Teasley v. Forler

Decision Date10 March 2008
Docket NumberNo. 4:06-CV-773 (JCH).,4:06-CV-773 (JCH).
Citation548 F.Supp.2d 694
PartiesBrent TEASLEY, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Nic FORLER, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Missouri

Gonzalo A. Fernandez, Devereaux and Stokes, St. Louis, MO, for Plaintiffs.

Joel D. Brett, Barklage and Brett, St. Charles, MO, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JEAN C. HAMILTON, District Judge.

The matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 25), filed November 30, 2007. The matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

BACKGROUND

Defendant Lincoln County, Missouri ("County") is a political subdivision of the State of Missouri, and the Lincoln County Sheriffs Department ("Sheriffs Department") is the County's law enforcement agency. (Defs.' Statement of Material Facts ("Defs.' Facts"), Doc. No. 27 at ¶ 1). Defendant Daniel Torres ("Torres") was, at all relevant times, the Lincoln County Sheriff and Defendant Nic Forler ("Forler") was one of his deputies. (Id. at ¶¶ 3-4).

I. The October 23, 2005 Shooting

At 11:30 p.m. on October 23, 2005, Forler began pursuing a red pickup truck driven by Tyler Teasley ("Teasley") that was speeding on Missouri Route 47. (Id. at ¶¶ 5-7; Mot. for Sum. J., Doc. No. 25 at Ex. Z). The truck also contained five passengers: Michael Brown ("Brown"); Sarah Hayes ("Hayes"); Judah Potthoff ("Potthoff); Adam Walton ("Walton"); and Julia Yerke ("Yerke"). (Defs.' Facts at ¶ 7). Teasley and his passengers were having a "rolling party" and were all drinking alcohol. (Mot. for Sum. J. at Ex. C pp. 12-25). Teasley initially failed to yield, but he then entered a subdivision, pulled into a private driveway, and turned off his engine and lights. (Id. at Ex. B pp. 40-49). Teasley placed the car in neutral so he could coast into the driveway. (Id. at p. 48).

At 11:31 p.m., Forler radioed the Sheriffs Department dispatcher and stated that the truck had "blacked out." (Defs.' Facts at ¶ 11). Forler pulled his patrol car behind the truck, exited it, and walked between the two vehicles. (Id. at ¶ 12). While walking between the vehicles, Forler yelled, "Let me see your hands." (Mot. for Sum. J. at Ex. AA p. 250). The truck began rolling backwards,1 causing Forler to fire two shots into the truck. (Defs.' Facts at ¶¶ 12, 14). Forler moved out of the way and the truck struck his patrol car.2 (Id. at ¶ 12). Forler testified that, as the car began to roll backwards, he "yelled for it to stop and I shot. And then I yelled stop again and shot." (Mot. for Sum. J. at Ex. AA p. 252). Forler fired both shots within a few seconds. (Id.). The bullets struck Brown and Teasley. (Defs.' Facts at ¶ 14).

At 11:31 p.m., Forler radioed that shots had been fired. (Id. at ¶ 15). Only twenty-eight seconds elapsed since his first radio communication. (Resp. at Ex. 4 p. 13). He then heard female voices inside of the truck and ordered everyone to "get out of the truck and lay on the ground with their hands raised." (Mot. for Sum. J. at Ex. AA p. 308). Hayes, Potthoff, Walton, and Yerke complied with this order. (Id.). At 11:34 p.m., Forler requested an ambulance and medical helicopter. (Id. at Ex. Z). Forler checked both Brown and Teasley's vital signs, but did not administer first aid to either. (Defs.' Facts at 118). Forler then moved to a location where he could watch Walton, Potthoff, Hayes, and Yerke, but he did not search them for weapons or place them in restraints.3 (Mot. for Sum. J. at Ex. AA pp. 315-16).

About four minutes after the shooting, Deputy Tracy McCoy ("McCoy") arrived and began administering first aid. (Id. at pp. 318-19; Resp. at Ex. 4 p. 14). McCoy found that Brown was dead and tilted Teasley's head back to aid his breathing. (Resp. at Ex. 28 pp. 18-19). Medical personnel arrived shortly thereafter and transported Teasley to St. John's Mercy Medical Center ("St.John's") in Creve Couer, Missouri. (Defs.' Facts at ¶ 20). The Sheriffs Department ordered Deputy Shane Duryea ("Duryea") to go to St. John's and "maintain security" over Teasley. (Id. at ¶ 23). Duryea was told that prisoner protocol applied, meaning that the individual is "not allowed any contact with anybody" and no information about the individual is disclosed. (Mot. for Sum. J. at Ex. CC pp. 25-26). Prior to his arrival at St. John's, Duryea had not been told what had happened, but inferred that Forler had shot someone and was not injured. (Id. at pp. 23-24).

