United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division
HUNTER TILLIS, NANCY SORRELLS, as grandmother, legal custodian, and administratrix of the Estate of Christian Redwine, and HANNAH WUENSCHEL, Plaintiffs,
CONSOLIDATED GOVERNMENT OF COLUMBUS, GEORGIA, et al., Defendants.
D. LAND CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.
Redwine led Columbus police officers on a highspeed chase
after his grandfather reported that Redwine and two friends
stole his Pontiac. Redwine crashed the Pontiac. As former
Columbus police officer Allan H. Brown, Jr. approached the
Pontiac just after the crash, the Pontiac began reversing.
Brown fired eleven shots into the Pontiac. The Pontiac rolled
backwards across the street, and Brown reloaded his gun and
fired ten more shots into the Pontiac. All three occupants of
the Pontiac sustained gunshot wounds. Redwine died on the
scene, and passengers Hunter Tillis and Hannah Wuenschel were
injured. Plaintiffs brought claims against Brown, the
Consolidated Government of Columbus, Georgia
(“CCG”), and Columbus Police Chief Ricky
Boren. Defendants filed a motion for summary
judgment (ECF No. 26), asserting that they are entitled to
summary judgment on all of Plaintiffs' claims. As
discussed in more detail below, all Defendants are entitled
to summary judgment on all claims based on the pursuit of the
Pontiac and the first round of eleven shots; Boren is
entitled to summary judgment on all claims against him in his
individual capacity; and CCG is entitled to summary judgment
on all state law claims against it. Brown is not entitled to
summary judgment on any of the individual capacity claims
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or state law based on the second
round of ten shots, and CCG is not entitled to summary
judgment on the § 1983 claims based on the second round
of ten shots.
judgment may be granted only “if 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). In determining whether a genuine
dispute of material fact exists to defeat a motion
for summary judgment, the evidence is viewed in the light
most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment,
drawing all justifiable inferences in the opposing
party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A fact is material if it
is relevant or necessary to the outcome of the suit.
Id. at 248. A factual dispute is genuine if
the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a
verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.
in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs, the record reveals
the following facts. The present record includes audio and
video recordings of the incident. In determining whether
there is a genuine fact dispute, the Court must view
“the facts in the light depicted by the”
recordings and may not adopt a version of the facts that is
“utterly discredited” by the recordings.
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380-81 (2007).
“But where the recording does not clearly depict an
event or action, and there is evidence going both ways on it,
” the Court must take the Plaintiffs' version of
what happened. Shaw v. City of Selma, 884 F.3d 1093,
1097 n.1 (11th Cir. 2018).
The 911 Call
Redwine lived with his grandmother, Nancy Sorrells, and her
friend Fred Levins. Levins considered Redwine to be his
grandson. Levins kept vehicles for his car business at the
house, including a 2006 Pontiac G6. On November 5, 2016,
Redwine spent most of the day at home with his cousin Hunter
Tillis. Hannah Wuenschel joined them in the late afternoon.
Levins went to bed around 11:00 p.m. When he woke up around
1:00 a.m. on November 6, 2016, he realized that Redwine,
Tillis, and Wuenschel were gone; so was the Pontiac.
a.m., Levins called 911 to report the Pontiac stolen. See
generally Pls.' Notice of Manual Filing Ex. B, Audio
Recording of Levins Call to 911, ECF No. 48. Columbus 911
called Levins back at 3:38 a.m., and Levins reported that his
seventeen-year-old grandson Christian, Christian's cousin
Hunter, and a girl named Hannah took the car. Pls.'
Notice of Manual Filing Ex. C, Audio Recording of Call from
911 to Levins 00:53-1:13, ECF No. 48. Levins stated, “I
want ‘em in jail.” Id. at 1:14-1:16.
Levins also told Columbus 911 that he wanted police “to
check them before they pull back in the drive.”
Id. at 1:32-1:35.
a.m., Columbus 911 dispatched two police officers to follow
up with Levins regarding his 2006 Pontiac G6 “with a
paper tag that was taken by family members.” Pls.'
Notice of Manual Filing Ex. D Part 1, 034051 Radio Recording
00:30-00:37, ECF No. 48. Shortly after that, Columbus 911
redirected the officers to another call. Pls.' Notice of
Manual Filing Ex. D Part 2, 034251 Radio Recording
00:20-00:23, ECF No. 48. At 3:53 a.m., Columbus 911
dispatched another officer to follow up with Levins.
