United States District Court, D. Maryland
TAWANDA JONES, et al. Plaintiffs,
NICHOLAS DAVID CHAPMAN, et al., Defendants.
Lipton Hollander United States District Judge.
civil rights case arises from the unfortunate death of
forty-four year old Tyrone A. West, Sr. (“Mr.
West” or the “Decedent”) on July 18, 2013,
following a traffic stop. Tawanda Jones, as Personal
Representative of the Estate of Tyrone A. West, Sr.; Nashay
West; Tyrone West, Jr.; and T.W., a minor child, by Mary
Agers, as Guardian and next friend of T.W., plaintiffs, filed
an Amended Complaint (ECF 33) alleging, inter alia,
that Mr. West died as a result of the use of excessive force
by the police during an illegal traffic stop. See
ECF 33, ¶¶ 3, 14.
particular, plaintiffs filed suit against Baltimore City
Police Officers Nicholas David Chapman; Jorge Omar
Bernardez-Ruiz; Matthew Rea Cioffi; Eric Maurice Hinton; Alex
Ryan Hashagen; Danielle Angela Lewis; Derrick Dewayne
Beasley; and Latreese Nicole Lee (collectively, “BPD
Officers” or “BPD Officer Defendants”).
Plaintiffs also sued Anthony W. Batts, who was the
Commissioner of the Baltimore City Police Department
(“BPD”) at the relevant time. ECF 33, Amended
Complaint, ¶ 10. In addition, plaintiffs sued David
Lewis, an officer with the Morgan State University Campus
Police (“MSU Police”), and Lance Hatcher, Chief
of the MSU Police (collectively, MSU Defendants). All
defendants were sued in their official and individual
capacities. Id. at 1-3, 25.
suit was instituted pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based
on alleged violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments
to the federal Constitution. Plaintiffs also claim violations
of Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Right,
and assert various tort claims under Maryland
According to plaintiffs, Officers Chapman and Bernardez-Ruiz
effected an illegal traffic stop of Mr. West, unnecessarily
sprayed him with “pepper spray” (ECF 33, ¶
21), and they, along with officers who responded to the
scene, repeatedly beat Mr. West with batons and fists, until
he became unconscious and then died. Id.
¶¶ 12-20, 26-31.
Amended Complaint (ECF 33) contains two claims and various
counts within each “Claim, ” as follows. Claim
I-Count I asserts a survival action by the Estate of Mr. West
(“Estate”) against the BPD Officers and MSU
Officer David Lewis for assault and battery. Claim I-Count II
is a survival action by the Estate against BPD Officers and
MSU Officer Lewis for false arrest. Claim I-Count III asserts
a survival action by the Estate against BPD Officers and MSU
Officer Lewis for false imprisonment. Claim I-Count IV
asserts a survival action by the Estate against BPD Officers
and MSU Officer Lewis for violations of the Fourth and
Fourteenth Amendments, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983, and
Articles 24 and 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights.
Claim I-Count V is a survival action by the Estate against
Batts and Hatcher, in their official and individual
capacities, “for negligent supervision, training and
retention and custom or policy of deliberate
indifference.” Id., ¶ 45. Claim I-Count
VI sets forth a claim by the Estate against all defendants
for funeral expenses. And, Claim II-Count I is a wrongful
death claim lodged by the Decedent's children against all
and the BPD subsequently moved to bifurcate the claims
against the individual police officers and to stay discovery
as to the Monell claim. ECF 69. By Memorandum (ECF
84) and Order of September 15, 2016 (ECF 85), I granted that
motion. Specifically, I bifurcated Claim I - Count V as to
Batts and stayed Monell discovery. Id.
Order of October 14, 2016 (ECF 90), Commissioner Kevin Davis
was substituted for former Commissioner Batts, in his
official capacity only, as to the Monell and
supervisory claims. See ECF 89; ECF 90; see
also Fed. R. Civ. P. 25(d). Based on the Court's
prior rulings (ECF 28; ECF 29), the Amended Complaint (ECF
33), and the substitution of Commissioner Davis for former
Commissioner Batts in his official capacity (ECF 89; ECF 90),
the only claim remaining against Batts, in his individual
capacity, and Commissioner Davis, in his official capacity,
is “Claim I - Count V, ” the “survival
action for negligent supervision, training and retention and
custom or policy of deliberate indifference.” ECF 33,
Amended Complaint, ¶¶ 64-76. As indicated,
that claim was bifurcated. See ECF 85.
Officer Defendants have moved for summary judgment (ECF 97),
supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 97-3) (collectively,
“BPD Officers' Motion”) and numerous
exhibits. See ECF 97-4 to 97-19; ECF 98 (Autopsy
Report). Plaintiffs oppose the BPD Officers' Motion (ECF
106), supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 106-1)
(collectively, “Opposition”), and several
exhibits. See ECF 106-5 to 106-27. Defendants have
replied (ECF 117, “Reply”), supported by
additional exhibits. See ECF 117-2 to ECF
Officer David Lewis also filed a motion for summary judgment
(ECF 100), in which he joined the BPD Officers'
Motion. Plaintiffs oppose the motion. ECF
addition, the BPD, former Commissioner Batts, and
Commissioner Davis (“BPD Defendants”) have moved
for partial summary judgment (ECF 99), supported by a
memorandum of law (ECF 99-1) (collectively, “BPD
Motion”) and several exhibits. ECF 99-3 to ECF
99-13.Plaintiffs oppose the motion (ECF 103),
supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 103-1) (collectively,
“BPD Opposition”) and many exhibits. See
ECF 103-3 to ECF 103-22. The BPD Defendants have replied (ECF
115, “BPD Reply”), supported by additional
exhibits. See ECF 115-2 to ECF 115-5.
hearing is necessary to resolve the motions. See
Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow I shall grant
in part and deny in part the BPD Officers' Motion, which
was joined by MSU Officer David Lewis. And, I shall grant in
part and deny in part the BPD Motion.