The Sheriffs Department did not contact Teasley's family ("Plaintiffs") to inform them of the shooting. (Resp. at Ex. 29 pp. 29). St. John's chaplain contacted Plaintiffs and asked them why they were not at the hospital. (Id. at pp. 29-30). He also told them to call the Sheriffs Department for more details. (Id. at p. 30). They called the Sheriffs Department, but could not get an answer. (Id. at p. 30). After calling 911, they spoke with Rick Harrell, who told them that Teasley had been shot, but provided no other details. (Id.). He then told them to wait five minutes while he talked to an officer at the scene. (Id. at p. 31). Plaintiffs waited for ten minutes, but did not receive a call back. (Id.).

While standing outside of Teasley's ICU bay, the chaplain informed Duryea that Plaintiffs had arrived. (Defs.' Facts at ¶ 26). Duryea told Plaintiffs that they could not see Teasley because they did not have clearance. (Resp. at Ex. 29 p. 33). After this initial conversation, Plaintiffs spoke with the chaplain before again attempting to see Teasley. (Id. at p. 34). Again, Duryea prevented them from seeing Teasley. (Id. at p. 34). Ten minutes after this conversation, the chaplain returned and told Plaintiffs that they now had clearance. (Id. at p. 35).4 Mary Teasley, Teasley's mother, attempted to hold his hands, but found that bags that had been placed on them to preserve evidence and Duryea would not remove them. (Id. at p. 36). Approximately an hour later, an officer from the Missouri Highway Patrol ("Highway Patrol") arrived and told Duryea to leave. (Id.). At 6:28 a.m. on October 24, 2005, Teasley died from his injuries. (Defs.' Facts at ¶ 35).

Following the incident, Deputy Michael Lang ("Lang") took Forler to the Lincoln County Medical Center for drug and alcohol testing. (Resp. at Ex. 24 p. 24). Sheriffs Department policy requires that after an officer involved shooting, the officer must be tested for drugs and alcohol. (Id. at pp. 24-25). Lang asked the medical center staff to administer a drug and alcohol test. (Id. at p. 30). A technician came to do the testing, but Forler's consent form shows that he only signed the "Substance Abuse (Drug) Testing" line and not the "Alcohol Testing" line. (Id. at Ex. 23). Lang cannot recall what exactly happened because he was "preoccupied" with phone calls from other officers. (Id. at Ex. 24 p. 32).

In the months following the incident, Sheriffs Department deputies were allegedly stationed near Plaintiffs' home in marked police cars. (Id. at Ex. 30 ¶ 3). These cars would follow Plaintiffs as they conducted daily activities such as going to church, the grocery store, and the bank. (Id. at ¶ 4). Shortly after Teasley's funeral, Brent and Mary Teasley pulled onto the of the highway in order to give Brent Teasley's parents their mail. (Id.). Two Sheriffs Department deputies approached the car with their hands on their guns and asked why they were parked on the side of the highway. (Id.). Additionally, the Sheriffs Department deputy assigned to Tyler Teasley's school began making comments to him that Teasley had a "criminal past and that what happened was inevitable." (Id. at ¶ 6). Teasley, however, had no criminal past other than "traffic tickets." (Id. at ¶ 7). These encounters caused the twelve year old Tyler Teasley to panic when he saw the officer and to vomit. (Id.). Tyler Teasley changed schools midyear in order to avoid the deputy. (Id.).

II. The Sheriffs Department Hiring Process and Forler's Hiring

The Sheriffs Department hired Forler in 2003 after he graduated from the Eastern Missouri Law Enforcement Training Academy ("Academy"). (Defs.' Facts at ¶ 37). At this time, the Sheriff's Department had no written hiring process policy. (Mot. for Sum. J. at Ex. D p. 222). Generally, an applicant would come in, fill out an application, and speak with a captain. (Id. at p. 224). The applicant would then supply the pertinent documentation, such as their POST Certificate,5 and have a short interview. (Id. at pp. 224-25). At that time, the applicant also had to take a writing test to confirm that he could write police reports. (Id. at p. 225). The command staff would then have an "oral board" interview with the applicant. (Id. at p. 226). The Sheriffs Department would also conduct a background check, which included requesting all of an applicant's Academy records. (Id. at pp. 235-36). At this point, Torres would receive a recommendation about the applicant and would also interview him. (Id. at p. 227).

Two other relevant hiring procedures also merit discussion. First, the Sheriffs Department did not conduct psychological testing. (Id. at p. 252). Secondly, Captain Cesar Rivera ("Rivera"), the officer in charge of hiring, testified that six months after an officer had worked for the Sheriffs Department, some of the documents in his personnel file would be shredded. (Resp. at Ex. 21 pp. 20-27).6 Specifically, he would shred documents related to the "hiring process; the testing; the interviewing paperwork." (Id. at p. 21). Torres was aware of this policy and approved of it. (Id. at p. 22).

During Forler's application process, the Sheriffs Department learned that he had a grade point average of 94.96 at the Academy and graduated eighth out of his class of twenty four. (Mot. for Sum. J. at Ex. L). His background search showed that he had been charged with felony assault in November 1997, but that the case had been...

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