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Brooks v. Doughtie

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Northern Division

August 31, 2017

J.D. DOUGHTIE, ET AL., Defendants.


          JAMES C. DEVER III Chief United States District Judge.

         On May 1, 2015, Line Oshea Brooks ("Line") and April Gladney Brooks ("April") filed a complaint against Dare County Sheriff J.D. Doughtie and Dare County Deputy Sheriff Kevin Duprey in their individual and official capacities, the Ohio Casualty Insurance Company ("OCIC") and Liberty Mutual Group, Inc., as sureties, and John Doe 1 Surety Company and John Doe 2 Surety Company [D.E. 1]. The complaint alleged a state-law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, a statutory-bond claim, and federal claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See id ¶¶ 102-176. On September 14, 2015, the parties filed a joint stipulation of dismissal of all sureties other than OCIC [D.E. 26]. On October 31, 2016, defendants moved for summary judgment [D.E. 36]. Plaintiffs responded in opposition [D.E. 47-49], and defendants replied [D.E. 50]. As explained below, the court grants defendants' motion for summary judgment.


         Plaintiffs' complaint arises out of a traffic stop and detention that occurred in February 2014. On February 13, 2014, "[p]laintiffs were traveling eastbound on Virginia Dare Hwy, driving a silver 2008 Mercedes Benz CLS 550, when the[y] experienced a tire malfunction on the rear driver side." Compl. [D.E. 1] ¶ 13; see L. Brooks Dep. 25-26 [D.E. 39-8] 9-10. Line was driving, and slowed down to 25 miles per hour and activated the flashers. See Compl. ¶¶ 13-14. SBI Special Agent R. Jason Godfrey passed plaintiffs' car while driving on the same road, "and because traffic usually runs at about 70 mph or more, ... was concerned about the safety of this situation." Godfrey Aff. [D.E. 39-5] ¶ 4. Godfrey "slowed down to allow the vehicle to pass... so that [he] could read the license plate, " and "checked the license plate number in an official law enforcement database." Id.; cf, L. Brooks Dep. 34-37 [D.E. 39-8] 12. Godfrey learned that the car was registered to a man much younger than Line (and later learned that the car's registered owner was Line's son). Godfrey Aff. ¶ 4. Godfrey then "traveled past the vehicle and turned into a rest stop at the end of the bridge near Manteo to further observe the vehicle and the occupants once the vehicle was off the bridge." Id.; cf. Compl. ¶¶ 16-17 (alleging that Godfrey pulled ahead of plaintiffs' car and "veered off the road onto what appeared to be a wooded area, " only to again pull up to and around plaintiffs' car and turn left at an intersection). Although plaintiffs' car had a flat tire, plaintiffs drove past a rest stop and a gas station. Godfrey Aff. ¶5.

         Godfrey "then called Deputy Shaun Barrera, who [Godfrey] knew was on duty as a patrol officer for the Dare County Sheriffs Office, and informed him that a motorist with a flat tire in a silver Mercedes might need help between the bridge and Nags Head." Godfrey Aff. ¶ 4; see Barrera Aff. [D.E. 39-4] ¶ 4. Barrera "pulled up behind Plaintiff and initiated a traffic stop on Plaintiff, illuminating blue lights. Plaintiff responded to the lights by pulling into a parking lot and stopping his car." Compl. ¶¶ 18-19; see Barrera Aff. ¶ 4; L. Brooks Dep. 41 [D.E. 39-8] 13; A. Brooks Dep. 25-26 [D.E. 39-9] 8-9. Barrera identified himself to Line. Line responded that he was "a retired Rocky Mount Police Officer trying to make it to a store where his wife could use a restroom, and informed Barrera that he had a firearm in his vehicle." Compl. ¶¶ 20-21; see Barrera Aff. ¶ 4; L. Brooks Dep. 42 [D.E. 39-8] 14. Barrera quickly ended the traffic stop, but when Line got back on the road, "his tire collapsed, forcing him to pull into the parking lot of [a restaurant], just down the street from a store." Compl. ¶ 24; see Barrera Aff. ¶ 4 ("The entire stop lasted less than three minutes."); A. Brooks Dep. 28 [D.E. 39-9] 9.[1]

