Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

PYKA v. VILLAGE OF ORLAND PARK

November 8, 1995

PAMELA and RICHARD PYKA, individually and as administrators of the Estate of CHRISTIAN PYKA, deceased, and DANIELLE PYKA, individually, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE VILLAGE OF ORLAND PARK, and CHIEF CHARLES RABIDEAU, POLICE OFFICERS TIMOTHY McCARTHY, MICHAEL LOEWE, PATRICK DUGGAN, JEFFREY CAVENDER, SGT. CHARLES DOLL and SGT. KENNETH SLEWOSKI, individually and in their official capacities, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CASTILLO

 I. BACKGROUND

 
A. The Evidence
 
1. Autobiographical Information
 
2. The Accident
 
(a) Lyle Healy's Version
 
(b) Officer McCarthy's Version
 
(c) Officer Loewe's Version
 
(d) Officer Duggan's Version
 
3. Events In The Lock-Up
 
(a) Lyle Healy's Version
 
(b) Officer McCarthy's Version
 
(c) Officer Loewe's Version
 
4. Events In The Cell Block
 
(a) Officer McCarthy's Version
 
(b) Officer Loewe's Version
 
(c) Telecommunications Officers' Versions
 
(i) Officer Bill Gaides
 
(ii) Patricia Kowalski
 
5. Eyewitness Testimony
 
(a) Officer Piatanesi's Report
 
(b) Detainee Padin's Statement
 
(c) Officer Hartsock's Testimony
 
(d) Sgt. Doll's Testimony
 
(e) Paramedic's Testimony
 
6. Expert Testimony
 
7. Autopsy Report
 
8. The Videotape
 
(a) Booking Process & Field Sobriety Tests
 
(b) The Take-Down
 
(c) Post-Take-Down Occurrences
 
(d) Events At Time of Pyka's Death

 II. DISCUSSION

 
A. Summary Judgment Standards
 
B. Analysis
 
1. Count I: Excessive Force
 
(a) Qualified Immunity
 
(i) Scope of Discretionary Authority
 
(ii) Constitutional Violation
 
(iii) Clearly Established Law
 
(b) A Split of Authority
 
(i) The Circuit Court Decisions
 
(ii) The District Court Decisions
 
(iii) The Suicide Cases
 
(iv) Seventh Circuit Law
 
(c) The Merits
 
(i) Officer McCarthy
 
(ii) Officer Loewe
 
2. Count II: Refusal of Bail
 
3. Count III: Punishment
 
4. Count IV: Failure To Provide Medical Care
 
5. Count V: Municipal Liability
 
6. Proximate Cause
 
7. Motion for Judgment on The Pleadings

 III. CONCLUSION

 MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

 On November 8, 1991, four years ago today, Christian Pyka ("Pyka"), an eighteen-year old youth in police custody, committed suicide by hanging himself from the bars of his cell with his t-shirt. Pyka's parents, the representatives of his estate, and his sister Danielle (collectively the "plaintiffs"), have brought this tragic civil rights case *fn1" pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 1983 and 1988, against the Village of Orland Park (the "Village") and various police officers *fn2" (collectively the "defendants"), in their individual and official capacities, who were involved in the events of that night. *fn3"

 Pyka's death leaves many questions unanswered--answers that unfortunately only Pyka, himself, could have provided. Thus, most of these questions are destined to remain unanswered no matter how this lawsuit is ultimately resolved. The only clues to Pyka's mysterious death are the statements of the police personnel on duty, Pyka's friend, Lyle Healy, and Joseph A. Padin, a detainee housed in the cell next to Pyka's on the night Pyka died. There is also a videotape of the events that occurred at the station before Pyka was taken to his cell. *fn4"

 This evidence is highly circumstantial, largely disputed and, for the most part, inconclusive. Competing inferences can therefore be drawn from the material facts. To the extent that the facts are undisputed, reference to the Rule 12(M) and (N)(3)(b) Statements will be made.

 A. The Evidence5

 The parties present strikingly different versions of the events that occurred on the night of November 8, 1991, in their depositions and in the other exhibits submitted to the court. This evidence is summarized below. We begin with some autobiographical data.

