United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Augusta Division
RANDAL HALL, JUDGE.
Fourth Amendment protects individuals from "unreasonable
searches and seizures." U.S. Const, amend. IV. This
protection prohibits a police officer from using deadly force
to stop a fleeing non-violent suspect unless the suspect is a
serious threat to the officer or the public. See Vaughan
v. Cox, 343 F.3d 1323, 1333 (11th Cir. 2003). According
to the facts alleged in Plaintiff's complaint, Plaintiff
attempted to flee his apartment after someone complained
about a party he was throwing. Defendant Wesley Martin saw
him leaving and opened fire on his car. Plaintiff has now
sued Officer Martin for using excessive force. He has also
sued Chief William McBride for failing to adequately
supervise Officer Martin. Chief McBride moves to dismiss the
claim against him, arguing that he is entitled to qualified
immunity. Because Plaintiff has alleged facts that, when
taken as true, show that Chief McBride violated clearly
established law, the Court DENIES Chief McBride's motion
the facts alleged in Plaintiff's complaint as true and
viewing the allegations in the light most favorable to
Plaintiff, as the Court must, see Am. United Life Ins.
Co. v. Martinez, 480 F.3d 1043, 1057 (11th Cir. 2007),
the facts of this case are as follows. On the night of
February 20, 2014, Plaintiff, a student at Augusta
University,  hosted a party at his on-campus apartment.
(See Doc. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 14, 17.) Someone -
presumably a neighbor - called in a noise complaint to the
complex's Resident Advisor. (Id. ¶ 17.)
Under university policy, Resident Advisors were required to
seek police assistance when they investigated noise
complaints. (Id. ¶ 16.) Thus, after receiving
the call about Plaintiff's apartment, the Resident
Advisor contacted campus police, and several officers,
including Officer Martin, responded to the call.
(Id. ¶¶ 17-18.)
the inquiry, Plaintiff left the apartment, got in his car,
and attempted to leave the complex. (Id. ¶ 19.)
Officer Martin, who had remained in the parking lot,
overheard on a radio that someone was attempting to leave the
complex and parked his car near the parking lot's exit.
(Id. ¶¶ 113-14.) As he tried to leave the
parking lot, Plaintiff saw Officer Martin and stopped his
car. (Id. ¶ 115.) When Officer Martin saw
Plaintiff, he drew his weapon and, without provocation,
"shot [Plaintiff] in the face." (Id.
¶ 19.) Plaintiff then attempted to drive away from
Officer Martin, and as he did, Officer Martin continued to
fire his gun, striking Plaintiff's car ten times.
(Id. ¶ 121.)
Martin has a history of using disproportionate force. In
2010, Officer Martin stopped Frederick Gibbons for driving
with a paper tag on his car. (Id. ¶ 49.) When
Mr. Gibbons attempted to explain that his tag was valid,
Officer Martin "became outraged" and arrested Mr.
Gibbons, handcuffing him so tightly that his wrists bled.
(Id.) In 2012, Officer Martin stopped Mr. Gibbons a
second time for not having a valid tag. (Id. ¶
65.) Officer Martin once again "became outraged, "
and this time he tased Mr. Gibbons five times, without
justification, while Mr. Gibbons was in his car.
(Id. 66-67.) In fact, Officer Martin later admitted
that he tased Mr. Gibbons because Mr. Gibbons did not roll
his window down far enough. (Id. ¶ 69.) Then,
in 2013, Officer Martin stopped Keith James for speeding.
(Id. ¶ 77.) As he approached Mr. James's
car, without reason, Officer Martin drew his gun and
threatened to shoot Mr. James. (Id. ¶¶
77-78.) Fearing for his life, Mr. James attempted to drive
away, and as he did, Officer Martin began shooting at his
(Id. ¶¶ 78-81.)
William McBride, Chief of Police and Director of Public
Safety at Augusta University, knew about each of these
events. He appointed an investigator to look into both
incidents involving Mr. Gibbons, and he received a
use-of-force report about Officer Martin's shooting at
Mr. James. (Id. ¶¶ 51, 71, 86.) The
investigator both times determined that Officer Martin was
justified in his use of force on Mr. Gibbons, and the report
concerning Mr. James concluded that Officer Martin acted
appropriately. (Id. ¶¶ 53, 72, 86.) Chief
McBride adopted each of these findings, and Plaintiff alleges
that he did so to avoid punishing Officer Martin. (See
id. SISI 91-93.)
filed this lawsuit in February 2014 asserting various claims
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Officer Martin and Chief
McBride in their individual and official capacities. Since
then, Plaintiff has stipulated that his official-capacity
claims fail and has dismissed all but two counts: (1) an
excessive-force claim against Officer Martin; and (2) a
supervisory-liability claim against Chief McBride. Chief
McBride now moves to dismiss the claim against
considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
Court tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint.
Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The
Court must accept as true all facts alleged in the complaint
and construe all reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff. See Hoffman-Pugh v.
Ramsey, 312 F.3d 1222, 1225 (11th Cir. 2002). The Court,
however, need not accept legal conclusions as true, only
well-pleaded facts. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
complaint also must "contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'" Id. at 678 (citing
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). A plaintiff is required to plead "factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged." Id. "The plausibility standard
is not akin to a 'probability requirement, ' but it
asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully." Id.
42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff may hold a government
official liable for causing the deprivation of a
constitutional right. Plaintiff seeks to hold Chief McBride
liable for Officer Martin's actions under a
supervisory-liability theory. Chief McBride moves to dismiss
that claim, asserting qualified immunity.
immunity offers complete protection for government officials
sued in their individual capacities if their conduct
'does not violate clearly established statutory or
constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have
known/" Vinyard v. Wilson, 311 F.3d 1340, 1346
(11th Cir. 2002) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457
U.S. 800, 818 (1982)). For qualified immunity to be
available, a government official must show that he was acting
within his discretionary authority at the time of the
allegedly wrongful act. Id. Once he has done that,