Servance appears to be the only non-party witness to the
initial encounter between Mr. West and BPD Officers Chapman
and Bernardez-Ruiz. She knew Mr. West as a
“hack” cab driver. ECF 106-6, Deposition of
Corinthea Servance (“Servance Dep.”) at
12:19-13:1. Because Ms. Servance does not drive, she would
sometimes call Mr. West if she needed a ride. Id. at
the early evening of July 18, 2013, Ms. Servance contacted
Mr. West for a ride. Id. at
15:11-16:11. It was an “exceptionally
hot” day in Baltimore. ECF 106-5, Deposition of Jorge
Bernardez-Ruiz (“Bernardez-Ruiz Dep.”), at
14:11-13. Mr. West picked up Ms. Servance at the corner of
Stonewood Road and Loch Raven Boulevard in Baltimore City,
driving a green Mercedes. Servance Dep., ECF 106-6 at
17:11-13; 18:8-12. Although Ms. Servance initially planned to
go to her home, she decided instead to go to her mother's
home, which was in the vicinity. Id. at 18:16-18;
19:12-18. Mr. West began driving westbound on Stonewood
towards Northwood Drive. Id. at 23:5-19. But, he
missed the right turn onto Kitmore Road. Id. at
24:5-17. As a result, Mr. West stopped his car near the
intersection of Kitmore Road and Northwood Drive to allow
another vehicle to pass. Servance Dep., ECF 106-6 at 30:3-8;
id. at 30:16-20; 28:18-29:1; 157:14-21. According to
Ms. Servance, “the rear wheel of the car had not
cleared the intersection.” Id. at 24:19-20;
see also Id. at 30:16-20 (“He [was] in the
intersection. The rear wheels hat [sic] not passed the curb.
The front of the car was like at the curb. The rear of the
wheels were still kind of in the intersection.”);
id. at 31:7-9.
deposition, Ms. Servance testified that she and Mr. West sat
in the car for “a minute or two, ” while the
vehicle was “stopped.” Id. at 158:9;
id. at 158:12. She recalled, id. at
157:14-17: “We sat there because, as I said, it was a
car going past, so we sat there. He ate like a piece of
chicken or something and drank some water. I said [sic] the
car, and we went down the street.” Then, Mr. West
backed his vehicle into the intersection of Northwood Drive
and Kitmore Road, so that he could make a turn onto Kitmore
Road. Servance Dep., ECF 106-6 at 31:11-21. Servance stated,
id. at 32:2-4: “We were in the intersection,
so he backed more into the intersection we were currently
sitting in so he could make the turn into Kitmore.”
See also Id. at 158:15-18.
The following deposition testimony of Ms. Servance is
pertinent, id. at 157:18-158:14:
Q. So it was at that point where the back of Mr. West's
car was partially in the intersection of Kitmore and- A.
Yeah. The car was still running. So we never parked and cut
the motor off. But the back of the car, because he pulled,
because he passed the street, so I said you went past
Kitmore, you need to go down. He thought it was a one-way
street because there's no line in the street.
Q. At the point that you parked, you were eating chicken and
talking for a little bit before he backed up?
A. Maybe for like a minute or two, yeah. Wasn't a long
period of time.
Q. But did you park the car temporarily?
A. We stopped the car.
Q. Stopped the car temporarily?
Mr. West was on Northwood, he backed his vehicle into the
intersection of Kitmore and Northwood. Officers Chapman and
Bernardez-Ruiz were traveling on the same road, in an
unmarked police car. Bernardez-Ruiz Dep., ECF 106-5 at
15:11-20; ECF 106-7, Deposition of Nicholas Chapman
(“Chapman Dep.”), at 12:14-17. Bernardez-Ruiz did
not remember the name of the street where he initially saw
the Mercedes. ECF 106-5 at 15:8-10; see also Id. at
17:6-9 (stating that the driver of the Mercedes had made a
right hand turn onto either Kelway or Kitmore). And, Chapman
said: “I forget which road it was.” ECF 106-7 at
13:9. However, Ms. Servance was clear that Mr. West was on
Northwood Drive. See, e.g., ECF 106-6 at 24:2-17,
30:9-11, 52:18-20. And, in the parties' submissions,
they seem to agree on the specific roads.
police vehicle was equipped with lights, but no siren, and
the officers were in plain clothes with tactical vests. ECF
106-7 at 10:19-11:17. Both Bernardez-Ruiz, the driver, and
Chapman agree that Bernardez-Ruiz had to drive around Mr.
West's vehicle, into the opposing lane. Bernardez-Ruiz
Dep., ECF 106-5 at 15:11-16:4; Chapman Dep., ECF 106-7 at
12:14-19; id. at 14:2-4.
claims he had to drive around the Mercedes because it had
stopped in the lane of traffic. ECF 106-5 at 16:2-12. After
Bernardez-Ruiz passed the Mercedes, he saw Mr. West reverse
his car and then back his car in an “unsafe”
manner. ECF 106-5 at 16:1-17:3. According to Bernardez-Ruiz,
Mr. West backed up “like almost an entire city
block” before making the right turn onto Kitmore Road.
Id. at 16:18-20. According to Officer Chapman,
Bernardez-Ruiz had to go around Mr. West “into the
other lane of traffic” because Mr. West was backing up
his car into the intersection. ECF 106-7 at 12:14-19;
id. at 14:1-8.
Bernardez-Ruiz and Chapman concluded that Mr. West had
committed a traffic violation, i.e., unsafe backing
up. See, e.g., ECF 106-7 at 13:20-21; ECF
106-5 at 16:13-17:3. Chapman claimed that the backing
maneuver was “unsafe” because “[i]t would
be like driving down the road and then all of a sudden just
putting it in reverse and going in reverse.”
Id. at 13:10-14:8. Similarly, Bernardez-Ruiz
claimed the backing maneuver was unsafe and explained:
“[T]here's a difference between backing up to do a
parallel parking, and backing up like almost an entire city
block.” ECF 106-5 at 18:20. As a result, they followed
Mr. West on Kitmore Road and activated their lights in order
to effect a traffic stop. Chapman Dep., ECF 106-7 at
13:10-21; Bernardez-Ruiz Dep., ECF 106-5 at 17:4-18:9.
Officers Bernardez-Ruiz and Chapman followed Mr. West on
Kitmore Road, they observed Mr. West and the passenger, Ms.
