also found at the McClure Avenue residence. Bailey was questioned by Detectives, and she advised that Jackson was her boyfriend. (Id.) Bailey informed the officers that she had been with Jackson on April 20, 2021, when Jackson dropped her off at work in the morning, and that Jackson was in possession of her car the remainder of that day. (Id.) However, after she worked that day, Jackson was no longer in possession of her car. (Id.) Bailey then informed Detectives that the following day, April 21, 2021, she was with Jackson when they drove to a blue house, later determined to be 1534 Garland Street, in Flint, Michigan, that she observed Jackson go “into the residence and c[o]me back out of the residence,” and she observed her car “parked behind the house at 1534 Garland St.” (Id.) (ECF No. 2, Compl. ¶ 29.)

Bailey stated that she could take the Detectives to where her car was located, and Bailey and the Detectives then traveled to the 1534 Garland Street residence. (ECF No. 25-2, S.W. Affidavit, PageID.198.) Upon their arrival, Bailey pointed out her vehicle “parked behind the house at 1534 Garland St.” (Id.)

On April 21, 2021, Detective Baxter obtained search warrants for several residences where Jackson had been following the shooting on April 20, 2021, including the 1534 Garland Street residence. (ECF No. 25-2, S.W.) (ECF No. 25-3, Incident Report, PageID.214-15.)

Plaintiffs assert that they have rented and occupied the home at 1534 Garland Street, in Flint Michigan, for fourteen years, “with no history of criminal activity, gang activity, or any wrongdoing whatever.” (ECF No. 2, Compl. ¶ 25.) Significantly, Plaintiffs' home shares a single driveway with the house immediately next door, at 1536 Garland Street. (Id. ¶ 26.) Plaintiffs state that the subject Nissan Altima had been parked in the same location, in the shared portion of the driveway between the houses, since 7:00 a.m. on the morning of April 21, 2021, and that it had not been moved all day. (Id. ¶ 28.)

As approximately 10:00 p.m. on April 21, 2021, MSP's Emergency Support Team (ES Team) executed a search warrant at 1534 Garland Street. (ECF No. 2, Compl. ¶ 34.)

Plaintiffs allege that, “immediately prior to the execution of the warrant,” Plaintiff Michelle Colston had just gotten out of the shower, her two sons, D.W. and S.W., were upstairs in bed, and Plaintiff Renee Dunigan was in the living room, close to the front door, with her granddaughter, A.C. (Id. ¶¶ 35-36.) Plaintiffs contend in their Complaint that Defendants executed the Search Warrant without knocking or properly announcing themselves. (Id. ¶¶ 34, 37.) They contend that Defendants used a battering ram to break in the front door of Plaintiffs' home, and then forcibly entered the residence, with weapons drawn. (Id. ¶ 37.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendants raided Plaintiffs' home “using excessively large numbers of officers, approximately fifteen to forty Defendant officers.” (Id. ¶ 40.) The Court notes that it appears on the dash cam video that the ES Team entering Plaintiffs' home was comprised of eight officers, and that Plaintiffs have named 16 officers as Defendants here.

Defendants, on the other hand, contend that prior to entry into Plaintiffs' residence, their vehicles' emergency lights were activated and announcements of “State Police search warrant” were made on a loudspeaker outside of Plaintiffs' residence, which Defendants contend could be seen and heard on the dash camera of a patrol vehicle. (ECF No. 25-4, Ex. C, Dash Camera Footage at 0:29; 0:36.)

Defendants assert that the dash camera also captured other officers announcing their presence. (Id., citing Ex. C at 0:36.)

Plaintiffs allege that, upon Defendants' entry into Plaintiffs' home, Defendants ordered Plaintiffs, including the three minor children, into the living room, at gunpoint. (ECF No. 2, Compl. ¶ 40.) Defendants would not allow Plaintiff Michelle Colston to put clothes on, despite the raid interrupting her shower, and instead required her to wrap herself “in any cover she could get her hands on.” (Id.) Defendants barred Plaintiffs' family members and neighbors from entry into Plaintiffs' home during the search, and prevented Plaintiffs from either making phone calls to, or answering phone calls from, concerned family members and neighbors during that time. (Id.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendants “ransacked” Plaintiffs' home, “pulled clothes and personal items out of their closets and dressers,” and that Defendants “yelled loudly at Plaintiffs in rude, threatening, racist, and insulting terms,” including “referring to Plaintiffs as ‘you people.' (Id.)

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants confined Plaintiffs in their home for about an hour during the search before asking about the silver Nissan Altima parked in the shared driveway. (Id. ¶ 42.) At that time, Defendants learned from Plaintiffs that Plaintiffs had no affiliation with that vehicle,” (id.), and that the subject vehicle was associated with the neighboring residence at 1536 Garland Street. (ECF No. 25-3, Incident Report, PageID.215.)

“After discovering Breshanna Bailey had misinformed detectives of the residence” to which Jackson had taken her car, Defendants obtained and executed a search warrant at the 1536 Garland Street residence. (Id. PageID.216.) Residents at the 1536 Garland Street house confirmed that the subject vehicle belonged to their friend's girlfriend, and that their friend (“D” or “Maurel”) dropped the car off at the house on April 20, 2021, removed the vehicle's license plate, put it under a bed in the house, and then left. (ECF No. 25-3, Incident Report, PageID.217.)

B. Procedural History

On May 16, 2022, Plaintiffs filed the instant lawsuit against 16 MSP officers, asserting the following eight causes of action against all Defendants: Count I -Unreasonable Entry, Search and Seizure under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments based on a lack of probable cause; Count II - Unreasonable Entry, Search and Seizure under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments based an unreasonable execution of the search warrant; Count III - False Imprisonment under the Fourth Amendment; Count IV - Excessive Force under the Fourth Amendment; Count V - Equal Protection under the Fourteenth Amendment; Count VI - Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress;[2] Count VII - Trespass; and Count VIII - False Imprisonment under Michigan law.

On August 12, 2022, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint. (ECF No. 25, Defs.' Mot.) Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' claims are subject to dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. Defendants further argue that, even if Plaintiffs' claim have been properly pleaded, Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity from Plaintiffs' federal...

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