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Jones v. City of Cincinnati

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

November 29, 2012

Bessie Jones, Administratrix of the Estate of Nathaniel Jeffrey Jones, et al. Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
City of Cincinnati, et al., Defendants, Guy Abrams; James Pike; Joehonny Reese; Jay Jonstone; Baron Osterman; Thomas Slade, Police Officers, Cincinnati Police Division, individually and in their official capacities, Defendants-Appellants

Argued: October 12, 2012

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio at Cincinnati. No. 1:04-cv-616—Susan J. Dlott, Chief District Judge.

COUNSEL

ARGUED:

Peter J. Stackpole, CITY OF CINCINNATI, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellants.

Randolph H Freking, FREKING & BETZ, LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellees.

ON BRIEF:

Peter J. Stackpole, CITY OF CINCINNATI, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellants.

Randolph H Freking, Tod J. Thompson, FREKING & BETZ, LLC, Cincinnati, Ohio, for Appellees.

Before: GIBBONS and COOK, Circuit Judges; ROSENTHAL, District Judge. [**]

OPINION

COOK, Circuit Judge.

The survivors and estate of Nathaniel Jones, who died after struggling with six Cincinnati police officers, brought a § 1983 action against those officers, alleging Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment violations and Ohio tort claims. The district court denied the officers' motion for summary judgment seeking qualified immunity and state statutory immunity, leaving pending four claims: (1) an excessive-force claim against two officers for repeated baton strikes and jabs prior to handcuffing Jones; (2) an excessive-force claim against one officer for refusing to remove Jones's handcuffs despite a firefighter's request; (3) a failure-to-provide-adequate-medical-care claim stemming from all six officers' delay in rolling Jones over; and (4) an Ohio wrongful death claim based on the foregoing conduct. The officers challenge by interlocutory appeal the district court's denial. Because the record demonstrates that the officers did not act objectively unreasonably, we REVERSE.

I.

A party may appeal a district court's denial of qualified immunity to the extent that the denial turns on legal issues. Johnson v. Jones, 515 U.S. 304, 310–12 (1995). On interlocutory appeal, we thus "take, as given, the facts that the district court assumed when it denied summary judgment." Id. at 319. Where video evidence "blatantly contradict[s]" this version of events, however, we "view[] the facts in the light depicted by the videotape." Austin v. Redford Twp. Police Dep't, 690 F.3d 490, 493 (6th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380–82 (2007)). In support of their motion for summary judgment, the officers submitted a video recording from one officer's in-car camera. Because this video does not blatantly contradict the facts assumed by the district court, we adopt those facts and draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Scott, 550 U.S. at 381; Johnson, 515 U.S. at 319. Under this standard, the record establishes the following.

Shortly before 6:00 a.m. on November 30, 2003, Cincinnati firefighters sought police assistance for a disorderly person at a restaurant parking lot. Officers James Pike and Baron Osterman arrived and spotted Jones marching, squatting, and shouting profanities outside. Both officers approached and spoke to Jones, who weighed 348 pounds and was 5 feet 11 inches tall. Pike radioed the dispatcher, reporting that Jones may be violent and require a mental health response team. Pike also requested a supervisor and turned on the video recording system ("MVR") in his patrol car. The MVR recorded the subsequent encounter, but Pike's car hood partially obstructed the view of Jones's and the officers' actions on the ground:

6:00:07–6:00:12 a.m.: Upon arrival, Pike tells Jones, "You gotta tell me what's going on." Jones responds, "Get this little nappy haired white boy redneck!"
6:00:13–6:00:17: Pike warns Jones three times to back up. Jones lunges at Pike and throws a punch at his head. Osterman arrives with his ...

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