Federal court reverses decision granting immunity to off-duty Maryville policeman who held teens at gunpoint

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A federal court has reversed a Tennessee state court’s ruling granting an off-duty Maryville police officer qualified immunity in a false imprisonment and assault lawsuit.

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Maryville police officer Maurice Dixon was in violation of the Fourth Amendment and did not have qualified immunity when he held Logan Vanderhoef and two others at gunpoint after being involved in a vehicle crash.

The U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee had previously ruled his action were justified under qualified immunity as a police officer.

On Wednesday, The Sixth Circuit Court Appeals ordered the district court ruling be reversed and sent back to the district court for a judgment consistent with the jury’s original verdict.

The lawsuit stems from an accident in May of 2016 when the plaintiff Logan Vanderhoef collided with Officer Marice Dixon’s personal vehicle. Dixon, who was not in uniform at the time and did not initially identify himself as an officer, approached the vehicle with his gun drawn, pointed it at the teen and ordered everyone in the car to get on the ground.

The three teens got out of the vehicle and Dixon held each of them at gunpoint. A witness driving by the scene stopped and confronted Dixon, at which point the suit says he said he was with law enforcement.

Vanderhoef filed a federal lawsuit against Dixon, alleging deprivation of his rights, assault and false imprisonment under Tennessee law. The case went to trial. The jury found in plaintiff’s favor and awarded him $500 for each of his three claims.

After trial, Dixon renewed his claim for qualified immunity in a motion for judgment as a matter of law. The district court granted the motion on qualified immunity grounds and dismissed all three claims.

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