United States District Court, D. Utah
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING
DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
C. Nielson, Jr. United States District Judge
Matthew George Hinkley has sued Salt Lake City Corporation
and seven of its police officers, seeking damages pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983. Mr. Hinkley contends that the police
officers violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment of
the Constitution by using excessive force against him during
an arrest and that both the officers and Salt Lake City are
liable for the violation. Defendants have moved for summary
judgment, arguing that the officers did not violate Mr.
Hinkley's Fourth Amendment rights and are entitled to
qualified immunity and that the City cannot be held liable
absent any constitutional violation by the officers. For the
following reasons, the court grants the motion for summary
November 30, 2016, Mr. Hinkley spent the afternoon at his
friend's house, drinking beer and taking cocaine.
See Dkt. No. 19 (“MSJ”) at
In the evening, Mr. Hinkley attempted to break into a Salt
Lake City barbershop, “using brass knuckles to break
the locking mechanism on the front door.” Dkt. No. 2
(“Compl.”) at 6 ¶ 19; see also Dkt.
No. 20-6 at 3 (correcting the date of the incident). Multiple
officers were dispatched to the scene after a citizen called
911. See MSJ at 3 ¶ 2.
Leong was the first to arrive. See MSJ at 3 ¶
3; Compl. at 7 ¶ 23. When he told Mr. Hinkley to keep
his hands out of his pockets, Mr. Hinkley refused.
See MSJ at 4 ¶ 7; Compl. at 7 ¶ 24.
Instead, Mr. Hinkley approached Officer Leong, attempted to
hit him with his brass-knuckled fist, and then began to run
away. See MSJ at 4-5 ¶¶ 12-13; Compl. at 7
about this time, Officers Silva and McLelland arrived on
scene and helped Officer Leong chase Mr. Hinkley.
See MSJ at 5-6 ¶¶ 14-23; Compl. at 8
¶ 28. During the chase, Officer Leong deployed his taser
after warning Mr. Hinkley that he would do so. See
MSJ at 6 ¶¶ 21-22; Compl. at 7 ¶ 26.
“The taser appeared to be ineffective and did not have
the usual and expected effect of temporarily locking up Mr.
Hinkley's body and preventing any further
movement.” MSJ at 6 ¶ 23. Mr. Hinkley nevertheless
tripped over a bush, fell to the ground, and began flailing
and kicking at the three officers with his arms and legs to
prevent them from restraining him. See MSJ at 6
¶¶ 24-25; Compl. at 7 ¶¶ 26-27. Officer
Leong again deployed his taser in drive stun mode as a method
of pain compliance. See MSJ at 6-7 ¶ 28 &
the taser and the officers' other attempts to restrain
him, Mr. Hinkley was able to get back up, continue to flail
his arms at the officers, and then attempt to flee again.
See MSJ at 7 ¶ 30. Officer Leong tried to
tackle Mr. Hinkley, and Officer Silva used his taser in drive
stun mode. See Id. at 7 ¶ 31. After both Mr.
Hinkley and Officer Leong fell to the ground, Mr. Hinkley got
on top of Officer Leong and again tried to hit him with his
brass-knuckled fist. See Id. at 8 ¶¶
32-33. Officer Leong was able to avoid being hit by hitting
Mr. Hinkley in the face with the butt of his taser. See
Id. at 8 ¶ 34. Officer McLelland hit Mr. Hinkley in
the upper back or shoulder area with his baton, knocking Mr.
Hinkley off of Officer Leong. See Id. at 8
¶¶ 35- 36. Throughout this encounter, the officers
repeatedly commanded Mr. Hinkley to stop resisting and to get
on the ground. See Id. at 6, 8-9 ¶¶ 26,
Hinkley was now on the ground, and the officers began a
struggle to put handcuffs on him, successfully securing his
left wrist first. See Id. at 9 ¶ 39; Resp. at
4. This is the point at which Mr. Hinkley begins to dispute
the facts as presented by Defendants in their motion for
summary judgment. See Resp. at 4 (disputing
“the extent [MSJ at 9 ¶ 39] suggests that Mr.
Hinkley was resisting the Defendant Officers' effort to
place him in handcuffs once they had him on the
ground”). According to Mr. Hinkley, for instance,
although “[a]n Officer can be heard saying ‘stop
resisting'” on Officer Silva's body camera,
“the video does not show that Mr. Hinkley is struggling
at all” as the officers sought to put Mr. Hinkley in
the right handcuff. Resp. at 4 (citing Dkt. No. 20-5 at
court cannot, however, accept facts that are belied by the
video evidence. For as the Supreme Court has explained,
“[w]hen opposing parties tell two different stories,
one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that
no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt
that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion
for summary judgment.” Scott v. Harris, 550
U.S. 372, 380 (2007); see also infra Part II. It is
clear from Officer Silva's body camera that Mr. Hinkley
continually resisted the officers' attempt to handcuff
both of his wrists by refusing to roll onto his stomach,
twisting his body, and refusing to put his arms behind his
back. See Dkt. No. 20-5 at 1:45-3:45;
compare MSJ at 9-11 ¶¶ 39-52,
with Resp. at 4-12 (repeatedly asserting that Mr.
Hinkley “was unable to do anything, ” that he
“was not actively resisting the Defendant Officers'
attempts to roll him over, ” and other similar
struggled to put on the right handcuff, the officers struck
Mr. Hinkley several times and made other efforts to forcibly
restrain him. See Resp. at 7-9; Dkt. No. 20-5 at
1:50- 3:35. Specifically, Officer Leong struck Mr.
Hinkley's right arm with his fists several times.
See MSJ at 9 ¶ 44; Resp. at 7. Officer Tafisi,
who arrived around this time to provide backup, joined in the
effort to handcuff Mr. Hinkley by punching Mr. Hinkley's
left arm several times with his fists after yelling at Mr.
