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Koon v. Prince George's County

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 22, 2019

BEATRICE KOON, as mother and next friend of Elijah Glay, et al.



         Presently pending and ready for resolution in this civil rights action is the motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants Prince George's County Police Department, Prince George's County (“the County”), and Officer Tavarras Edwards (collectively “Defendants”). (ECF No. 44). The issues have been briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background[1]

         On October 2, 2013, at approximately 2:00 a.m., Officer Edwards and his partner, Officer Jerome McCann, responded to a call about a woman being assaulted at an apartment complex. The officers were only told that the victim was sitting near a dumpster, and her assailants were two “black males wearing dark clothing.” The officers took a couple of minutes to reach the apartment complex where the assault was reported. After reaching the apartment complex, the officers drove around, and then left their cars. While on foot, they found the person who reported the assault and that person pointed them to a woman who appeared to be the victim. She was seated on the curb near a dumpster in a parking lot. When the officers located the victim, a fence was between the officers and the victim. Officer McCann was physically unable to climb the fence and walked around the fence. Officer Edwards instead climbed over the fence alone. (ECF No. 44-2, at 6-8).

         Officer Edwards approached the woman by himself and attempted to talk to her, but she did not respond to his questions. He saw Elijah Glay near the dumpster and concluded that Mr. Glay must be one of the assailants because Mr. Glay was “a black male, 20's to 30's, [and] . . . wearing dark clothes.” (ECF No. 44-2, at 8). Mr. Glay was alone at that time. Officer Edwards did not get confirmation from the victim that Mr. Glay was one of the assailants.

         According to Officer Edwards, he yelled “Police. Stop” when he first saw Mr. Glay, but Mr. Glay took off running. Officer Edwards followed, and Mr. Glay ran some distance between cars. Eventually, Officer Edwards saw Mr. Glay try to jump a fence, unsuccessfully, and he fell. Officer Edwards then caught up with him and “corner[ed] him near the wood line.”[2] Officer Edwards stated that Mr. Glay had a black travel bag of some kind. (ECF No. 44-2, at 13).

         According to Officer Edwards, he told Mr. Glay to “Show me your hands, ” and “Stay down.” He also said, “Don't move” and “Keep your hands where I can see them.” Mr. Glay turned up, or lifted up, bent up and “begins to reach inside the black bag. That's when I deployed my two shots . . .”

         Officer Edwards stated:

He did not produce a weapon at that point. Um, I didn't want to take the chance because I was in the grassy portion. I didn't have any cover available to me. So I couldn't-I didn't- I didn't feel m-I felt like my life was threatened. I didn't feel like I could wait to see what was going to come out of that bag because he had already, you know, failed to re-you know, failed to stop to my commands. So-and my only thought was that he doesn't want to be caught. He wants to get away by any means even if it means taking my life. So out of fear I just deployed my rounds.

Mr. Glay died from the gunshots. Mr. Glay was unarmed when Officer Edwards shot him. (ECF No. 46, at 23-25).

         B. Procedural Background

         On September 12, 2016, Plaintiff Beatrice Koon (“Plaintiff”) filed a complaint in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland. (ECF No. 2). Plaintiff is the mother of the deceased Elijah Glay. N.G., the deceased's daughter, was named a “Use Plaintiff.”[3] (Id. at 3). Plaintiffs' original complaint brought a claim for wrongful death and negligence. On July 31, 2017, Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint bringing additional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 30).[4] Defendants then removed this action to the United States District Court for the District of Maryland. (ECF No. 1).

         On March 15, 2018, after the discovery period concluded, Defendants moved for summary judgment. (ECF No. 44). Plaintiffs responded to Defendants' motion for summary judgment on May 1, 2018, and moved for leave to allow late filing. (ECF No. 46). Defendants replied on May 16, 2018. (ECF No. 47).

         II. Standard of Review

         A motion for summary judgment will be granted only if there exists no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); Emmett v. Johnson, 532 F.3d 291, 297 (4th Cir. 2008). To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party generally bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248-50. A dispute about a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. at 249. In undertaking this inquiry, a court must view the facts and the reasonable inferences drawn therefrom “in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)); see also EEOC v. Navy Fed. Credit Union, 424 F.3d 397, 405 (4th Cir. 2005), but a “party cannot create a genuine dispute of material fact through mere speculation or compilation of inferences.” Shin v. Shalala, 166 F.Supp.2d 373, 375 (D.Md. 2001) (citation omitted).

         III. Defendant Prince George's County ...

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