Servance, making movements that, in their view, suggested
they were trying to conceal something in the vehicle. Chapman
testified, ECF 106-7 at 15:15-16:2:
So when we were behind the vehicle, we could, or I would see
both the passenger and Mr. West just moving around like they
were trying to hand something off to each other. You could
just tell, it was like they were trying to hide something. So
our training experience [sic] says that if there is
affirmative movements, that they maybe [sic] possibly trying
to hide a gun or arm themselves with a gun.
following deposition testimony of Officer Bernardez-Ruiz is
also pertinent, ECF 106-5 at 18:10-19:13:
Q. Did you ever see any indication regarding that car that it
had observed your light?
A. Oh, yes, sir. I saw both passengers turn around and
literally saw full face the same way I'm looking at you,
they turned around and saw us and they started making
movements. I even saw a dip on Mr. West.
Q. When you say dip, would you describe what you mean?
A. A dip. He lowered I'm going to say his right shoulder.
Q. Did you think that was unusual?
A. Yes, sir.
According to our training and experience, any overt movement
in the vehicle, once people realize a police presence, it
maybe [sic] an indication of hiding something.
Servance acknowledged the movement within the Mercedes. She
explains that, while she and Mr. West were traveling on
Kitmore Road, they were both eating chicken and wiping their
hands. ECF 106-6 at 39:1-9; see also ECF 99-4,
Servance Police Interview, July 18, 2013, at 5:6-8, 5:14-17,
Chapman and Bernardez-Ruiz initiated a traffic stop at or
near the intersection of Kitmore Road and Kelway Road. The
parties agree that at the time of the stop it was still light
outside. See Servance Dep., ECF 106-6 at 126:4-7
(“It was about 6, broad daylight.”);
Bernardez-Ruiz Dep., ECF 106-5 at 14:5-10 (“It was
light out”). Bernardez-Ruiz approached Mr. West's
side of the vehicle; Chapman approached the passenger side.
Ms. Servance described one officer as “Caucasian”
and the other as “African American.” Servance
Dep., ECF 106-6 at 67:10: Servance stated: “[T]he
white cop came on my side. He asked us did we have any drugs
or anything in the car.” Id. at 67:13-15.
Servance denied possession of drugs. Id. at
67:18-19. Further, she testified, id. at 67:20-68:7:
“He asked me why was I moving, what did I put in my
pocket, and I explained that I had my phone and my keys. He
repeatedly asked me did I have any drugs, did I have any
guns, and I told him no repeatedly. The black cop was
engaging [Mr. West] in conversation, asked him did he have
anything on him, any weapons in the car. No. Asked him did he
object to a search of the car. He said no. The white cop
asked me to step out the car.” Officers Chapman and
Bernardez-Ruiz asked Mr. West and Ms. Servance to exit the
vehicle and sit on the curb. Mr. West complied. Servance
Dep., ECF 106-6 at 74:11-12; Bernardez-Ruiz Dep., ECF 106-5
at 21:19-22-4. Although Ms. Servance exited the vehicle, she
refused to sit on the ground because she was wearing a suit.
Servance Dep., ECF 106-6 at 69:9-14. As Officer Chapman put
it, he then “started conducting a frisk of the vehicle
to locate a possible weapon due to [their]
observations.” Chapman Dep., ECF 106-7 at
18:20-19:1.Officer Chapman stated that he did not
ask for permission prior to conducting the
“frisk” of the vehicle. Id. at 19:2-4.
Nor did he find anything “of significance.”
Id. at 19:5-7.
Officer Chapman searched the vehicle, Mr. West sat on the
curb with his legs extended and crossed. He was six feet tall
and weighed 237 pounds. ECF 97-16, Pl's Answer to Def.
Interrog., Interrog. No. 9 at 2. And, according to Ms.
Servance Mr. West “had muscles.” ECF 106-6 at
Servance stated that one of the officers asked Mr. West for
permission to search the trunk of the vehicle and Mr. West
responded, “‘go ahead.'” ECF 106-6 at
74:5-6. Similarly, Chapman claimed he asked for permission to
search the trunk. ECF 106-7 at 18:19-19:17. He explained that
he sought “permission” because Mr. West
“had no access to it. So there is no way that he could
have put a firearm in there.” Id. at 19:16-17.
Chapman also stated that he never actually observed what was
in the trunk because his attention was drawn away when he
heard Officer Bernardez-Ruiz ask Mr. West about his sock.
Id. at 19:17-20:5.
as Mr. West sat on the curb, Officer Bernardez-Ruiz observed
a “bulge” in Mr. West's sock about the size
of a golf ball, with lumps. Bernardez-Ruiz Dep., ECF 106-5 at
23:12-16; id. at 24:5-12. Believing that Mr. West
had “an illegal substance” in his sock, Officer
Bernardez-Ruiz reached towards Mr. West's sock.
Id. at 24:15-20.
parties agree that as Officer Bernardez-Ruiz reached for Mr.
West's sock, Mr. West had physical contact with Officer
Bernardez-Ruiz. Officer Bernardez-Ruiz stated that when he
reached for the sock, Mr. West pushed him on the shoulders.
ECF 106-5 at 24:18-25:12. However, Ms. Servance claims that
Mr. West “didn't push [Bernardez-Ruiz]
physically.” ECF 106-6 at 84:12-13. Rather, she
described contact akin to a gesture by Mr. West to move
Bernardez-Ruiz's hand away from the sock. Id. at
82:10-18; id. at 84:11-15; id. at
92:6-93:1; id. at 98:7-9. Servance stated,
id. at 92:11-17: “It wasn't like [Mr.
West] pushed him away in a physical contact. He may have
moved his hand away from him or something, but it wasn't
like in the way that you are perceiving, that I am perceiving
you are making the statement like he pushed him
Servance did not see Officer Bernardez-Ruiz look into Mr.
West's sock, but she did see him reach towards Mr.
West's foot area. ECF 106-6 at 78:6-13. She testified
that after the officer reached towards the sock, the officer
stood up, holding a plastic bag containing a green substance.
ECF 106-6 at 78:13-79:7. Ms. Servance recalled that Officer
Bernardez-Ruiz opened the bag and commented that there was
cocaine inside. Id. at 80:3-5. According to Ms.