         Barrera called Godfrey back "and let him know that everything was fine and that the man was a retired police officer and did not need help." Barrera Aff. ¶ 4; see Godfrey Aff. ¶ 6. Godfrey, however, "became more curious" and called another SBI agent, Albert Ray Summerlin to "ask[] Agent Summerlin if he knew of someone who was a retired Rocky Mount Police officer and matched the physical description of the driver." Godfrey Aff. ¶ 6; see Summerlin Aff. [D.E. 39-6] ¶ 6. In 2013, Summerlin had interviewed a prisoner who "positively identified Mr. Brooks by photograph[]" and "said that Mr. Brooks was a former police officer in Rocky Mount, drove a silver Mercedes, and was involved in the drug trade and the racing business." Summerlin Aff. ¶ 5 & Ex. A [D.E. 39-6] 11-12 (DEA interview report). Summerlin also was aware of another 2013 interview with a federal prisoner in which "the prisoner said that Line Books [sic] had sold him 16 to 18 kilos of cocaine since 2006." Summerlin Aff. ¶ 7. Summerlin called the Rocky Mount Police Department and spoke with a captain "who told [Summerlin] that Brooks had retired from the department on medical disability and that police there believed he was involved in drug trafficking." Id. ¶ 6. Summerlin "reported this information immediately to Special Agent Godfrey." Id; see Godfrey Aff. ¶ 6; cf. Duprey Aff., Ex. A [D.E. 39-1] 7 (incident report indicating that Duprey spoke to Summerlin, who "advised [Duprey] that there were debriefs on Line Brooks that tied him into dealing large amounts of cocaine"); Pis.' Ex. 1 [D.E.49-1] 3 (same). Godfrey "immediately called Captain Kevin Duprey, the chief narcotics investigator for the Dare County Sheriffs Office, and told him all this information." Godfrey Aff. ¶ 6; see Duprey Aff. [D.E. 39-1] ¶ 4 & Ex. A [D.E. 39-1] 7; Pis.' Ex. 1 [D.E. 49-1] 3.

         Meanwhile, Line walked with April to the nearby store and then returned to their car. Compl. ¶ 25; see A. Brooks Dep. 38 [D.E. 39-9] 12. While sitting in their car with the engine running, a Nags Head police officer pulled into the parking lot behind them, activated his blue lights, demanded to see Line's license and registration, placed a phone call, then returned Line's license and registration to him and left. See Compl. ¶¶ 27-33; L. Brooks Dep. 47-49 [D.E. 39-8] 15; A. Brooks Dep. 38-40 [D.E. 39-9] 12; Pls.' Ex. 6 [D.E. 49-6] (event report).

         Captain Duprey was on patrol searching for plaintiffs, located them in the restaurant parking lot, and began to observe them. Compare Compl. ¶ 26; L. Brooks Dep. 50 [D.E. 39-8] 16 with Henderson Aff. ¶ 5 ("Duprey had been observing Mr. and Mrs. Brooks in the parking lot for several minutes when we pulled up."); Duprey Aff., Ex. A [D.E. 39-1] 7; Pis.' Ex. 1 [D.E. 49-1] 3. At some point, an individual named Marshall Gallop arrived to assist plaintiffs with their flat tire in response to a phone call Line had placed to Gallop's brother Mike. Compare Compl. ¶ 36; L. Brooks Dep. 26-29, 52-55 [D.E. 39-8] 10, 16-17; A. Brooks Dep. 40-41 [D.E. 39-9] 12; Gallop Aff. [D.E. 49-10] 2, wito Duprey Aff., Ex. A [D.E. 39-1] 7; Pis.' Ex. 1 [D.E. 49-1] 3; Henderson Aff. ¶ 5.. Marshall Gallop was familiar to several officers on the scene, including Captain Duprey, based on his criminal record for drug trafficking, and Mike Gallop "was fired from a law enforcement agency amid rumors that he too was involved in the illegal drug trade." Duprey Aff. ¶ 4 & Ex. A [D.E. 39-1] 7; Pis.' Ex. 1 [D.E. 49-1] 3; see Henderson Aff. ¶ 7.