 1. Autobiographical Information

 On November 8, 1991, Officer Timothy McCarthy, a former staff sergeant in the U.S. Army from 1967-1970 and a Vietnam Veteran with several commendations, worked in the Orland Park Police Department's traffic division as an accident reconstructionist. McCarthy Dep. at 5-6. At the time of the accident, Officer McCarthy was approximately six foot two inches tall, about 210-215 pounds and testified that he was in fairly good shape. Id. at 7. He also had completed several years of college and graduated from the police academy. Id. at 6.

 Conversely, on the night he died, Christian Pyka was 18 years old, about five foot five and approximately 117 pounds. Teas' Autopsy Report, Pls.' Ex. D; McCarthy Dep. at 7 (putting Pyka at about 140-150 pounds). Pyka also had been taking classes at Moraine Valley Community College and "talking about getting more serious and going full time that evening . . . ." Healy Dep. at 10. Pyka, the son of divorced parents, Pamela and Richard Pyka, had one sister, Danielle, and was well-liked by his friends. P. Pyka's Dep. at 39-40. There is no evidence by anyone who knew Pyka that he had ever mentioned the desire to commit suicide; nor is there evidence that he had been troubled before his death. Healy Dep. at 9-10; P. Pyka Dep. at 41-42.

 Lyle Healy, one of Pyka's closest friends, was with Pyka on the night he died. Healy was several years older than Pyka, Healy Dep. at 7, and when asked to describe the basis for the friendship, stated: "we were close. . . . Probably hung around almost on a daily basis as kind of like--not necessarily a big brother, little brother thing, but it was kind of like I watched out for him a little bit." Id.

 2. The Accident

 (a) Lyle Healy's Version

 Lyle Healy was with Pyka on the night he died, riding as a passenger in the Chevy Blazer Pyka was driving. Id. at 21. Healy testified that it was a cold and icy night. Id. at 18. As they were driving to a friend's house, they hit a large patch of ice and began sliding toward the intersection. Healy Dep. Exh. 1 at 1. When the Blazer hit a thawed-out area in the street, the car slid to the other side of the street, hit the curb and tipped the Blazer onto its passenger side. Id. Healy testified that Pyka had his seat belt on, and when he released the belt to free himself from his seat, he fell onto Healy. Id. The two then exited the Blazer through the driver side door. Id. After the car turned on its side, Healy checked Pyka for injuries and "found absolutely no cuts, abrasions or bruises on Chris, whatsoever, . . ." Id. at 2.

 While Healy and Pyka were checking each other for injuries, two of their friends, Tom Hum and Oscar Thorson, drove up in Thorson's car. In a statement prepared the day after the accident, Healy describes the rest of the scene as follows:

 
After we explained what happened, Oscar, Tom and I attempted to tip the Blazer back over. Because of the weight of the vehicle and the ice under our feet, we were unable to move the vehicle much. As we stood there talking about what we were going to do after we took care of everything with the Blazer, Officer Duggan pulled up. Officer Duggan asked who was involved in the incident and Chris and I informed him that we were the only two. Officer Duggan then told Oscar and Tom to get in their car and leave. As that was happening, all the other squads started pulling up along with an ambulance, tow truck and fire engine. A couple officers asked if we were the ones involved in the accident. When we said that we were, they called the paramedics over. The paramedics asked us to come in the ambulance with them to fill out waivers. As we were about to follow them, one of the officers asked who was driving, Chris said he was. The officer then grabbed Chris by the arm and took him into the group of officers by their squads. I went into the ambulance and filled out my waiver for medical attention. When I got out of the ambulance an officer told me to follow him for questioning. As I was following him I saw that Chris was up against a squad car, getting arrested. When I asked why he was getting arrested, Officer McCarthy said, "I'll think of something." The one officer then proceeded to lead me to Officer Loewe's squad and put me in the back seat. After several officers questioned me through the open window, they told me that they were taking Chris to the station and, after taking care of a few more things, they were taking me there too. I asked if I was getting arrested and they said "no." Officer Loewe then got into the squad and left for the station. On the way to the station, Officer Loewe asked me many questions and informed me of his blatant dislike of Palos Heights kids that they were spoiled punks, who's parents always got them out of everything. He also asked if we had been drinking. I told him that I didn't think Chris had anything to drink, but I had a few shots of Whiskey before Chris got to my house.