Pls.' Notice of Manual Filing Ex. D Part 3, 035321 Radio
Recording 00:23-00:42, ECF No. 48. Officer Matthew Fuller
responded, and Levins reported that Redwine, whom Levins
described as his grandson, took the Pontiac with Tillis and
Wuenschel. Fuller called his supervisor, Sergeant Wendy
Thornton, and communicated this information to her.
drove the Pontiac. Wuenschel sat in the front passenger seat,
and Tillis sat in the back seat behind Redwine. They rode
around for a while, and they ended up in the parking lot of a
shopping center on Milgen Road in Columbus. Around 4:23 a.m.,
Captain William Turner, who was in an unmarked vehicle,
called dispatch asking for a marked patrol car to stop and
check a Pontiac G6. Pls.' Notice of Manual Filing Ex. D
Part 9, 042314 Radio Recording 00:26-00:38, ECF No. 48.
Turner wanted to check the Pontiac because there had been
burglaries in the area and he observed the Pontiac enter the
shopping center parking lot even though all the stores were
closed, pull in by a bush, turn off the lights, sit for a
minute or so, turn on the lights, and pull out of the parking
lot. Turner Dep. 73:17-74:15, ECF No. 37.
Pontiac turned left onto University Avenue, then right onto
College Drive and stopped at the entrance to an apartment
complex. Turner pulled behind the Pontiac. He could see that
there were at least two people inside, although he did not
share that information with anyone. Turner Dep. 80:19-82:3.
Turner reported over the radio, “I turned my blue
lights on and he's running. He don't have a
tag.” Pls.' Notice of Manual Filing Ex. C Part 10,
042506 Radio Recording 00:30-00:34, ECF No. 48;
accord Defs.' Notice of Manual Filing Attach. 2,
911 Audio Recording Track l.wma 2:13-2:16, ECF No. 42
(“911 Audio Recording”). The Pontiac drove away
at a high rate of speed. Wuenschel Dep. 89:9-19, ECF No. 39.
With his siren and blue lights activated, Turner pursued the
Pontiac, and other police officers joined the pursuit.
Thornton asked dispatch if the Pontiac Turner was pursuing
was the stolen Pontiac. 911 Audio Recording 2:21-2:24. About
a minute later, Thornton reported to Turner, “we have a
[stolen] vehicle that's just been reported, with a paper
tag.” Id. at 3:43-3:47. Another minute later,
after Turner had followed the Pontiac from College Drive to
Camille Drive to Hilton Avenue to Warm Springs Road to
Talbotton Road, Thornton reported, “be advised that is
our [stolen] vehicle.” Id. at 5:04-5:06.
to Tillis, Redwine was driving “at a high rate of speed
[and] had to lock the brakes up every time he came to an
intersection just to turn.” Tillis Dep. 119:21-24, ECF
No. 35. Tillis also stated that Redwine “was driving
crazy, pulling up on the e-brake, making the car slide all
over the place, it was crazy.” Tillis Dep. Ex. 1,
Officer Report 2016111409270 at CCG 01625, ECF No. 35-1 at 2;
accord Tills Dep. 120:18-19, ECF No. 35 (“He
was driving so crazy, I was ready to get out of the
car.”). In addition, Turner observed the Pontiac
run at least two stop signs. Turner Dep. Ex. 1, Turner OPS
Interview 3, ECF No. 37-1 at 3.
pursuing the Pontiac for two more minutes from Talbotton Road
to Veterans Parkway to 39th Street, the police lost sight of
the Pontiac. 911 Audio Recording 5:08-7:07 (describing the
Pontiac's movements). Redwine pulled over to the side of
the road near the Ashley Station Apartments area off of 12th
Avenue and told Tillis and Wuenschel that if they were
“going to get out, that [they] needed to get out
now.” Tillis Dep. 121:14-18. But then the police
officers turned onto the street where Redwine was parked, and
Redwine “hit the gas again.” Id. at
122:1-3. Officers pursued the Pontiac from the Rose Hill
neighborhood toward downtown Columbus via Linwood Avenue and
6th Avenue. The Pontiac turned right onto 11th Street,
heading the wrong way down a one-way street. The Pontiac
turned right onto Veterans Parkway and then left onto 13th
Street, heading west toward Phenix City, Alabama.
