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Wilson v. Gaskins

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Valdosta Division

March 20, 2019

JESSICA WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
INVESTIGATOR TRACY DEMOND GASKINS and OFFICER KEVIN TROLINGER, Defendants.

          ORDER

          HUGH LAWSON, SENIOR JUDGE

         This case arises out of the August 30, 2017 arrest of Plaintiff Jessica Wilson for obstruction of a law enforcement officer. Presently pending before the Court is Defendants Tracy Demond Gaskins and Kevin Trolinger's Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 8). After reviewing the pleadings, briefs, affidavits, and other evidentiary materials presented, the Court concludes that Defendants are entitled to qualified and official immunity and GRANTS Defendants' motion.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On August 30, 2017, Defendants Investigator Tracy Demond Gaskins and Officer Kevin Trolinger, who are employed by the City of Quitman Police Department, arrived at 838 East Lafayette Street, the home of Plaintiff Jessica Wilson, to serve a Brooks County arrest warrant. (DSOMF ¶ 1).[1] Wilson met the officers at the front door and asked why they were at her home. (Id. at ¶¶ 2-3). Trolinger inquired whether Wilson son Keldrick Virgil was home and requested that Wilson summon him to the door. (Id. at ¶ 4). Wilson called into the house for her son. (Id. at ¶ 5). A young man then arrived at the door and identified himself as Keldrick Virgil. (Id. at ¶ 6). Virgil was wearing neither a shirt nor shoes. (Id. at ¶ 7).

         Trolinger verified Virgil's date of birth and explained that he and the other officers were present to serve an arrest warrant issued by Brooks County for Virgil. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9). Wilson then turned to Gaskins and asked why Brooks County issued a warrant for her son's arrest. (Id. at ¶ 10). Gaskins responded, “All I can tell you is they got a warrant for your arrest.” (Id. ¶ 11). Trolinger stated that he believed that the warrant may be for disruption of a public school, to which Wilson responded that her son had just been suspended from school the day before. (Ex. B, 11:17:00 - 11:17:11; DSOMF ¶ 13). During this interchange, Virgil slowly backed away from the doorway and out of the view of Tolinger's body camera. (DSOMF ¶ 12).

         Trolinger requested that Wilson have her son put on some shoes. (Id. at ¶ 15). As she walked into the house, Wilson called to her son, “Put your shoes on baby, come on.” (Id. at ¶ 16). Gaskins followed Wilson up the front stairs of the house and into the entryway of the home. (Id. at ¶ 17). Wilson told Gaskins, “He's coming, you don't gotta come in, he's coming . . . he's coming, he's coming, he's coming.” (Id. at ¶ 18).[2]

         Moments later, Trolinger entered the house. (Id. at ¶ 20). It is apparent that when Trolinger entered the living area of the home that the back door of the house was already cracked open. (Id. ¶ 22). Wilson continued to argue with Gaskins about the basis for the arrest warrant. (Ex. B, 11:18:10 - 11:18:22). During the interchange between Wilson and Gaskins, Wilson was on the phone. (DSOMF ¶ 23). She walked away from the officers toward the back door. (Id.). Wilson opened the door and looked outside, then walked back toward the officers, leaving the door ajar. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25). Wilson told the officers, “This is some bull right here - he was just at school yesterday, they just suspended him yesterday.” (Id. at ¶ 26).

         The officers permitted Wilson to speak with someone at the school. (Id. at ¶ 28). While Wilson was still on the phone, Gaskins asked, “Where's he at?” (Id. at ¶ 29). Wilson nonchalantly replied, “He left, I think.” (Id. at ¶ 30). Gaskins then stated, “Well then let's go ahead and book her up.” (Id. at ¶ 33). Wilson calmly walked toward the back door where she exclaimed, “He ran out the back door!” (Ex. B, 11:19:25 - 11:19:30). Wilson declared, “When he came in the house, he went out the back door.” (DSOMF ¶ 35). Trolinger responded to Plaintiff, “And when Investigator Gaskins tried to come in the house, you said he don't need to come in here.” (Id. at ¶ 36). Wilson protested, saying, “When I came in the house, Keldrick was already out the back door. The door was cracked.” (Id. at ¶ 37).

         Wilson then contacted her mother, and the officers instructed her to put on her shoes. (Ex. B, 11:19:48 - 11:20:08). Trolinger placed Wilson in handcuffs. (DSOMF ¶ 40). As the officers escorted Wilson out of the house and into the patrol car, she continued to shout profanities and threatened a lawsuit. (Id. at ¶ 41). Trolinger transported Wilson to the Brooks County Detention Center where she was cited for misdemeanor obstruction of a law enforcement officer in violation of O.C.G.A. § 16-10-24. (Id. at ¶¶ 42-43; Doc. 1-2). Wilson was later found not guilty of the offense. (Doc. 1-3). This lawsuit followed.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and … the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact arises only when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The party seeking summary judgment “always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of a material fact.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323 (internal quotation omitted). If the movant meets this burden, the burden shifts to the party opposing summary judgment to go beyond the pleadings and present specific evidence showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact, or that the movant is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. at 324-26. This evidence must consist of more than conclusory allegations. See Avirgan v. Hull, 932 F.2d 1572, 1577 (11th Cir. 1991). Summary judgment shall be entered “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

         “At the summary judgment stage, facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a ‘genuine' dispute as to those facts.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). However, when, as in this case, reliable video evidence is available, the court should view the facts in the light depicted by the video recording. Id. at 381; see also Penley v. Eslinger, 605 F.3d 843, 848 (11th Cir. 2010) (inferences for the nonmoving party may be drawn only “to the extent supportable by the record”).

         III. ...


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