United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. Russell, III United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Defendants Maryland State
Police Department (“MPD”), Sergeant Sean Harris,
Corporal Michael Cox, Trooper First Class Ryan Boyce, Trooper
First Class James Pettit, and former Trooper First Class
Justin Hohner's (collectively, “Officer
Defendants”) Motion to Dismiss, or, in the Alternative,
for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 11). Plaintiff Ikiem Smith, a
self-represented Maryland prisoner, filed suit under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 (2018), alleging Defendants subjected him
to an unlawful traffic stop and used excessive force against
him during his arrest. The Motion is ripe for disposition,
and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6
(D.Md. 2018). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will
grant Defendants' Motion in part and deny it in part.
February 16, 2017, around 10:15 p.m., Cox and Harris
encountered Smith as he was driving southbound on Route 272
in North East, Maryland. (Compl. ¶ 8, ECF No. 1). On or
before that date, Cox and Harris had been investigating
Smith, and there was a felony warrant for Smith's arrest.
(Cox Decl. ¶¶ 3-4, ECF No. 11-4; Harris Decl.
¶ 3, ECF No. 11-5; see Defs.' Reply Mot.
Dismiss Fail. State Claim Alt. Mot. Summ. J.
[“Defs.' Reply”] Ex. 1 [“Feb. 2, 2017
Arrest Warrant”], ECF No. 17-1). Cox and Harris, who
were working undercover in plain clothes and driving an
unmarked police car, (Compl. ¶ 9), turned on their
lights and sirens, and Smith pulled over, (Cox Decl.
¶¶ 5-6; Harris Decl. ¶ 5).
directed Smith to shut off his engine and exit the car. (Cox
Decl. ¶ 6; Compl. ¶ 10). According to Smith, Cox
and Harris would not answer Smith's questions regarding
the reason for the stop. (Compl. ¶¶ 11-12). Smith
failed to obey Cox's orders and instead restarted the
engine. (Cox Decl. ¶ 7). Cox reached into the car to
disengage the ignition, but Smith put the car in drive.
(Id.). As Cox felt the car move forward, he
“disengaged for fear of being dragged by the
vehicle.” (Id.). Smith then sped away.
(Id.; Compl. ¶ 13).
led Officer Defendants and other law enforcement officers on
a high-speed chase for approximately three miles.
(Id.; Cox Decl. ¶ 8; Harris Decl. ¶ 8;
Pettit Decl. ¶ 7, ECF No. 11-6; Hohner Decl. ¶ 6,
ECF No. 11-7; Boyce Decl. ¶¶ 7-8, ECF No. 11-8).
Smith then abruptly pulled his car on to the shoulder of
Interstate 95, causing Cox and Harris to collide with other
police vehicles involved in the pursuit. (Cox Decl. ¶ 9;
Harris Decl. ¶ 9; Pettit Decl. ¶ 8; Hohner Decl.
¶ 7; Boyce Decl. ¶ 8). According to Cox and Harris,
due to the collision, they were not present at the scene when
other Officer Defendants extracted Smith from his vehicle and
handcuffed him, or when the police dog bit Smith. (Cox Decl.
¶¶ 10-13; Harris Decl. ¶¶ 10-12).
Smith pulled over, Pettit and Hohner, who were also involved
in the chase, approached Smith's vehicle. (Compl. ¶
14; Pettit Decl. ¶ 9; Hohner Decl. ¶¶ 7-8;
Boyce Decl. ¶¶ 9-10). Pettit directed Smith to show
his hands and to open his door slowly. (Pettit Decl. ¶
9). Smith did not comply. (Id.). Another officer
then used his baton to break the driver's side window of
Smith's car. (Id.; Compl. ¶ 14). Once the
window was broken, Pettit reached into the vehicle and
attempted to remove Smith from the vehicle. (Pettit Decl.
¶ 10; Hohner Decl. ¶ 8; Compl. ¶ 14). Smith
resisted and attempted to push Pettit away. (Pettit Decl.
¶ 10). Seeing the struggle between Pettit and Smith,
Hohner then assisted Pettit in extracting Smith from the car.
