Robinson v. Sauls

Decision Date24 February 2021
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION FILE NO. 1:18-cv-131-TCB
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Georgia
Parties Monteria Najuda ROBINSON, as the natural parent of Jamarion Rashad Robinson and the representative of the estate of Jamarion Rashad Robinson, Plaintiff, v. William SAULS ; Steve Schreckengost; Steve O'Hare; Kristopher Hutchens; Joshua Mauney; Eric Heinze; Santez Kindred; and Pamela J. Doyle, administrator of the estate of Daniel Doyle, Defendants.

David Edward Betts, Betts & Associates, Mario Bernard Williams, Williams Oinonen, LLC, Atlanta, GA, for Plaintiff.

Darcy F. Coty, Gabriel Adam Mendel, Office of the United States Attorney, Atlanta, GA, for Defendants William Sauls, Steve Schreckengost, Steve O'Hare, Kristopher Hutchens, Joshua Mauney, Eric Heinze, Santez Kindred.

Gabriel Adam Mendel, Office of the United States Attorney, Atlanta, GA, for Defendant Daniel Doyle.


Timothy C. Batten, Sr., United States District Judge

This case comes before the Court on Defendants’ motions [244, 245, 246, 247] to exclude Dr. Neal Small, Dr. Michael Baden, Roy Bedard, and Dr. Kendall Von Crowns1 as Plaintiff Monteria Najuda Robinson's expert witnesses, and Defendants’ motions [248, 249] for summary judgment.

I. Background
A. Attempted Arrest of Jamarion Robinson

On August 5, 2016, members of the Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force ("SERFTF"), coordinated by the United States Marshal Service, gathered to serve arrest warrants on Jamarion Robinson, a twenty-six-year-old African-American male diagnosed with schizophrenia

(hereinafter "Robinson").

Robinson was the subject of two active felony arrest warrants, one for attempted arson of his mother's home while she was inside asleep, and one for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon on two Atlanta Police Department ("APD") officers. According to the APD report on the latter incident, the APD officers were responding to a suspicious person call at an apartment complex. When the officers attempted to detain Robinson, he drew and pointed a firearm at the them and successfully fled the scene.

In preparation for serving the two arrest warrants, Task Force Officer ("TFO") O'Hare, the case agent, spoke with Ms. Robinson on the phone, and she informed O'Hare that her son had possible unmedicated mental health issues and had not been acting like himself.

On August 5, O'Hare located Robinson at the apartment of Robinson's ex-girlfriend, Dartyngala White. The SERFTF officers met in a nearby church parking lot in Atlanta to discuss execution of the warrants. During this meeting, O'Hare briefed the officers on Robinson's mental health issues, the crimes giving rise to Robinson's active arrest warrants, and the possibility that Robinson was armed.

TFO Mauney provided the tactical assignments for the warrant service operation. The plan was to conduct a standard knock-and-announce operation to give Robinson the opportunity to surrender, followed by a breach-and-hold if necessary, with the ultimate goal of gaining peaceful compliance while ensuring public safety.

Inspector Heinze was assigned to the first position: shield operator at the front of the entry team. TFO Hutchens was assigned to the second position, and TFO Doyle to the third. All members of the SERFTF team wore markings on their front and back identifying themselves as law enforcement officers. Heinze carried a ballistic shield labeled with clearly identifiable "Police" and "US Marshals" markings.

The SERFTF officers went to the apartment to serve the warrant. Though the officers knew that White had left the apartment, they did not know whether anyone other than Robinson was in the apartment.

The officers initially set a perimeter team around the side and back of the apartment. Members of the SERFTF team crossed the elevated walkway to get to the apartment entrance and positioned themselves outside the front door. Heinze was positioned to the right of the front door, and Hutchens was positioned to the left.

Hutchens then knocked on the door and stated, "police, come to the door," and other words to that effect. Several attempts to knock and announce police presence were made over the course of several minutes. The knocking was loud enough to be heard behind the apartment building and by neighbors. There was no verbal response to the knock-and-announce, though an officer stationed behind the building saw someone look out of a second-floor bedroom window.

When no one came to the door, O'Hare gave the command to breach the door. The team knocked again and announced, "police, we are going to breach the door." There was no response. TFO Sauls breached the door with a ram and returned to his position in the tactical stack.

