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Michael v. Trevena

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 7, 2018

Landon L. Michael Plaintiff- Appellant
v.
Joshua Trevena; Ryan Chaffee, in their individual capacities as officers of the Watford City Police Department Defendants - Appellees

          Submitted: March 13, 2018

          Appeal from United States District Court for the District of North Dakota - Bismarck

          Before GRUENDER, BEAM, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

          KELLY, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         Landon Michael filed suit against Watford City, North Dakota, police officers Joshua Trevena and Ryan Chaffee, alleging unlawful arrest and excessive force after the officers were called to help resolve a family dispute. The district court granted the officers summary judgment based on qualified immunity. Michael appeals.

         I.

         Michael was in possession of a set of keys to a truck his mother had rented. He refused to return them without speaking to his mother, but she refused to talk with him. The police were called. Officer Trevena arrived first, and officer Chaffee soon afterward. Both officers wore microphones that recorded much of what happened next. Both officers also drove police vehicles equipped with dashboard cameras. Trevena's vehicle was positioned such that the camera was facing away from the front yard where Michael was sitting. Chaffee's vehicle was positioned with its dash cam pointing at the yard, but its view was almost completely obscured by a large tree.

         Michael was sitting in a chair on the lawn of his cousin's home, and his mother and sister (who was in the driver's seat) were sitting in a vehicle parked nearby. Michael went to speak to his mother but, as he approached, Michael's sister started the vehicle and began to drive away. Michael returned to the lawn chair, out of view of either officer's dash cam. He claimed that his sister had run over his foot on purpose. As recorded by the officers' microphones, the exchange went as follows:

TREVENA: You intentionally put your foot under the vehicle.
MICHAEL: No, I . . . I did not intentionally do that.
TREVENA: Yeah, ya did.
MICHAEL: I did not in . . . you know I didn't; you are accusing me of nothin' just to provoke me and I did not do no such thing.
TREVENA: Yeah, ya did.
MICHAEL: I did no such thing. She just ran over my foot.
TREVENA: You were standing that far away . . . .
MICHAEL: She just ran over my foot, sir. She ran over my foot. You can be a witness ...

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