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Date: 01-26-2023

Case Style:

Kevin Penn v. City of Decatur, Alabama and Justin Rippen

Case Number: 5:22-cv-320

Judge: Liles C. Burke

Court: United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama (Jefferson County)

Plaintiff's Attorney:

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Defendant's Attorney: Allison B. Chandler, David J. Canupp

Description: Birmingham, Alabama civil rights lawyer represented Plaintiff who sued Defendants claiming wrongful arrest, retaliation and excessive for violations of the First and Fourth Amendments.

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The following facts, which the Court presumes are true for purposes of this opinion, come from Penn's complaint. Kevin Penn owns Star Spirits & Beverages in Decatur, Alabama. (Doc. 1 at 1). On March 15, 2020, Penn detained a suspected
shoplifter at gunpoint and called the police. Id. at 1-2. When officers arrived at the store, Penn claims he waived them inside, unloaded his gun, and placed it on the counter. Id. at 2. The officers, one of whom was Decatur Police Officer Justin Rippen, knew that Penn was the store owner and could see Penn's gun on the counter. Id.

After securing the suspected shoplifter, the officers drew their weapons on Penn. Id. They yelled at Penn about his gun, and Penn stated that “he was going to file a complaint” against the officers for their handling of the scene. Id. In response, Penn claims Officer Rippen punched him in the face-breaking his jaw and causing him to lose a tooth-and arrested Penn for obstructing governmental operations under Alabama law. Id. Following his arrest, Penn filed a complaint regarding the incident with the City of Decatur. Id. The City refused to investigate the incident and took no disciplinary against Officer Rippen. This suit followed.

Outcome: Penn pleads facially plausible claims against Officer Rippen under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Penn does not plead a facially plausible § 1983 claim against the City. For these reasons, the Court DENIES Officer Rippen's motion to dismiss (Doc. 8), GRANTS the City's motion to dismiss (Doc. 10), DISMISSES Penn's claim against the City with prejudice, and TERMINATES the City as a party to this suit.

The Court also LIFTS the stay of this case (Doc. 24) and ORDERS Penn and Officer Rippen to file a Rule 26(f) Report by February 10, 2023.

Finally, the Court would be remiss if it did not acknowledge that Officer Rippen's bodycam footage tells a largely different story of the incident than Penn's complaint.[8] As explained in a separately-filed order, the Court declines to consider the bodycam footage at this procedural posture because Penn did not mention the footage in his complaint. (Doc. 26 at 3-4). That said, the Court may consider the footage at later time should Officer Rippen move for summary judgment and make the footage part of the evidentiary record.

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