United States District Court, Central District of Illinois, Springfield Division
April 26, 1991
LISA RUHL CARTER, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF RAYMOND JOHN RUHL, DECEASED, PLAINTIFF,
ALFRED E. BUSCHER, WARDEN AT VANDALIA CORRECTIONAL CENTER, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard Mills, District Judge:
Civil rights action.
The facts are singular.
Cross-motions for summary judgment.
Judgment for Defendants.
Plaintiff's husband, Raymond Ruhl, was being investigated by
the ISP in January, 1988, for solicitation to murder his wife
— the Plaintiff. In fact, during the investigation Plaintiff
was offered and accepted protective custody by the ISP. With
the assistance of a co-conspirator, Roger Arkebauer, the police
obtained sufficient evidence to authorize Ruhl's arrest. See
Arkebauer v. Kiley, 751 F. Supp. 783 (C.D.Ill. 1990).
Ruhl worked as a correctional officer at the Vandalia
Correctional Center. Ruhl was also believed by the ISP to run
a gun shop out of his home and had been heard to brag that he
was always armed — even while working at the prison in
violation of DOC regulations.
On January 15, 1988, ISP agents Virgil Lee Bensyl, David P.
McLearin, and Tamara J. Byers, with the assistance of their
superior officers, planned the arrest of Ruhl for the
solicitation to murder his wife. Michael Heltsley and Michael
McKinney, internal investigators for the DOC, were also asked
to assist in Ruhl's arrest.
The police consciously chose not to attempt Ruhl's arrest at
his home because of his ready access to guns. Further, because
Ruhl allegedly was armed at the prison where he worked, and
the police would have had to surrender their guns before
entering the prison, they chose not to arrest him at the
prison. Instead, the police, with the assistance of Alfred
Buscher, Vandalia's warden, devised a scheme in which Buscher
would contact Ruhl at home and ask him to assist the niece of
a fellow warden (played by Byers) whose car had broken down
near Ruhl's home.
At approximately 5:50 p.m., Buscher called Ruhl and asked
him to assist the
stranded motorist. Ruhl agreed to help and Buscher then
telephoned McLearin and told him that Ruhl was on his way.
Byers, along with Bensyl and McLearin (all dressed in civilian
clothing) parked their car on the west side of Route 51 just
south of Oconee, Illinois and waited for Ruhl to arrive.
Heltsley and McKinney waited nearby as backup.
At approximately 6:00 p.m. Ruhl approached the scene from
the south, made a U-turn, and parked approximately 15 feet
behind Byers' vehicle on the west side of the highway. Byers,
posing as a stranded motorist, approached Ruhl's vehicle and
spoke with Ruhl through the open, driver's side window. Ruhl
refused to leave his car which he left running with the
transmission in gear.
When Ruhl refused to leave his car, Bensyl also walked back
to Ruhl's car. McLearin at this time signaled Heltsley and
McKinney to move in as back up. When Bensyl arrived at Ruhl's
vehicle he stood slightly behind and to the left of Byers at
the driver's side window. Bensyl shined his flashlight in the
window and announced "State Police."
Immediately after Bensyl announced "State Police," Ruhl
opened fire with a 9mm Browning semi-automatic pistol from
inside the vehicle. Bensyl was immediately struck and killed.
Ruhl then fired at least four shots through his front
windshield at McLearin who was approaching from the right
front of Byers' vehicle. McLearin was struck once in the left
wrist and received a grazing wound to his head. McLearin was
then struck by Ruhl's vehicle as it rolled forward.
Eventually, McLearin sought shelter in a ditch along the west
side of the road.
Ruhl leaned down to the right on his front seat, firing back
at Byers as she moved toward the rear of Ruhl's vehicle. Byers
fired seven rounds through the back windshield attempting to
hit Ruhl. Due to various obstructions such as the back
windshield and seat, however, Ruhl was not hit by Byers' fire.
Ruhl then exited his vehicle in a crouched position. Byers
fired her last round and once again missed hitting Ruhl.
Heltsley and McKinney, meanwhile, had arrived at the scene
and stopped their vehicle on the west side of the highway
shortly behind Ruhl's car. While attempting to fire at Byers,
Ruhl was distracted by McLearin who was then shot a third time
by Ruhl. Heltsley, armed with a .12 gauge shotgun, was unable
to fire at Ruhl during this exchange because Byers was in his
line of fire.
After shooting McLearin for the third time, Ruhl spun back
toward Byers, who was now out of ammunition. At this point
Heltsley, who had positioned himself near the right passenger
door of McKinney's vehicle, shot Ruhl in the chest with a
single .12 gauge shotgun slug. Ruhl fell to the ground and
dropped his weapon.
Byers, believing that Ruhl was attempting to get up and
retrieve his weapon, ran to Ruhl, picked up his gun, and fired
the last round at Ruhl, striking him in the forearm.
Simultaneously McLearin fired twice at Ruhl, striking him once
in the left foot and lower leg. According to the coroner's
inquest, Ruhl died within a few seconds from the shotgun wound
to his chest. The entire sequence of events, from the time
Ruhl shot Bensyl until all shooting ceased, is estimated to
have lasted between 45 and 60 seconds.
Plaintiff, as administratrix of Ruhl's estate, then
commenced this civil rights action against Warden Buscher,
Agents Byers, McLearin, Heltsley and McKinney, Captain Murphy
and the Estate of Agent Bensyl. Plaintiff alleges that
by reason of their ill conceived plan in the
attempt to arrest Raymond John Ruhl along a
darkened highway instead of inside the
correctional institution where he worked, the
Defendants, in their attempt to apprehend and
arrest Raymond John Ruhl, provoked a situation
whereby unreasonable deadly force was used in the
attempt to seize his person in violation of the
Fourth Amendment. . . .
