T.K. v. Cleveland

Decision Date10 July 2020
Docket NumberCase No. 2:19-cv-04100-NKL
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Missouri

Before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendants Wayne Cleveland, Kevin Morse, Joseph Woods, Tony Wheatley, and Moniteau County, Missouri. Doc. 39. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part: The motion is denied on Counts II and III as to Defendants Cleveland, Morse, Woods, and Wheatley in their personal capacities and is otherwise granted.


This case arose out of incidents on August 7, 2017 and on July 24, 2018 involving Plaintiffs Sarah Gagnon and her minor son T.K. and Defendants Moniteau County Sheriff Tony Wheatley, and Moniteau County Deputies Wayne Cleveland, Kevin Morse, and Joseph Woods. Plaintiffs subsequently filed this lawsuit alleging that these officers and Moniteau County violated their constitutional rights and committed certain state law tort offenses during these incidents. The individual officers are all sued in their individual and official capacities. Specifically, Plaintiffs' Complaint alleges the following causes of action:

• Count I: Unlawful Seizure pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Plaintiff Gagnon and Plaintiff T.K. against Defendant Cleveland for the events of July 24, 2018
• Count II: Excessive Use of Force pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Plaintiff Gagnon against Defendant Cleveland for the events of July 24, 2018
• Count III: Unlawful Search and Seizure pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Plaintiff Gagnon against Defendants Wheatley, Cleveland, Morse, and Woods, for the events of August 7, 2017
• Count IV: Failure to Train or Supervise pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Plaintiff Gagnon and Plaintiff T.K. against Defendants Wheatley and Moniteau County
• Count V: Battery pursuant to Missouri common law by Plaintiff Gagnon and Plaintiff T.K. against Defendant Cleveland for the events of July 24, 2018
• Count VI: False Imprisonment pursuant to Missouri common law by Plaintiff Gagnon and Plaintiff T.K. against Defendant Cleveland for the events of July 24, 2018
• Count VII: Infliction of Emotional Distress pursuant to Missouri common law by Plaintiff T.K. against Defendant Cleveland for the events of July 24, 2018
• Count VIII: Libel pursuant to Missouri common law by Plaintiff Gagnon against Defendant Wheatley for the events of August 7, 2017
• Count IX: Malicious Prosecution pursuant to Missouri common law by Plaintiff Gagnon against Defendants Wheatley, Cleveland, Morse, and Woods for the events of August 7, 2017

All Defendants now seek summary judgment as to each count against them.

a. August 7, 2017 incident and subsequent events

On August 7, 2017, Ms. Gagnon was a resident of 308 State Street in Clarksburg, Missouri. Doc. 44-2, p. 18. She had lived there since 2014 with her three children as well as her boyfriend David Fields and his son. Id. at 78-79.

Mr. Fields "had a mortgage that was foreclosed on" the property. Doc. 44, p. 3, ¶ 13; Doc. 44-2, pp. 7, 19. Although the house was not in her name, Ms. Gagnon knew that they were behind on payments and made calls to the bank in an attempt to convince them to make some sort of deal.2 Doc. 44-2, p. 19. In May 2017, Ms. Gagnon paid the bank $3,000, which was supposed to buy her time to try to procure a loan from another bank, because the original bank would no longer accept payments but was requiring her or Mr. Fields to purchase the home outright. Id. at pp. 20, 23; Doc. 44, p. 3, ¶ 14-15. Although she was never served with anything saying that her family needed to leave the home or an eviction notice, nor was she aware of any related filing with a court, ultimately she determined that they would be unable to afford the home and she and her family decided to pack their belongings and leave. Doc. 44-2, pp. 19-21.

On August 7, 2017, Ms. Gagnon was packing up her home with the help of two friends. Doc. 44-2, p. 26. At around 1:00 PM while moving furniture in the kitchen, Ms. Gagnon spotted through the window Moniteau County officers arriving. Id. at 28. Defendants claim that they were at the residence because "Defendant Wheatley received a call from the People's Bank of Jamestown on August 7, 2017, indicating that the bank had possession of a property located at 308 State Street in Clarksburg, MO, and that there were individuals inside the property." Doc. 41-1, A-000002.