4:30 a.m., Brown was at the Columbus Police headquarters.
Although Brown was assigned to the Sector B squad and the
Sector A squad was pursuing the Pontiac, Brown heard about
the pursuit and decided to join it. Brown joined the pursuit
and activated his dash camera at 4:33 a.m. As the Pontiac
crossed the 13th Street bridge into Alabama, Brown took over
as lead police vehicle. Brown chased the Pontiac through
Phenix City at high rates of speed, and the Pontiac
ultimately went north on Highway 280, then turned right onto
Highway 80, heading eastbound toward Columbus. Based on the
Court's review of the available dash camera footage, the
roads appear almost abandoned except for the Pontiac and the
police cars chasing it.
asked if the vehicle was stolen, and Turner confirmed that it
was a stolen “G6 with a paper tag.” Pls.'
Notice of Manual Filing Ex. G Part 1,
CPD-595Nov.06.201604.33.30 Dash Cam Video of Allan Brown
6:30-6:41, ECF No. 48 (“Brown Dash Cam Video”).
Brown did not ask for details about the Pontiac, who was in
it, or the circumstances of the theft. And, no officers
provided any details. As the chase neared the Riverchase
exit, Brown reported high speeds and zero traffic.
Id. at 6:43-6:49. Instead of going over the bridge
back into Georgia, the Pontiac took the Riverchase exit and
turned right. Shortly after that, the Pontiac crashed into
some bushes. Brown reported that the Pontiac had
“wrecked out” and was “spinning, ”
and he asked dispatch to “start rescue.”
Id. at 7:49-7:56.
stopped his police car a few feet from the rear of the
Pontiac's passenger side. Id. at 7:59. He was
not directly behind the Pontiac, so if the Pontiac reversed
straight back neither Brown nor his police car were in its
path. Brown exited his vehicle. Brown did not give any verbal
commands that are audible on the dash cam
video. The Pontiac's reverse lights came on,
and the car started backing up. As soon as the Pontiac
started backing up, Brown began firing at it with his service
revolver. Id. at 8:02-8:07. He fired eleven shots
into the vehicle as it reversed past him. After the first
round of shots, Wuenschel screamed, “No! Stop! Please!
I got shot! Please, please, please!” Id. at
8:07-8:12. The Pontiac rolled straight backwards across the
street and came to a “gentle stop.” Tillis Dep.
137:22-138:3. Brown reloaded and fired ten more shots into
the Pontiac. Id. at 8:12-8:16. After the second
round of shots, Tillis and Wuenschel got out of the car.
Brown ordered them to get on the ground, and he held them at
gunpoint until other officers arrived. Emergency medical
personnel arrived by 4:49 a.m. and provided assistance to
Tillis and Wuenschel. Redwine was pronounced dead.
Brown's Position During the First Round of Shots
video does not show much of the shooting. The Pontiac is only
visible for the first seven or so shots, and the video only
shows the first two shots hitting the rear windshield. Brown
is not visible in the video, so the video does not show where
he was standing at any point during the shooting. Brown says
that he was directly behind the Pontiac when it began
reversing and that he believed it was trying to run over him,
so he began firing as he moved back toward his patrol
Brown Dep. Vol. I 190:4-14, ECF No. 28. As the Pontiac passed
him, Brown was concerned that the driver might still quickly
jerk the wheel and hit him. Id. at 228:5-9.
pointed to evidence to dispute Brown's testimony
regarding his position during the first eleven shots, which
the Court also refers to as the first round of shots. First,
Tillis stated that Brown was not in the path of the Pontiac
when Brown started shooting. Tillis Dep. 219:6-220:2. Rather,
Tillis testified that he “could see the police officer
standing between his car and his door. And from that time
till the time the gunshots -- when that first shot hit, he
was still standing between his car and his door.”
Id. at 137:7-11. Tillis had no concerns that Redwine
would run over Brown because Brown “wasn't directly
behind the car. He was off to the side of the car.”
Id. at 140:21-141:2. Tillis further testified in his
deposition that when the Pontiac reversed, it went
“straight backwards” and did not curve before it
came to a “gentle stop” across the street.
Id. at 137:22-138:3.
Plaintiffs pointed to the opinion of their expert witness,
William Harmening. According to Harmening, “Brown was
never in danger of being hit by the [Pontiac].”
