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Simpson v. Little

United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma

October 30, 2019

TIFFANY SIMPSON, Personal Representative of the Estate of Logan Wayne Simpson, Plaintiff,
v.
JON LITTLE, in his individual capacity, IKE SHIRLEY, CITY OF BIXBY, OKLAHOMA, JANE DOE, and JOHN DOE, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          GREGORY K. FRIZZELL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the court is the Motion to Dismiss of defendant Jon Little. [Doc. 28]. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.

         I. Relevant Allegations

         On July 22, 2018, sixteen-year-old Logan Simpson and his brother, Kyle Simpson, were sitting outside their family's home with Deante Strickland in the early morning hours. [Doc. 26, p. 3 ¶ 12]. At some point, Mr. Strickland became violent and attacked Logan, then Kyle, with an ax. [Id.]. While Mr. Strickland was attacking his brother, Logan ran inside the house for help. [Id., ¶ 13]. Logan woke up his sleeping parents, telling them Kyle was being attacked. [Id.]. Logan's father went outside, separated Mr. Strickland from Kyle, and restrained Mr. Strickland until police arrived. [Id., pp. 3-4 ¶¶ 14, 17]. Logan's mother called 9-1-1. [Id., p. 3 ¶ 14].

         At some point during the chaos, Logan got in his white sports utility vehicle (“SUV”) and left the scene. [Id., p. 4 ¶ 16]. Noticing Logan's SUV was missing from the driveway and suspecting foul play, Logan's mother asked Mr. Strickland who took the vehicle. [Id., ¶ 17]. Mr.

         Strickland responded “[m]y homeboy took it.” [Id.]. Taking that to mean the SUV was stolen, Logan's mother called 9-1-1 again and reported the assumed theft. [Id., ¶ 18].

         Police Officer Jon Little was responding to the initial call at the Simpson home when he heard the stolen vehicle report over the radio. [Id., p. 5 ¶ 22]. Officer Little passed a vehicle matching the description of Logan's SUV on Highway 64 and turned around to follow it. [Id., ¶ 23]. Officer Little followed the vehicle, which was in fact Logan's SUV driven by Logan himself, for some time. [Id., ¶ 24]. Logan was not speeding or driving erratically. [Id., ¶ 25].

         Officer Little eventually turned on his lights and siren to initiate a stop of the SUV. [Id., ¶ 26]. Logan did not pull over, but instead proceeded on East 176th Street in Bixby, Oklahoma until he came to a dead end near South 89th Street East Avenue. [Id., ¶ 27; Doc. 26-3, p. 2]. At the dead end, Logan left the roadway to turn around in a yard. [Id., ¶ 28]. While Logan was completing his turn, Office Little parked his patrol vehicle across the nearby driveway. [Id., ¶ 28]. After Logan completed his turn, he was facing East 176th Street behind a gap created by two parked vehicles. [Id., p. 6 ¶ 33]. Officer Little exited his vehicle, drew his firearm, and ran to the side of the SUV shouting “Get on the ground!” and “Show me your hands!” [Id., ¶ 32]. Officer Little made eye contact with Logan and stepped into the gap between the two parked vehicles. [Id., ¶ 33]. As Logan pulled slowly forward, Officer Little stepped out of the SUV's path and continued to shout “Get on the ground!” and “Show me your hands!” [Id., ¶ 34]. Officer Little continued to hold his firearm in firing position. [Id.]. Officer Little knew that Logan was unarmed. [Id., pp. 6-7 ¶¶ 33, 44].

         As Logan drove past Officer Little, the officer began firing. [Id., p. 6 ¶ 36]. Officer Little continued to fire as Logan drove past him and down the street, even running after the SUV while continuing to fire. [Id.]. A total of ten shots struck the SUV, starting at the driver's side door and continuing down the side to the rear of the vehicle. [Id., ¶ 37]. Two of Officer Little's shots pierced the driver's side door and entered Logan's body through his left hip. [Id., p. 7 ¶ 38]. Logan continued down East 176th Street for approximately three blocks before his injuries caused him to lose control of the SUV and drive off the road. [Id., pp 7-8 ¶ 45]. Approximately fifteen minutes later, other Bixby police officers found Logan's SUV in high grass near South 92nd East Avenue and East 176th Street. [Id., p. 8 ¶¶ 46-47].

         Logan passed away later that day from the gunshot wounds inflicted by Officer Little. [Id., p. 9 ¶ 53]. Logan's mother brings this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1982 as the personal representative of her son's estate for violation of Logan's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. [Id., p. 1 ¶ 1; pp. 9-10 ¶¶ 54-63]. Officer Little moves to dismiss on the grounds that he is entitled to qualified immunity. [Doc. 28].

         II. Legal Standard

         “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Cummings v. Dean, 3 F.3d 1227');">913 F.3d 1227, 1238 (10th Cir. 2019) (quoting Emps.' Ret. Sys. of R.I. v. Williams Cos., Inc., 3d 1153');">889 F.3d 1153, 1161 (10th Cir. 2018)). In making this assessment, the court “accept[s] the facts alleged in the complaint as true and view[s] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Mayfield v. Bethards, 3d 1252');">826 F.3d 1252, 1255 (10th Cir. 2016). “When a defendant raises the qualified-immunity defense, the ‘onus is on the plaintiff to demonstrate (1) that the official violated a statutory or constitutional right, and (2) that the right was clearly established at the time of the challenged conduct.'” Cummings, 913 F.3d at 1239 (emphasis omitted) (quoting Quinn v. Young, 3d 998');">780 F.3d 998, 1004 (10th Cir. 2015)).

         A. Did the Use of Force Constitute a Constitutional Violation?

         The plaintiff alleges “Logan Simpson had a clearly established right, pursuant to the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of [the] United States of America to be free from the use of excessive force by a police officer.” [Doc. 26, p. 9 ¶ 55]. The Supreme Court has held that “all claims that law enforcement officers have used excessive force-deadly or not-in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other ‘seizure' of a free citizen should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment and its ‘reasonableness' standard, rather than a ‘substantive due process' approach.” Graham v. Connor, 386');">490 U.S. 386, 395 (1989) (emphasis original). “To state an excessive force claim ‘under the Fourth Amendment, plaintiffs must show both that a seizure ...


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