 Id. at 3. At the time of the accident, Healy believes that Pyka was wearing jeans, a sweater and a jacket. Healy Dep. at 19.

 (b) Officer McCarthy's Version

 At about 9:00 p.m., on November 8, 1991, Orland Park Police Officer Timothy McCarthy arrived at the scene. 12(M) P II.A.4. Officer Duggan approached Officer McCarthy and advised him that the Blazer had crashed; there were two subjects inside the vehicle who were out of the vehicle; and the driver had been Christian Pyka. McCarthy Dep. at 22. McCarthy then approached Pyka, who was leaning against the back of a squad car. Id. Pyka immediately volunteered that he was the driver. Id. In McCarthy's words, "when Pyka was identified as the driver . . . there was a separation. I took Pyka away from Healy." McCarthy Dep. at 23.

 Officer McCarthy then "took control of the accident." 12(M) P I-A (1-4); McCarthy Dep. at 13. McCarthy checked Pyka for injuries at the scene and found that Pyka had no apparent bruises on his body, facial or otherwise. 12(N)(3)(b) P I-A (1). But see McCarthy Dep. at 91 (where he subsequently remembered seeing an abrasion on his forehead that he attributed to the accident). McCarthy then began to interview Pyka, who he observed was "suffering from the influence, . . . of alcohol or some substance." Id. at 25. McCarthy claims that a confrontation with Pyka began when McCarthy asked Pyka for his drivers' license. Id. at 35-36. When Pyka refused to give McCarthy the license or his name, McCarthy Dep. at 35, and began to talk loudly and say obscene things, McCarthy Dep. at 27-34, McCarthy placed Pyka in handcuffs and put him in the back of his squad car. Id.; 12(M) P II.A.8. McCarthy decided to arrest Pyka because he believed that Pyka had been driving while intoxicated. Id. at 26-27; 12(M) P II.A.7. McCarthy also stated: "in my opinion he [Pyka] understood completely what was going on. . . he knew exactly what I was asking him." Id. at 34-35.

 Following the investigation at the rollover scene, Healy and Pyka were transported to the Orland Park Police Department, 12(M) P I-A (5), in separate cars. Loewe Dep. at 18; McCarthy Dep. at 23, 36. Pyka was with McCarthy, and Healy was with Loewe. Id. McCarthy testified that it took approximately 5 minutes to drive Pyka from the scene of the accident to the police station. McCarthy Dep. at 29; 12(M) P II.A.12.

 (c) Officer Loewe's Version

 (d) Officer Duggan's Version

 Officer Duggan recalls that he arrived at the scene of the accident first, 12(M) P II.A.4, identified Christian Pyka as the driver and then conducted a preliminary investigation into the accident, finding no serious injuries. Id. When Officer McCarthy arrived, he advised him that the Blazer had crashed; there were two subjects inside the vehicle who were now out of the vehicle; and the driver had been the subject who was later identified as Christian Pyka. Duggan Dep. at 24; McCarthy Dep. at 22. Duggan then transferred the investigation to McCarthy. Duggan Dep. at 22. Although Officer McCarthy testified that Pyka was leaning against the back of Duggan's squad car when he arrived, Officer Duggan recalls that when Officer McCarthy arrived, he went to the rear of Duggan's squad car, opened the door and removed Pyka from the back seat. Duggan Dep. at 24. McCarthy then conducted a pat down of Pyka at Duggan's squad and cuffed him at that time to be placed in McCarthy's vehicle. Id. Duggan also remembers that Officer Loewe found some alcohol in the Blazer, Duggan Dep. at 20-21, and that he did not see Pyka resisting arrest. Duggan Dep. at 24-25.

 3. Events In The Lock-Up

 (a) Lyle Healy's Version

 In a written statement, made on November 9, 1991, Lyle Healy testified that he observed the following events as he entered the lock-up the previous night.

