United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Marshall Division
PAYNE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Charles Edward Collins sued six law enforcement officers
under 42 U.S.C. Â§ 1983. He alleges that Charles âChaseâ
Dotson unconstitutionally arrested him and used excessive
force during the arrest and that the five other officers
present at the scene did not intervene and thus, are liable
under a theory of bystander liability.
response, Defendants Ryan Roop, Caleb Oden, Clint Mathers,
Cruz Vences, Jonathan Smith (collectively “Bystander
Defendants”), and Dotson (together, collectively,
“Defendants”) each filed a motion for summary
judgment based on qualified immunity. (Dkt. Nos. 55-59, 53).
Further, Dotson filed a motion to strike Collins' summary
judgment evidence (Dkt. No. 68) and Collins filed a motion to
strike the Bystander Defendants' expert affidavit (Dkt.
conducting a hearing on the issues, the Court concludes, for
the reasons set forth herein, that the motions by Dotson,
Roop, Oden, Smith, and Collins (Dkt Nos. 53, 55, 56, 59, 68,
69) are DENIED. The motions by Vences and Mathers (Dkt. Nos.
57, 58) are GRANTED.
time of these events, Dotson was a Harrison County
Sheriff's Office deputy. (Dkt. No. 53 at 5). Vences was
also a deputy for Harrison County. (Dkt. No. 58 at 10). Roop
was a K-9 deputy for Harrison County. He had been a licensed
police officer since 2005 and with Harrison County since
2011. He had spent time both as a jailer and patrol officer.
(Dkt. No. 55-3, Roop Deposition, at 2). Oden had been a
jailer for Harrison County for approximately one year and
eight months and had performed fifty to one hundred
extractions of arrestees from vehicles. (Dkt. No. 56-3, Oden
Deposition, at 2-4). Smith was also a jailer for Harrison
County. (Dkt. No. 59-3, Smith Affidavit, at 2). Mathers was a
Sergeant jailer for Harrison County. He had been on the job
for just over three years and had been a Sergeant jailer for
approximately five months. Before that he had spent at least
eight years as a security police officer in the military.
(Dkt. No. 57-3, Mathers Deposition, at 2-3). Collins was a
sixty-two-year-old oilfield consultant, who lived in Waskom,
Texas with his fiancé, Sandy Graff, on her property.
(See Dkt. No. 65 at 2; Dkt. No. 53 at 4).
Events at House and Arrest
12:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day 2018, Sandy Graff's
daughter, Samantha Garcia, dialed 911, told the dispatcher
that her mother had called “in a frantic, ” and
asked him to send police officers to Ms. Graff's house
because Collins was “drunk . . . [and] tearing
everything up.” (Dkt. Nos. 53-6, Roop Deposition, at
13; Dkt. No. 55, Ex. 5A-1, 911 Call starting at 0:10).
minutes later, Ms. Garcia called back, telling the dispatcher
that she was at the house, everything was fine, and Collins
was laying down. The dispatcher stated he would not cancel
the call. When pressed, Ms. Garcia admitted that she was not
yet at the house but that her mother had told her on the
phone that everything was fine. The dispatcher again
explained that he would not cancel the call and that the
officers could determine whether they were needed when they
arrived. (Dkt. No. 55, Ex. 5A-2, 911 Call).
after, Deputies Dotson, Vences, and Roop, along with Sergeant
Forrest Mitchell, who is not a defendant in this case,
arrived at the scene, where they saw Ms. Graff outside her
residence. The facts that follow are the undisputed facts as
determined by the Court based on a careful review of the
video evidence. Vences approached the house and opened the
front storm door, where he encountered Ms. Garcia, who was
walking to him from inside the house. She explained that she
had just put Collins to bed. After a few seconds, Collins
approached the front door. Vences said, “Lets step in
here” and Collins responded, “Yes sir.”
Vences, Roop, and Dotson then followed Collins inside.
