Dupler v. Hunter, Case No. 3:16-cv-191-J-34MCR

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
Writing for the CourtMARCIA MORALES HOWARD United States District Judge
PartiesJOHN DUPLER, Plaintiff, v. MARK HUNTER, Sheriff of Columbia County, Florida, in his official capacity; and KEITH SPRADLEY, Defendants.
Decision Date11 August 2017
Docket NumberCase No. 3:16-cv-191-J-34MCR

JOHN DUPLER, Plaintiff,
MARK HUNTER, Sheriff of Columbia County,
Florida, in his official capacity; and KEITH SPRADLEY, Defendants.

Case No. 3:16-cv-191-J-34MCR


August 11, 2017


THIS CAUSE is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Final Summary Judgment and Memorandum of Law (Doc. 21; Motion), filed on December 15, 2016. Plaintiff filed a response to the Motion on January 27, 2017. See Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 26; Response). Accordingly, this matter is ripe for review.

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I. Background1

John Dupler is a 5'4" tall 150 lb male with some level of mental impairment related to in utero oxygen deprivation. See Motion, Ex. 1: Offense Report at 1; Response, Ex. A: Deposition of John Dupler (Dupler Dep.) at 59. On May 15, 2012, at approximately 1:00 a.m., Dupler who had finished his shift as a custodian at Florida Gateway College, located at 149 SE College Place, Lake City, Florida, began driving to his house, located at 294 SE Mulberry Place, Lake City, Florida. See Dupler Dep. at 21, 25, 27. While driving west on County Road 252, Dupler passed Deputy David Keith Spradley Jr. (Deputy Spradley) who was driving east on County Road 252 in a marked law enforcement vehicle. See Response, Ex. B: Deposition of David Keith Spradley (Spradley Dep.) at 9, 25. Although Dupler did not notice Deputy Spradley, see Dupler Dep. at 27, Deputy Spradley believed that Dupler saw him because Dupler hit his brakes when he passed Deputy Spradley, as one typically does when one sees a police vehicle, see Spradley Dep. at 14.

According to Deputy Spradley, Dupler's tag light and back left brake light were not functioning. Id. at 12-13. Although Dupler acknowledged that his brake light was out, see Dupler Dep. at 25, he believed his tag light may have been operational, but could not say that he knew it was, id. at 22-23. Regardless, Deputy Spradley turned his vehicle around and pulled up behind Dupler at a red light at the corner of County Road 252 and

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Southeast Country Club Road. See Spradley Dep. at 13; Dupler Dep. at 25-26. As soon as the traffic light turned green, Deputy Spradley gave his siren a quick burst and turned on his emergency lights to conduct a traffic stop. See Spradley Dep. at 13, 16. Dupler did not notice Deputy Spradley because he had loud rock music playing in his car. See Dupler Dep. at 27-29, 37. Dupler drove away from the intersection at a fast enough pace that his engine revved. See Spradley Dep. at 16. Although Dupler testified that he did not notice Deputy Spradley until he pulled into his driveway, see Dupler Dep. at 37, he also testified that the headlights behind him were so "blinding" that he switched his rearview mirror into nighttime mode, id. at 31, and did not pull over because he feared flipping into a gully, id. at 27. Dupler did not speed but continued to drive approximately one quarter of a mile drive from the intersection to his house. See Spradley Dep. at 1, 13-14; Dupler Dep. at 27-28. Video of the incident taken from Deputy Spradley's vehicle, see Spradley Dep. at 12,2 shows that along the way Dupler passed a number of driveways, turned right onto another street, and then left into his own driveway, see Motion, Ex. 2: Video at 1:11:18-1:12:04. Having turned into the driveway, Dupler still did not immediately stop, and Deputy Spradley can be heard saying "they're still not stopping." Id. at 1:12:04-1:12:09. Dupler continued to the end of the driveway, ultimately stopping between a carport with a parked vehicle on his right and a neighboring structure to the left. Id. at 1:12:18.

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Once Dupler stopped, Deputy Spradley pulled up behind him. Id. Dupler then honked his horn twice. See Dupler Dep. at 35; Spradley at 19-20. Although Dupler testified that he frequently honked to let his wife know he was home, see Dupler Dep. at 33; Response, Ex. C: Deposition of Regina Dupler (R. Dupler Dep.) at 13, he later stated that he honked to alert his wife that someone was behind him, see Dupler Dep. at 36. Having stopped behind Dupler, Deputy Spradley took cover behind his police vehicle, displayed his firearm, and repeatedly shouted "let me see your hands" and "put your hands in the air." See Video at 1:12:23-1:12:43; Spradley Dep. at 28-29. Although Dupler testified that he heard Deputy Spradley's orders and complied right away, see Dupler Dep. at 38-39, the Video reflects that Deputy Spradley ordered Dupler to show his hands four times3 within twenty seconds before Dupler even began to get out of his vehicle, see Video at 1:12:23-1:12:43. During that time, Dupler's head and upper body can be seen moving about on the Video through the back windshield. See generally id. Dupler testified that he initially thought he was supposed to wait in his car. See Dupler Dep. at 38.

