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Blackburn v. Town of Kernersville

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

December 9, 2014

TERESA BLACKBURN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
TOWN OF KERNERSVILLE, et al., Defendants

For TERESA BLACKBURN, ADRIAN MARTINEZ-PEREZ, Plaintiffs: ERNEST CLARKE DUMMIT, LEAD ATTORNEY, DUMMIT FRADIN, WINSTON-SALEM, NC; JONATHAN G. KREIDER, DUMMIT FRADIN, GREENSBORO, NC.

For TOWN OF KERNERSVILLE, OFFICER J. L. REDDEN, in his individual capacity, KERNERSVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendants: ASHLEE BURGESS POPLIN, ANDREW J. SANTANIELLO, CLAWSON & STAUBES, PLLC, CHARLOTTE, NC; JOHN G. WOLFE, III, JOHN G. WOLF III & ASSOCIATES, PLLC, KENERSVILLE, NC.

For OFFICER E.G. SHUMATE, in his individual capacity, OFFICER K.L. CULLISON, in his individual capacity, M.W. LONG, in his individual capacity, OFFICER R.L. JOYNER, in his individual capacity, Defendants: ASHLEE BURGESS POPLIN, CLAWSON & STAUBES, PLLC, CHARLOTTE, NC.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Catherine C. Eagles, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

The plaintiffs, Teresa Blackburn and Adrian Martinez-Perez, have sued the Town of Kernersville and several police officers for violations of their constitutional rights arising out of a search of Ms. Blackburn's car and a search and arrest of Mr. Martinez-Perez. The defendants move to dismiss the amended complaint, contending that the officers are entitled to immunity and that the allegations of a policy of misconduct are insufficient to state a claim against the Town. Because the amended complaint alleges in detail violations of well-established constitutional rights and sufficiently alleges a policy of unconstitutional misconduct, the Court will deny the motion.

FACTS[1]

On May 22, 2014, Ms. Blackburn and Mr. Martinez-Perez were at Chalarka Tax in Kernersville, North Carolina, to set up two businesses. (Doc. 11 at ¶ 21.) For that purpose, Ms. Blackburn had $16, 000 in her purse and Mr. Martinez-Perez had $4, 000 in his pocket. (Doc. 11 at ¶ ¶ 22-23.) Leonardo Lopez Garcia was with the plaintiffs. (Doc. 11 at ¶ 24.)

A Chalarka Tax employee called the Kernersville Police Department, (Doc. 11 at ¶ 25), and defendant-police officers Redden, Shumate, Cullison, Long, and Joyner responded. (Doc. 11 at ¶ 26.) Upon arrival, the officers spoke with the employee and with Mr. Lopez Garcia. (Doc. 11 at ¶ 27.)

When Mr. Martinez-Perez offered to translate for Mr. Lopez Garcia, the officers ordered Mr. Martinez-Perez to " put his hands in the air." He complied. (Doc. 11 at ¶ ¶ 28-30.) Officers Redden and Shumate asked Mr. Martinez-Perez if he had any weapons on his person, and he told them that he carried a small pocket knife in his pocket " for work purposes." (Doc. 11 at ¶ 31.) Officers Redden and Shumate then drew their weapons, rushed Mr. Martinez-Perez, took him to the ground, shoved a foot in his face, twisted his arm behind his back, and arrested him. (Doc. 11 at ¶ ¶ 32-33.)

Officers Redden, Shumate, and Long searched Mr. Martinez-Perez and seized the money in his pocket. (Doc. 11 at ¶ 36.) Officer Long and other officers falsely claimed to find cocaine residue on one of the seized bills. (Doc. 11 at ¶ 37.)

Officers demanded that Ms. Blackburn consent to a search of her locked vehicle. (Doc. 11 at ¶ ¶ 38-39.) Ms. Blackburn initially refused, but gave the officers her key after they threatened to take her to jail. (Doc. 11 at ¶ 38.) Officers Cullison and Long and a K-9 searched Ms. Blackburn's car, " ransack[ing]" it and causing " substantial damage." (Doc. 11 at ¶ ¶ 40-41.) The officers found no drugs or weapons, but seized the $16, 000 in Ms. Blackburn's purse. (Doc. 11 at ¶ ¶ 41-42.) Ms. Blackburn asked for a receipt, but the officers refused. (Doc. 11 at ¶ 44.)

Mr. Martinez-Perez was taken to the Forsyth County Detention Center and charged with " Resist and Delay an Officer" and " Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance." (Doc. 11 at ¶ 45.) Ms. Blackburn was not charged with any crime. (Doc. 11 at ¶ 47.) A state court later entered an order returning the seized money to the plaintiffs. (Doc. 11 at ¶ 51.)

ISSUES

Ms. Blackburn and Mr. Martinez-Perez have sued Officers Redden, Shumate, Cullison, Long, and Joyner in their individual capacities. (Doc. 11 at 1.) Mr. Martinez-Perez asserts a claim for false arrest and excessive force under the Fourth Amendment.[2] (Doc. 11 at ¶ ¶ 32-34.) Mr. Martinez-Perez and Ms. Blackburn each assert unreasonable search claims and unreasonable seizure claims under the Fourth Amendment, (Doc. 11 at ¶ ¶ 52-63), due process and equal protection claims under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, (Doc. 11 at ¶ ¶ 64-76), and unreasonable search and seizure, due process of law, and equal protection claims under Article I, Sections 1 and 19 of the North Carolina Constitution. (Doc. 11 at ¶ ¶ 77-86.) They also each assert state law ...


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