Waters v. Madson, 041119 FED8, 17-3827

Docket Nº:17-3827
Party Name:Charles Waters; Anita Waters Plaintiffs - Appellants v. B. Madson; Alyssa Newbury; City of Coon Rapids Defendants - Appellees Menard, Inc. Defendant Tom Hawley; Emily Kirchner Defendants - Appellees
Judge Panel:Before COLLOTON, SHEPHERD, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:April 11, 2019
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Charles Waters; Anita Waters Plaintiffs - Appellants


B. Madson; Alyssa Newbury; City of Coon Rapids Defendants - Appellees

Menard, Inc. Defendant

Tom Hawley; Emily Kirchner Defendants - Appellees

No. 17-3827

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

April 11, 2019

Submitted: November 15, 2018

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis

Before COLLOTON, SHEPHERD, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.


In 2016, Charles Waters refused to allow Menards home supply store employees, pursuant to posted store policy, to search the trunk of his vehicle as he exited a Menards lumberyard in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. Mr. Waters eventually called the police, who responded to the scene. Based on this encounter, Mr. Waters and his wife Anita filed a 19-count Amended Complaint in federal district court, 1alleging violations of both federal and state law against the City of Coon Rapids, various Coon Rapids police officers, and Menard, Inc. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), which the district court granted. Mr. and Mrs. Waters now appeal. Having jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm.


On March 27, 2016, Appellants visited a Menards store in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, to exchange a saw Mr. Waters had previously purchased for a new saw he had purchased online. Mr. Waters video-recorded their visit through a sunglass camera clipped to his shirt.2 (He later posted excerpts of this video on his YouTube channel. See Dist. Ct. Dkt. 16-1.) An employee inside the store directed Appellants to the online pickup location inside the Menards lumberyard. Mr. Waters drove into the lumberyard with Mrs. Waters in the passenger seat. While it is undisputed that Menards had posted signs at the yard's entrance and exit stating that vehicles leaving the lumberyard were subject to inspection, Appellants claim they did not see any such signs upon entry.

After Appellants arrived in the lumberyard, a Menards employee loaded the saw into their vehicle's trunk. Appellants then proceeded to the lumberyard exit, where a Menards employee requested that they open their vehicle's trunk for inspection as per the signs. Mr. Waters refused, stating that he had no legal obligation to do so. When the gate employee refused to open the exit gate and called for a manager, Mr. Waters called the police.

Coon Rapids police officers Alyssa Smith3 and Emily Kirchner arrived in response to Mr. Waters's call. After being told by the Menards manager that posted store policy required Menards to verify Mr. Waters's purchase before Appellants could leave the lumberyard and that Mr. Waters believed he was being unlawfully detained, Officer Smith approached Appellants' vehicle and told Mr. Waters to allow the Menards employees to verify his purchase. When Mr. Waters refused, Officer Smith asked Mr. Waters for identification, which he refused to provide, stating that he was "not currently driving" and did not have to "provide ID until there [was] a reasonable suspicion of a crime." Officer Smith informed Mr. Waters that she had reasonable suspicion he had committed a crime because he would not open the trunk.

Officer Smith then asked Mr. Waters to step out of his vehicle, and Officer Kirchner explained that, because Mr. Waters was noncompliant with Menards policy, the officers reasonably suspected he had something in his vehicle's trunk that he was not supposed to have. The officers again told Mr. Waters to step out of his vehicle. Mr. Waters, still video-recording, stated, "I'm being ordered out of my vehicle. I'm being placed under arrest," to which Officer Smith calmly responded, "I didn't say you were under arrest; I said you need to step out of the vehicle." When Mr. Waters asked if he was free to go, Officer Smith stated, "You are not free to go." Mr. Waters replied, "Then I'm being detained. Under what reasonable suspicion of what crime?" The officers again told Mr. Waters to get out of his car and he repeated his question, then repeatedly asked the officers for their names and badge numbers. Officer Kirchner told Mr. Waters yet again to step out of his car and, when he failed to comply, told him he could go to jail.

Mr. Waters eventually complied with orders to step out of his car. Officer Kirchner searched him for weapons and told him that the officers had "reasonable suspicion that [he] ha[d] something in the trunk," stating, "You came into a shipment yard which has a policy that you are not supposed to leave without showing the product that you have picked up, and you are not willing to do that." Officer Kirchner then handcuffed Mr. Waters, who is significantly taller than either of the female officers, and placed him in the back seat of a squad car. Officer Smith spoke to the nearby Menards employees and asked them if they had ever dealt with sovereign citizens, mentioning that Mr. Waters's behavior resembled that exhibited by sovereign citizens.4

Officer Smith then returned to Appellants' vehicle. When Officer Smith asked if Mr. Waters was a sovereign citizen, Mrs. Waters replied that her husband "takes it all very seriously." Officer Smith then told Mrs. Waters that Mr. Waters was creating more problems for himself. Mrs. Waters responded, "I know." Officer Smith asked Mrs. Waters to identify her husband, and Mrs. Waters did so.

While Officer Smith was speaking with Mrs. Waters, Coon Rapids Police Sergeant Brady Madson arrived on scene. Officer Smith conferred with Sergeant Madson. Officer Kirchner5 then approached Mrs. Waters and asked, "Would you be willing to open the trunk for these gentlemen? Because that's the only thing that's holding us up here." When Mrs. Waters explained that Appellants had come into the lumberyard to pick up a saw, which a Menards employee placed in the trunk for them, Officer Kirchner stated, "It'd be doing us a huge favor if you could just bring that invoice and step out with these guys and pop the trunk for us. We'll chalk it up to [Mr. Waters] having a bad day." Mrs. Waters did as Officer Kirchner requested. A Menards employee and one of the officers looked into the trunk and verified the purchase. The officers then released Mr. Waters, issuing a trespass warning that prevented him from reentering the Coon Rapids Menards for a year.

After receiving the trespass warning but before leaving the lumberyard, Mr. Waters requested the officers' names and badge numbers. He approached Sergeant Madson to read the name and badge number off the sergeant's uniform. When Mr. Waters reached well within arm's length of Sergeant Madson, the sergeant physically turned Mr. Waters away from him and pushed him toward Appellants' vehicle. Appellants then drove out of the lumberyard. The entire encounter with the officers lasted less than twenty minutes.

Following the incident, Mr. Waters emailed the Coon Rapids Police Department, seeking to file a formal complaint against the officers involved. Captain Thomas Hawley initially refused to accept a written complaint through email, stating that Mr. Waters or his representative needed to communicate with the police department by telephone or in person. Although the record does not indicate that Mr. Waters, personally or through a representative, further communicated with the department other than by email, Coon Rapids Chief of Police Brad Wise reviewed Mr. Waters's complaint, determined the officers had acted lawfully, and formally closed the complaint.

Appellants filed a 19-claim Amended Complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, alleging violations of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Minnesota Human Rights Act, as well as common-law claims for false imprisonment, battery, defamation, trespass, invasion of privacy, and negligence. They named Sergeant Madson, Officers Smith and Kirchner, and Captain Hawley, in their individual capacities; the City of Coon Rapids; and Menard, Inc. as defendants.

Menards filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), alleging that Menards is not a state actor and that Appellants consented to the search of their vehicle's trunk when they entered the lumberyard. The officers and the City also filed a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, arguing that Appellants failed to plausibly allege their claims and raising the affirmative defenses of qualified, official, and absolute immunity. All defendants moved in the alternative for summary judgment.

The district court found that, with the exception of their Fourth Amendment claim for unlawful search, Appellants failed to plausibly allege any violation of their clearly-established constitutional rights...

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