United States District Court, D. North Dakota
Landon L. Michael, Plaintiff
Joshua Trevena and Ryan Chaffee in their individual capacities as officers of the Watford City Police Department, Defendants.
ORDER GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT
L. Hovland, Chief Judge.
the Court is the Defendants' motion for summary judgment
filed on July 28, 2016. See Docket No. 19. The
Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion on
August 18, 2016. See Docket No. 24. The Defendants
filed a reply brief on September 1, 2016. See Docket
No. 29. For the reasons set forth below, the Defendants'
motion for summary judgment is granted.
June 2014, Landon Michael traveled with his mother (Sharon),
sister (Stephanie), and son (Brandon) from his home near
Phoenix, Arizona, to Watford City, North Dakota. Michael is a
native of Watford City. The family rented a Dodge pickup
truck for the trip. Michael's mother rented the vehicle
and listed Michael as an authorized driver.
about July 3, 2014, a family squabble arose over using the
rental vehicle to tow a van back to Arizona. The squabble
pitted Michael against his mother and sister. Michael was
opposed to using the rental vehicle to tow the van back to
Arizona while his mother and sister favored the idea.
his visit to North Dakota, Michael spent some time staying at
the home of his cousin, Jim Sondrol, in Watford City. On July
5, 2014, Stephanie and Michael's aunt visited the Sondrol
residence, and a verbal argument arose over the keys to the
rental vehicle. Stephanie demanded Michael turn the keys over
to her, and Michael refused. There were, apparently, two sets
of keys for the rental vehicle. Before Stephanie and her aunt
left the Sondrol residence, they stated they would be
contacting law enforcement to resolve the dispute.
Watford City Police Department received a telephone call at
7:00 p.m. on July 5, 2014, reporting the rental vehicle in
question stolen. Chief Arthur Walgren, Officer Ryan Chaffee,
and Officer Michael Trevena of the Watford City Police
Department responded to the call at approximately 7:05 p.m.
Upon arriving at the Sondrol residence, the officers found
the family engaged in a heated argument over the keys to the
rental vehicle. The dispute revolved around Michael's
possession of both sets of keys, Michael's desire to
speak with his mother, his mother's unwillingness to
speak to Michael, and Michael's belief that his sister
was keeping him from speaking to his mother. Chief Walgren
reviewed the rental agreement and noted that Michael's
mother rented the vehicle, and Michael was listed as an
authorized driver. The officers determined the matter was
civil in nature and encouraged the family to work out their
differences. The officers encouraged Michael to return the
keys to his mother. Michael turned over one set of keys while
retaining the second set. No arrests were made or citations
issued. The officers left the scene at 7:26 p.m.
Unfortunately, the family was unable to completely resolve
their petty dispute.
next day, July 6, 2016, Michael's sister, Stephanie,
again contacted law enforcement for help resolving the
dispute over the vehicle keys. Officer Trevena eventually
spoke with Stephanie by telephone. Officer Trevena agreed to
meet Stephanie at the Sondrol residence and conduct a
“civil standby” to ensure everyone behaved, and
that the second set of keys, which Michael still had in his
possession, would be returned to his mother who had rented
Trevena arrived at the Sondrol residence shortly before 8:30
p.m. and found Michael seated in a lawn chair in the front
yard. No other family members were present. Officer Trevena
approached Michael and began to question him about the second
set of keys. The exchange began as follows:
TREVENA: What's going… MICHAEL: What's going
TREVENA: Is there another set of keys for the truck?
TREVENA: Okay, I've had more than enough of this. I -
this is all a civil issue.
See Trevena Video.
Trevena again asked Michael if he had the second set of keys.
Michael admitted he had the keys but stated the keys were at
a different location. A debate then ensued as to whether
Michael was entitled to possession of the keys as an
authorized driver of the rental vehicle. Michael was adamant
that he needed to talk to his mother, and his sister would
not let him do so. During the exchange, Michael was
uncooperative, emotional, and agitated. Officer Trevena was
clearly frustrated with Michael's childish and irrational
behavior. It is undisputed that Michael was not under the
influence of drugs or alcohol during the incident. Officer
Trevena told Michael he could be arrested for withholding
property or deprivation of services and that he needed to get
the keys and give them to his mother. Michael responded that
he may want to press charges for harassment. Officer Trevena
again inquired as to the location of the keys. Michael said
he would have to go get them and then attempted to leave the
scene in a vehicle. Officer Trevena told Michael that if he
left he would be arrested. The following exchange then took
TREVENA: Where are they?
MICHAEL: I have to go pick them up.
TREVENA: Where are they?
MICHAEL: They are not with me, I've got to go get them.
TREVENA: That was something that you would tell me before you
get into a car and take off.
MICHAEL: Sir I don't know what you fucking want from me.
TREVENA: Where are the keys at?
MICHAEL: I would like to speak to my mother, and I will hand
the keys over to my mother.
TREVENA: Alright, where are the keys?
MICHAEL: I have them with a bunch of my other stuff at
another location, okay? okay?
TREVENA: So you don't have the keys with you now?
MICHAEL: That's what I've been trying to tell you.
TREVENA: So if you talk to your mom, you're going to give
her the keys?
MICHAEL: I will give her the keys, I need to speak with my
mother one on one.
See Trevena Video.
this conversation, Officer Trevena walked behind the vehicle
and called Michael's sister. Michael's sister and his
mother arrived in a minivan a few minutes later. Michael
walked over to the minivan and instructed his mother to get
out. Stephanie intervened and heatedly told Michael to leave
their mother alone. Michael again instructed his mother to
get out of the van. Officer Trevena told Michael to sit down
in the lawn chair and then went over to talk to Stephanie and
Michael's mother. During the conversation, Michael's
mother indicated that she did not wish to speak to Michael.
Stephanie then get out of the van, approached Michael, and
the two continued to argue over the keys.
approximately 8:30 p.m., Officer Chaffee arrived on the scene
and received an update from Officer Trevena. After the
situation was explained to Officer Chaffee, both officers
walked over to Michael and continued their attempts to
persuade Michael to turn the keys over to his mother. Michael
stated that he would give the keys to his mother if she came
over to where he was seated. Officer Trevena asked Michael
how he could give her the keys if he did not have the keys on
his person. Michael responded by stating he would make sure
she gets the keys. Michael then asked if they were stopping
him from talking to his mother. Officer Trevena responded
that he was not stopping him, but informed Michael that his
mother did not want to talk to him.
time, Michael walked around the officers, behind the minivan,
and approached the front passenger window where his mother
was sitting and attempted to speak with his mother. As
Michael approached, Stephanie started the minivan and began
to drive away. Once Michael noticed the minivan driving away,
he stuck his right foot out causing the rear passenger side
tire to run over it. The following discussion then took
TREVENA: You intentionally put your foot under ...