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Coker v. Arkansas State Police

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

November 5, 2013

Gabriel M. COKER, Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
ARKANSAS STATE POLICE; Brad Cartwright, in his individual capacity and official capacity as a State Trooper for the Arkansas State Police, Defendants-Appellees.

Submitted: Sept. 24, 2013.

Page 839

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 840

Counsel who presented argument on behalf of the appellant was Brett David Watson, of Searcy, AR. The following attorney(s) appeared on the appellant brief; Charles Daniel Hancock, of Little Rock, AR.

Counsel who presented argument on behalf of the appellee was James Owen Howe, AAG, of Little Rock, AR.

Before MURPHY, MELLOY, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

MELLOY, Circuit Judge.

Gabriel Coker sued the Arkansas State Police and one of its state troopers, Brad Cartwright, in his individual and official capacities, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Coker claimed that Cartwright used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when Cartwright arrested Coker after a high-speed chase along a divided Arkansas highway. Coker claimed that Cartwright used excessive force when he used his patrol vehicle to hit Coker's motorcycle, kicked Coker in the face, broke the bones in Coker's face by striking Coker with a metal flashlight while in the process of handcuffing Coker, and struck Coker's broken cheek once again after securing Coker.

The district court correctly found the claim against the Arkansas State Police barred by Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity. Further, because Coker has made no cognizable claim for prospective injunctive relief against Cartwright's official capacity, that claim is barred by sovereign immunity. See Monroe v. Ark. State Univ., 495 F.3d 591, 594 (8th Cir.2007); Zajrael v. Harmon, 677 F.3d 353, 355 (8th Cir.2012) (per curiam). The district court entered summary judgment against Coker, granting qualified immunity to Cartwright on Coker's individual capacity claim. Coker does, however, present several genuine disputes of material fact regarding Cartwright's conduct that, if true, preclude a grant of qualified immunity.

We therefore affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

I.

On February 12, 2009, at 2:30 A.M., Cartwright was on patrol when he noticed Coker traveling at a high rate of speed on his motorcycle along a divided highway. Cartwright clocked the motorcycle's speed at 102 mph. Cartwright also noticed that Coker did not have a license plate for the motorcycle. Cartwright activated his lights and siren and began to pursue Coker. Coker did not stop, later claiming he did not realize Cartwright was behind him. At one point during the three-minute chase, Coker's speed exceeded 150 mph. Several times during the pursuit, Coker slowed down as if to stop, only to speed back up again. Eventually, Coker crossed onto the highway median and onto the other side of the highway. Coker then began to drive the wrong direction on an onramp, and Cartwright bumped the motorcycle with his patrol vehicle, causing the motorcycle to tip over and Coker to fall to the ground. Coker then jumped up and ran to the side of the road. All of the action prior to Coker running to the side of the road is captured on Cartwright's patrol vehicle's dash camera.

Page 841

To the extent that Coker's story differs from what is shown on the video— for example, Coker claims he did not run after falling off the motorcycle— we find that the district court correctly used the dash-camera recording to resolve any factual disputes up to this point. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007) (" When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment." ). After Coker rolls off of his motorcycle and runs to the side of the road, however, all of the subsequent events leading to the present § 1983 action take place out of view of the dash camera. The camera continued to record, but the audio of ...


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