Harmening Dep. Ex. 8, Harmening Report 13, ECF No. 41-8. The
first five shots “entered through the passenger side of
the rear window in a right-to-left trajectory toward the
driver.” Id. at 8. Based on the trajectory,
Harmening opines that Brown “was to the rear and to the
right of the vehicle” when he fired those shots, not
directly behind it. Harmening Dep. 142:18-21, ECF No. 41.
Harmening also opines based on the location of the casings
and other factors that Brown was “very close” to
the Pontiac when he shot through the rear windshield.
Id. at 144:3-7. Harmening further opines that Brown
continued shooting as the Pontiac rolled past him; shots six
and seven “entered through the rear passenger-side
window in a right-to-left trajectory, ” and shots eight
through eleven “entered through the front
passenger-side window straight on and perpendicular to the
movement of the vehicle.” Harmening Report 8.
Brown's Position During the Second Round of Shots
the first round of shots, the Pontiac was still rolling in
reverse as Brown reloaded his weapon. He was about fifteen
feet away from the Pontiac, “moving forward to effect
an arrest.” Brown Dep. vol. I 253:16-18. Brown
testified that as he moved toward the Pontiac, he heard the
Pontiac's engine rev loudly and thought the driver
“was going to try to run [him] over again.”
Id. at 253:1-7. Brown fired ten more shots toward
the Pontiac. The Court refers to these ten shots as the
second round of shots.
undisputed that the Pontiac was still reversing as Brown
reloaded his weapon; the Pontiac's gear shifter was still
in reverse when investigators arrived on the scene. There is
no evidence that the Pontiac moved forward toward Brown
before the second round of shots. And, although Brown's
dash camera and body microphone captured audio of many things
during the six seconds between the first round of shots and
the second round of shots-including Wuenshel's screaming,
the low hum of Brown's patrol car engine, some noises
that sound like metal hitting pavement, and sirens of
approaching emergency vehicles-no loud revving of the Pontiac
is discernible during that timeframe. Brown Dash Cam Video
8:06-8:12. Defendants' experts concede that there is no
revving sound on the recording. They offer several
explanations for why Brown claims to have heard a revving
sound, but they also concede that it is possible there was no
revving sound and that Brown made it up. Jury Dep. 120:6-17,
ECF No. 69.
Plaintiffs' Gunshot Wounds
was shot eleven times. The parties agree that the present
record does not establish when Redwine died. Plaintiffs
assert that the present record also does not establish which
shots were fatal. But in their statement of material facts,
Defendants pointed to evidence that an Alabama State Bureau
of Investigations special agent who attended the autopsy
reported, “The fatal wounds were identified as two (2)
gunshot wounds that were located in the upper back area of
the right shoulder that penetrated the lungs and
aorta.” Harmening Dep. Ex. D10, Investigative Summary,
ECF No. 41-10. And, Plaintiffs' expert testified that two
of the first five shots caused the wounds that the
pathologist described as the fatal wounds. Harmening Dep.
274:2-12. Plaintiffs did not point to evidence to dispute
this evidence that two of the first five shots struck Redwine
and were the fatal shots.
undisputed that Tillis was shot once during the second round
of shots; the bullet entered his nose and exited his mouth.
Wuenschel was shot once during the first round of shots; the
bullet entered her left shoulder and exited through her
elbow. See Pls.' Resp. to Defs.' Statement
of Material Facts ¶ 118 (admitting that “Wuenschel
was shot by one of the bullets fired from the first
magazine”); accord Brown Dash Cam Video
8:07-8:12 (audio of Wuenschel yelling “I got
shot” after the first round of shots). At the hearing
on the summary judgment motion, Wuenschel's counsel
suggested that there is a fact question on when Wuenschel was
shot. But Wuenschel did not point to any evidence to create a
fact question on this issue.
brought individual capacity claims against Brown under §
1983, asserting that Brown violated their constitutional
rights by improperly pursuing the Pontiac and by subjecting
them to excessive force and unreasonable
seizure. Tillis also asserts that Brown was
deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs.
Plaintiffs brought supervisory liability claims against
Columbus Police Chief Ricky Boren in his individual capacity,
alleging that Boren is liable under § 1983 based on his
hiring, training, supervision, and retention of Brown.
Plaintiffs also brought claims against CCG, claiming that