Hinkley to put his hands behind his back. See MSJ at
10 ¶¶ 46-47, 49- 50. Officer Simpson, who had also
just arrived, tried to stop Mr. Hinkley's resistance by
holding his shoulders. See Dkt. No. 20-5 at
3:00-3:30; MSJ at 10 ¶ 46-47, 51. Officer McLelland may
have struck Mr. Hinkley again with his baton, Resp. at 9, and
one of the officers pressed the end of his baton into Mr.
Hinkley's back to help pin him to the ground, Dkt. No.
20-5 at 3:20-3:30. After an extended struggle, the officers
were able to get the right handcuff on Mr. Hinkley by holding
him to the ground on his stomach and forcing his arms behind
his back. See MSJ at 10- 11 ¶ 52; Resp. at
11-12; Dkt. No. 20-5 at 3:00-3:45.
securing the right handcuff, Officers Silva and McLelland
asked Mr. Hinkley if he was “done fighting” and
warned him that he would be taken back to the ground
“if he did anything stupid.” MSJ at 11 ¶ 56.
Officers Silva and McLelland then brought Mr. Hinkley to his
feet and demanded that he give up his brass knuckles. See
Id. at 11 ¶¶ 58-59. But, as the video clearly
shows, Mr. Hinkley resisted the officers' attempts to
remove the brass knuckles by twisting his upper body.
See Dkt. No. 20-5 at 5:10-5:40; Dkt. No. 30-45;
compare MSJ at 11-12 ¶ 60, with Resp.
at 14. Officer McLelland responded by tackling Mr. Hinkley
back to the ground. See Dkt. No. 20-5 at 5:10-5:40.
The other officers on scene, including Officer Pearce, who
had arrived while Mr. Hinkley was on the ground and in
handcuffs, gathered around Mr. Hinkley to help restrain him
as he twisted his body and kicked his legs. See Dkt.
No. 20-5 at 5:20-5:40; Dkt. No. 30-46; Dkt. No. 30-47; MSJ at
12 ¶ 62. While trying to pin Mr. Hinkley to the ground,
one of the officers pushed snow into Mr. Hinkley's face;
Mr. Hinkley turned his head to the other side. See
Dkt. No. 20-5 at 5:40-6:20. Officer Smith retrieved a rip
hobble to restrain Mr. Hinkley's legs and assisted in
putting it on Mr. Hinkley while the other officers kept Mr.
Hinkley pinned to the ground. MSJ at 13 ¶
After placing Mr. Hinkley in the rip hobble, the officers
carried Mr. Hinkley out of the snow, placed him on his side
on the sidewalk, and waited around him for medical personnel
to arrive. See Dkt. No. 20-5 at 6:00-15:30. Mr.
Hinkley alleges that he suffered “three broken ribs and
injuries to the soft tissues in his chest, soft tissue
hematoma on his right forehead/scalp for which he received
seven staples, a fracture to his right rib, a fracture to his
hand, nasal bone fractures, a serious injury to his spine, a
concussion, and . . . lacerations and bruising” as a
result of the officers' various actions. Resp. at 19.
Hinkley was charged with three counts of assault on a police
officer-including one felony count-one count of burglary, and
counts relating to failing to comply with an officer,
interfering with arrest, and intoxication. See MSJ
at 13-14 ¶ 75. Mr. Hinkley entered a guilty plea to two
counts of misdemeanor assault on a police officer and the
other counts were dropped. See Id. at 14 ¶ 76.
Mr. Hinkley subsequently brought this suit and Defendants
moved for summary judgment.
court shall grant summary judgment 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). “[S]ummary judgment will not lie if
the dispute about a material fact is ‘genuine,'
that is, if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
“[C]ourts are required to view the facts and draw
reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the
party opposing the summary judgment motion.”
Scott, 550 U.S. at 378 (citations, internal
quotation marks, and brackets omitted).
qualified immunity cases, this usually means adopting . . .
the plaintiff's version of the facts.” Id.
But uncontroverted video evidence can limit such wholesale
deference to the plaintiff. Id. at 379-81. Because
“facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party only if there is a
‘genuine' dispute as to those facts, ” the
court may use such video evidence to determine whether there
is a genuine dispute. Id. (emphasis added). In
Scott, for example, the Supreme Court reversed a
lower court for relying on a plaintiff's version of the
facts that was “so utterly discredited by the record
that no reasonable jury could have believed him.”
Id. The Court held that the lower court
“should not have relied on such visible fiction.”
Id. Instead, “it should have viewed the facts
in the light depicted by the videotape.” Id.
existence of video evidence does not mean that courts should
completely ignore the plaintiff's version of the facts.
Courts should only reject a plaintiff's statement of the
facts when that statement is “blatantly
contradicted” by the video evidence. See York v.
City of Las Cruces, 523 F.3d 1205, 1210 (10th Cir.
2008). Thus, for example, facts alleged by the plaintiff that
are outside of what can be determined by the video still must
be taken as true. See Ross v. Burlington Northern,
528 Fed.Appx. 960, 963-65 (10th Cir. 2013).
court first addresses the argument that the individual
Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. “In
resolving questions of qualified immunity at summary
judgment, courts engage in a two-pronged inquiry.”
Tolan v. Cotton, 572 U.S. 650, 655 (2014).
“The first asks whether the facts, taken in the light
most favorable to the party asserting the injury, . . . show
the officer's conduct violated a federal right.”
Id. at 655-56 (citation, quotation marks, and
brackets omitted). “The second . . . asks whether the
right in question was clearly established at the time of the
violation.” Id. at 656 (quotation marks
omitted). As explained below, the court holds that the