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Smith v. City of Minneapolis

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 6, 2014

Bettie Smith, as Trustee for the Next-of-Kin of Quincy Deshawn Smith, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
City of Minneapolis; Officer Shawn Brandt, (in his individual and official capacity); Officer Chris Humphrey, (in his individual and official capacity); Officer Timothy Devick, (in his individual and official capacity); Officer Carlos Baires Escobar, (in his individual and official capacity); Officer Nicholas McCarthy, (in his individual and official capacity), Defendants - Appellees

Submitted November 20, 2013

Page 542

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

For Bettie Smith, as Trustee for the Next-of-Kin of Quincy Deshawn Smith, Plaintiff - Appellant: Christopher J. Kuhlman, KUHLMAN LAW, PLLC, Minneapolis, MN; Stephen L. Smith, STEPHEN L. SMITH LAW FIRM, Minneapolis, MN.

For City of Minneapolis, Officer Shawn Brandt, (in his individual and official capacity), Officer Chris Humphrey, (in his individual and official capacity), Officer Timothy Devick, (in his individual and official capacity), Officer Carlos Baires Escobar, (in his individual and official capacity), Officer Nicholas McCarthy, (in his individual and official capacity), Defendants - Appellees: Cheryl Lynne Fundingsland, Sara Jeanne Lathrop, Kristin R. Sarff, MINNEAPOLIS CITY ATTORNEY, Minneapolis, MN.

Before RILEY, Chief Judge, MELLOY and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 543

RILEY, Chief Judge.

Bettie Smith (Ms. Smith), as trustee for the next of kin of her deceased son Quincy Smith (Smith), sued five police officers (officers) and the City of Minneapolis (city), alleging violations of (1) Smith's Fourth Amendment right to be secure against unreasonable seizure, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and (2) the Minnesota wrongful

Page 544

death statute, Minn. Stat. § 573.02. While the officers attempted to arrest Smith, he stopped breathing and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. The district court[1] granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on all counts. Ms. Smith appeals.[2] We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

In the early morning hours of December 9, 2008, city officers responded to a dispatch of a domestic situation involving a weapon, reportedly a rifle, regarding a woman and her ex-boyfriend, later identified as Smith. A 911 caller reported the ex-boyfriend had just been released from jail on a domestic abuse charge involving the same woman and was " getting ready to fight." Later in the call, the 911 caller stated, " He's standing there, and I don't know if he's getting ready to fight her or not."

Officer Timothy Devick responded and encountered Smith running outdoors near the 911 caller's home. Officer Devick did not see Smith with a rifle. Officer Devick drew his gun, pointed it at Smith, and ordered Smith to the ground. Smith stopped and turned toward Officer Devick. Smith's hands were in front of his face and his palms were facing out. But Smith did not drop to the ground. Smith was about 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed approximately 315 pounds. Officer Devick approached Smith and used force in an attempt to get Smith to the ground: Officer Devick kicked Smith in the thigh and punched him in the head. Smith resisted and turned to run. Officer Devick grabbed Smith's jacket, but Smith still escaped, tumbling over a wood fence.

Officer Devick pursued Smith. Four other officers, Shawn Brandt, Chris Humphrey, Carlos Escobar, and Nicholas McCarthy, together with Officer Devick eventually caught Smith after Smith had run across an intersection, down a street, between two buildings, farther down the street, and finally up against a chain link fence. Smith continued to resist arrest. During the attempted arrest, Smith repeatedly grabbed the fence in an effort to pull himself up, and the officers used a taser on Smith multiple times, punched him in the head, kneed him in the rib area, struck him in the back with the butt of a shotgun, and lay on top of Smith in their efforts to subdue him. The officers eventually succeeded in using three sets of handcuffs to connect Smith's arms behind his back and rolled Smith over on his side. At this point, Officer Devick noticed Smith was not breathing. Officer Devick rolled Smith onto his back and started chest compressions, and an officer called for an ambulance. Smith died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. During the encounter, none of the officers saw any kind of weapon on Smith, and no weapon was found on his body.

The " case title" of Smith's autopsy report reads, " Cardiorespiratory Arrest Complicating Physical Exertion and Law Enforcement Subdual and Restraint." The medical examiner who performed Smith's autopsy stated Smith " had a cardio respiratory arrest or a very sudden basically arrest death, which was associated with his own exertion coupled with law enforcement subduing him and restraining him." " Final Diagnoses" included ...


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