(Id.; Hohner Decl. ¶ 8).
being removed from the car, Pettit and Hohner placed Smith
face down on the ground. (Pettit Decl. ¶ 11; Hohner
Decl. ¶ 9; Compl. ¶ 15). Pettit and Hohner put
Smith in handcuffs, “scream[ed] profanities” at
Smith, and searched his person, while Cox and Harris grabbed
Smith's right leg, taking off Smith's right sneaker
and sock. (Compl. ¶ 15). Smith alleges that Cox and
Harris ordered Boyce, who was present at the scene with his
K-9 police dog (the “K-9”), (Boyce Decl.
¶¶ 9-12), to command the K-9 to attack Smith,
(Compl. ¶ 15). Smith asserts that Boyce then commanded
the K-9 to attack and bite Smith's right foot, which was
bare. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17).
result of the attack from the K-9, Smith suffered torn
tendons, “ripped flesh, ” puncture wounds, nerve
damage, swelling, and permanent impairment of the function of
two toes. (Compl. ¶ 18). Smith also reports suffering
severe mental anguish and emotional distress resulting from
the incident. (Id. ¶ 19).
was charged in the Circuit Court for Cecil County in two
separate cases: C-07-CR-000230 and C-07-17-000945.
(Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Fail. State Claim Alter. Mot. Summ.
J. [“Defs.' Mot.”] Ex. F
[“C-07-CR-000230 Docket”], ECF No. 11-9;
id. Ex. G [“C-07-CR-17-000945 Docket”],
ECF No. 11-10). On June 15, 2018, Smith was found guilty of
felony possession with intent to distribute.
(C-07-CR-17-000945 Docket at 4-5). On June 27, 2018, after a
bench trial, Smith was found guilty of the first-degree
assault of Cox, second degree assault, resisting arrest,
attempting to elude uniformed police by failing to stop,
attempting to elude police in official vehicle by failing to
stop, and reckless and negligent driving. (C-07-CR-000230
Docket at 5-7).
at Smith's criminal trial for case C-07-CR-000230 closely
tracked the evidence produced by Defendants in this case.
(See Defs.' Supp. Mot. Dismiss Fail. State Claim
Alter. Mot. Summ. J. [“Supp.”] Ex. 2
[“C-07-CR-000230 Bench Trial Tr.”] at 2-6, ECF
No. 19-2). After listening to the testimony and evidence, the
trial judge concluded:
The Court believes that at the time that Corporal Cox's
body was in the vehicle, [Smith] had engaged the ignition,
placed the vehicle in gear to allow the vehicle to move
forward. The Court believes that but for the actions of
Corporal Cox, if he had not been able to get out of the
vehicle, that [Smith] would have driven off without Corporal
Cox getting out of the vehicle. The Court believes that
[Smith] did in fact attempt to cause serious physical injury
to . . . Corporal Cox. . . .
The Court is also convinced beyond a reasonable doubt and to
a moral certainty that [Smith] assaulted in the second degree
Corporal Cox. The testimony was that he elbowed him, struck
at him at the first motor vehicle stop, and so this Court is
convinced. . . .
[Further, ] the State has proven beyond reasonable doubt and
to a moral certainty that Smith knew that a law enforcement
officer was attempting to arrest him, that he refused to
submit that arrest, and that that arrest was lawful. So the
Court is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt and to moral
certainty that he committed the offense of resisting arrest .
. . .
C-07-CR-000230 Bench Trial Tr. at 6-7. Smith's
convictions were later upheld by the Maryland Court of
Special Appeals. (Supp. Ex. 1 [“Aug. 8, 2019 Court of
Special Appeals Mem. Op.”] at 5, ECF No. 19-1).
September 12, 2018, Smith brought suit under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against Defendants in their individual and official
capacities, alleging that they subjected him to an unlawful
traffic stop and used excessive force against him during his
arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution. (ECF No. 1). Smith seeks compensatory and punitive
damages. (Compl. ¶¶ 22-26). Smith filed a
Supplemental to his Complaint on October 9, 2018. (ECF No.
February 1, 2019, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for
Failure to State a Claim, or, in the Alternative, Motion for
Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 11). Smith filed an Opposition to
Defendants' Motion on February 26, 2019. (ECF No. 13).
Defendants filed a Reply on April 2, 2019, (ECF No. 17), and
Smith filed a Surreply on April 23, 2019, (ECF No. 18).
Defendants filed a Supplemental Argument in Support of their
Motion on August 14, 2019. (ECF No. 19). Smith filed an
Opposition to the Supplemental Argument on August 26, 2019.
(ECF No. 22).