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State Bank of St. Charles v. Camic

July 13, 1983


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 79 C 2714 -- Charles P. Kocoras, Judge.

Pell and Eschbach, Circuit Judges, and Jameson, Senior District Judge.*fn*

Author: Pell

PELL, Circuit Judge.

The State Bank of St. Charles (Bank), suing on behalf of the estate of Christopher A. Ward (Ward), deceased, appeals from the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City of Aurora, Illinois, and individually named Aurora police officers. The principal issue on appeal is whether questions of material fact exist relevant to the Bank's claims that the defendants violated Ward's constitutional rights by prohibiting him from making a phone call prior to their placing him into a cell and/or failing adequately to supervise Ward so as to prevent his committing suicide while he was incarcerated.


A. The Parties

Ward, upon whose behalf the Bank sues, committed suicide while incarcerated in a cell at the City of Aurora, Illinois, police department on May 28, 1979. Defendants David Camic, Patrick Ahlgren, Donald Stimson, and Dan Peterson are police officers who were in the employ of the City of Aurora on the date of Ward's death. As developed below, Camic was the officer responsible for arresting Ward for driving with a suspended driver's license, following Ward's involvement in a minor traffic accident. Ahlgren was one of two officers who drove Ward from the scene of the accident to the police station and who attempted to gain from Ward the information required to complete the department's booking form. Stimson was a booking officer whose duties included conducting regular cell checks. Peterson was voluntarily dismissed from this action and is not involved in this appeal.

B. Events of May 28, 1979

Ward was involved in a minor automobile accident at approximately 6:00 P.M. In response to a call for assistance from the first officer at the scene, Camic arrived at the site of the accident approximately fifteen minutes later. He arrested Ward for driving with a suspended license, a Class A misdemeanor requiring a $100.00 bond. Because Ward was obviously intoxicated, Camic called for a vehicle to transport Ward to the police station. Ahlgren, along with officer Turnbow, arrived in a squad car. Camic, Turnbow, and Ahlgren attempted to search Ward. Ward resisted their efforts both to search him and to put him into the squad car. According to Camic, Ward attempted to strike him. Camic, in return, struck Ward in the stomach.

Ward, together with Ahlgren and Turnbow, arrived at the booking room of the Aurora Police Department (APD) sometime between 6:30 P.M. and 6:45 P.M. The two officers sought information from Ward in order to complete the booking form. Although eventually twenty of the twenty-five boxes on the form were completed, Ward allegedly refused to cooperate with the booking formalities. Throughout the procedure, Ward repeatedly demanded the right to make a phone call. Turnbow informed him that he would be permitted a call when the booking formalities were completed.

Lieutenant Olin, an APD supervisor, arrived in the booking area while the officers were attempting to elicit information from Ward. He witnessed Ward's lack of cooperation. Olin was also apparently told by Ahlgren that the only information they could obtain from Ward was his name and address. Olin then told Ahlgren to lock Ward in a cell. Ward again became abusive and violent, kicking Ahlgren and generally resisting while the officers removed his property, including his belt and shoe laces, and took him to a cell out of sight of the booking area.

The three officers left the cell area at approximately 6:55 P.M. After leaving the cell area, Ahlgren marked on the booking sheet that Ward had "refused" to make a phone call. According to Ahlgren, this characterization reflected his view that Ward could have made a phone call had he cooperated with the officers in completing the booking form. A notation on the form was also made that Ward was behaving in a "freaky" manner.

Stimson had gone to dinner about 6:45 P.M. He did not then know of Ward's incarceration. Stimson returned about 7:40 P.M. After assisting another officer in fingerprinting a prisoner, Stimson began a routine cell check. At 7:47 P.M., Stimson discovered Ward dead in his cell. Ward had ripped his shirt into five pieces of cloth and made a rope with which he hanged himself. At the time Stimson discovered Ward, he had been dead of strangulation approximately thirty minutes.

C. Relevant Policies and Regulations of the APD

The APD requires that a person be afforded a reasonable number of phone calls before he is confined. These calls are to be made within a "reasonable" time which is defined as meaning within the first hour after arriving at the place of custody. The APD regulations also state that cells are to be checked every ...

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