Servance, Mr. West responded: “‘[Y]ou got a
measly four bags.'” Id. at 79:19-20;
see also Id. at 79:17-80:8. Moreover, she stated
that when the bag was “opened up… you could see
it was crack cocaine.” Id. at 80:9-13.
to Bernardez-Ruiz, the bag was recovered after Mr. West threw
it. ECF 106-5 at 32:6-33:21. Officer Chapman stated that he
“heard Officer Ruiz say let me see your sock.”
ECF 106-7 at 19:18-19. But, he only “became
aware” of the recovery of the cocaine “through
the media.” Id. at 41:3-5. He said: “I
don't think we were ever able to recover [the bag of
CDS.]” Id. at 41:8-12. Chapman explained that
he did not “believe that Officer Ruiz ever recovered it
because Mr. West was fighting us the whole time.”
Id. at 41:19-42:1.
to the defendants, the plastic bag contained thirteen green
zip-lock baggies with a white rock substance. The substance
was subsequently identified as cocaine. See ECF
97-19, BPD Lab Section Drug Analysis report.
the discovery of the cocaine, the officers attempted to
arrest Mr. West. Ms. Servance claims that Mr. West
“consented” to being cuffed. ECF 106-6 at
109:15-16 (“[H]e was on the ground being cuffed and had
consented”). Further, she testified, ECF 106-6 at
At that point they approached Mr. West as to take out the
handcuffs to try to arrest him. That was-- I don't want
to say a confrontation, because they got him and they rolled
him over on his back side because he was trying to stand up,
and that's when they got him over on his stomach. The
white cop put his knee, his left knee in the back of Mr.
to Ms. Servance, while Mr. West had his hands behind his
back, id. at 83:10, and Chapman had his knee on Mr.
West's back, id. at 101:3-5, Chapman sprayed Mr.
West in his face and neck with “mace.” ECF
106-6 at 109:16; see Id. at 83:11-17; 101:11;
102:10-11; 102:15-16. Officers Chapman and Bernardez-Ruiz
used the term “pepper spray.” See, e.g.,
ECF 106-5 at 28:2; ECF 106-7 at 23:7. The substance was
actually Oleoresin Capsicum (“OC”). ECF 97-3 at
Fourth Circuit has said: “The effects of OC spray
include (1) dilation of the capillaries and instant closing
of the eyes through swelling of the eyelids, (2) immediate
respiratory inflammation, including uncontrollable coughing,
retching, shortness of breath and gasping for air with a
gagging sensation in the throat, and (3) immediate burning
sensations to the mucous membranes, skin and inside the nose
and mouth.” Park v. Shiflett, 250 F.3d 843,
849 (4th Cir. 2001).
Servance recounted that in “reaction” to the
spray Mr. West “screamed” and stood up. Servance
Dep., ECF 106-6 at 83:17-19; id. at 107:6-8;
id. at 109:16-17. As a result, Officer Chapman was
thrown off of Mr. West. Id. at 103:15-20. And,
Officer Bernardez-Ruiz was “slam[med]” into the
police car because he had been standing directly behind Mr.
West and, when Mr. West stood up, his back hit the front of
Officer Bernardez-Ruiz. Id. at 103:8-104:18;
id. at 107:6-108:2.
“altercation” ensued between Officer
Bernardez-Ruiz and Mr. West, with both of them hitting each
other in the face. Id. at 108:3-11. However, Ms.
Servance claimed that Mr. West punched the officer only after
he was punched, in order to “defend himself.”
Id. at 111:15-20. Officer Chapman sent a radio
request for backup, i.e., a Signal 13. Id.
at 108:14-16; ECF 97-9, Chapman Answer to Pl's Interrog.
No. 18. Officer Chapman then joined the fray and
hit Mr. West in the face and body. Servance Dep., ECF 106-6
at 108:18-109:2. Ms. Servance described the altercation as a
“street fight” and said: “Whoever [was]
hitting [Mr. West], he's hitting him back.”
Id. at 109:1-6.
West backed up. Nevertheless, the officers followed and began
to hit Mr. West with their batons as well as their fists.
Id. at 113:7-114:14. Mr. West was
“scuffling” with the officers at this point in
order to “defend himself.” Id. at
114:7-14. Mr. West then ran down Kitmore, with his hands up
in the air, repeatedly screaming, “‘Travon
Martin, Travon Martin.'” Id. at
115:1-116:20. People in the neighborhood began to come
outside; Ms. Servance screamed for someone to call the police
and for Mr. West to lay down. Id. at 116:20-117:16.
Bernardez-Ruiz and Chapman approached Mr. West, swinging
their batons, and Mr. West tried to defend himself, by making
a windmill motion with his arms. Id. at
117:19-118:1; id. at 120:10-13. The batons did not
make contact with Mr. West at this point. Id. at
120:11-13; 122:7-8. Ms. Servance claimed that she and the
neighbors continued to scream that Mr. West should lay down;
he heeded their instruction and got on the ground on his
stomach, “with his arms spread out.” Id.
Mr. West was allegedly on the ground with “his arms
completely out” (id. at 122:14-15; 124:8),
Officers Bernardez-Ruiz and Chapman nonetheless continued to
beat him “with the batons like they were playing the
drums.” Servance Dep., ECF 106-6 at 123:17-19. Ms.
Servance maintained that the two officers were “hitting
him everywhere. Head, body, back, everywhere. They are just
hitting him.” Id. at 124:4-6. At the time, Mr.
West was still “laying on his stomach.”
Id. at 124:8.
to Ms. Servance, Mr. West “had one cuff on his right
wrist, but the other one was dangling free.”
Id. at 126:20-127:1. The officers did not attempt to
link the handcuffs while Mr. West was on the ground.
Id. at 127:21-128:2. As the officers continued to
hit Mr. West with their batons (id. at 127: 14-15),
he stood up and proceeded to swing his arms in a defensive
manner. Id. at 126:11-127:12. As Mr. West backed up,
Officers Bernardez-Ruiz and Chapman continued to swing their
batons, and Mr. West continued to make a windmill motion with
his arms with a handcuff on his right wrist. Id. at
officers began arriving at the scene in three different
vehicles. See, e.g., ECF 97-15, Hinton Answer to
Pl's Interrog. No. 18. They included MSU Officer David
Lewis and BPD Officers Matthew Cioffi; Eric Hinton; Alex
Hashagen; Danielle Lewis; Derrick Beasley; and Latreese Lee
(collectively, “Assisting Officers”). See,
e.g., id. 
officers, one of whom identified himself as a captain and one
of whom was a female, moved Ms. Servance across the street.