Collins sat down at the island countertop in the kitchen,
while Vences, Roop, and Dotson stood around him. Mitchell
stayed outside with Ms. Graff and Garcia. (Dkt. No. 55, Ex.
5D, Vences bodycam starting at 0:40).
the house was a mess. Groceries were haphazardly strewn
across the kitchen. A sliding glass door to the backyard was
broken, and glass shards were all over the floor. A chair,
looking like it had been thrown, was upside down next to the
broken door. Collins, on his own, explained to the officers
that “all this mess you see, I did it.”
(Id. starting at 1:15). When later asked why he made
the mess, he stated that that he was “[j]ust
angry” but that he could not remember why he was angry.
(Dkt. No. 53-2, Collins Deposition, at 12-13).
the post-arrest investigation, it was discovered that Collins
had been at his fiancé's bar for around seven
hours that day, drinking what he estimated to be around ten
beers. Further, he had taken his prescribed ten-milligram
dosage of hydrocodone, an opioid pain medication, twice that
day. After leaving the bar around 10:00 p.m., he went home.
(Id. at 8-12).
the house, the deputies tried to gauge the situation. Even
without knowing Collins' exact state of intoxication, it
was evident that he was under the influence due to his
erratic behavior and occasionally slurred speech. (Dkt. No.
53-6, Roop Deposition, at 13). The officers asked Collins
what had occurred. While he gave non-answers to their
questions, he emphatically and repeatedly stated two things.
First, that he did not lay hands on anyone and second, that
everything was his, including the house and all the items in
it. Collins believed this meant that he had not committed a
crime, which the officers confirmed to him. (Dkt. No. 55, Ex.
5D, Vences bodycam starting at 1:52).
asked what his plan for the night was, Collins responded that
he was “going to bed.” While the conversation was
somewhat disjointed,  the next minute essentially went as
follows. Collins stood up and argued to no one in particular
that he could destroy his own house if he wanted. Dotson
answered, “you're absolutely right.” Collins
went on to say, “I can do what I want to in my own
house, I can tear those cabinets off and you can't do a
God damn thing about it. Now, if you want to arrest me for
it, I'll sue your ass Monday. Lock me up, lock me up
tonight!” Dotson responded, “We won't”
but went on to say, “we're not going to take you to
jail for anything besides public intoxication at this
point.” Collins responded, “In my own
house?” Dotson explained, “We can. You're not
cooperating with us.” (Id. starting at 3:52).
few more minutes of this unproductive back and forth,
Mitchell came inside and Vences went outside to ask Ms. Graff
what happened. Ms. Graff confirmed Collins' story,
stating they had been at her bar during the day. He left
before her and when she came home, she found the mess. She
emphasized there was no argument between them, no assault, no
violence. She then explained that she was going to spend the
night with her daughter. (Id. starting at 7:35).
Vences went outside, the others were inside talking to
Collins, who continued to predict that the officers were
going to arrest him. When asked what had happened, he
explained that he had caused the mess “over a God damn
fit” and that while they “don't come that
often, I can throw one.” He then asked the officers if
“y'all think you can hold me if I want to throw a
fit . . . cause I don't think you can.” Despite
using words that might be perceived as a threat, his tone
remained joking. He then looked at Dotson and asked,
“You think you can hold me big boy?” Right after,
he looked at Roop and winked, while smiling. He later told
Dotson, “I'm just picking on you.” While
Collins was laughing, the officers, particularly Dotson, did
not seem amused by his behavior. (Dkt. No. 55, Ex. E, Roop
bodycam, starting at 9:40; fit statement at 10:04; joke at
then explained to Collins, “If you're saying you
did all this and nobody was home, you're not going to
jail because at that point you tore up your own shit.
