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Lunsford v. Forbes

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

July 10, 2019


          Alistair E. Newbern Magistrate Judge.




         Plaintiff Reshawn M. Lunsford alleges that he was tased eight times during an altercation with Defendant Officer Forbes and four other Goodlettsville Police Officers at a Rodeway Inn in Goodlettsville, Tennessee. Lunsford ultimately pleaded guilty to resisting arrest after serving thirteen days in jail. In this § 1983 action, Lunsford claims that Forbes used excessive force on him during the altercation in violation of Lunsford's Fourth Amendment rights. Forbes filed a motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 9), arguing that Lunsford's claim is barred by the favorable termination requirement of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). Because an exception to the Heck doctrine applies in this case, the Magistrate Judge will recommend that Forbes's motion to dismiss be denied.

         I. Background

         A. Lunsford's Allegations[1]

         On September 18, 2018, Lunsford's ex-girlfriend called officers from the Goodlettsville Police Department to the Rodeway Inn because of a disagreement between her and Lunsford. (Doc. No. 1.) When Goodlettsville police officers arrived at the hotel, Officer Forbes asked Lunsford “what was going on” and also asked Lunsford for his ID, which Lunsford provided. (Id. at PageID# 6.) Approximately five minutes later, Officer Wright arrived at the hotel and, soon thereafter, an unidentified third female police officer arrived. (Id.) As Lunsford was speaking to the third officer, Wright opened Lunsford's car door and told him to “get out and put [his] hands behind [his] back.” (Id. at PageID# 7.) Lunsford said that he would comply but wanted to know why he was being arrested. (Id.) Five police officers then surrounded Lunsford and took hold of his arms. (Id.) Lunsford told the officers that his shoulder was injured and worried that the officers were going to be rough with him. (Id.) After the officers repeatedly ordered Lunsford to put his hands behind his back, Forbes pulled out his Taser and threatened to use it. (Id.) In “the heat of the moment, ” Lunsford announced that he was “protected by God” and challenged Forbes to “go [a]head” and tase him. (Id.) Forbes did so, eight times, with each shock lasting approximately five seconds. (Id.) The last taser blast was aimed at Lunsford's face, but Lunsford shifted his body and absorbed the shock “high up on the left side of [his] chest and the V of [his] neck, ” which he states is a “no-tase zone.” (Id. at PageID# 8.) Throughout the tasing, Lunsford asked the officers why he was being arrested. (Id.) The altercation ended when an unidentified police officer hit Lunsford over the head, slammed him to the ground, and threw him into the back of a police car. (Id.)

         Lunsford immediately demanded medical attention, and Forbes accompanied Lunsford to Nashville General Hospital in an ambulance. (Id.) When Lunsford arrived at the emergency room, he told the doctor that he had been tased eight times, contradicting Forbes's claim that Forbes had used his taser only three times. (Id.) Lunsford states that the arrest left him with a black eye, a busted lip, cuts from handcuffs that were too tight, and sixteen Taser burn marks. (Id.)

         B. Procedural History

         Lunsford filed this action on January 16, 2019, against the City of Goodlettsville, the Goodlettsville Police Department, Forbes, and Wright, alleging that Forbes and Wright used excessive force in his arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment. (Id.) Lunsford brings his claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and seeks $1, 750, 000.00 in damages. (Id.)

         The Court granted Lunsford's application to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. No. 2) and screened Lunsford's complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The Court found that Lunsford had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted against Wright, the City of Goodlettsville, and the Goodlettsville Police Department and dismissed those claims. (Doc. No. 5.) The Court found that the complaint stated a colorable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Forbes for the use of excessive force and permitted that claim to proceed. (Id.)

         On February 20, 2019, Forbes filed a motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 9) and attached to the motion as supporting documentation guilty pleas for resisting arrest and assault, both entered by Lunsford on October 1, 2018 (Doc. No. 9-1). The guilty plea for resisting arrest arose from the same altercation that gave rise to the excessive force claim.[2] Forbes argues that, under Tennessee law, a claim that an officer used excessive force is a defense to the crime of resisting arrest and, therefore, that a ruling in Lunsford's favor on his § 1983 excessive force claim would invalidate his state criminal conviction arising out of the same conflict. Forbes argues that Heck v. Humphrey prohibits that outcome. (Doc. No. 9.)

         Lunsford filed a letter (Doc. No. 13) on April 3, 2019, which the Court construed as a motion for extension of time to respond to Forbes's motion to dismiss.[3] (Doc. No. 15.) Lunsford responded to Forbes's motion on April 17, 2019, but did not directly address any of Forbes's arguments. (Doc. No. 19.) Instead, Lunsford briefly reiterates the allegations of his complaint and states that no police officer offered him medical attention. (Id.) He further states that “[j]ustice needs to [be] served and Office[r] Forbes needs to be held accountable for his actions.” (Id. at PageID# 63.) On April 18, 2019, Forbes filed a reply, arguing that Lunsford failed to address or dispute the substance of Forbes's motion to dismiss and that Lunsford's claim that Forbes did not offer medical attention is belied by Lunsford's own allegation that Forbes accompanied Lunsford to the hospital after the incident. (Doc. No. 20.)

         II. ...

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