The officers maintained their position at the apartment doorway for at least one minute after the door was breached, pursuant to SERFTF standard practice. Heinze held the door open with his left foot, and other officers announced, "police, U.S. Marshals, come to the door" several times. The announcements were loud enough to be heard behind the apartment building and by neighbors.

From their positions to the right and left of the door, Heinze and Hutchens could observe the inside of the apartment. Doyle was positioned between Heinze and Hutchens in the doorway.

A partially enclosed stairwell was to the right of the front door. Heinze could not see the landing at the top of the stairs due to a wall that went most of the way down the stairwell, though he could hear movement upstairs. He continued to instruct Robinson to come out.

He then saw feet near the top of the stairs and repeatedly stated, "show me your hands," "come down the stairs slowly," and words to that effect. Robinson grunted a verbal acknowledgement, though Heinze could not understand what was said. Heinze could see Robinson's feet begin to move down the stairs one at a time in a slow, deliberate fashion.

After Robinson had taken several steps, Heinze could not see his face but could see that his body was slightly bent. Heinze again instructed Robinson to show his hands.

Heinze saw that Robinson had something cupped in both of his hands and immediately called out, "he's got something in his hands." Robinson appeared to make incremental movements to gain visibility of the officers. Doyle then called out, "he's got a gun," and at the same time, Heinze saw that Robinson had a silver and black handgun in both of his hands, with his arms bent in front of him and the firearm pointed at Heinze. Heinze estimates that Robinson was less than ten feet away.

Believing Robinson to be a threat, Heinze discharged his firearm several times. Doyle also discharged his firearm. Robinson retreated up several stairs, but he remained partially in Heinze's view. Heinze and other members of the SERFTF ceased fire, remained in the doorway, and continued to verbally instruct Robinson to drop his weapon and come out.

Over the next several minutes, Robinson would intermittently return to view and point a firearm toward the officers before moving away. During the engagement, when Robinson would point his firearm at the officers, Heinze, Doyle, and Hutchens would respond to the threat with deadly force. Hutchens saw one or more shots strike Robinson.

At one point while Robinson was around the wall toward the top of the stairs, Heinze, Hutchens, and Doyle heard two muffled gunshots from Robinson's direction. The three officers also heard what sounded like Robinson racking the slide of his firearm. Mauney and Sauls, who were positioned next to Heinze, heard shots fired from a location that sounded farther away than the SERFTF officers’ location.

Mauney also heard the racking of a firearm.

During the moments when Robinson did not pose an immediate threat, the officers repeatedly issued verbal warnings, instructing Robinson to show his hands, drop the weapon, and come out. The commands were loud enough to be heard behind the building. Robinson did not comply.

Throughout the exchange, the officers felt that they were in a vulnerable position due to their location in the doorway, limited visibility, elevated location on the platform outside the front door, and exposure to the windows above. They also believed themselves to be at a disadvantage because of Robinson's elevated position and ability to retreat from view.

At one point after the officers discharged their weapons, Robinson fell on the floor near the top of the stairs with his chest on the staircase landing and his legs positioned down the stairs. Heinze, Hutchens, and Doyle moved from the doorway inside the apartment towards the base of the stairs to get a better view and tactical position. The officers observed Robinson moving, rolling back and forth, and breathing, and they instructed Robinson to put down the weapon and show his hands.

According to the officers, while Robinson was still on the floor, he rolled and began to lift the firearm and point it at the officers. Heinze, Hutchens, and Doyle discharged their firearms toward Robinson. His hands dropped, and the officers could see neither his hands nor the firearm. Heinze testifies that Robinson was still moving at this point, though he was not responding to commands. Hutchens testifies that there was no further movement from Robinson. In his statement to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation ("GBI"), Doyle said that Robinson raised his gun a second time while on the floor, and Doyle responded by discharging his weapon.2

Heinze and Hutchens affirm that no further shots were fired at Robinson once he became unresponsive. Doyle stated the same in his GBI interview.

To determine whether Robinson was incapacitated or whether he continued to pose a threat, Hutchens deployed a flashbang device. He threw the device over the stairs into the second-floor hallway on the other side of Robinson. The device detonated near the landing area. Robinson did not respond or otherwise react.

Because the officers still could not see Robinson's hands or firearm, Mauney deployed...

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    • United States
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