However, listen to me, the way the law is written, if you
tore this up in front of family member that is family
violence.” (Id. starting at 11:03).
then returned inside and Collins again sat near the kitchen
island, while rambling on about how he could do what he
wanted in his own house. Ms. Garcia then entered the house
and went into the master bedroom, shared by Ms. Graff and
Collins, to grab some clothes for her mother. Roop followed
Ms. Garcia around the corner of the kitchen and out of
Collins' sight line. Collins stood up and walked over,
exclaiming that “you ain't got no God damn business
in that bedroom.” While the officers originally thought
Collins was speaking to Ms. Garcia, he clarified that he was
talking to Roop. Roop explained that he was standing outside
the bedroom. Collins repeatedly stated that the officers had
no business going into his bedroom as his items were in
there. The officers tried to explain that they needed to keep
an eye on everyone in the house for safety reasons.
Eventually, Vences, possibly frustrated by Collins, cursed.
Collins, shocked by it, began to head back to his seat.
Vences told Collins to sit down three times as Collins was
slow to go back to his seat. (Dkt. No. 55, Ex. 5D, Vences
bodycam starting at 9:39, Garcia enters at 11:11; Collins
starts to complain at 11:43; Collins starts to sit at 12:46).
Collins returned to his seat, the situation seemed to be
defused as Vences began joking and laughing with Collins. The
critical scene in the house began when Vences asked Collins.
“You got chickens here?” Collins responded,
“Mmhmm, four of them.” Vences asked, “Where
they at?” Collins said, “Chickens?” Vences
said, “Yeah.” Collins replied by pointing at each
of the four officers while he counted, “One, two,
three, four.” Vences can be heard laughing, but Dotson,
apparently unamused by the comment, immediately arrested and
handcuffed Collins. Collins responded that it was “just
what he wanted” and that he would sue them come Monday.
(Id. starting at 15:07; joke starting at 15:27).
Ride to Jail Annex
Dotson arrested Collins, he took Collins into his patrol car
and began to drive to the Police Annex. Roop and Vences
followed in their patrol cars. The in-car camera, without
audio to begin, shows Collins, with his hands handcuffed
behind his back, in the backseat, talking and banging his
head against the divider. After two minutes of this, Dotson
turned on his flashing lights. He also called the Jail Annex
to inform them that he would be bringing a violent subject in
and would need assistance. Sergeant Mathers, Jailer Oden, and
Jailer Smith were assigned to the matter and began to prepare
the Sallyport of the Jail Annex for extraction by bringing a
restraint chair for Collins. (Dkt. No. 65-5, Incident Report,
Dotson's car, the audio function of the in-car camera
began to work and Collins can be seen lying down quietly.
(Dkt. No. 55, Ex. 5G-2, Dotson car camera starting around
2:00). After about three minutes of lying down quietly,
Collins sat up and banged his foot against the divider. He
asked to talk to the Sheriff, while repeating that he would
sue Dotson and the other officers involved in his arrest.
(Id. starting at 5:00). He continued to talk,
on-and-off, for the next few minutes, while also banging the
dividing screen with his foot and head. Dotson did not reply.
As the car got close to the Annex, Collins called Dotson a
“big boy” and stated that “if y'all
think you fixing to whoop my ass, you wrong”
(Id. starting at 9:12; second comment starting at
then pulled into the Annex. Roop followed, leaving a gap of a
few feet between the two cars. Collins, still in Dotson's
car, stated, “I'm ready, God damn I'm ready
when you are. Open the door.” Dotson replied,
“Hold on.” Collins continued, “Open the God
damn door. I know you all ready. I'm ready to give it my
best shot. You all fixing to throw it on me. I'm fixing
to throw it on your ass. I know you think you fixing to beat
me.” This continued for a few more seconds as the
officers prepared for Collins' extraction. (Id.
starting at 9:45).
jailers placed the restraint chair between the two patrol
vehicles. Then, they walked to the back-left door of
Dotson's car. At that point, the six officers-Deputies
Dotson, Roop, and Vences, Sergeant Mathers, and Jailers Oden
and Smith-were outside Dotson's car ready to extract the
handcuffed Collins. Roop and Vences activated their bodycams.
Dotson did not do so.