Servance Dep., ECF 106-6 at 131:13-132:1. Ms. Servance saw
approximately seven officers, including “the Morgan
State cop” and the two original officers, kick and hit
Mr. West with fists and batons “everywhere”,
including on his head, as he stood with his back against a
“black SUV” for a minute to a minute and a half.
Id. at 132:3-18; 134:3-21; 136:3-4;
137:14-16. According to Ms. Servance, Mr. West
“was limp taking blows. He wasn't defending himself
at all.” Id. at 143:4-5. She added: “I
could see, as they were hitting him, I could see his body
jerking towards the movement of the blows. As I went past the
vehicle, it was on the other side, I could just see his body
still limply jerking from the blows that they were giving
him.” Id. at 143:8-13.
West then collapsed on the sidewalk. Id. at
134:5-12. According to Ms. Servance, MSU Officer David Lewis
and two or three other officers (not Bernardez-Ruiz and
Chapman) began stomping on Mr. West's upper body while he
was on his back. Id. at 141:4-142:7.
Hinton was able to handcuff Mr. West. ECF 106-10, Hinton
Statement to IAD at 4. While Mr. West was on his stomach, MSU
Officer David Lewis placed his knee on Mr. West's back
for about a minute. ECF 106-11, Hashagen Statement to IAD at
5; ECF 97-12, Cioffi Answer to Pl's Interrog. No. 18; ECF
97-15, Hinton Answer to Pl's Interrog. No. 18; ECF 97-7,
Deposition of David Lewis (“Lewis Dep.”) at
38:1-39:12. According to Officer Corey Jennings, who is not a
defendant, Officer David Lewis had his “knees” on
Mr. West's back. ECF 106-15, Jennings Statement to IAD,
at 5. Ms. Servance described Officer David Lewis as a
“huge” guy. Servance Dep. at 126:2. He is
6'8'' and weighs 315 lbs. Lewis Dep., ECF 97-7 at
Hinton was standing near Mr. West's head. He thought Mr.
West had stopped breathing, and so he asked an unidentified
officer to help turn over Mr. West. See ECF 97-15,
Hinton Answer to Interrog. No. 18; Lewis Dep., ECF 97-7 at
39:16-40:1. At about the same time, Officer Taras Hnatyshyn,
who is not a defendant, arrived and made efforts to
resuscitate Mr. West, who was not breathing and did not have
a discernible pulse. He performed CPR and chest
compressions. ECF 97-15, Hinton Answer to Interrog.
No. 18; ECF 97-12, Cioffi Answer to Interrog. No. 18; ECF
97-14, Beasley Answer to Pl's Interrog. 18. Officer
Jennings assisted by moving Mr. West to the grass, removing
the handcuffs from Mr. West, and trying to ensure that Mr.
West's tongue was not blocking his airway. ECF 106-15,
Jennings Statement to IAD, at 2-3. According to Officer
Jennings, while Officer Hnatyshyn performed CPR, Mr.
West's pulse came back twice, but he did not resume
breathing. Id. at 3, 7.
Officer Hnatyshyn was performing CPR, Sergeant Daraine
Harris, also not a defendant, arrived and called for
paramedics. ECF 97-15, Hinton Answer to Interrog. No. 18; ECF
97-12 at 3; ECF 97-12, Cioffi Answer to Interrog. No.
18. Officer Hnatyshyn also used a
defibrillator on Mr. West before the medics arrived. ECF
106-16, Officer Hnatyshyn Statement to IAD, at 3.
Medical Technicians (“EMTs”) from the Baltimore
City Fire Department arrived at the scene and were directed
to Mr. West. ECF 106-23, Certified EMT Report, Summary of
Events. After the EMTs arrived, one shock from the
defibrillator was delivered to Mr. West and one of the police
officers (presumably, Officer Hnatyshyn) continued to perform
CPR until Mr. West was inside of the medic unit. Id.
at 2. Once inside the medic unit, one of the medics began to
perform CPR and they administered two rounds of epinephrine
and 2 mg of narcan. Id.
Servance saw the medic unit arrive. ECF 106-6 at 143:19-20.
According to Ms. Servance, a “few minutes, a couple
minutes. Maybe three minutes, four minutes” elapsed
between the time that Mr. West collapsed and when he was
placed on a stretcher by a medic. Id. at 143:13-18;
id. at 145:15-20. Mr. West was transported to Good
Samaritan Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 8:11 p.m.
See ECF 98 at 1.
E. Southall, M.D., an Assistant State Medical Examiner,
performed the autopsy of Mr. West. She opined that the cause
of death was “Cardiac Arrhythmia due to Cardiac
Conduction System Abnormality complicated by Dehydration
during Police Restraint.” ECF 98, Autopsy Report at 9;
id. at 1. The autopsy also “revealed a
superficial abrasion on [Mr. West's] face and abrasions
and contusions on his back and upper and lower
extremities…” Id.; see also
Id. at 3. More specifically, these included a
superficial abrasion on the forehead; multiple superficial
abrasions on the back; multiple superficial abrasions on the
hands and arms; and multiple contusions on the legs.
Id. at 3.
Southall also wrote, id. at 9:
“[A]bnormalities found in Mr. West's heart and
signs of dehydration are certainly causes for sudden cardiac
death. Another factor that may have contributed to his death
was the extreme environmental temperature. Temperatures on
the day of his death …were reportedly in the high 90s
with a heat index in the low 100s (degrees
Fahrenheit).” She also said: “The cardiac
conduction system abnormality is a predisposing factor for
cardiac arrhythmia” Id. The manner of death
could not be determined. Id.
Southall's “Opinion” includes facts obtained
solely from police reports. The version of facts in those
reports is at odds with Ms. Servance's account. For
example, the factual summary in the autopsy paints the
Decedent as the aggressor. There is no reference to Ms.
