King v. United States, No. 17-2101 (6th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
Defendants, members of an FBI/Grand Rapids task force, were searching for Davison. Neither officer was wearing a uniform; both were wearing lanyards displaying their badges. Defendants knew that Davison was a 26-year-old white male, 5ʹ10″ to 6ʹ3″ tall, with glasses. Davison bought a soft drink from a particular gas station every afternoon. Davison’s driver’s license photo was seven years old. Defendants approached Plaintiff near the gas station. Plaintiff, a 21-year-old student, 5ʹ10″ to 6ʹ3″, and wearing glasses, claims Defendants never identified themselves. Defendants assert that Allen identified himself as a police officer. Plaintiff gave his name and followed' instructions to put his hands on his head because Defendants “had small badges.” Allen removed Plaintiff’s wallet. Plaintiff asked, “[a]re you mugging me?” and attempted to flee. Allen tackled him. Plaintiff yelled for passersby to call the police. Allen put Plaintiff in a chokehold. Plaintiff claims he lost consciousness. Plaintiff bit Allen. Allen started punching Plaintiff in the head and face. Bystanders called the police and began filming. Officers arrived and ordered them to delete their videos because they could reveal undercover FBI agents. One bystander stated, “They were out of control pounding him.” A 911 caller stated, “[t]hey’re gonna kill this man.” Emergency room doctors released Plaintiff with painkillers. Police then arrested him. Plaintiff spent the weekend in jail. A jury acquitted Plaintiff of all charges.
The district court found that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claim against the United States, and granted Defendants summary judgment based on qualified immunity. With respect to Plaintiff’s 42 U.S.C. 1983 or Bivens claims, the Sixth Circuit reversed. The FTCA judgment bar, 28 U.S.C. 2676, does not apply because the FTCA judgment was not on the merits. Defendants were not protected by qualified immunity. A jury could reasonably conclude that Plaintiff bears no resemblance to Davison’s photograph. Under clearly established law, removing Plaintiff’s wallet during a protective search was unreasonable. Clearly established law held that using a chokehold when Plaintiff was attempting to flee was objectively unreasonable.