On prior general advice of counsel, Ms. Gagnon decided to preemptively lock the front door and instruct the officers to go get a warrant. Id. However, before she reached the front door, the officers had already begun opening the door. Id. Ms. Gagnon's three dogs began growling and jumping at the door, and the officers quickly shut the door. Id. at pp. 29-30. Ms. Gagnon then locked the door to prevent the officers from entering. Id. at p. 31. Through the window in the door Ms. Gagnon could see that the officers had their guns drawn, and they told Ms. Gagnon to get her dog under control or else they would shoot him. Id. pp. 29-30. She told the officers not to shoot her dog, to which Deputy Cleveland responded that she needed to open the door, so she grabbed her dog, unlocked the door, and stepped away. Id. She again asked the officers not to shoot her dog, and Deputy Cleveland responded, "[d]o what I say then." Id. Deputy Cleveland then entered the home and walked past Ms. Gagnon and into the kitchen, while Sheriff Wheatley and Deputy Morris proceeded upstairs. Id. Ms. Gagnon asked them for a warrant, and they responded that they did not need a warrant, that they had a job to do, and that they were there to serve an eviction, and they left her alone in the living room. Id.; Id. at p. 80. In describing this event in his police report, Deputy Cleveland stated that "[c]ontact was made with Sarah Gagnon a former resident of the property and advised why we were there. Consent was asked to search the residence and it was granted." Doc. 44-5. Ms. Gagnon disputes this and states that she never gave consent. Doc. 44-2, p. 42.

The officers proceeded to search throughout the home. Id. at p. 33. They began asking Ms. Gagnon about methamphetamine, saying "[i]t's either on its way or it's hidden. Which one is it, Sarah?" Id. Ms. Gagnon responded that she did not know what they were talking about. Id. After the officers had searched the upstairs three different times, Officer Woods went upstairs and said he found a methamphetamine pipe, which he said had to be Ms. Gagnon's but would not showit to her. Id. While Ms. Gagnon remained in the living room, Officer Wheatley then searched Ms. Gagnon's purse out of her sight near the back door and found a marijuana pipe. Id. at pp. 33-34. Ms. Gagnon had come across the pipe when she was cleaning out the closet of the spare bedroom that Mr. Fields' son had lived in and had thrown it in her purse. Id. at p. 34. Although she contends the pipe was clean when she found it, id., Sheriff Wheatley asserted it contained marijuana. Doc. 41-1, A-000003.

Shortly thereafter, the officers called Ms. Gagnon into the kitchen, where they wrote her a ticket for possession of marijuana and subsequently transported her to jail where she was held for twenty-four hours. Doc. 44-2, p. 34; Doc. 44-5. A Moniteau County Sheriff's Office Press Release stated that during this incident, they located methamphetamine, marijuana, and drug paraphernalia, and that they had charged Ms. Gagnon with possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia. Doc. 41-1, A-000033. Deputy Cleveland's police report only mentions finding "a multi colored pipe with burnt marijuana inside" and that "Gagnon was issued a citation for the possession of marijuana." Doc. 44-5.

According to the Moniteau County Circuit Court Docket, on August 7, 2017 Ms. Gagnon was charged with possession of marijuana. Doc. 44-8. After a series of hearings over the course of ten months, Ms. Gagnon filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from her home on the grounds that the search of her home was conducted without a warrant, consent, or exigent circumstances. Doc. 44-9. On the day of trial, August 21, 2018, Moniteau County first produced to Ms. Gagnon and her attorney the only document in discovery—Deputy Cleveland's police report. Doc. 44-2, pp. 75-76. After Ms. Gagnon and her attorney reviewed the document, they spoke to the prosecutor and informed him that she would never provide her consent to a search asstated in the report. Id. at pp. 77-78. The prosecutor then spoke to Deputy Cleveland privately and subsequently dismissed the charges. Id.

b. July 24, 2018 Incident

Plaintiff T.K. is the minor son of Ms. Gagnon. Id. at pp. 7-8. On July 24, 2018, eleven-year-old T.K. left his home riding a motorized moped. Doc. 44-2, p. 11. T.K. says he was riding alongside Highway H, several feet away in the grass, when just down the road from his home Deputy Cleveland pulled up next to him. Id. at pp. 13-14. Deputy Cleveland claims that he was on patrol when he observed a young male operating a motorized scooter on Highway H. Doc. 41-1, A-000008. Deputy Cleveland then stopped the moped and asked T.K. what his name was, where he was coming from and going to, and who his parents were. Doc. 44-4, p. 15. T.K. stated that at this point Deputy Cleveland began getting angry and when T.K. asked Deputy Cleveland what he had done wrong, Deputy Cleveland responded "[y]ou want to go to jail? You want to get put in handcuffs?" Id. at p. 16. When T.K. responded that he did not, Deputy Cleveland then took T.K. by the arm, led him to the patrol vehicle, and put him in the front passenger seat. Id. He then used T.K.'s cell phone to call Ms. Gagnon and instructed her to come down the road to the vehicle. Id. at p. 18.

As Ms. Gagnon approached, Deputy...

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