Servance's claim that while the Decedent was on the
ground, an officer put one or two knees on the Decedent's
deposition, Dr. Southall clarified that there were “no
signs of asphyxia, no signs of significant injury that could
have changed my opinion to something more definite, such as
homicide. I just didn't have enough findings to support
that, but I can't rule out that that encounter [with the
police officers] may have played some role.” ECF 97-8
and ECF 152-1, Deposition of Pamela Southall, M.D.
(“Southall Dep.”) at 21:1-7.
contrast, William Manion, M.D., Ph.D., plaintiffs' expert
witness, determined that the manner of death was homicide and
that the cause of death was positional asphyxia as a result
of the Decedent being “hog tied” and
because an adult male sat on Mr. West's back while he was
restrained. See ECF 106-20.
facts will be included in the Discussion.
Standard of Review
Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary
judgment is appropriate only “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24
(1986); see also Iraq Middle Mkt. Dev. Found. v.
Harmoosh, 848 F.3d 235, 238 (4th Cir. 2017) (“A
court can grant summary judgment only if, viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party,
the case presents no genuine issues of material fact and the
moving party demonstrates entitlement to judgment as a matter
of law.”). The non-moving party must demonstrate that
there are disputes of material fact so as to preclude the
award of summary judgment as a matter of law. Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S.
574, 585-86 (1986).
Supreme Court has clarified that not every factual dispute
will defeat the motion. “By its very terms, 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.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in
original). A fact is “material” if it
“might affect the outcome of the suit under the
governing law.” Id. at 248. There is a genuine
issue as to material fact “if the evidence is such that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Id.; see Raynor v. Pugh, 817
F.3d 123, 130 (4th Cir. 2016).
party opposing a properly supported motion for summary
judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or
denials of [its] pleadings, ' but rather must ‘set
forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial.'” Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens
Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003)
(quoting former Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)), cert. denied,
514 U.S. 1042 (2004); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at
322-24. However, and of import here, in resolving a summary
judgment motion, a court must view all of the facts,
including reasonable inferences to be drawn from them, in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd., 475 U.S. at 587; accord
Roland v. United States Citizenship & Immigration
Servs., 850 F.3d 625, 628 (4th Cir. 2017); FDIC v.
Cashion, 720 F.3d 169, 173 (4th Cir. 2013).
judge's “function” in reviewing a motion for
summary judgment is not “to weigh the evidence and
determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether
there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson,
477 U.S. at 249; accord Guessous v. Fairview Prop. Inv.,
LLC, 828 F.3d 208, 216 (4th Cir 2016). Thus, in
considering a summary judgment motion, the court may not make
credibility determinations. Jacobs v. N.C. Administrative
Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 569 (4th Cir. 2015);
Mercantile Peninsula Bank v. French, 499 F.3d 345,
352 (4th Cir. 2007). Moreover, in the face of conflicting
evidence, such as competing affidavits or deposition
testimony, summary judgment ordinarily is not appropriate,
because it is the function of the factfinder to resolve
factual disputes, including matters of witness credibility.
See Black & Decker Corp. v. United States, 436
F.3d 431, 442 (4th Cir. 2006); Dennis v. Columbia
Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (4th Cir.
defeat summary judgment, conflicting evidence must give rise
to a genuine dispute of material fact.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. If “the evidence
is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party, ” then a dispute of material fact
precludes summary judgment. Id. at 248; see
Sharif v. United Airlines, Inc., 841 F.3d 199, 204 (4th
Cir. 2016). Conversely, summary judgment is appropriate if
the evidence “is so one-sided that one party must
prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson, 477
U.S. at 252. And, “the mere existence of a scintilla of
evidence in support of the [movant's] position will be
insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could
reasonably find for the [movant].”
Officers' Motion for Summary Judgment
Officers argue that they did not violate Mr. West's
rights and, in any event, that they are entitled to qualified
immunity as to plaintiffs' § 1983 claims.
See ECF 97-3.
contend that the initial traffic stop was unlawful. ECF 106-1
at 14. They maintain that the officers did not possess
reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop Mr. West, because
“unsafe backing” is not a traffic violation.
Id. at 16-17. Further, they argue that “Mr.
West simply moving while inside of his vehicle as he talked
with his front seat passenger is not probable cause to stop
Mr. West's vehicle.” Id. at
18. Plaintiffs also argue that the stop was
unlawfully prolonged because the officers
“repeatedly” questioned Ms. Servance “about
drugs and guns.” Id. at 7. In addition,
plaintiffs contend that “ordering Mr. West and his
passenger to exit the vehicle where no actual traffic
violations were observed is not justified under Maryland
Law.” Id. at 22. Further, plaintiffs contest
the “non-consensual opening of the trunk of Mr.
West's vehicle in the absence of probable cause.”
Id. at 18.
claims are predicated on the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments
to the United States Constitution and Articles 24 and 26 of
the Maryland Declaration of Rights, which are the Maryland
counterparts to the Fourteenth and Fourth Amendments,
respectively. Section 1983 is not an independent
source of substantive rights, “but simply a vehicle for
vindicating preexisting constitutional and statutory
rights.” Safar v. Tingle, F.3d, 2017 WL
2453257, at *2 (4th Cir. June 7, 2017) (citing Graham v.
Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 393-94 (1989)); see also Baker
v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n. 3 (1979). Therefore,
“[t]he first step in any such claim is to pinpoint the
specific right that has been infringed.”
Safar, 2017 WL 2453257, at *2 (citing
Baker, 443 U.S. at 140).
Officers contend that Officers Bernardez-Ruiz and Chapman had
reasonable, articulable suspicion to justify the traffic stop
of Mr. West, because Mr. West committed traffic violations in
the presence of Bernardez-Ruiz and Chapman. ECF 97-3 at
10-12. Alternatively, they argue that, even if the officers
were incorrect in the belief that Mr. West violated the
traffic laws, the officers were justified in making the stop
because they reasonably believed that Mr. West had violated
traffic laws. Id. at 12-14.
Officers point to multiple provisions of the Transportation
Article (“Trans.”) of the Md. Code (2012 Repl.
Vol.): Trans. §§ 21-309(b), 21-604, 21-804 and
21-1102. See ECF 97-3 at 10-11; see also
ECF 99-1 at 23-24 (citing Trans. §§ 21-1003(d),
21-603(a), 21-603(b), 21-601(a), 21-603(a), and 21-604(e)).
