United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
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.
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.)
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. (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 ...