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Date: 08-21-2023

Case Style:

Latherian Harris v. City of Saginaw, et al.

Case Number: 1:20-cv-13075

Judge: Thomas L. Ludington

Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (Wayne County)

Plaintiff's Attorney: Chris Trainor, Amy DeRouin and Jon Abent

Defendant's Attorney: Greg Mair and Kailen Piper

Description: Bay City, Michigan civil rights lawyers represented Plaintiff who sued Defendants claiming that for wrongful arrest and prosecution in violation of his constitutional rights.

For longtime Saginaw resident Latherian Harris, the evening of November 10, 2018 began as many others had: with a quick trip to the local corner store. The evening took a turn for the worse, however, when a verbal dispute with one of the store clerks allegedly ended with a pointed gun. Harris spent of the next couple weeks in the Saginaw County Jail. But he was not the alleged assailant.

As Harris tells it, he was in the store, purchasing beer for a friend, when one of the clerks demanded that he turn his music down. Feeling disrespected, Harris offered to fight the clerk outside and exited the front of the store. When the clerk declined his challenge, Harris left the premises and began walking around the side of the store toward a laundromat where his friend worked. As Harris was crossing behind the store, the clerk allegedly opened the back door, pointed a pistol at Harris, and taunted him with racial slurs.

On the advice of his friend, Harris called 911 and told the operator what had happened—specifically, that the clerk had assaulted him near the "back door" of the store. Yet for reasons that are still unclear, the responding officers thought Harris was claiming that the clerk followed him from the front of the store. When the security footage failed to support that claim, and the store clerk denied following Harris or brandishing a gun, the officers arrested Harris for filing a false felony report. The charge was eventually dismissed, and Harris brought this action for false arrest under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

The parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment. Harris argues that the officers lacked probable cause to arrest him because they only considered the evidence that supported the clerk's version of events, ignored Harris's version, and declined to review all available security footage. He also claims that the City of Saginaw failed to adequately train and supervise the officers on determining probable cause.

In response, Defendants assert that their investigation was reasonable under the circumstances and that Harris did not clarify where the altercation occurred until after they had reviewed the security footage. They also defend the City's training policy, arguing that Harris has not produced any evidence of deliberate indifference.

Defendants’ motion will be granted in part and denied in part. One of the five officers that Harris has sued will be dismissed for lack of personal involvement in the arrest. The City will also be dismissed because no reasonable juror could find that it was deliberately indifferent to Harris's rights. As to the remaining officers, a genuine dispute of fact exists regarding whether they arrested Plaintiff without probable cause.

Outcome: Harris's motion will be denied because a reasonable juror could find that either (1) the officers had probable cause to arrest him or (2) could have reasonably believed that they had probable cause to arrest him.

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