Trans. § 21-1102 is particularly noteworthy. It
provides, id.: “The driver of a vehicle may
not back it unless the movement can be made safely and
without interfering with other traffic.” Trans. §
21-1003(d) is also relevant. It provides: “A person may
not stop, stand, or park a vehicle in an intersection.”
addition, the BPD Officers claim that, under the law, they
had the right to require the occupants to exit the vehicle
during the traffic stop. ECF 97-3 at 10. They also claim
removal was justified based on the following observations
made by Chapman and Bernardez-Ruiz, ECF 97-3 at 16:
(1) Mr. West was observed committing several traffic
violations; (2) Mr. West and Ms. Servance continued to drive
a short distance at a low rate of speed turning around and
looking at the officers; and (3) Mr. West and Ms. Servance
were observed dipping their heads and arms down below the
view of the officers as if to conceal a weapon or contraband.
Fourth Amendment and Terry
Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and
seizures. See Birchfield v. North Dakota, 579 U.S.,
136 S.Ct. 2160, 2173 (2016); Utah v. Strieff, 579
U.S., 136 S.Ct. 2056, 2060 (2016); United States v.
Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 551 (1980). When a police
officer stops a motor vehicle and detains the occupant, the
stop constitutes a seizure that implicates the Fourth
Amendment. See, e.g., Brendlin v. California, 551
U.S. 249, 255 (2007); Whren v. United States, 517
U.S. 806, 809-10 (1996); United States v. Sharpe,
470 U.S. 675, 682 (1985); United States v. Williams,
808 F.3d 238, 245 (4th Cir. 2015); United States v.
Ortiz, 669 F.3d 439, 444 (4th Cir. 2011); United
States v. Digiovanni, 650 F.3d 498, 506 (4th Cir. 2011),
abrogated in part on other grounds by Rodriguez v. United
States, 575 U.S., 135 S.Ct. 1609 (2015). Therefore, the
vehicular stop must be reasonable under the circumstances.
Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 653 (1979);
United States v. Palmer, 820 F.3d 640, 648 (4th Cir.
2016). Indeed, “‘the ultimate touchstone of the
Fourth Amendment is reasonableness.'” Riley v.
California, 573 U.S., 134 S.Ct. 2473, 2482 (2014)
(citation and some quotation marks omitted); see Maryland
v. Wilson, 519 U.S. 408, 411 (1997); Ohio v.
Robinette, 519 U.S. 33, 38 (1996); United States v.
Bumpers, 705 F.3d 168, 171 (4th Cir. 2013).
“test of reasonableness under the Fourth Amendment is
an objective one.” Los Angeles County v.
Rettele, 550 U.S. 609, 614 (2007) (citing
Graham, 490 U.S. at 397). The Supreme Court
explained in Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U.S. 106,
109 (1977) (per curiam): “Reasonableness, of course,
depends ‘on a balance between the public interest and
the individual's right to personal security free from
arbitrary interference by law officers.'” (Quoting
United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, 422 U.S. 873, 878
(1975)); see also United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S.
1, 9 (1989).
searches and seizures are per se unreasonable,
subject only to a few well established exceptions. Katz
v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 357 (1967); Kentucky
v. King, 563 U.S. 452, 459-60 (2011). What has become
known as the “Terry stop and frisk” is
one of the limited exceptions to the warrant requirement.
Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968). The seminal case
of Terry v. Ohio and its progeny permit a police
officer to stop and detain an individual, without probable
cause, and without violation of the Fourth Amendment's
prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures, so
long as the police officer has “specific and
articulable facts which, taken together with rational
inferences from those facts, ” create reasonable
suspicion that the person has been or is about to engage in
criminal activity. Terry, 392 U.S. at 21; see
also Id. at 30; Sokolow, 490 U.S. at 7
(“[T]he police can stop and briefly detain a person for
investigative purposes if the officer has a reasonable
suspicion supported by articulable facts that criminal
activity ‘may be afoot, ' even if the officer lacks
probable cause”) (citation omitted).
purpose of a Terry stop is investigative-to verify
or to dispel the officer's suspicion surrounding the
suspect. Terry, 392 U.S. at 22-23, 30. But, the stop
must be brief, and it must be “justified by some
objective manifestation that the person stopped is, or is
about to be, engaged in criminal activity.” United
States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 417 (1981); see
Sokolow, 490 U.S at 7; United States v.
Massenburg, 654 F.3d 480, 485 (4th Cir. 2011).
question of reasonable, articulable suspicion is sometimes
elusive. Indeed, the Supreme Court has acknowledged the
difficulty in pinpointing exactly what is meant by the phrase
“reasonable, articulable suspicion.” Ornelas
v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 699-700 (1996). In sum,
reasonable, articulable suspicion is a “commonsense,
nontechnical” standard that relies on the judgment of
experienced law enforcement officers, “not legal
technicians.” Id. at 695 (internal quotation
marks omitted); see Williams, supra, 808
F.3d at 246.
United States v. Mason, 628 F.3d 123, 128 (4th Cir.
2010), cert. denied, 565 U.S. 914 (2011), the Fourth
Circuit reiterated that the concept of reasonable,
articulable suspicion “‘is not readily, or even
usefully, reduced to a neat set of legal rules, but, rather,
entails commonsense, nontechnical conceptions that deal with
factual and practical considerations of everyday
life.'” (Citation omitted). See also United
States v. Lawing, 703 F.3d 229, 236 (4th Cir. 2012),
cert. denied, 133 S.Ct. 1851 (2013); United
States v. Foster, 634 F.3d 243, 246 (4th Cir. 2011);
United States v. Christmas, 222 F.3d 141, 143 (4th
Cir. 2000). Therefore, an officer conducting a Terry
stop must be able to articulate something more than an
“inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or
‘hunch' of criminal activity.”
Terry, 392 U.S. at 27; see Alabama v.
White, 496 U.S. 325, 329-30 (1990); Bumpers,
705 F.3d at 171. Put another way, the police must have
“a particularized and objective basis for suspecting
the person stopped of criminal activity....”
Ornelas, 517 U.S. at 696; see Navarette v.
