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Whitt v. Smith

decided: November 2, 1987.

SIMMIE WHITT, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
ROGER SMITH, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Western Division. No. 84 C 20116 -- Stanley J. Roszkowski, Judge.

Wood, Jr., Coffey, and Ripple, Circuit Judges.

Author: Wood

WOOD, Jr., Circuit Judge.

The plaintiff, Simmie Whitt, sued the defendants, the City of Rockford and several police officers, under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983.*fn1 The plaintiff sought to recover damages for gunshot injuries he suffered when police made a warrantless entry into the plaintiff's apartment. Before trial, both the defendants and the plaintiff moved for summary judgment. The magistrate recommended that both motions be denied, and the district court adopted the magistrate's report and recommendation, with some additional comments. The defendants have appealed the denial of summary judgment on the issue of qualified immunity. Because we find that the district court did not adequately consider the evidence in the record in denying the defendants qualified immunity, we vacate the denial of summary judgment and remand to the district court for further proceedings.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The plaintiff agrees that the statement of facts in the magistrate's report and recommendation is correct, and we draw our summary of the facts from that report.

The plaintiff lived with others in an apartment at 210 1/2 Ogden Avenue in Rockford, Illinois. In the early hours of January 26, 1984, police entered the apartment and the plaintiff was shot and injured.

Five days earlier, a woman had been struck in the face with a gun by a black woman while shopping at O'Donnell's Foods in Rockford. Witnesses observed the assailant leaving with a black man in an older model green Chevrolet with the driver pointing a shotgun out the car's window.

A license check of the car indicated that the car was registered to John Moore, whose residence was listed as 210 1/2 Ogden. Defendant Officer Scheffels was assigned to investigate the incident, and he contacted Moore. Moore denied any participation in the incident, and told Scheffels that he had loaned his car to an acquaintance named Jeff. After the victim disappeared the police did not pursue the investigation.

Late on January 25, 1984, police received a call for assistance from Charles Blissit at 236 North Independence Avenue. Blissit told police that three black men, all armed and one carrying a rifle, had just been at that address. Blissit said that he had been with the woman who was pistol-whipped at O'Donnell's, and that he recognized one of the three men as having accompanied the assailant at O'Donnell's.

While the police were investigating the incident on Independence Avenue, they received a report of a shooting at 1827 Green Street,*fn2 which is about five blocks from 236 North Independence Avenue. Roger Purifoy had been shot in the bathroom of his girlfriend's apartment. He told police that his assailants were three black men, all were armed, and one was carrying a rifle or shotgun.

Officer Scheffels, who was on duty that night, went to the vicinity of the Green Street incident, but did not speak with the victim or any witnesses. He did not go to the Independence Avenue location, but when he heard the information broadcast about the incident there, he responded by broadcasting information he had acquired through his investigation of the O'Donnell's incident. The police gathered at John Moore's apartment at 210 1/2 Ogden. Moore's car was parked in front, and lights were on inside the apartment.

Defendant Sergeant Smith went to the Ogden Street address from the Green Street shooting. He decided that the officers should attempt to gain entry to the apartment by the resident's consent, if possible, but by force, if necessary. Two of the officers were assigned to the front of the building, and the other five went around to the rear entrance located at the top of some exterior stairs.

Defendant Officer McDonald, who was in full uniform, knocked on the rear door and announced himself as the police. After he repeated his knock and announcement, the door was opened by an individual who then attempted to shut it. The officers forced ...


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