United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Lynn Winmill Chief Judge United States District Court
McDowell claims two police officers used excessive force when
they illegally arrested him in his home. He has sued (1)
Jefferson County; (2) the City of Rigby; (3) Steve Anderson,
Sheriff of Jefferson County; (4) Keith Hammon, Chief of
Police for the Rigby Police Department; (5) Antonio Gonzales,
a Deputy with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office; and
(6) Emerson Parsons, an Officer with the Rigby Police
Department. The defendants seek summary judgment on all
23, 2015, McDowell shattered the windshield of a jeep that
had been parked in his driveway, and then pushed the jeep
into a neighbor's fence. Witnesses called the police, and
Officers Gonzales and Parsons responded to the call. The
officers took statements from the witnesses and heard
McDowell (1) apologize to his neighbor for the damage done to
the fence, and (2) yell at others that they better “get
the rest of your shit before I push it out there like I did
the jeep” or words to that effect. See Gonzales
Deposition (Dkt. No. 30-2) at p. 52.
point, McDowell, obviously drunk, was standing his yard.
Officer Parsons activated his body camera, preserving a video
and audio record of the events that night.
officers asked to talk to McDowell, but he refused, cursed
the officers, and demanded that they get a warrant.
Retreating to his front porch, McDowell continued berating
the officers, and then went inside his home. The officers
responded by asking McDowell to come out and talk with them.
McDowell came out onto a covered porch attached to the front
of his mobile home, and, leaning out of the porch area,
continued to yell at the officers for trespassing on his
property. After this outburst, McDowell walked back into the
covered porch area and then entered his home through his
few moments, Officer Gonzalez walked up the two steps leading
onto the front porch. Officer Parsons was behind him and had
not yet walked up onto the front porch when he can be heard
to ask “Are we taking him out?” See Gonzales
Deposition, supra, at p. 62 (confirming that Officer
Parsons asked that question). Officer Gonzales responded,
“Yes”, and Officer Parsons can be heard radioing
dispatch that they are going to take McDowell “into
custody.” In his deposition, Officer Gonzales explained
that by the time the officers walked onto the front porch,
they had decided to arrest McDowell. Id. at 63.
Parsons then followed Officer Gonzalez onto the front porch.
McDowell's front door was closed at this point. Officer
Gonzales knocked on the door, and McDowell opened it just a
small amount to protest that the officers were trespassing
and should get off his property. Officer Gonzales, placing
his right foot against the base of the door to prevent
McDowell from closing the door, asked McDowell several times
to come out of his home. But McDowell adamantly refused,
continued to curse the officers for trespassing, and demanded
that they leave. Officer Gonzales recalled that McDowell
tried to close the door “with my foot in it.”
See Gonzales Deposition, supra, at p. 77. McDowell
can be heard grunting on the video tape as he apparently
tried to close the door but was blocked by Officer
Gonzales' foot. The door then swings open further and
McDowell continued to protest.
point, McDowell was about two feet inside his home while
Officer Gonzales' left foot was on the porch and his
right foot was resting on the door's threshold, partly
inside the home and jammed up against the door. Officer Parsons
was standing on the porch directly behind Officer Gonzales,
continuing to record the incident through his body camera.
few minutes of this back-and-forth verbal sparring, Officer
Gonzales told McDowell that he was under arrest, and asked
him to put his hands behind his back. McDowell refused.
50 seconds after telling McDowell that he was under arrest,
Officer Gonzales moved his left foot into the home so that he
could grab McDowell who had remained about two feet inside
his home. Officer Gonzales gripped McDowell's right arm
and pulled him out of the house and onto the porch. He put
McDowell in an “arm bar position to get him to go down
[to] the ground.” See Probable Cause Affidavit
(Dkt. No. 30-2, Exhibit 2) at ¶ 15. Both officers
commanded McDowell to “get on the ground” but he
did not obey. Officer Gonzales then changed his hold
“from an arm bar to an arm-over-arm bar position to get
him to go down to the ground.” Id. When
McDowell continued to stand, Officer Parsons placed the Taser
on McDowell's thigh and taseredhim for just over 2 seconds.
McDowell fell to the porch floor, at which point the officers
handcuffed him and took him to the Jefferson County jail.
They charged McDowell with malicious injury to property,
resisting arrest, and obstructing an officer, each a
misdemeanor. He eventually pled guilty to “disturbing
the peace” under Idaho Code § 18-6409, a
Immunity - Legal Standards
defendants ask the Court to hold as a matter of law that they
are entitled to qualified immunity. The doctrine of qualified
immunity “protects government officials from liability
for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate
clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of
which a reasonable person would have known.”
Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009).
Qualified immunity gives government officials
“breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken
judgments about open legal questions. When properly applied,
it protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who
knowingly violate the law.” Ashcroft v.
al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 743 (2011).
determining whether an officer is entitled to qualified
immunity, the Court must determine (1) whether there has been
a violation of a constitutional right; and (2) whether that
right was clearly established at the time of the
officer's alleged misconduct. Lal v. California,
746 F.3d 1112, 1116 (9th Cir. 2014). Consequently, at summary
judgment, an officer may be denied qualified immunity in a
Section 1983 action “only if (1) the facts alleged,
taken in the light most favorable to the party asserting
injury, show that the officer's conduct violated a
constitutional right, and (2) the right at issue was clearly
established at the time of the ...