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Hoerner v. Schei

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

September 18, 2014

Eric Hoerner, Plaintiff,
Robert Schei, et al., Defendants.

Duane A. Kennedy, Kennedy Law Office, Rochester, Minnesota, for Plaintiff.

Jason M. Hiveley, Jon K. Iverson, Iverson Reuvers Condon, Bloomington, Minnesota, for Defendant Sylvia Quirk.

Gregory J. Griffiths, Jennifer Marie Peterson, Dunlap & Seeger, P.A., Rochester, Minnesota, for the remaining Defendants.


RICHARD H. KYLE, District Judge.


This case arises out of Plaintiff Eric Hoerner's arrest in Rochester, Minnesota, on August 1, 2010. Hoerner alleges that the arresting officer, Defendant Sylvia Quirk, lacked a basis to take him into custody and that several deputies at the Olmsted County Adult Detention Center ("ADC")[1], to which Quirk transported him, unlawfully strip searched him and used excessive force during the booking process. Presently before the Court are (1) Quirk's Motion for Summary Judgment and (2) the remaining Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant both Motions.


The record reveals the following undisputed facts.[2] Shortly before 1:00 a.m. on August 1, 2010, Hoerner was standing in the roadway in front of his house, screaming for help. Rochester police were called, and Quirk was dispatched to the scene; she knew the address as one from which "multiple suspicious calls" had been received. En route to the location, she was advised that several neighbors had identified Hoerner as the person screaming and that he was a known "meth-head." Quirk, too, knew Hoerner as an "offagain/on-again" drug user.

Upon arrival, Quirk found Hoerner in the street, sweating profusely and yelling about a man in his closet and a shotgun in a vehicle down the roadway. The lights were on in his home and the front door was wide open. Hoerner was extremely animated and began walking toward Quirk while waving his arms around. Quirk ordered him onto his knees and he complied. She then handcuffed him, patted him down for weapons and drugs (finding none), and placed him in the back of her squad car, noting in the process that he had a pink substance all around his lips and that he was not responsive to her questions. Around this time, additional officers arrived and informed Quirk that Hoerner had an outstanding arrest warrant in connection with a shoplifting charge. After confirming the warrant, Quirk informed Hoerner he was under arrest and transported him to the ADC. Along the way, Hoerner continued hallucinating, mentioning (among other things) that people were in his house, others were in the squad car with him, and that people were trying to shoot him or kill him. Quirk radioed the ADC that she was en route with a disorderly subject.

Quirk arrived at the ADC at approximately 1:15 a.m. When she pulled into the sally port, [3] Hoerner was screaming incoherently, complaining that a piece of tissue was trying to "get him" and jumping around in the backseat of the squad car. Defendant Robert Schei, the detention sergeant on duty, was well aware of Hoerner's history of drug use, since he (Hoerner) had been arrested and booked into the ADC more than thirty times. Schei called for assistance from other deputies, and the remaining Defendants arrived to help remove Hoerner. Schei and Defendant Frank Ensor ordered Hoerner to exit and, when he failed to do so, pulled him from the car. The deputies observed that Hoerner was sweating, had dilated pupils, and was combative, repeatedly ignoring commands to cooperate and physically resisting the deputies' efforts to control him. Nevertheless, they managed to bring him to the ADC's booking area, but Hoerner became even more combative and aggressive.

By the time Hoerner reached the booking area, Schei was concerned he might be overdosing on narcotics. Furthermore, ADC policy requires all inmates to be searched prior to entering the facility, in order to detect and prevent the introduction of contraband, including drugs. Given his state, Schei ordered Ensor and Defendants Eric Williams, William Onago, Jeff Hackman, and David Schilling to take him to the ground, in order to conduct a search in a "controlled" manner. Schei grabbed Hoerner's feet and pulled them from under him while the remaining deputies lifted Hoerner's upper body and, together, placed him face down on the floor. Hoerner screamed and fought the deputies throughout; no contraband was found.

Nevertheless, because of Hoerner's prior history of drug use, his agitated state, and the other physical signs indicating he was under the influence of narcotics, Schei concluded Hoerner should be strip-searched. ADC policy permits a strip search when reasonable cause exists to conclude a detainee could be concealing contraband. The policy further provides that reasonable cause may be based on, among other factors, the detainee's conduct, demeanor, criminal history, and other similar factors. Notably, Hoerner had been strip searched previously when booked into the ADC.

To conduct the strip search, the deputies carried Hoerner to a cell. By Hoerner's own reckoning, his mental state worsened and his "delirium increased" when the deputies brought him to the cell; he kicked and thrashed as he was being carried, and he attempted to grab the pepper spray Onago carried on his duty belt. The deputies struggled to control him and had difficulty removing his clothes. They held him against the ground while Schei removed his Taser and ordered Hoerner to stop resisting and accede to the search. Hoerner continued to thrash about and scream, resulting in Schei deploying his Taser "four to five times" over the ensuing 10 minutes. The deputies eventually managed to cut off Hoerner's clothing and complete the strip search; Hoerner resisted throughout. The search revealed no drugs or weapons.

Following the search, Schei became increasingly concerned about Hoerner's deteriorating psychological status and the possibility he might have overdosed on drugs. Accordingly, he left the cell and asked Quirk, who had remained at the ADC during the booking process, to call an ambulance. In his absence, Defendant Christian Spelhaug, a detention corporal, Tasered Hoerner one additional time in an attempt to gain his compliance, to no avail. Eventually, the deputies were able to place underwear on ...

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