United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
is Defendants’ Partial Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 9.
Defendants request the Court dismiss Counts One, Two, and
Five of the five total counts in Plaintiff Michael
Walker’s Complaint. For the reasons below, the Court
GRANTS the motion and
DISMISSES Counts One, Two, and Five of the
filed his Complaint on December 17, 2018. ECF No. 1. The
Complaint’s five counts, brought under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, involve two separate incidents. Plaintiff alleges the
about December 18, 2016, Plaintiff was at his friend’s
house when a domestic dispute broke out between his friend
and his friend’s sibling. Id. at 2. The
sibling called the police, and Deputy Lovejoy arrived at the
house. Id. at 2–3. After approximately thirty
to forty-five minutes, Deputy Lovejoy noticed Plaintiff was
openly carrying a holstered pistol. Id. at 3. Deputy
Lovejoy then walked over to Plaintiff and said, “[l]ook
at me you stupid son of a bitch, you’re putting all of
our damned lives at risk because you’re carrying a
gun.” Id. Deputy Lovejoy attempted to
confiscate the pistol, but Plaintiff refused and said he
would leave the property instead. Id. Deputy Lovejoy
stopped Plaintiff from leaving, stating he was concerned
Plaintiff might sneak around and shoot at the deputies.
Id. Deputy Lovejoy then confiscated
Plaintiff’s firearm, arrested him for obstruction, and
took him to jail. Id. at 3–4. Based on this
incident, Count One alleges Deputy Lovejoy unlawfully seized
Plaintiff and confiscated his firearm, and Count Two alleges
Deputy Lovejoy unlawfully arrested Plaintiff. Id. at
Three and Four arise from a separate incident on or about
February 21, 2017. Id. at 10–14. Plaintiff
alleges Deputies B. E. Donahoe and B. W. Pauley stopped
Plaintiff while Plaintiff was walking on a public roadway and
carrying an AR-15 rifle strapped to his backpack.
Id. at 4. Deputy Donahoe demanded Plaintiff provide
identification and then called in Plaintiff’s
information to run a criminal background check. Id.
at 5. Plaintiff said he wanted to leave the encounter, but
Deputy Donahoe told Plaintiff he could only leave when
dismissed. Id. During their exchange, Deputy Donahoe
allegedly told Plaintiff:
Everybody in the world I deal with, that has a gun, I check
and see whether they have committed a crime, that would keep
them from carrying or to possess a gun. If you have not, you
can keep going down the road. As for taking that in a store,
or going in a store, I would highly advise against it.
Id. at 6. After criticizing Plaintiff’s
reticence to talk with law enforcement, Deputy Donahoe
allowed Plaintiff to leave. Id. at 7. Based on this
incident, Count Three alleges Deputy Donahoe unlawfully
seized Plaintiff, and Count Four alleges Deputy Pauley is
liable as a bystander to the unlawful seizure. Id.
at 10–14. Count Five, based on both incidents, alleges
the Putnam County Commission has an unlawful policy, custom,
and practice of violating the rights of citizens who lawfully
carry firearms. Id. at 14.
filed their Partial Motion to Dismiss on January 30, 2019.
ECF No. 9. They argue the Court should dismiss Counts One and
Two because no Fourth Amendment violations occurred, so
qualified immunity applies to Deputy Lovejoy. ECF No. 10, at
4–10. Defendants argue the Court should dismiss Count
Five because no unlawful policy, custom, and practice exists.
Id. at 11–15. Plaintiff opposed the motion in
a response, and Defendants filed a reply. ECF Nos. 11, 12.
survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff’s complaint
must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim
showing [the plaintiff] is entitled to relief.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The facts contained in the statement
need not be probable, but the statement must contain
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim has facial
plausibility when “the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(citation omitted). In considering the plausibility of a
plaintiff’s claim, the Court must accept all factual
allegations in the complaint as true. Id.
Count One: Unreasonable Search and Seizure in Violation of
the Fourth Amendment on December 18, 2016
One alleges two Fourth Amendment violations occurred on
December 18, 2016. ECF No. 1, at 8–9. First, Plaintiff
alleges Deputy Lovejoy unlawfully seized him. Id.
Second, Plaintiff alleges Deputy Lovejoy unlawfully frisked
him and confiscated his firearm. Id. Plaintiff
argues Deputy Lovejoy had no authority to prevent him from
leaving the house or to confiscate his firearm because Deputy
Lovejoy had no reason to suspect Plaintiff of criminal
activity. Id. Defendants argue qualified immunity
applies because Deputy Lovejoy did not violate the Fourth
Amendment by seizing Plaintiff and confiscating his firearm.
ECF No. 10, at 4–8.
immunity protects government officials from civil damages in
§ 1983 actions “insofar as their conduct does not
violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818 (1982)
(citation omitted). The qualified immunity defense requires a
two-step analysis. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194,
201 (2001). The first question is whether “[t]aken in
the light most favorable to the party asserting the injury .
. . the facts alleged show the officer’s conduct
violated a constitutional right.” Id. If no
violation occurred, the analysis ends, and the plaintiff
cannot prevail. Id. If the Court finds a violation
may have occurred, the Court must consider whether the
constitutional right was “clearly established, ”
meaning “it would be clear to a reasonable officer that
his conduct was unlawful in the situation he
confronted.” Id. at 201–02 (citation
omitted). The “clearly established” standard
ensures officers are only liable “for transgressing
bright lines” and not for “bad guesses in gray
areas.” Maciariello v. Sumner, 973 F.2d 295,
298 (4th Cir. 1992) (citations omitted); e.g. Estate of
Armstrong ex rel. Armstrong v. Village of Pinehurst, 810
F.3d 892, 909 (4th Cir. 2016) (holding officers’ use of
stun gun violated the Fourth Amendment, but qualified
immunity applied because the arrestee’s right not to be
tased was not clearly established). Because Count One alleges
two Fourth Amendment violations, the Court examines them