 
When we got to the station, Officer Loewe and I walked through the parking garage and into the booking area. Officer McCarthy and Chris were already in the booking area alone. Officer McCarthy was having Chris walk a straight yellow line, that was placed directly parallel to a bench along the south wall, where Officer Loewe told me to sit. As I was watching, Chris walked the line twice with no error. Even Officer McCarthy said that Chris did well. The next test he was given was to hold one of his feet up and balance while counting to thirty aloud. Once again he did this perfectly. The two officers then told Chris to sit next to me on the bench because they had to wait a certain time limit to submit a breathalizer test. The whole time that we sat there and waited, Chris kept saying that we've got to hurry up and get out of there so that we could meet up with everyone and find out what they're doing. After the time limit had elapsed, the officers had Chris take the breathalizer test. When they came back with the results, Officer McCarthy told Chris that he had failed and blown a .11. At this point, he also informed Chris that he was arresting him for D.U.I. Chris then asked to make a phone call, when Chris got up and started dialing the phone, which was located on the large desk in the middle of the booking area, he and Officer Loewe started arguing and Chris gave him the middle finger. Then Officer Loewe threatened to break his finger off, so Chris did it again. When this happened, Officer McCarthy stood up right next to Chris and it looked like he was going to either grab Chris or take the phone away. So Chris took a step back and held the phone up away from the officer and yelled "Leave me alone, I'm talking to my mom!" so Officer McCarthy grabbed him and they started to struggle. As McCarthy put him in a chokehold, Officer Loewe grabbed the phone out of his hand and hung it up saying "Great! His mom was on the phone, now she probably thinks we're killing the kid." McCarthy held Chris in the chokehold for a while, then pulled him over to the south wall in front of me and knelt him down, put his knee in the small of his back and held him there while Officer Loewe handcuffed him. They then exchanged words with him before standing him up and bringing him into the holding area. When they got into the cell I heard loud yelling and screaming back and forth. I recognized McCarthy's voice as saying "Don't fuck with me, just don't Fuck with!' I then heard a number of slapping sounds and Chris yelling, "come on cop, hit me again!" One of the officers came out and got another pair of handcuffs and brought them into the cell. Two more officers then came into the booking area as Officer McCarthy and Officer Loewe came out of the holding area. One of the two new officers went into the holding area for a short time and I heard the crunching of handcuffs. When he came out he said that he had given Chris one last good tightening. When McCarthy and Loewe came out, McCarthy came straight over to me sitting on the bench and got in my face and said that Chris was his own worst enemy and he's lucky that they don't kill him. The four officers then stood around for a while before McCarthy came back over to me and told me he was giving me a ticket but not to worry about it and that I could leave. I asked him about bailing Chris out and he said to bring his license and $ 100 or no license and $ 300.00. At that time Chris yelled for me to call his mom and yelled her work number. I wasn't able to hear the number so I asked Officer Loewe if I could go back there and ask Chris what it was. Officer Loewe said no and made up a phone number and told me I had to leave. As I was leaving Chris was yelling back and forth with another prisoner in the holding area. I went outside to find Oscar and Tom waiting for me.

 In his deposition, taken nearly three years later, Healy testified that he observed substantially the same everts when he arrived at the police station on the night of Pyka's death. When asked to describe the chokehold, Healy stated: "[McCarthy] came up, spun him around, and put his arm around his neck. . . he was holding him a round--like one arm in front of his neck and one arm behind his neck like choking around his neck." Id. at 28-29. According to Healy, McCarthy and Loewe then "got him to the ground, they handcuffed him, they picked him up, they both kind of carried him over [to the cell area]. . . . I know it didn't seem like he was all that willing to go there, but he wasn't fighting or anything like that. He was pretty much subdued." Id. at 31. Healy then saw McCarthy and Loewe take Pyka into the cell area, id., and Pyka said, "Lyle, call my mom" and "shouted the number" to him. Id. at 37. Healy then heard one of the officers say "you are not getting out of here tonight, kid." Id. Healy also said he heard (but could not see) "voices and slapping noises." Id. at 33. For instance, Healy recalls that McCarthy said, "don't fuck with me, you don't know what you got yourself into," and Pyka replied, "hit me again, cop, come on and hit me again." Id. at 32. According to Healy, McCarthy then "came out--enraged came out and ran up to me, got in my face, and said your friend is his own worst enemy and he is lucky we don't kill him." Id. at 61.