California, 572 U.S., 134 S.Ct. 1683, 1687 (2014);
United States v. Gardner, 823 F.3d 793, 799 (4th
Cir. 2016); United States v. Black, 707 F.3d 531,
539 (4th Cir. 2013); Massenburg, 654 F.3d at 486;
United States v. Griffin, 589 F.3d 148, 152 (4th
Cir. 2009), cert. denied, 562 U.S. 1273 (2011).
reasonable suspicion standard is not onerous, however.
See, e.g., United States v.
Glover, 662 F.3d 694, 698-700 (4th Cir. 2011). Of import
here, it “is a less demanding standard than probable
cause and requires a showing considerably less than
preponderance of the evidence.” Illinois v.
Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 123 (2000).
suspicion is determined by examining the totality of the
circumstances. See United States v. Arvizu, 534 U.S.
266, 273 (2002); Wardlow, 528 U.S. at 123;
Sokolow, 490 U.S. at 7-8; United States v.
Brooks, ___ Fed. App'x, ___ 2017 WL 1400481, at * 2
(4th Cir. April 19, 2017). “A host of factors can
contribute to a basis for reasonable suspicion, including the
context of the stop, the crime rate in the area, and the
nervous or evasive behavior of the suspect.” United
States v. George, 732 F.3d 296, 299 (4th Cir. 2013);
see Maney v. Garrison, ___Fed. App'x, ___ 2017
WL 937460, at *6 (4th Cir. March 9, 2017) (per curiam);
United States v. Mayo, 361 F.3d 802, 805-06 (4th
Cir. 2004). And, in assessing reasonable suspicion, courts
must “give due weight to commonsense judgments reached
by officers in light of their experience and training.”
United States v. Perkins, 363 F.3d 317, 321 (4th
Cir. 2004); see also United States v. Sowards, 690
F.3d 585, 587-88 (4th Cir. 2012); United States v.
Johnson, 599 F.3d 339, 343 (4th Cir. 2010); United
States v. Branch, 537 F.3d 328, 336-337 (4th Cir. 2008),
cert. denied, 555 U.S. 1118 (2009). Although a
particular act of a suspect may, by itself, be innocent, a
series of such acts, taken together, can give rise to
reasonable suspicion. Arvizu, 534 U.S. at 274;
see also Palmer, 820 F.3d 652; Williams,
808 F.3d at 246; United States v. McCoy, 513 F.3d
405, 413-14 (4th Cir. 2008). In other words, the court may
evaluate “cumulative information” available to
the police officer. United States v. McBride, 676
F.3d 385, 392 (4th Cir. 2012). Because the reasonable
suspicion standard is an objective one, however, the
officer's subjective state of mind is not considered.
George, 732 F.3d at 299; United States v.
Powell, 666 F.3d 180, 186 (4th Cir. 2011).
traffic stop is “analogous to a so-called
‘Terry stop'....” Berkemer v.
McCarthy, 468 U.S. 420, 439 (1984); see
Rodriguez, 135 S.Ct. 1609; Knowles v. Iowa, 525
U.S. 113, 117 (1998); Williams, 808 F.3d at 245. It
is a “seizure” under the Fourth Amendment and
“subject to review for reasonableness.”
United States v. Hill, 852 F.3d 377, 381 (4th Cir.
2017). Thus, the court assesses the constitutionality of a
traffic stop under the two-prong standard articulated in
Terry v. Ohio, supra; see Arizona v. Johnson, 555
U.S. 323, 330-31 (2009); Palmer, 820 F.3d at 648;
Williams, 808 F.3d at 245;United States v.
Guijon-Ortiz, 660 F.3d 757, 764 (4th Cir. 2011).
particular, under the so called dual inquiry, the court first
examines “whether the officer's action was
justified at its inception and [second] whether it was
reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which
justified the interference in the first place.”
Sharpe, 470 U.S. at 682; see Hill, 852 F.3d
at 381; Palmer, 820 F.3d at 648; Williams,
808 F.3d at 245; Guijon-Ortiz, 660 F.3d at 764;
Digiovanni, 650 F.3d at 506. Notably, the
investigative seizure or stop must be limited both in scope
and duration. Digiovanni, 650 F.3d at 507; see
also Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 500 (1983)
(plurality opinion); Hill, 852 F.3d at 381;
Williams, 808 F.3d at 245; Guijon-Ortiz,
660 F.3d at 764; Branch, 537 F.3d at 337.
“Generally...an officer's focus must remain on the
bases for the traffic stop....” Palmer, 820
F.3d at 649.
relevance here, when a vehicle is being driven contrary to
the laws governing the operation of motor vehicles, that
generally gives rise to reasonable, articulable suspicion to
effectuate a stop. Prouse, 440 U.S. at 650;
Whren, 517 U.S. at 817-18; United States v.
Hassan El, 5 F.3d 726, 730 (4th Cir. 1993). As
the Fourth Circuit said in United States v. Davis,
460 Fed.App'x 226, 230 (4th Cir. 2011) (per curiam):
“Traffic stops are justified at their inception when
officers observe a violation of the applicable traffic
laws.” Indeed, in making a stop, a police officer is
“entitled to rely on [a traffic] statute unless it was
‘clearly unconstitutional.'” United
States v. Gibbs, ___ Fed. App'x, ___ 2017 WL 729721,
at *1 (4th Cir. Feb. 24, 2017) (per curiam). And, a traffic
stop is justified even when an officer observes only minor
violations. See, e.g., United States v.
Cleveland, 597 Fed.App'x 172 (4th Cir. 2015) (per
curiam) (affirming denial of motion to suppress where
defendant claimed his consent to search was coerced after he
was stopped for driving without a seatbelt); United
States v. Adams, 462 Fed.App'x 369, 375 (4th Cir.
2012) (upholding stop for seatbelt violation); United
States v. Beckham, 420 Fed.App'x 261, 263-64 (4th
Cir. 2011) (per curiam) (same); see also Hassan El,
5 F.3d at 730 (holding that failure to stop at a stop sign
was sufficient basis for defendant's detention).
on the factual summary previously set forth, the record amply
demonstrates that the BPD Officers had reasonable,
articulable suspicion to believe that Mr. West committed a
traffic violation. All witnesses, including the
Decedent's passenger, agree that after Mr. West missed
the right turn onto Kitmore Road, he stopped in the
intersection of Northwood Drive and then backed down the
street on ...