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Daniels v. Tyler

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

October 23, 2014

DACOSTA DANIELS, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSHUA TYLER, Individually, Defendant

For DaCosta Daniels, Individually and as mother, guardian and next friend of Y.A., a minor child, Plaintiff: Tod J Deck, LEAD ATTORNEY, Deck Law, Sioux City, IA.

For City of Sioux City, Joshua Tyler, Individually and in his official capacity as a police officer for the City of Sioux City, Defendants: Deena Ann Townley, Douglas L Phillips, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Klass Law Firm, L.L.P., Sioux City, IA.

Page 968

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

MARK W. BENNETT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Factual Background

B. Procedural Background

II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

A. Standards For Summary Judgment

B. Standards For Qualified Immunity From " Excessive Force"

Claims

C. Application Of The Standards

III. CONCLUSION

In this case, plaintiff DaCosta Daniels asserts a state-law " assault" claim and a federal constitutional claim of use of " excessive force," pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against defendant Sioux City Police Officer Joshua Tyler, in his individual capacity, arising from Daniels's arrest in 2011. This case is now before me on defendant Tyler's Motion For Summary Judgment (docket no. 35) on the basis of qualified immunity.

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Factual Background

I find that a rather more circumscribed statement of facts--disputed and undisputed--than the parties have offered is sufficient to put in context the parties' arguments concerning defendant Tyler's Motion For Summary Judgment. Unless otherwise indicated, the facts stated here are undisputed.

Defendant Tyler is a plain-clothes police officer assigned to the Street Level Drug of the Sioux City Police. On or before August 8, 2011, he received information Christopher Robinson, a person known to him, was selling drugs and involved in the trafficking of firearms. Tyler also knew that Robinson was barred from driving, which would provide a legitimate reason to stop and investigate him, if the opportunity arose. Tyler had also received a tip that plaintiff DaCosta Daniels, accompanied by a person matching Robinson's description, was renting cars on Friday

Page 969

and bringing them back on Monday. At around 2:10 p.m. on August 8, 2011, Tyler saw a small silver passenger matching the description of Daniels's latest rental car being driven by Robinson. Daniels disputes that Robinson was driving the car. Tyler saw Robinson yelling at a man walking on the other side of the street, and that man got into the backseat of the car. Tyler radioed for a marked unit to stop the car, because Robinson was barred from driving. Officer Bill Nice responded.

When Officer Nice first saw the car, it was traveling in the opposite direction from him, and was being driven by a man matching Robinson's description, with a female passenger. Again, Daniels denies that Robinson was driving the car. Officer Nice turned his car around at the first available intersection, but by the time he caught up with the car, it was parked in front of a house, Robinson had disappeared, and Daniels was sitting in the driver's seat, and the male passenger was still in the backseat. Officer Nice approached the vehicle, asked Daniels to identify herself, to tell him where Robinson was, and to exit the car. The parties dispute whether Daniels was uncooperative and responded with profanity, but they agree that she eventually exited the car. Tyler alleges that Daniels only did so when Officer Nice told her that he would arrest her if she did not comply. The parties dispute whether Daniels continued to be verbally abusive during the remainder of the incident and whether Officer Nice had any safety concerns. They agree, however, that Officer Nice asked Daniels to stand in front of his patrol car. Consequently, the remainder of the incident was captured on the dashboard videocamera of Officer Nice's patrol car.

While standing in front of Officer Nice's patrol car, Daniels had a large soda in one hand and her cellphone in the other. While Officer Nice was talking with Daniels, Tyler, who was not yet at the scene, saw a person matching Robinson's description running through a nearby alleyway, so Tyler requested that additional police units check the area for Robinson. When Tyler arrived at the scene, he approached Officer Nice and Daniels, with a police radio in his hand, and Officer Nice acknowledged him. Tyler alleges that he smelled marijuana in the rental car. Daniels contends that Officer Nice did not identify Tyler as a police officer and that she did not see the police radio in Tyler's hand. The parties also dispute whether bystanders had begun to gather in the area.

Tyler began to talk to Daniels, and Officer Nice went to talk to the male passenger. The parties, again, dispute whether Daniels continued to " spew profanity," yell, or behave belligerently during their entire conversation. Officer Nice rejoined Tyler and Daniels. Daniels admits that when she asked why she was being questioned, Tyler told her that it was because she allowed Robinson to drive her car when she knew that he was barred. Officer Nice again left Tyler and Daniels alone.

Daniels admits that she began to dial or text on her cellphone with one hand, while holding a large soda in the other hand. Tyler alleges that he told Daniels to put down her cellphone, out of concern that she was contacting Robinson or someone else who could jeopardize officer safety, and that lots of people were milling around the neighborhood by this time. Daniels states that she admits this statement in part and denies it in part, but specifically denies only Tyler's assertion that there were lots of people milling around the neighborhood. Daniels also specifically admits that she did not respond to requests to put down her cellphone and that,

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when Tyler asked her a third time to get off her cellphone or he would take it from her, she still did not respond.

The parties agree that Tyler reached for the cellphone and that Daniels pulled it away. They also agree that, at this point, Tyler intended to arrest Daniels for failure to obey the direction to put down the cellphone and for failure to put her hands behind her back when asked, as well as for allowing a barred driver to operate her vehicle. A struggle ensued between Tyler and Daniels. Officer Nice rejoined them and joined in Tyler's efforts to subdue Daniels.[1] Daniels contends that she did not understand what was happening. Officer Nice attempted to handcuff Daniels, but Daniels dropped her soda and struck Tyler in the left shoulder with her right hand. The officers continued ...


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