Howard v. St. Johns Cnty. Sheriff, 3:20-cv-939-MMH-PDB

CourtUnited States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
PartiesKASIM HOWARD, Plaintiff, v. ST. JOHNS COUNTY SHERIFF, A governmental entity established by and through the Constitution of the State of Florida, et al., Defendants.
Docket Number3:20-cv-939-MMH-PDB
Decision Date04 March 2022

KASIM HOWARD, Plaintiff,

ST. JOHNS COUNTY SHERIFF, A governmental entity established by and through the Constitution of the State of Florida, et al., Defendants.

No. 3:20-cv-939-MMH-PDB

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Jacksonville Division

March 4, 2022



THIS CAUSE is before the Court on several motions: Defendant St. Johns County Sheriff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 48: Sheriff's Motion), Defendant, City of St. Augustine Beach's Motion for Summary Judgment and Incorporated Memorandum of Law (Doc. 49; City's Motion), and Defendant, Natalie L. Gillespie's Motion for Summary Judgment and Incorporated Memorandum of Law (Doc. 50; Officer Gillespie's Motion), all filed on October 1, 2021 (collectively, the “Motions”). Defendants City of St. Augustine Beach (the City) and Officer Gillespie filed the depositions of Deputy Briggs, Officer Gillespie, and Plaintiff Kasim Howard as well as the affidavits of Dr. Richard M. Hough Sr. and Jackie M. Parrish in support of their Motions. See Defendants City of St. Augustine Beach and Officer Natalie L. Gillespie's


Notice of Filing (Doc. 51; Notice of Filing). In addition, they submitted various exhibits from Howard's deposition including a 2 minute and 28 second video recording. See id. The Sheriff also attached these three depositions as well as three photographs of Howard's vehicle. See Sheriff's Motion, Exs. 1-6. On November 4, 2021, Howard filed his responses to Officer Gillespie's Motion and the City's Motion, see Plaintiff's Response to Motion for Summary Judgment Filed by Defendant Natalie L. Gillespie (Doc. 59, 61;[1] Response to Officer Gillespie) and Plaintiff's Response to Motion for Summary Judgment Filed by Defendant City of St. Augustine Beach (Doc. 60; Response to the City), and on November 29, 2021, Howard filed his response to the Sheriff's Motion. See Plaintiff's Response to Motion for Summary Judgment Filed by Defendant St. John's County Sheriff (Doc. 68; Response to the Sheriff). The Sheriff filed a reply on December 14, 2021. See Defendant St. Johns County Sheriff's Reply to Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 70; Sheriff's Reply). Additionally, Officer Gillespie filed a notice of supplemental authority on November 29, 2021. See Defendant Natalie L. Gillespie's Notice of Supplemental Authority (Doc. 66; Notice of Supplemental Authority). In light of the foregoing, the Motions in this action are ripe for the Court's consideration.


I. Procedural History

On April 9, 2020, Howard initiated the instant lawsuit in the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court, in and for St. Johns County, Florida, against Deputy Briggs, Officer Gillespie, the Sheriff, and the City. See Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial (Doc. 1-1). Defendants removed the action to this Court based on federal question jurisdiction. See Defendants, City of St. Augustine Beach and Natalie Gillespie's Notice of Removal (Doc. 1) filed on August 19, 2020. In his operative Amended Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial (Doc. 38; Amended Complaint), Howard asserts four claims of excessive force in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments against Deputy Briggs individually (Count I), Officer Gillespie individually (Count II), the Sheriff as the employer of Deputy Briggs (Count III), and the City as the employer of Officer Gillespie (Count IV) and two state law claims for battery against the Sheriff (Count VI) and the City (Count VII).[2] On November 2, 2020, the Sheriff and Deputy Briggs filed a motion to dismiss the claims against them, see Defendants St. Johns County Sheriff and Deputy Sheriff Jason W. Briggs' Motion to Dismiss the Plaintiff's Amended Complaint with Memorandum of Law (Doc. 39), and the Court granted that motion, in part, and denied it, in part, on September 17, 2021, see Order (Doc. 47). Specifically, the Court granted the motion to the


extent that the federal excessive force claims against Deputy Briggs and the Sheriff in Counts I and III were dismissed. Id. However, the Court otherwise denied the motion finding that Howard plausibly alleged a state law battery claim against the Sheriff in Count VI. Id. As a result, the claims remaining and at issue for purposes of summary judgment are the federal excessive force claims against Officer Gillespie and the City and the state law claims for battery against the City and the Sheriff. Defendants filed their Motions for Summary Judgment, seeking the entry of judgment as a matter of law on all remaining claims and Howard has responded in opposition.[3]