 (b) Officer McCarthy's Version

 Officer McCarthy's version of the events of November 8, 1991, is as follows. McCarthy testified that when he arrived at the station with Pyka, he removed the handcuffs from Pyka's back, had him sit on a bench, and then cuffed one hand to the bench and began the paperwork necessary to process Pyka's arrest. McCarthy Dep. at 48. McCarthy then prepared a "probable cause to arrest" report. In the report, McCarthy indicated that Pyka was intoxicated, uncooperative, combative and abusive at the scene. 12(N)(3)(b) P I-A (6). McCarthy then began to administer field sobriety tests. 12(M) P II.A.14. McCarthy Dep. at 13. McCarthy testified that Pyka was joking around and not taking the tests seriously, id. at 56, so he sat Pyka down. Id. McCarthy reported that Pyka failed the tests because he did not follow the instructions McCarthy gave him. 12(M) PP II.A.13-14; 12(N)(3)(b) P I.B.1. Id. at 59. The breathalyzer test was then given to Pyka, which he also failed. 12(N)(3)(b) P I.B.1.

 (c) Officer Loewe's Version

 Officer Loewe also testified that he did not believe that the handcuffs were put back on to Pyka's wrists too tightly. Loewe Dep. at 80. Loewe's version of the lock-up events, however, does not match Officer McCarthy's in all respects. For instance, Officer Loewe testified that he gave McCarthy the evidence (alcohol) he found in the Blazer. Loewe Dep. at 26. Loewe also recalls seeing Pyka perform the field sobriety tests and observed Pyka fall off the line several times, while he "exaggerat[ed] his walk with a high step." Id. at 33. Loewe also testified that Pyka was "screaming and yelling" during the heel to toe test and as he sat on the bench, id. at 35, 38, and that Pyka gave McCarthy the finger while he was sitting on the bench. Id. at 41.

 When Pyka finished the breathalyzer, Loewe remembers that Pyka asked to make a phone call and to bond out. Id. at 38. McCarthy then told Pyka that he would need $ 300 to bond out and could call someone to bring some money to the station. Id. When Pyka approached the table to use the phone, he swore at McCarthy and dialed a number. Id. at 40. According to Loewe, Pyka "was yelling and screaming at McCarthy. He was yelling and screaming at the person on the phone. He was taking the phone from his ear back and forth to McCarthy yelling on the phone." Id. Loewe recalls that McCarthy advised Pyka "a couple times" to "Keep [his] mouth down." Id. Pyka, however, continued to yell, scream and "wave the phone around." Id. at 41. Loewe later clarified that "waving the phone around" meant that Pyka was taking the receiver from his mouth to talk to McCarthy and then placing it near his mouth to talk to the person on the other end of the phone. Id. at 42.

  When Pyka did not respond to McCarthy's direction to stop screaming, McCarthy stood up, said "Okay, that's enough. Give me the phone." Id. at 44. McCarthy then walked to Pyka, who said "I'm not through yet." Id. McCarthy then grabbed for the phone. Id. Pyka "pulled the phone back up . . . in a motion, it looked, to strike Timmy with the phone. It looked like he came forward." Id. According to Loewe, McCarthy then put both of his arms around Pyka to restrain him, and Loewe and McCarthy both grabbed Pyka's arm that held the phone. Id. at 47. Loewe then put the phone back on the hook. Id. Loewe remembers that Pyka was only in a restrained position for "seconds." Id. McCarthy then put Pyka on the floor and they cuffed him. According to Loewe, Pyka was resisting getting placed into handcuffs and never stopped moving around. Id. at 49-50. He and McCarthy then escorted Pyka to his cell, where there was a "houseful of prisoners." Id.

  4. Events In The Cell Block

  (a) Officer McCarthy's Version


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.