When Dupler opened his car door, he still did not immediately exit the vehicle. See Video 1:12:43. Instead, Deputy Spradley again shouted "let me see your hands, put your hands in the air." Id. at 1:12:43-1:12:49. Then, Dupler stood, flashed his palms, asked

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what he had done wrong, and then dropped his hands back to his sides. Id. Dupler described his own demeanor as calm and non-threatening, see Dupler Dep. at 50, however Deputy Spradley interpreted Dupler's failure to comply as an act of aggression and feared that Dupler intended to have a confrontation, see Spradley Dep. at 21, 42-43. Nevertheless, because Dupler did not have any visible weapons, Deputy Spradley holstered his firearm and pulled out his Taser.4 Id. at 28-29. According to Deputy Spradley's training, deployment of a Taser is less likely to result in injury than a physical altercation with the officer's hands. Id. at 40. Deputy Spradley explained his thought process as follows:

I'm in a high-risk situation. To me, I've just been in a vehicle pursuit. We entered his property, his territory, things that he's familiar with. We're in a fenced in area. It's not well lit. He's blowing the horn, possibly to get other people to come outside. I'm there by myself. I don't know where my backup is. I'm in a high-risk traffic stop. And the best place for me, to have him, is outside of his vehicle, outside of possible weapons or explosives or anything that he may have inside his vehicle, outside on the ground, laying down on his stomach until my backup can get there.

Id. at 36-37.

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After pulling out his Taser but prior to deploying it, while Dupler was standing alongside the vehicle, Deputy Spradley ordered Dupler to get on the ground. See Video at 1:12:54. Dupler continued to ask what he had done wrong, but did not comply with Deputy Spradley's order. Id. at 1:12:55. Deputy Spradley ordered Dupler to get on the ground one more time before charging at him with his Taser. Id. at 1:12:55-1:13:00. As Deputy Spradley moved toward Dupler and deployed his Taser, Dupler began to lower his body. Id. at 1:13:00. Dupler yelped, said he was sorry, and propped himself up on his hands and feet. See Id. at 1:13:00; Spradley Dep. at 30, 34. Unbeknownst to Deputy Spradley, Dupler began to have a seizure, which did not end until he was released from the jailhouse later that night. See Dupler Dep. at 20. Deputy Spradley continued to shout at Dupler to get on the ground, and Dupler insisted that he did not do anything wrong. See Video at 1:13:00-1:13:05. Deputy Spradley then placed his foot on Dupler's back to bring him fully on the ground. Id. at 1:13:04-05. Although Dupler characterizes Deputy Spradley's act as a "stomp," see Dupler Dep. at 42, Deputy Spradley testified that "[i]t wasn't a forceful push or a kick or anything. It was just a push to get him the rest of the way to the ground," see Spradley Dep. at 30.

At some point Dupler's wife came out to the driveway. See R. Dupler Dep. at 16. Deputy Spradley ordered Dupler to listen to him, stay on the ground, and to put his hands behind his back. See Video at 1:13:09-1:13:20. He did so because Dupler's hands were beneath his body, and Deputy Spradley did not know if Dupler "had a gun in his waistband" or a "knife around his neck." See Spradley Dep. at 37-38. Dupler continued to insist that he had not done anything wrong. See Video at 1:13:22-24. Deputy Spradley

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attempted to deploy his Taser again, but instead turned off his Taser when he realized it was not properly working. See Spradley Dep. at 31-33.

After Deputy Spradley had deployed his Taser, Mrs. Dupler advised Deputy Spradley that Dupler suffers from complex partial seizures.5 See R. Dupler at 16; Video at 1:13:26; Dupler Dep. at 8. Deputy Spradley advised Mrs. Dupler that the incident was being recorded, and directed Mrs. Dupler to go back inside the house twice. See Video at 1:13:38-1:13:41. When she did not do so, Deputy Spradley stated that if she failed to comply with his direction, she too would be arrested. Id. at 1:13:45-1:13:47. According to Deputy Spradley, he did this because Mrs. Dupler was verbally interfering at the scene, and he only threatened to arrest her as a tactic rather than a serious threat. See Spradley Dep. at 45.

During the incident, Deputy Spradley deployed his Taser either two or three times. Although Dupler testified Deputy Spradley tased him three times, see Dupler Dep. at 42-43, and Deputy Spradley questions whether any of his deployments even struck Dupler, see Spradley Dep. at 34, in the motion papers, the parties agree that Deputy Spradley deployed his Taser twice, and that only the first deployment actually struck Dupler. See Motion at 17-18; Response at 17.

Later in the night, Deputy Spradley learned that Dupler did not have a criminal history, and that he had a valid driver's license. See Spradley Dep. at 17-18, 27; Video at 1:15:35, 1:19:28-1:19:31, 1:42:57; Offense Report at 2. At the conclusion of the

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incident, Deputy Spradley arrested Dupler for vehicular flight...

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