         Captain Duprey contacted Barrera and asked him to come to the restaurant parking lot with Barrera's K9 police dog. Barrera Aff. ¶ 5; see Duprey Aff., Ex. A [D.E. 39-1] 7, 17; Pis.' Ex. 1 [D.E. 49-1 ] 3; Godfrey Aff. ¶ 7. Several officers arrived on the scene, including Henderson, Barrera, and Godfrey. See Compl. ¶¶ 40-41; Henderson Aff. ¶¶ 4-5; Godfrey Aff. ¶ 7; Duprey Aff., Ex. A [D.E. 39-1] 11. Although a tow truck had arrived to tow plaintiffs' vehicle, Captain Duprey informed plaintiffs that he intended to run a K9 dog around plaintiffs' vehicle. See Compl. ¶¶ 38-39, 42-45; Duprey Aff., Ex. A [D.E. 39-1] 7, 11; Pis.' Ex. 1 [D.E. 49-1] 3, L. Brooks Dep. 55-56 [D.E. 39-8] 17; A. Brooks Dep. 63-64 [D.E. 39-9] 18. Plaintiffs did not consent. See Compl. ¶ 54; Duprey Aff., Ex. A [D.E. 39-1] 7; Henderson Aff. ¶ 7; L. Brooks Dep. 56 [D.E. 39-8] 17; Gallop Aff. [D.E. 49-10] 2. Defendants assert that the K9 alerted to the presence of a controlled substance odor, which plaintiffs dispute. Compare Compl. ¶¶ 46, 49, 51-52; L. Brooks Dep. 56-57, 63-66 [D.E. 39-8] 17, 19-20; Gallop Aff. [D.E. 49-10] 2, wife Duprey Aff., Ex. A [D.E. 39-1] 7, 17; Henderson Aff. ¶ 6; Barrera Aff. ¶¶ 6-7.[2]

         At plaintiffs' request, Captain Duprey summoned Sheriff Doughtie to the scene. See Compl. ¶¶ 56-59; Doughtie Aff. [D.E. 39-3] ¶ 3; L. Brooks Dep. 58-59 [D.E. 39-8] 18; A. Brooks Dep. 64-65 [D.E. 39-9] 18. Doughtie told Line that one of the officers had spoken with someone who "did not have anything good to say about" Line, but Doughtie asserts that the conversation remained "courteous." Compare Compl. ¶ 60; L. Brooks Dep. 59-60 [D.E. 39-8] 18, with Doughtie Aff. ¶ 3. Either Sheriff Doughtie or Captain Duprey informed plaintiffs "that they were not being arrested or detained but that we were taking their car back to the sheriffs office [to search it further] and they were free to return with us or leave as they saw fit." Doughtie Aff. ¶ 4; see Compl. ¶ 63; Duprey Aff., Ex. A [D.E. 39-1] 8; Henderson Aff. ¶ 8; L. Brooks Dep. 60-61 [D.E. 39-8] 18. "Plaintiff verbally opposed the planned action, asking Sheriff Doughtie what right they had to take Plaintiffs' car and move it to the Sheriff s Office without a search warrant, but the Sheriff maintained that they were going to do a more thorough search of the car in a lighted area before they release it." Compl. ¶ 64; see L. Brooks Dep. 60-61 [D.E. 39-8] 18.

