United States District Court, E.D. Washington
SHAUN L. ROCKSTROM, Plaintiff,
SPOKANE COUNTY, Washington; SAMUEL TURNER, Deputy; CHAD EATON, Deputy; MICHAEL KEYS, Deputy; Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
ROSANNA MALOUF PETERSON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
THE COURT is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF
No. 8. Defendants Spokane County, Washington; Deputy Samuel
Turner; Deputy Chad Eaton; and Deputy Michael Keys argue that
they should be granted summary judgment on Plaintiff Shaun L.
Rockstrom's excessive force and negligence claims.
Id. A hearing was held in this matter on April 22,
2019. Mr. Rockstrom was represented by Richard D. Wall.
Defendants were represented by Heather C. Yakely. The Court
has considered the parties' arguments, the briefing, the
record, and is fully informed.
early February of 2016 or 2017,  Plaintiff Shaun L. Rockstrom
walked into a WinCo grocery store in Spokane Valley,
Washington with a bag of tootsie rolls that he had purchased
elsewhere. ECF No. 10-1 at 10. Mr. Rockstrom ate the tootsie
rolls as he walked into the store. Id. This prompted
one of the cashiers at the WinCo to approach Mr. Rockstrom
and pat him down. Id. The WinCo employee's
actions upset Mr. Rockstrom, and he told her to stop.
Id. The employee then contacted the store's
security, who asked Mr. Rockstrom to leave. Id. at
16. Mr. Rockstrom stepped outside the store. Id. at
to Mr. Rockstrom, within minutes, three police officers
arrived at the store. ECF No. 10-1 at 17. The three police
officers were Defendant Spokane County Deputies Samuel
Turner, Chad Eaton, and Michael Keys. ECF No. 13 at 3-4. The
deputies are employees of Defendant Spokane County,
Washington, in the Spokane County Sheriff's Office.
Id. at 1; ECF No. 11 at 1; ECF No. 12 at 1. The
deputies attest that they were trained by Spokane County and
acted in accordance with their experience and training when
interacting with Mr. Rockstrom on the day in question. ECF
No. 12 at 5.
parties dispute what occurred in the interaction between Mr.
Rockstrom and the deputies. Mr. Rockstrom alleges that one of
the deputies approached him and asked for his identification.
ECF No. 10-1 at 22. He claims that one of the deputies
recognized him because he recalls one of them saying
“Rockstrom, get out of here.” Id. at 23.
Mr. Rockstrom alleges that he tried to leave, but another
deputy stopped him and asked again for Mr. Rockstrom's
identification. Id. He states he heard one of the
deputies tell another deputy to shut off the car camera.
Id. at 23-24. Mr. Rockstrom also claims he heard one
of the deputies say, “Punch him.” Id. at
24. Following that, Mr. Rockstrom says that he only remembers
being punched multiple times and falling to the ground.
McLaughlin attests that she witnessed the interaction between
Mr. Rockstrom and the deputies. ECF No. 16 at 1. She states
that she saw the three deputies confronting Mr. Rockstrom
outside the WinCo store. Id. at 2. She claims that
she saw Mr. Rockstrom take two cards out of his pocket and
throw them on the ground in front of the deputies.
Id. She also states that she heard Mr. Rockstrom ask
if he was under arrest, but none of the deputies responded.
Id. She alleges that Mr. Rockstrom tried to walk
away from the deputies. Id. At this moment, she
claims that the deputies attacked Mr. Rockstrom, brought him
to the ground, and held Mr. Rockstrom down while they punched
him repeatedly in the head and face. Id. at 2-3. Ms.
McLaughlin states that she never saw Mr. Rockstrom raise his
fists, flail his arms, or make any aggressive movement toward
the deputies. Id.
deputies' account of the incident differs from the
accounts told by Mr. Rockstrom and Ms. McLaughlin. The
deputies allege that the loss prevention officer for WinCo
told them that he had asked Mr. Rockstrom to leave the store
three times because Mr. Rockstrom was swearing at employees,
confronting security, and scaring customers. ECF No. 13 at 3.
The deputies claim that when they engaged with Mr. Rockstrom,
Mr. Rockstrom was clenching his fists as if preparing for a
fight. ECF No. 11 at 2; ECF No. 12 at 4; ECF No. 13 at 4.
deputies state that they approached Mr. Rockstrom, asked for
his identification, and threatened to arrest him for
trespassing if he did not comply. ECF No. 11 at 2; ECF No. 12
at 3; ECF No. 13 at 4. They allege that Mr. Rockstrom was
very fidgety, which indicated that he was “under
emotional distress, on drugs, or is attempting to hide
something such as a weapon, or is planning an escape.”
ECF No. 11 at 2-3; ECF No. 12 at 3; ECF No. 13 at 3. The
deputies state that Mr. Rockstrom took out his wallet, threw
it either on the ground or at Deputy Eaton, and then tried to
walk away with his fists up in front of him. ECF No. 11 at 3;
ECF No. 12 at 3; ECF No. 13 at 4.
deputies allege that Deputies Keys and Turner stepped in to
take control of Mr. Rockstrom's arms while Deputy Eaton
attempted to take control of Mr. Rockstrom's body. ECF
No. 11 at 3; ECF No. 12 at 4; ECF No. 13 at 5. The resulting
struggle caused everyone to fall to the ground. ECF No. 11 at
3; ECF No. 12 at 4; ECF No. 13 at 5. While on the ground, the
deputies claim that Mr. Rockstrom actively resisted arrest by
flailing his arms and kneeing and elbowing the deputies. ECF
No. 11 at 4; ECF No. 12 at 4; ECF No. 13 at 6. The deputies
allege that Deputy Eaton instructed Deputy Turner to hit Mr.
Rockstrom as a distraction technique so that they could
handcuff him. ECF No. 11 at 4; ECF No. 12 at 5; ECF No. 13 at
6. They claim that Deputy Turner's punches allowed them
to gain control of Mr. Rockstrom and place him in handcuffs
and leg restraints. ECF No. 11 at 4; ECF No. 12 at 6; ECF No.
13 at 6. Deputy Turner broke his hand as a result of one of
his punches. ECF No. 12 at 7. Mr. Rockstrom was transported
to a hospital in an ambulance and treated for head injuries.
ECF No. 11 at 4.
Rockstrom filed a complaint against Defendants in Spokane
County Superior Court claiming that Defendants are liable for
excessive force, through 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and
negligence. ECF No. 1-2 at 6-9. Defendants removed the case
to this Court under federal question jurisdiction. ECF No. 1.
Defendants now move for summary judgment on Mr.
Rockstrom's claims. ECF No. 8.
may grant summary judgment where “there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact” of a party's prima
facie case, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-33 (1986). A genuine issue
of material fact exists if sufficient evidence supports the
claimed factual dispute, requiring “a jury or judge to
resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at
trial.” T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. Pac. Elec.
Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir.
1987). A key purpose of summary judgment “is to isolate
and dispose of factually unsupported claims.”
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.
moving party bears the burden of showing the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact, or in the alternative, the
moving party may discharge this burden by showing that there
is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving
party's prima facie case. Celotex, 477 U.S. at
325. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to set
forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.
See Id. at 324. The nonmoving party “may not
rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading,
but his response, by affidavits or as otherwise ...