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Daniels v. City of Wyoming

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

January 10, 2017

CITY OF WYOMING, ET AL., Defendants.


          SUSAN J. DLOTT United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 49). Plaintiff Quincy C. Daniels asserts a claim for violation of his Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights against Defendant Tom Riggs, a police officer with the City of Wyoming, Ohio, arising from a traffic stop. Daniels asserts that the traffic stop was illegal because it was racially motivated. Officer Riggs moves for summary judgment on the grounds that he did not violate Daniels's constitutional rights and that he is entitled to qualified immunity as a matter of law. For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT the Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual History

         The following facts are derived, except where specifically noted otherwise, from Defendant's Proposed Undisputed Facts (Doc. 49-1) and Plaintiff's Responses (Doc. 54) thereto. On December 26, 2013, Daniels, an African-American, and his companion, Glenda Smith, spent the evening together at a Broadway show. Just after 8:00 p.m. that night, Daniels drove with Smith towards Smith's residence in Wyoming, Ohio in his recently acquired 2014 Cadillac CTS. Daniels obtained the vehicle in November 2013 from Fairfield Cadillac in Fairfield, Ohio. The vehicle displayed temporary license plates from the dealer which had expired on December 16, 2013.

         Officer Riggs has filed a dash camera video to support his recitation of the facts. The video system in the cruiser is set to record and save from one minute prior to the time that the cruiser lights are activated. (Riggs Dep., Doc. 48 at PageID 564.) The video is authenticated by Rusty Herzog, the Wyoming Chief of Police, and contains both a time-of-day clock and an event timer that starts starts at 0:00 and counts up to 7:08 minutes. (Herzog Aff., Doc. 49-2 at PageID 644; Video.)[1] Daniels's attorney notes that the video provided to Daniels in discovery and used in the deposition had only an event timer. The event timer in the dash camera video filed with the Court matches the timing of events set forth by Daniels in his Proposed Statement of the Facts. (Doc. 53.) Thus, the Court will use the event timer in this recitation of the facts.

         When the dash camera video begins, Daniels and Smith were travelling north on Springfield Pike in the left lane towards Smith's residence. Officer Riggs was travelling 2-3 car lengths behind Daniels's vehicle in the right lane until both vehicles stopped for a traffic light with Officer Riggs's cruiser next to Daniels's vehicle. (Video 0:00-0:16.) Daniels and Smith testified that Officer Riggs made eye contact with them while stopped for the traffic light. (Smith Dep., Doc. 47 at PageID 517-18; Daniels Dep., Doc. 46 at PageID 433-34.) After the cars accelerated from the light, Officer Riggs drove next to or ahead of Daniels's vehicle for approximately 15 seconds, and then he switched into the left lane behind Daniels's vehicle. (Video 0:28-0:59.) Officer Riggs put on his vehicle flashing lights to effectuate a traffic stop at the one minute mark in the dash cam video. (Video 1:00.) Daniels then turned left at the next intersection onto Ritchie Avenue and parked his car on the side of the road to comply. (Video 1:15-1:20.)

         At some point after he encountered Daniels's vehicle on Springfield Pike, Officer Riggs ran the temporary license plate number from the computer in his cruiser. He had noticed that the license plate number appeared to be altered on the temporary tag. (Riggs Dep., Doc. 48 at PageID 573.) The electronic record from the police cruiser indicates that he ran the license plate number at 8:16 p.m. (Doc. 49-2 at PageID 651.) That same electronic record indicates that Officer Riggs informed the police dispatcher about the traffic stop at 8:18 p.m. (Doc. 49-2 at PageID 652.) Riggs testified that the license plate issue was the only reason that he pulled over Daniels's vehicle. (Riggs Dep., Doc. 48 at PageID 561.) Officer Riggs “radioed” the numbers of the license plate to the police dispatcher for the first time on Ritchie Avenue or just before he turned onto Ritchie Avenue. (Id. at PageID 585; Audio at TStop 12-26 B.)[2]

         After the vehicles had pulled over on Ritchie Avenue, Officer Riggs approached Daniels and informed him that his license plate was expired and that the date written on it appeared to have been altered. Daniels provided Officer Riggs with his driver's license and registration at Officer Riggs's request. Officer Riggs returned to his cruiser to check the documents. He then returned the items to Daniels, reiterated that the license plate was expired, and suggested that Daniels contact the dealership about the license plate expiration. Officer Riggs did not issue Daniels a traffic citation. The traffic stop concluded and Daniels drove away. (Video 6:17.)

         Additionally, Daniels presents evidence that from December 2012 through December 2013 Officer Riggs issued tickets to more black individuals than to white individuals. (Doc. 48 at PageID 598-622.)[3]

         B. Procedural Posture

         Daniels initiated this suit on July 31, 2015 against the City of Wyoming, Ohio; Lynn Tetley, the Wyoming City Manager; the Wyoming Police Department; and Chief Gary Baldauf, Officer Tom Riggs, Officer Mike World, Officer Brian Berigan, and Officer Jeffrey Banker of the Wyoming Police Department. (Doc. 1.) He filed a [First] Amended Class Action Complaint on September 3, 2015 after Defendants had moved to dismiss the initial Complaint. (Docs. 8, 9.) Daniels sought to assert claims on behalf of a class of other non-white citizens stopped by the Wyoming Police Department because of their ethnicity. He asserted five claims: (1) unlawful stop in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment; (2) failure to train, instruct, or supervise in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments; (3) denial of substantive due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; (4) denial of procedural due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; and (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Doc. 9 at PageID 87-89.) The Court assumed that Daniels also intended to assert an equal protection claim because he alleged that Defendants stopped him and the prospective class members on the basis of their race. (Id. at PageID 84-87; Doc. 28 at PageID 329.)

         Defendants moved to dismiss the [First] Amended Class Action Complaint in its entirety. (Doc. 12.) On February 10, 2016, the Court issued an Order dismissing all claims against the City of Wyoming, City Manager Tetley, the Wyoming Police Department, Chief Baldauf, Officers World, Berigan, and Banker. (Doc. 28 at PageID 340.) The Court also struck the class action allegations. Finally, the Court dismissed the due process, equal protection, and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims against Officer Riggs. (Id.) The Court did not dismiss the claims against Officer Riggs for a violation of Daniels's rights under the Fourth Amendment. (Id. at PageID 340.) Finally, the Court instructed Daniels, for the sake of clarity, to file a Second Amended Complaint deleting the class allegations and the dismissed claims. (Id.)

         Daniels timely filed the Second Amended Complaint on February 26, 2016. (Doc. 31.) He asserts one claim alleging he “was stopped, detained, and interrogated because of his race” in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Id. at PageID ...

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