         Plaintiffs and the officers went to the sheriffs office. See Compl. ¶¶ 65-68; Duprey Aff., Ex. A [D.E. 39-1] 8; Henderson Aff. ¶ 8; Doughtie Aff. ¶ 4. The parties dispute whether plaintiffs were in custody at this point, although plaintiffs admit that they had not been formally arrested. Compare Compl. ¶¶ 66-67; L. Brooks Dep. 66-67 [D.E. 39-8] 20, with Henderson Aff. ¶ 8; Doughtie Aff. ¶ 4. Plaintiffs contend that they were instructed to accompany the officers to the station. See L. Brooks Dep. 66-67 [D.E. 39-8] 20. Although no one formally questioned plaintiffs, Sheriff Doughtie "was trying to interview [Line] ... in his slick way" by "starting to ask . . . questions about what [plaintiffs] planned to do when [they] were down there, did [plaintiffs] know anybody down there, things of that nature." L. Brooks Dep. 69-70 [D.E. 39-8] 20-21.

         At the sheriffs office, Barrera ran the K9 around the car again, and the K9 again alerted to the presence of a controlled substance odor on both the passenger and driver's sides of the vehicle, and on the floorboards of the front seats. See Duprey Aff., Ex. A [D.E. 39-1] 8, 13, 17; Henderson Aff. ¶ 8; cf Compl. ¶¶ 68-69 (alleging that the K9 "f[ound] nothing"). For approximately two hours, Duprey "and other officers used micro cameras to search in hard to reach areas of the car, raised and searched under the hood on the car and in the trunk, and used wrenches to take the car apart." Compl. ¶¶ 69-70; see Duprey Aff., Ex. A [D.E. 39-1] 8, 13-14; Henderson Aff. ¶¶ 9-10. Plaintiffs allege that "[a]fter more than two hours of watching the destruction of his car with nothing being found to justify it, [Line] pleaded with Sheriff Doughtie to stop, saying that this has gone on for too long" and "requested that the Sheriff end this situation and have his car put back together." Compl. ¶¶ 70-71; see L. Brooks Dep. 74-75 [D.E. 39-8] 22. "Sheriff Doughtie said that he agreed, but that, '. . . the way this car is torn to pieces there's no way we can get it put back together tonight'." Compl. ¶ 72 (alteration in original).

         During the course of the search, Henderson "found six air fresheners in a compartment under the driver's side seat and another one under the rear seat, " which "drug dealers often use... in an attempt to mask the odor of illegal drugs and throw off the scent of police drug dogs." Henderson Aff. ¶ 9; see Duprey Aff. ¶ 4 & Ex. A [D.E. 39-1] 14; cf L. Brooks Dep. 143-45 [D.E. 39-8] 39; A. Brooks Dep. 90-91 [D.E. 39-9] 25. Henderson also found "tiny white powder specks" that tested positive for cocaine when tested with "a Nark Swipe, a moist towelette that is pink but turns bright blue when it comes into contact with cocaine." Henderson Aff. ¶ 10; see Duprey Aff. ¶ 4 & Ex. A [D.E. 39-1] 8, 18; Doughtie Aff. ¶ 4; cf Compl. ¶¶ 74-77; L. Brooks Dep. 74-79 [D.E. 39-8] 22-23 (disputing the validity of the swipe); A. Brooks Dep. 91-93 [D.E. 39-9] 25.

         "At that time the search was stopped and it was determined that the search would continue the following morning after obtaining a Search Warrant." Duprey Aff., Ex. A [D.E. 39-1] 8; see Compl. ¶ 77; Henderson Aff. ¶ 10. "Lt. Duprey released Plaintiffs with their luggage (which was never searched), and .... told Plaintiffs that they could meet him at the Sheriffs Office in the morning around 9:00 a.m. to watch them conduct a more complete search of Plaintiffs' car for hidden compartments, after they obtain a search warrant." Compl. ¶¶ 80-81; see ...

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