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Heard v. City of Red Wing

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 5, 2019

Shequita A. Heard, Plaintiff,
City of Red Wing, Officer Justin Hesse, and Officer Nick Sather, Defendants.


          Paul A. Magnuson United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. For the following reasons, the Motions are denied.


         At approximately 7:00 pm on August 7, 2016, the Red Wing police department received a 9-1-1 call complaining about drug traffic and parking problems on Putnam Avenue in Red Wing, Minnesota. The caller stated only that she was “tired of people parking in front of my house to get drugs from another house” and that she lived on Putnam Avenue; she hung up without giving the operator any further information. (Leyderman Decl. (Docket No. 45) Ex. 1.) Defendant Officer Nick Sather was familiar with the area and knew that there was a “drug house” on Putnam Avenue; he drove his cruiser down the street shortly after the call came in. (Hodkinson Aff. Ex. 14 (Docket No. 40-14) (Sather Dep.) at 41.) A silver vehicle that he did not recognize drove past him. (Id. at 31-32.) He turned his cruiser around, planning to stop the vehicle, but he was unable to catch up to the car. (Id. at 33.) He believed the car was trying to elude him, so he radioed dispatch and asked other officers to be on the lookout for the vehicle. (Hodkinson Aff. Ex. 2 (Docket No. 40-2) (Supp. Sather Report) at 1.)

         A few minutes later, Defendant Officer Justin Hesse saw a vehicle matching Sather's description parking outside a house on West Sixth Street. (Hodkinson Aff. Ex. 15 (Docket No. 40-15) (Hesse Dep.) at 36.) As he was driving toward the vehicle, Plaintiff Shequita Heard emerged from the driver's side of the car. Hesse stopped his cruiser in the middle of the street and activated his lights. (Leyderman Decl. Ex. 2 (Hesse Squad Video) at 19:16:00.) Heard's brother got out of the passenger side of the car, and together they walked toward the home. There were several other individuals on the home's front porch at the time.

         Hesse got out of his squad car and followed Heard toward the house. (Id. at 19:16:46.) He asked Heard to stop, telling her that, “We had a driving complaint.” (Id. at 19:16:56.) Heard continued walking, eventually going up the steps onto the home's porch. Hesse followed her onto the porch, followed by Sather, who had also arrived on the scene. The individuals on the porch were yelling at the officers. (Id. at 19:17:30.) Hesse told Heard to “come over here” and she came down the front steps onto the front yard. (Id. at 19:17:20 -:27.) Several other individuals followed Heard and Defendants off the porch. (Id. at 19:17:32.) One of them told Heard, “F*ck them. You don't have to talk to them.” (Id. at 19:17:37.)

         Less than a minute later, during the course of the parties' conversation, Heard made a comment that caused the officers to handcuff her. (Id. at 19:18:23.) She contends that she told them she would “sue the f*ck out y'all.” Sather, however, apparently believed that she said she would “shoot the f*ck out y'all.” Sather told Heard that she could not “tell me that you're going to shoot me” and put Heard's arms behind her back. (Id. at 19:18:26.) Heard's brother was recording the events on his cell phone, and yelled, “She said sue! She said sue!” (Leyderman Decl. Ex. 4 (Cell Phone Video) at 0:01:00.)

         According to Defendants, Heard continued to refuse to cooperate, and they were forced to take her to the ground to handcuff her. According to Heard, she did what the officers told her to do, although she concedes that she initially pulled her arm away when Sather first touched her. Hesse's squad video shows both officers taking Heard to the ground less than five seconds after Sather first pulled Heard's arms behind her back. (Hesse Squad Video at 19:18:31.) Sather told Heard that she was under arrest for terroristic threats and obstruction. (Id. at 19:18:59.)

         Sather placed Heard in his squad car, and they engaged in a conversation about what had happened. Heard told Sather that she had said that she was going to shoot a video of them. (Leyderman Decl. Ex. 3 (Sather Squad Video) at 19:20:40.) Sather eventually transported Heard to the emergency room, and according to the parties she was thereafter taken to the county jail, where she remained for two days. Although she was charged with Obstructing Legal Process, Disorderly Conduct, and Threats of Violence, the county attorney dismissed the charges. Heard claims that she required shoulder surgery as a result of the take-down and that she still experiences pain in her shoulder.

         Heard's Complaint raises five counts. The first three are claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: Count 1 claims First Amendment retaliation against Hesse and Sather; Count 2 claims unreasonable seizure and excessive force against the officers in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and Count 3 claims unreasonable seizure, false arrest, post-arrest detention, and malicious prosecution against the officers, also in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Counts 4 and 5 raise claims under state law, specifically battery and malicious prosecution, and are brought against the officers and the City.

         Heard initially named several other Red Wing police officers as Defendants, but recently dismissed her claims against them. (Docket No. 35.) Only Hesse, Sather, and the City remain, and they now seek summary judgment, contending that qualified and official immunity bar Heard's claims. Heard cross-moves for summary judgment, arguing that there are no issues of fact on her claims under the Fourth Amendment.


         Summary judgment is proper if there are no disputed issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court must view the evidence and inferences that “may be reasonably drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Enter. Bank v. Magna Bank of Mo., 92 F.3d 743, 747 (8th Cir. 1996). The moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest on mere allegations or denials, but must set forth specific facts in the record showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986).

         A. ...

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