Court: Student Athlete’s Claim Against District Police Officer Can Continue

Mar 14, 2008

A federal judge has denied a summary judgment motion of a Killeen Independent School District (KISD) police officer, who was working security at the entrance to a basketball game when a student sought entrance, was physically restrained, and then sued the district and the officer for violating her Constitutional rights.
The incident occurred on February 7, 2006 when Khandiese Cooper, a seventeen-year-old honor student and track and field athlete at nearby Ellison High School, traveled to Killeen to attend a sold-out high school basketball game with her fourteen-year-old sister, Moni. The pair sought to get into the game, but had only one ticket.
Cooper was half-in the door, still bargaining with the ticket-taker to determine if there was any way to get her sister into the game, when Kenneth Edmiston approached her and allegedly asked if she had a ticket to the game. Cooper then explained that she had a ticket but was trying to obtain one for her younger sister.
The court summarized that Edmiston then asked her, “Are you in or out?” The ticket-taker stated that Cooper allegedly replied to Edmiston, “You don’t talk to me that way.” Cooper, wanting to attend the game, said she was “in” and proceeded to attempt to walk through the door. However, Edmiston told her “No, you are out.”
The facts differed after that, as Edmiston claimed that Cooper tried to push past Edmiston through the door at which he point he physically restrained her by sitting on top of her. Cooper claims the defendant restrained her without provocation.
Cooper ultimately sued Edmiston — in his official and individual capacities — and KISD, alleging violations of her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights via § 1983. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity.
The court ultimately found that “Edmiston’s argument that Cooper’s injuries were de minimis and that he used force congruent to Cooper’s resistance ignores contravening testimony and thus the proper standard of review in a summary judgment motion. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1986) (‘the court is required to view all inferences drawn from the factual record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.’). Summary judgment on this claim is therefore unwarranted.”
As for the wrongful arrest argument, the court examined Edmiston’s argument that he had probable cause to arrest Cooper for interference with public duties. “Section 38.15(a)(1) of the Texas Penal Code provides that a person commits the offense of interference with public duties if the person, with criminal negligence, interrupts, disrupts, impedes, or otherwise interferes with a peace officer while the peace officer is performing a duty or exercising authority imposed or granted by law. TEX. PENAL CODE ANN. 38.15(a)(1). Edmiston, however, fails to point to which facts he contends demonstrate that Cooper interfered with Edmiston’s public duties. It appears that Edmiston is arguing that Cooper interfered with him by failing to follow his order that she was ‘out.’ This claim, however, is disputed factually by Cooper’s summary judgment evidence, and thus summary judgment on this argument is inappropriate on the record before the Court.”
Khandiese Cooper v. Killeen Independent School District et al.; W.D. Tex.; A-07-CA-082 LY, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4881; 1/23/08
Attorneys or Record: (for plaintiff): Austin P. Tighe, Lead Attorney, Feazell and Tighe L.L.P., Austin, TX; Vic Feazell, Lead Attorney, The Law Offices of Vic Feazell PC, Austin, TX. (for defendant) Brantley Ross Pringle, Jr., Mike Thompson, Jr., lead attorneys, Wright & Greenhill, P.C., Austin, TX.


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