United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Brunswick Division
SUE BRANNEN DIXON, JAMES M. DIXON, JR., Plaintiffs,
GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY; ALBERT HARVEY WILLIFORD, Defendants.
LISA GODBEY WOOD, JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Matter comes before the Court on Defendant Albert
Williford's and Defendant Georgia Department of Public
Safety's ("DPS") Motion for Summary Judgment
(Dkt. No. 39). These Motions have been fully briefed and are
now ripe for review. For the following reasons,
Williford's Motion is GRANTED, and
DPS's Motion is REMANDED to the state
court along with all remaining state law claims.
February 19, 2012, local law enforcement in Appling County
requested the assistance of the Georgia State Patrol's
State Special Weapons and Tactics ("SWAT") Team in
dealing with a barricaded gunman at the gunman's home.
Dkt. No. 39-2/46-1 ¶ 41 (Defendant's Statement of
Undisputed Material Facts to which Plaintiff has admitted,
hereinafter "SUMF"); Dkt. No. 39-3, Ex. 13 at 2.
Cpl. Williford was one of the SWAT officers mobilized to
respond to the barricaded gunman situation. SUMF ¶ 43;
Dkt. No. 39-3, p. 24. The callout location was the house of
James Dixon,  located in a rural area at the back of a
wide open field. SUMF ¶ 44; Dkt. No. 39-3, p. 55, Ex.
P4. Williford arrived at the callout location at
approximately 7:30 a.m. SUMF ¶ 45; Dkt. No. 39-3, p. 28.
He knew that an Appling County judge had issued an aggravated
assault arrest warrant for Dixon earlier that morning and
that he (Williford) was called to assist in effectuating that
arrest. SUMF ¶¶ 4 6, 42; Dkt. No. 39-3, p. 106;
Dkt. No. 6-1, p. 2. Williford also knew that Dixon had prior
military combat experience. SUMF ¶ 49; Dkt. No. 39-3, p.
108. It was Williford's understanding that earlier that
morning, Dixon had discharged a firearm into a neighbor's
home, taken family members hostage, and assaulted a family
member with a knife. SUMF ¶ 47; Dkt. No. 39-3, pp. 106,
Williford arrived, Sergeant Shackelford advised him to set up
a perimeter and deploy as a sniper. SUMF ¶ 50; Dkt. No.
39-3, p. 46. Williford had a .308 rifle with hollowpoint
ammunition. SUMF ¶ 54; Dkt. No. 39-3, p. 54. He deployed
to a location on the left side of Dixon's house (if
facing the front of the house), approximately 106 yards from
the house, and placed himself on the ground in an attempt to
camouflage himself. SUMF ¶¶ 51, 53; Dkt. No. 39-3,
contain Dixon, Williford tried to work with the other SWAT
team members according to their regular practice to establish
inner and outer perimeters around Dixon's house. SUMF
¶ 54; Dkt. No. 39-3, p. 64, Ex. P14. But SWAT did not
have sufficient manpower to complete the inner or the outer
perimeter. SUMF ¶¶ 57; Dkt. No. 39-3, pp. 96-97.
This left an opening around the rear of the house, leaving
Williford to wonder what means of escape in that direction
Dixon might have. SUMF ¶ 59; Dkt. No. 39-3, p. 97.
Williford testified that he was concerned about Dixon
escaping from the rear of the house through the woods. SUMF
¶ 60; Dkt. No. 39-3, p. 98, Ex. 4.
Williford arrived, Dixon was inside his house. The events are
depicted in a video that was provided by Defendants in
support of their motion for summary judgment. While Dixon was
inside, an armored vehicle called a Bearcat began to deploy
to the right side of the house to assist troopers in setting
up the perimeter. SUMF ¶ 62; Dkt. No. 39-3, pp. 70-71,
Ex. 11, 12, 14. Williford was informed that "James
[Dixon] had stated that he was coming out to fight or he was
coming out with his boots on, or it wasn't to surrender,
something to that degree." SUMF ¶ 61; Dkt. No.
39-3, pp. 128-29.
time after the sun rose, Dixon exited the house and began to
move around the area near his truck. SUMF ¶ 65; Dkt. No.
12-1 beginning at -1:58:41. He was carrying a long gun and
wearing a bullet proof vest and two bandoliers of ammunition
strapped across his chest. SUMF ¶ 66; Dkt. No. 12-1 at
-1:58:41; Dkt. No. 39-3 at 2; Dkt. No. 39-6. Williford did
not know whether Dixon's gun was loaded or whether the
safety was on. SUMF ¶ 68; Dkt. No. 39-3, pp. 81, 117-18.
Lamb was in the Bearcat. SUMF ¶ 63; Dkt. No. 39-3, p.
70. Using a public address system, Lamb repeatedly instructed
Dixon to drop his weapon. SUMF ¶ 69; Dkt. No. 39-3, p.
125-26. Dixon failed to comply. SUMF ¶ 70; Dkt. No.
39-3, pp. 119-20; Dkt. No. 12-1 at -1:58:41. Dixon held the
gun such that it was pointed up vertically. SUMF ¶ 71;
Dkt. No. 12-1, pp. 117-18.
testified that he was concerned that Dixon might be trying to
leave in his truck and endanger the public. SUMF ¶ 73;
Dkt. No. 39-3, p. 109. To prevent such an occurrence, he
fired his first shot. SUMF ¶ 74; Dkt. No. 39-3, p. 109.
The video evidence shows that at the time of the first shot,
Dixon was standing outside of his truck with both feet on the
ground. Plaintiffs' Additional Facts to which Defendant
agrees ("PAF") ¶ 12; Dkt. No. 12-1. He reached
into the truck, turned off the ignition, and threw the keys
into the yard. Id. Williford testified that he could
not tell what Dixon was doing when he reached inside the
truck. Dkt. No. 39-3, p. 118.
a minute of firing the first shot and concerned for the
safety of the nearby officers, Williford shot and killed
Dixon at 8:42 a.m. SUMF ¶ 82; Dkt. No. 39-3, p. 109;
Dkt. No. 1-1 at 7 ¶ 35, and at 37 ¶ 35; PAF ¶
1. He testified that he did so because Dixon had "put
himself in a position to shoot at officers" and wanted
to deescalate the situation before it got worse because of
Dixon's proximity to the sheriff's deputies. PAF
¶¶ 9, 10; Dkt. No. 39-3, pp. 24, 91-94. Williford
also testified that he believed Dixon looked in
Williford's direction after the first shot was fired.
Id. p. 53.
Williford fired the fatal shot, three deputies standing near
the Bearcat were within range of Dixon's gun, and
Williford did not know whether they were wearing bullet proof
vests. SUMF ¶¶ 77-78; Dkt. No. 39-3, p. 80, Ex.
P14. Williford also testified that he believed himself to be
within range of Dixon's gun, and he was not wearing a
bullet proof vest. SUMF ¶ 79, 81; Dkt. No. 39-3, pp. 85,
judgment is required where "the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is "material" if it
"might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law." FindWhat Inv' r Grp. v.
FindWhat.com, 658 F.3d 1282, 1307 (11th Cir. 2011)
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986)). A dispute is "genuine" if the
"evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. In making
this determination, the court is to view all of the evidence
in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw