United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
RACHEL CARPENTER, as Administratrix of the Estate of PEDRO CRUZ-AMADO, Plaintiff,
WILSON SCOTT TRAMMEL, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER
REIDINGER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER is before the Court on the Defendants'
Motion for Partial Summary Judgment [Doc. 28].
an excessive force case arising from a Cleveland County
Sheriff's Deputy, Defendant W. Scott Trammel
(“Defendant Trammel”), shooting and killing Pedro
Cruz-Amado (“Amado”) in his front yard on June
21, 2016. The Plaintiff, Rachel Carpenter, as the
Administratrix of the Estate of Pedro Cruz-Amado
(“Plaintiff”), brought this action on January 25,
2018. [Doc. 1]. There are twelve claims for relief in the
Complaint against the various Defendants in relation to the
events surrounding the death of Amado. In Counts One and Two,
the Plaintiff asserts wrongful death claims under N.C. Gen.
Stat. § 28A-18-2 against Defendants Cleveland County and
Sheriff James A. Norman (“Defendant Norman”) in
his official capacity. In Counts Three, Four, and Five, the
Plaintiff asserts North Carolina common law claims against
Defendant Deputy W. Scott Trammel (“Defendant
Trammel”) in his individual and official capacities for
negligence, assault and battery, and for “acts of
malice and acts beyond scope of duties.” In Count Six, the
Plaintiff asserts claims for punitive damages against
Defendant Trammel under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 28A-18-2(b)(5)
and against Defendant Norman under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In
Counts Seven, Eight, Nine, and Ten, the Plaintiff asserts
§ 1983 claims against all the Defendants, including
claims based on violations of civil rights, unlawful pattern
and practice, deliberate indifference, and inadequate
training and supervision. In Count Eleven, the Plaintiff
asserts an alternative claim under the North Carolina
Constitution for substantive due process violations against
Defendant Trammel in his official capacity and against
Defendants Norman and Cleveland County. In Count Twelve, the
Plaintiff asserts an action on the Sheriff's bond under
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 58-76-5, which the Court considers as
a claim against Defendant Liberty Mutual Insurance Company,
although it is not identified as such in the Complaint. [Doc.
November 30, 2018, the Defendants filed the present Motion
for Partial Summary Judgment. [Doc. 28]. The Court held a
hearing on the Defendants' Motion on March 19, 2019.
been fully briefed by the parties and heard by the Court, the
Defendants' Motion is ripe for disposition.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is proper “if the pleadings, the discovery and
disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “As the Supreme Court has observed,
this standard provides that the mere existence of
some alleged factual dispute between the parties
will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for
summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no
genuine issue of material fact.'”
Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346
F.3d 514, 519 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct.
2505 (1986)) (emphasis in original).
genuine issue of fact exists if a reasonable jury considering
the evidence could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.
Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 798 (4th Cir. 1994),
cert. denied, 513 U.S. 814, 115 S.Ct. 68 (1994).
“Regardless of whether he may ultimately be responsible
for proof and persuasion, the party seeking summary judgment
bears an initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Bouchat, 346
F.3d at 522. If this showing is made, the burden then shifts
to the non-moving party who must convince the Court that a
triable issue does exist. Id.
A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary
judgment may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of
his pleadings, but rather must set forth specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Furthermore,
neither unsupported speculation, nor evidence that is merely
colorable or not significantly probative, will suffice to
defeat a motion for summary judgment; rather, if the adverse
party fails to bring forth facts showing that reasonable
minds could differ on a material point, then, regardless of
any proof or evidentiary requirements imposed by the
substantive law, summary judgment, if appropriate, shall be
Id. (internal citations and quotation marks
omitted). Nonetheless, in considering the facts for the
purposes of a summary judgment motion, the Court will view
the pleadings and material presented in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec.
Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S.