II. Summary Judgment
Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), summary judgment should be entered
"if the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is
no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving
party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law."
Unquestionably, in determining whether a genuine issue of
material fact exists, the evidence is to be taken in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress &
Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 1608-09, 26 L.Ed.2d
142 (1970). Nevertheless, the rule is also well established
that the mere existence of some factual dispute will not
frustrate an otherwise proper summary judgment. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2509,
91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Thus, the "preliminary question for the
judge [is] not whether there is literally no evidence, but
whether there is any upon which a jury could properly proceed
to find a verdict for the party producing it upon whom the onus
of proof is imposed." Id. at 251, 106 S.Ct. at 2511 (quoting
Improvement Co. v. Munson, 14 Wall. 442, 448, 20 L.Ed. 867
(1872)); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322,
106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).
Plaintiff does not allege that the Defendants lacked
probable cause to arrest her husband. Rather, her complaint
alleges that the Defendants violated her husband's civil
rights by the specific manner in which they went about
affecting his arrest.
In her motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff argues that
the Supreme Court cases of Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 105
S.Ct. 1694, 85 L.Ed.2d 1 (1985) and Brower v. County of Inyo,
489 U.S. 593, 109 S.Ct. 1378, 103 L.Ed.2d 628 (1989) govern
this action and entitle her to judgment as a matter of law. In
their cross-motion for summary judgment Defendants also rely
upon Garner and Brower but argue that these cases fully justify
their use of deadly force.
In Garner Memphis police officers shot and killed a 15 year
old unarmed burglary suspect who had refused orders to halt and
was attempting to flee by climbing a fence. In using deadly
force, the police relied upon a Tennessee statute which
permitted law enforcement officers to use all reasonable force
necessary to apprehend fleeing felony suspects. Garner, 471
U.S. at 4, 105 S.Ct. at 1697.
The Supreme Court held that the use of deadly force to
apprehend a fleeing suspect constituted a seizure under the
Fourth Amendment and therefore had to be "reasonable."
Further, the Court held that it was unreasonable to use deadly
force to stop a fleeing suspect unless the police have
"probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of
serious physical harm, either to the officer or others. . . ."
Id. at 11, 105 S.Ct. at 1701.
In Brower the plaintiff's decedent died when he crashed a
stolen car into a police roadblock while fleeing from pursuing
officers. The plaintiff alleged that the police had placed a
semi-truck across both lanes of the highway, at night, and
around a sharp curve. Further, the police allegedly placed a
patrol car between the roadblock and approaching automobile
with its headlights on such that they blinded the oncoming
The district court dismissed the suit and the appellate
court affirmed on the basis that the police had not "seized"
plaintiff's decedent. The Supreme Court, relying upon
Garner, held that the police "seize" a person within the
meaning of the Fourth Amendment when the person is "stopped by
the very instrumentality set in motion or put in place in order
to achieve that result." Brower, 489 U.S. at 599, 109 S.Ct. at
1382. Thus, because the fleeing car thief was stopped by the
roadblock which had been put in place for that purpose, he was
seized within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.
The Court then stated, however, that it is not sufficient to
simply prove a seizure; the plaintiff also must establish that
the seizure was "unreasonable." Id. Therefore, the Court
vacated the dismissal and remanded for a determination of
whether the seizure was unreasonable. Id. at 599-600, 109 S.Ct.
at 1382-83. See also Lester
v. City of Chicago, 830 F.2d 706 (7th Cir. 1987).
In the case at bar, there is no question that the police
seized Ruhl by the use of deadly force. However, there is also
no question that, as a matter of law, that seizure was
reasonable. As recognized by Garner, the police are authorized
to use deadly force to apprehend a felon when they have
probable cause to believe that the felon poses a risk of
serious harm to the officers or others. The state police and
corrections officers did not use deadly force until Ruhl had
killed agent Bensyl and shot agent McLearin three times.
Clearly they had probable cause to believe that their lives
were in danger if they did not return Ruhl's fire.
What Plaintiff essentially is arguing is that the police
should have attempted to arrest Ruhl in some other manner
— one that would have posed less of a risk of gunplay. In her
response to Defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment
Plaintiff suggests the arrest could have occurred "outside the
prison gates, in the parking lot of the prison, or on the
street in a well-lit location."
Under Illinois law, when the police have probable cause to
arrest someone, that arrest can be made at any time and
anywhere within the jurisdiction of the state. Ill.Rev.Stat.
ch. 38, ¶ 107-5. Ruhl did not have a "right" to be arrested at
a specific time or location. The police exercised their
discretion in an attempt to minimize Ruhl's access to guns and
thus reduce the risk of danger to themselves.
In Terket v. Lund, 623 F.2d 29 (7th Cir. 1980), the circuit
court relied upon ¶ 107-5 to hold that Evanston city police did
not violate the plaintiff's civil rights by arresting him in
Chicago outside of their jurisdiction. The court held that the
officers' conduct was legally authorized and thus not a
violation of the plaintiff's civil rights. Id. at 30-31.
Similarly, the Defendants' in the case at bar were
authorized by Illinois law to choose the time and place of
Ruhl's arrest. Their conduct therefore did not violate his
civil rights. A contrary holding would create a cottage
industry wherein the federal courts would be called upon to
second guess police officers as to every discretionary
decision regarding time and place of arrest.
Ergo, Defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment (d/e 13)
is ALLOWED. Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (d/e 9) is
DENIED. The pending motions in limine (d/e 5, 10, 11) are
DENIED AS MOOT. Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended
complaint and add a defendant (d/e 16) is DENIED.
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