Dotson opened the door. As it opened, Collins shouted,
“Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Let me stick my feet
out! Let me stick my feet out!” The officers
disregarded Collins' pleading. Smith could be heard
saying, “Wait my ass.” Oden and Roop grabbed the
still- handcuffed Collins and dragged him out of the car head
first. Smith then grabbed Collins' right arm,
Oden held Collins' left arm, and Roop kept Collins'
head down. Dotson grasped Collins' right shoulder.
Mathers and Vences watched from just behind the others. As
Collins was dragged backwards to the restraint chair, he
tried to say something. As the words started to leave his
mouth, Dotson began to punch him in the head. Three punches
in, Roop let go of Collins and said, “Get the f…
in that chair.” Roop then turned around and turned off
his bodycam. As the jailers sat Collins in the restraint
chair. Dotson delivered five more even harder blows to
Collins' head. None of the other police officers did
anything to intervene. In the end, Dotson, over the course of
around five seconds, hit Collins eight times in his head.
(Dkt. No. 55, Ex. 5J, Vences bodycam in Sallyport starting at
Brandon Moore and Nathaniel Shannon, who are not defendants,
watched the scene in the Sallyport and provided statements
about its aftermath. Jailer Moore described Collins as
“bleeding from the lower part of the right eye, arms,
wrists, and elbow. His face was also very swollen and red and
there was blood all over the floor and chair.” (Dkt.
No. 65-5, Incident Report, at 3). Jailer Shannon further
described that “Mr. Collins had swelling to the right
side of his face he was also actively bleeding at the cheek
and ear. Mr. Collins also had a cut on his left elbow that
was actively bleeding.” After removing Collins'
handcuffs, the jailers saw that Collins “had bloody
hands both left and right and cuts on both of his wrist from
where the restraints was on to tight, this appeared to cut
into his wrist and make them purple and actively
bleed.” (Id. at 5-6).
jailers applied basic first-aid to Collins and “Mr.
Collins stated that his head hurt really badly that he wanted
to go the hospital.” (Id.). Collins was then
transported to the local hospital. After being treated,
Collins was taken to the main Harrison County Jail.
later during his deposition, Collins stated that he still had
a drooped eye, numbness in the right side of his face, and
hearing loss in his right ear as a result of the beating.
(Dkt. No. 65-3, Collins Deposition, at 7-8).
originally arrested Collins for Interfering with Public
Duties as indicated in his Arrest Report but the report
states, “On the way to the car, I evaluated the
entirety of the altercation and made the decision that
charging Collins with Disorderly Conduct was more appropriate
because Collins had not assaulted his girlfriend or an
officer.” (Dkt. 65-10, Arrest Report, at 2). Thus,
Dotson's complaint and book-in report show that Collins
was arrested for Disorderly Conduct. (Dkt. No. 65-12, Book-in
Report, at 3). Yet, a magistrate signed a form several hours
after Collins' arrest reflecting the dual charges of
Interfering with Public Duties and Resisting Arrest. Due to
the added charge, Collins was sent to the main jail instead
of the Annex. (Dkt. No. 65-8, Oden Deposition, at 3).
to the court records, ultimately there was only the single
charge of Disorderly Conduct against Mr. Collins, to which he
pleaded not guilty. This charge was dismissed by the court
“in the interest of justice” and the County
refunded in full the fine he had paid. (Dkt. 65-16).
STATEMENT OF LAW
judgment is proper “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). Facts are considered material if they
“might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A material fact creates
a “genuine issue” if the evidence is such that
the trier of fact reasonably could resolve the factual
dispute in favor of either party. Id. at 248. The
movant has the burden of showing that there is no genuine
issue of fact. Id. at 256. If the movant meets the
initial burden, Rule 56 requires the nonmovant to present
affirmative evidence and set forth specific facts showing
that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. All
evidence must be construed in the light most favorable to the
party opposing summary judgment. Id. at 261 n.2.
Although evidence is reviewed in the light most favorable ...