574, 587-88, 106 S.Ct. 1348 (1986).
following is a summary of the relevant forecast of evidence,
considered in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, as
required by Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Trammel became a patrol deputy with the Cleveland County
Sheriff's Office in or around August 2014. [Doc. 36-27 at
25]. Defendant Norman has been the duly-elected Sheriff of
Cleveland County since 2010. [Doc. 28-1 at ¶ 2].
21, 2016, Defendant Trammel went to Amado's residence in
response to a 911 call. The call was made by Amado's
sister, at the Plaintiff's request. The Plaintiff was
Amado's mother. The Plaintiff directed that the call be
made to EMS because the Plaintiff was concerned about
Amado's health. The Plaintiff testified that Amado
“was crying again and he needed … a
doctor.” [Doc. 36-22 at 133]. According to the
Plaintiff, Amado was depressed and was saying goodbye to
everyone. [Id. at 65]. The Plaintiff did not tell
Amado that an ambulance had been called. [Id. at
dispatcher who took the 911 call noted, and the paramedics
and Defendant Trammel were therefore advised, that Amado was
“saying bye to his family, and they were unsure about
weapons.” [Doc. 36-23 at 13-14]. In responding to 911
calls involving potentially mentally disturbed individuals,
it is and was the procedure of the Cleveland County EMS to
“stage” out of view of the subject residence
until officer assistance arrives and secures the scene for
the paramedics to safely render care. [Id. at
12-14]. Therefore, after reading the 911 dispatch notes, the
paramedics who responded to the 911 call requested that law
enforcement be dispatched to secure the scene before the
paramedics drove up to the residence. [Doc. 36-23 at 14-15].
Due to a functional error by the GPS system used by the
paramedics, the paramedics inadvertently staged the ambulance
in view of Amado's residence. [Doc. 36-23 at 17-18,
parties dispute certain keys events at Amado's residence
that occurred after the arrival and staging of the
paramedics. The parties do not dispute, however, that
Defendant Trammel was the first officer to arrive at
Amado's residence, that an interaction of some sort
ensued between Defendant Trammel and Amado in which Amado
wielded at least one metal folding chair at Trammel as
Trammel approached the residence, and that Defendant Trammel
fatally shot Amado only minutes after Defendant Trammel
arrived. Amado was 24 years old at the time of his death.
[Doc. 36-22 at 9].
Tuesday, June 14, 2016, exactly one week before the shooting,
Amado was admitted to the Crisis Center in Shelby, North
Carolina. The Plaintiff testified that Amado was depressed
and drinking too heavily. [Id. at 77-80]. The Crisis
Center intake notes state that Amado reported having symptoms
of “depression, sadness, crying, insomnia, recent
decrease in appetite, feelings of worthlessness,
hopelessness, guilt and shame.” [Id. at 91].
Amado also reported to the Crisis Center that he was
experiencing some suicidal thoughts. [Id. at 92].
Amado attempted twice to escape the Crisis Center, once on
Friday, June 17th and once on Saturday, June 18th.
[Id. at 104, 106-7, 112]. On the second attempt,
Amado reportedly struck a police officer and was brought to
the Cleveland County Regional Medical Center on an
involuntary commitment order. [Id. at 110-112]. The
next day, a Sunday, the hospital released Amado to the local
authorities. [Id. at 116]. Later that day, on June
19, 2016, the Plaintiff took Amado home. [Id. at
118-19]. Neither the paramedics nor Defendant Trammel,
however, were aware of any of this information when
responding to the 911 call.
undisputed evidence also shows that at the time of the
shooting the Sheriff's Office had in place at least two
official policies that are potentially relevant to Defendant
Trammel's actions on June 21, 2016: (1) Policy 2.01,
“Use of Force” (“Use of Force
Policy”); and (2) Policy 2.18, “Dealing with the
Mentally Ill” (“Mentally Ill. Policy”).
[Docs. 28-2, 28-3]. The Use of Force Policy sets forth, among
other things, the circumstances under which the use of deadly
force is authorized. It provides:
Deputies are authorized to use deadly force against another
person when, under the circumstances then known to the
deputy, it reasonably appears necessary in order to defend
himself or others from the ...