II. Background Facts[4]

On April 9, 2016, between four and five in the afternoon, Plaintiff Kasim Howard was traveling on State Road 312 from his home to Amp's gym. See Exhibit 2: Video Teleconference Deposition of Kasim Howard (Doc. 48-2; Howard Depo) at 61-62, 70. At this same time, Deputy Jason W. Briggs with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office was conducting traffic enforcement in the area. See Exhibit 1: Deposition of Deputy Jason W. Briggs (Doc. 48-1; Deputy Briggs Depo) at 6, 11. As Howard came to a stop at a traffic light facing eastbound, Deputy Briggs was traveling westbound through the intersection. Id. at 10. According to Deputy Briggs, he observed that Howard was not wearing his seatbelt. Id. As a result, Deputy Briggs turned his patrol car around and entered Howard's tag number into his computer. Id. at 12. As he pulled up next to Howard, Deputy Briggs' computer search revealed that Howard was driving an unregistered vehicle. Id. When the traffic light turned green, Deputy Briggs merged into the lane behind Howard in his marked sheriff's patrol vehicle and “activated [his] emergency equipment to initiate a traffic stop.” Id. at 13-15.


Despite Deputy Briggs having activated his emergency lights, Howard proceeded to drive slowly past “a number of places to stop” prompting Deputy Briggs to intermittently activate his vehicle's emergency sirens. Id. at 17-18. Howard continued driving to Amp's gym where he taught boxing lessons, unaware that he was being pursued by law enforcement. See Howard Depo at 25, 61. Deputy Briggs requested backup and followed Howard into the Amp's gym parking lot located in a warehouse complex. Deputy Briggs Depo at 21-22, 27-28. As Howard parked his truck in the area designated for the gym, Deputy Briggs parked his patrol car so that he would be visible from the street to other officers responding to his call for backup. Id. at 27-28. Deputy Briggs exited his vehicle and began shouting commands for Howard to exit his truck. Id. When Howard did not appear to immediately respond, Deputy Briggs drew his firearm. See id. at 29-31.

Howard first noticed Deputy Briggs when he exited his truck to grab his belongings and heard someone yelling at him. Howard Depo at 74. Deputy Briggs demanded that Howard move to the back of the vehicle and as Howard began to do so, he asked Deputy Briggs why he was “being harassed.” Id. Howard also questioned why Deputy Briggs was pointing a firearm at him. Id. at 78. Deputy Briggs requested that Howard turn around to the back of the truck and Howard told Deputy Briggs he would not do so. Id. at 80-81 (“I told him I would not turn around to the back of my truck, because I had tools on the


back of my truck, sharp objects.”); see id. at 172. Deputy Briggs then asked Howard to lay on the ground and Howard told Deputy Briggs that he “[would] not lay on the ground.” Id. at 81, 84, 172, 176. Howard instead insisted that he “would put [his] belongings down if [Deputy Briggs] put down his gun . . . .” Id. at 84. Deputy Briggs lowered his gun and Howard dropped his belongings and put his hands in the air. See id. According to Howard, Deputy Briggs then walked up to Howard, pushed him against the truck, placed his left hand around his throat and said, “I told you to get your f**king ass on the ground.” Id. at 85. Deputy Briggs then holstered his gun and did the same thing with his other hand. Id. Howard testified that this choking incident did not cause him physical injury and lasted “[m]aybe two seconds.” Id. at 179. Afterwards, Howard said he “just smiled, kept my hands in the air. I stepped to the side and I stepped back.” Id. at 181.

Around this time, Natalie L. Gillespie, an officer for the City of St. Augustine Beach, arrived at the scene in response to Deputy Briggs' request for backup. See id. at 174, 185-86; see also Exhibit 3: Deposition of Natalie L. Gillespie (Via Zoom video) (Doc. 48-3; Officer Gillespie Depo) at 6-7; Howard Depo at 186. Officer Gillespie noticed that Deputy Briggs parked his vehicle further from Howard's than is customary for law enforcement and knew something was wrong. Officer Gillespie Depo at 12. She then pulled up beside Howard's vehicle as Howard was standing at the driver's side of his


vehicle. Id. at 12-14. Officer Gillespie could hear Deputy Briggs shouting for Howard to show him his hands and get to the ground. Id. at 14-15. At this point, Howard admits he began using profanity with the officers. Howard Depo at 189. Officer Gillespie directed Howard to get to the ground, but Howard testified that he still refused to comply. Id. at 19; Howard Depo at 92-94. Officer Gillespie then drew her taser so Deputy Briggs could re-holster his and attempt to grab Howard's arm. Deputy Briggs Depo at 46-47; Howard Depo at 89. When Deputy Briggs tried to grab Howard's hands, Howard pulled back his arms and then walked away. Howard Depo at 89-90 (“[Deputy Briggs] tried to put handcuffs on me, but I put my hands in the air and walked away from him.”). Deputy Briggs and Officer Gillespie each gave Howard additional commands to get to the ground and put his hands behind his back, see Officer Gillespie Depo at 32; Deputy Briggs Depo at 50-51, but Howard did neither. Howard Depo at 93-94. At this point, a video recording of the incident...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT