Martin v. Noble County Sheriff's Dept., 010421 INNDC, 1:18-CV-121

Docket Nº1:18-CV-121
Opinion JudgeWILLIAM C. LEE, JUDGE
Party NameDENICE MARTIN and QUINTON MARTIN, Plaintiffs, v. NOBLE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT., ALLEN COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT., INDIANA STATE POLICE DEPT., DOUG HARP, NOBLE COUNTY SHERIFF, SGT. JOE HUTSELL, SGT. TIM DOLBY, DET. SHAWN DUNAFIN, DET. MICHAEL CARROLL, LT. R. CORY CULLER, SGT. JOHN R. PETRO, NOBLE COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, and UNKNOWN OFFICERS, ...
Case DateJanuary 04, 2021
CourtUnited States District Courts, 7th Circuit, Northern District of Indiana

DENICE MARTIN and QUINTON MARTIN, Plaintiffs,

v.

NOBLE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT., ALLEN COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPT., INDIANA STATE POLICE DEPT., DOUG HARP, NOBLE COUNTY SHERIFF, SGT. JOE HUTSELL, SGT. TIM DOLBY, DET. SHAWN DUNAFIN, DET. MICHAEL CARROLL, LT. R. CORY CULLER, SGT. JOHN R. PETRO, NOBLE COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, and UNKNOWN OFFICERS, Defendants.

No. 1:18-CV-121

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

January 4, 2021

OPINION AND ORDER

WILLIAM C. LEE, JUDGE

This matter is before the Court on several pending motions, including a motion for summary judgment by Defendants Noble County Sheriff's Department, Doug Harp, Joe Hutsell, and Shawn Dunafin (the “County Defendants”) (ECF No. 138); a motion for summary judgment by Defendant Allen County Sheriff's Department (ECF No. 140); a motion for summary judgment by Defendants Michael Carroll, R. Cory Culler, Tim Dolby, John R. Petro, Indiana State Police Department, and Noble County Prosecutor's Office (the “State Defendants”) (ECF No. 147); and two motions to strike filed by the County Defendants (ECF No. 175 and 176). For the reasons discussed below, the motions to strike are GRANTED and the motions for summary judgment are GRANTED as to all of the Plaintiffs' claims against all named defendants. The Plaintiffs' purported claims against “Unknown Officers” are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE pursuant to Federal Rule 41.

I. Background.

On August 20, 2017, the Noble County Sheriff's Department, responding to a 911 call, found the body of 39-year-old Suzanne M. Moore lying on a county road. Moore had been shot in the head with a high caliber handgun and her body deposited on the road, which was closed to traffic at the time due to bridge construction. Detective Shawn Dunafin of the Noble County Sheriff's Department, and Officer Michael Carroll of the Indiana State Police, investigated the crime and learned from Suzanne Moore's parents that Suzanne had been involved in a relationship with Tracey Martin, and that Ms. Moore had spent time with Tracey Martin at his mother's (Denice Martin's) house at 214 East Masterson Avenue in Fort Wayne.1 On August 21, 2017, Detective Dunafin submitted an Affidavit in Support of Issuance of Search Warrant to search Denice Martin's home in Fort Wayne as part of the investigation into Moore's murder. Dunafin Aff. for Warrant (ECF No. 160, pp. 16-19). Judge Robert Kirsch of the Noble Superior Court signed the search warrant at 9:35 p.m. on that same day. The warrant, directed to “Sheriff Doug Harp, Noble County [and] Lieutenant R. Cory Culler, Indiana State Police or any officer acting under their command, ” authorized those two law enforcement agencies “to search the [Martin home] for evidence tending to suggest the manner and cause of death of Suzanne Moore, including but not limited to physical, biological, and other types of evidence including personal property to include purse and contents relating to personal identification of Suzanne Moore, i.e., driver's license, credit cards, bank account information, etc., cellular telephone, and a large caliber firearms [sic], which may be evidence of the commission of a homicide. You are further ordered to seize such property, or any part thereof, found on such search, and make a return to this court without unreasonable delay after the execution of said search.” County Defendants' Memorandum in Support of Summary Judgment, Exh. C, Search Warrant (ECF No. 139-8). Minutes after the warrant was issued, the Indiana State Police Emergency Response Team executed the warrant at Denice Martin's home. The ISP handcuffed Denice Martin and her son Quinton (who is autistic) and removed them from the home. After the home was “secured, ” officers from the Noble County Sheriff's Department and officers from the Indiana State Police entered the home to conduct a search pursuant to the warrant. Officers seized property from the home, including handguns and ammunition, drugs and drug paraphernalia, a laptop computer, a cell phone, and several items belonging to Suzanne Moore, including her Social Security card and other personal belongings. The officers also towed two vehicles from the property. The Plaintiffs do not dispute that the officers had a valid warrant.2 However, they claim that when the police entered their home they used excessive force in detaining them. They also claim that the officers damaged some of their property and seized property they should not have (notwithstanding the valid warrant).

The Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit on May 7, 2018, stating that it “is a civil action authorized by 42 U.S.C. section 1983 to redress the deprivation, under color of state law, of rights secured by the constitutions [sic] of the United States.” Complaint (ECF 1), p. 2. In the Complaint, Denice Martin recounts the incident as follows: On or about the 22nd day of August, around 10pm I was laying in my bed and I heard a loud boom. The front door was kicked in and I saw a lot of flashing lights and was hearing a lot of commotion going on from the officers commands and them yelling while making entry to the home with their guns drawn. I was thrown to the ground face first by several unknown officers, who began giving me commands and shoved my head hard into the floor when I did not respond to him or his questioning.

Id., p. 3 (verbatim). Ms. Martin alleges that the officers used excessive force against her and Quinton, including striking them both and screaming expletives at them. She further alleges as follows: I was detained and held against my will for over several hours handcuffed, no shoes on, no phone, helpless and was not allowed back into the house until like 5am. While in the backseat [of a police vehicle], I saw several officers go inside the house and come outside the house, with numerous properties and personal material was taken from the house. The officers were coming out of the house with boxes, safes, bags, computers and clothing items in hand, which at no time was a “search warrant” shown to me or presented for my observation as to the reason “why” they were there searching and breaking into my home.

Id., pp. 3-4 (verbatim). Ms. Martin also claims that “[p]ersonal property, computers, computers data and documents of my son Anthony who is incarcerated and my brother Tony personal property was also ‘seized' by the officers, which I was storing for them in separate rooms upstairs in the house. They also seized my laptop computer along with other personal items. There is major damage to the front door, sofa, carpet, and couch from the forceful and reckless entry to the home, and the reckless searching for unknown items, which needs repaired immediately.” Id., p. 4. Ms. Martin, on behalf of herself and her son Quinton, is “suing for 92.7 million dollars (U.S. currency), and all medical related bills, out-of-pocket expense, pain and suffering, damages, etc., al.” Id., p. 8.

The Plaintiffs named as defendants the following individuals and entities: 1) The Indiana State Police Department;

2) Indiana State Police officers Michael Carroll, Tim Dolby, R. Cory Culler, and John R. Petro (federal claims dismissed on September 4, 2018);

3) The Noble County Prosecutor's Office;

4) The Noble County Sheriff's Department;

5) Noble County Sheriff Doug Harp;

6) Noble County Sheriff's Department Sergeant Joe Hutsell;

7) Noble County Sheriff's Department Detective Shawn Dunafin;

8) The Allen County Sheriff's Department; and

9) The Fort Wayne Police Department (terminated on December 17, 2019).3

In addition to suing a long list of individuals and governmental entities, the Plaintiffs' Complaint appears also to allege a host of claims, including constitutional claims (they cite the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments), a claim under the ADA, and apparent state law tort theories of “harassment” and “retaliation” stemming from alleged events that occurred after the events of August 21-22, 2017. The Plaintiffs' claims and the legal basis for each of them are not clearly delineated in the Complaint, but one thing is clear: all of the Plaintiffs' federal claims, regardless of their legal foundation, arise from the initial securing of the Martin home and the handcuffing and detention of Denice and Quinton. The State Defendants-Michael Carroll, Tim Dolby, R. Cory Culler, John R. Petro, Indiana State Police Department, and Noble County Prosecutor's Office-summarize the Plaintiffs' claims as follows: Plaintiffs assert claims under 10 (ten) separate counts and as against all Defendants. These counts, however, tend to run together in their assertion of various U.S. and Indiana Constitutional violations, tort claims, and an American's with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) claim. Count 1, specifically, alleges violations of the Plaintiffs' rights under the 1st, 4th, and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and violations of Article 1 of the Indiana Constitution. [Id. at 5.] Counts 2, 3, 4, and 5 restate claims for violations of the 4th Amendment by asserting claims for illegal search (Count 2), excessive force (Count 3), and illegal seizures (Counts 4 and 5). [Id. at 5-6.] Count 6 asserts an equal protection violation and Count 7 asserts the Defendants violated the ADA. [Id. at 6-7.] Count 8 appears to assert a Monell failure to train claim while Counts 9 and 10 assert claims of harassment, retaliation, and damage to personal property under theories of tort.

State Defendants' Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF 148), p. 3. The County Defendants-Noble County Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Doug Harp, Sgt. Joe Hutsell, and Lt. Shawn Dunafin-summarize the Plaintiffs' claims as follows: Plaintiffs bring several claims against...

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