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THOMPSON v. CITY OF CHICAGO

May 27, 2004.

LEE THOMPSON, Individually and as Independent Administrator of the Estate of JAMES THOMPSON, Deceased, and PAULETTE WHITE-THOMPSON, Plaintiffs, V, CITY OF CHICAGO; OFFICER BRADLEY HESPE, Star No. 15218, in his Individual and Official Capacities; OFFICER ERIC REYES, Star No. 10126, in his Individual and Official Capacities; OFFICER BRENDAN DOUGHERTY, Star No. 5329, in his Individual and Official Capacities; OFFICER SHAWN RELLINGER, Star No. 7193, in his Individual and Official Capacities; OFFICER BRIAN CYGNAR, Star No. 11336, in his Individual and Official Capacities; OFFICER MICHAEL KOZENKO, Star No. 7577, in his Individual and Official Capacities; OFFICER ANTHONY BAUMAN, Star No. 7487, in his Individual and Official Capacities; OFFICER MARK GOLOSINSKI, Star No. 5432, in his Individual and Official Capacities; OFFICER JOSE CARDO, Star No. 11637, in his Individual and Official Capacities; OFFICER NICHOLAS SPANOS, Star No. 9467, in his Individual and Official Capacities; DETECTIVE RAYMOND KAMINSKI, Star No. 20822, in his Individual and Official Capacities; and DETECTIVE JOHN FITZSIMMONS, Star No. 5446, in his Individual and Official Capacities, Defendants


The opinion of the court was delivered by: AMY J. ST. EVE, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Lee and Paulette White-Thompson are the mother and widow of decedent James Thompson, respectively. Lee Thompson is the administrator of James Thompson's estate. Defendants are the City of Chicago and a number of its police officers and detectives. Plaintiffs filed a seven-count complaint asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Illinois state law in connection with the death of James Thompson. Defendants move for summary judgment on all counts of Plaintiffs' complaint.*fn1 For the reasons discussed below, Defendants* motion is granted in part.

LEGAL STANDARDS

  Summary judgment is proper when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R. Civ. P. 56(c). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing the lack of any genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp, v, Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552 (1986). A genuine issue of triable fact exists only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Pugh v. City of Attica, 259 F.3d 619, 625 (7th Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510 (1986)). A party will successfully oppose summary judgment only if it presents "definite, competent evidence to rebut the motion." Equal Opportunity Comm'n v. Roebuck & Co., 233 F.3d 432, 437 (7th Cir. 2000). The Court "considers the evidentiary record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor." Lesch v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 282 F.3d 467, 471 (7th Cir. 2002). BACKGROUND

 I. Pursuit of James Thompson

  James Thompson was an African-American male. In 2000, he was 6'1", weighed 322 pounds, and was 32 years old. (R. 69-1, Def.'s Statement of Facts, Ex. 14 p. 1.) On the evening of December 5, 2000, Officers Cardo and Spanos were patrolling the area north of Garfield Park in Chicago, Illinois. (R. 76-1, PL's Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 1.) Observing a building which had been the site of several narcotics-related arrests, Cardo and Spanos saw a person run from the building to James Thompson's car, and then back to the building. (Id, at ¶¶ 3-4.) Thompson pulled away, and Cardo and Spanos began to follow him. (Id. at ¶ 5.) After Thompson failed to stop at a stop sign, Cardo and Spanos initiated a traffic stop, causing Thompson to pull over. (Id. at ¶¶ 6-7.) As Cardo and Spanos began to approach Thompson's vehicle on foot, Thompson drove away. (Id. at ¶ 8.) In pursuit of Thompson's vehicle, Cardo and Spanos called for assistance from other officers. Officers Kozenko, Reyes, Golosinski, Hespe, Cygnar, Rellinger, Dougherty, and Bauman received the call for assistance and responded. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-17.) During the police pursuit, while attempting to turn right onto Kenton Avenue from Maypole Avenue, Thompson's vehicle skidded over the curb and into a viaduct retaining wall. (Id. at ¶¶ 28-29.)

 II. Apprehension of James Thompson

  After Thompson's car slammed into the retaining wall and officers began to approach the vehicle, Thompson exited the car flailing and swinging his arms at the approaching officers. (Id. at ¶ 32.) Thompson struck Officer Reyes in the shoulder, and the police officers considered Thompson an "assailant" because he was attacking them. (Id. at ¶¶ 33-34.) Officers Reyes and Dougherty struggled with Thompson, all three falling to the ground as Officers Cygnar, Rellinger, and Hespe reached the struggle. (Id. at ¶¶ 35-37.) On the ground, Thompson struggled as the officers attempted to handcuff Thompson's hands behind his back. (Id. at ¶¶ 38-39.) Officer Hespe knelt on the ground with his torso in contact with Thompson, and struggled to gain control of Thompson's arms. (Id. & 1 ¶ 42.) As Thompson struggled to get up, Officer Hespe was pushing down on Thompson's back to prevent him from raising up off of the ground. (Id. at ¶¶ 44-48.) During the struggle, Hespe ended up on top of Thompson's back, where Hespe then moved his right arm over Thompson's shoulder. (Id. at ¶ 49.) During the struggle, Officer Hespe placed his arm around Thompson's neck, with his arm making contact with the front portion of Thompson's neck. (Id. at ¶ 50.) Although none of the other officers claim to have seen Hespe apply pressure to Thompson's neck, there is an issue of fact as to (1) whether Hespe applied pressure, and (2) what the officers saw.*fn2 (Id. at ¶¶ 62-72.)

  Within 15 seconds of Thompson falling to the ground, Officers succeeded in handcuffing him using two sets of handcuffs. (Id. at ¶¶ 60, 73.) Thompson continued moving and struggling, and shortly after being handcuffed, said, "I cannot breathe." (Id. at ¶¶ 74-75.) In response, officers rolled Thompson to his side in order to aid his breathing and called for an ambulance. (Id. at ¶¶ 76, 79.) Thompson's complaints continued, and officers removed the handcuffs. (Id. at ¶ 77.) Seconds after officers removed Thompson's handcuffs, he passed out. (Id. at ¶ 78.)

 III. Thompson's Death

  Five minutes after being dispatched, an ambulance arrived on the scene. Upon the arrival of the ambulance, Thompson was not moving. (Id. at ¶¶ 80-81.) Paramedics examined Thompson, found a large amount of blood in his airway, and at least one paramedic determined that he was dead. (R. 81-1, Def.'s Resp. to PL's Statement of Additional Facts, ¶¶ 35-38.) Police officers had not rendered first aid to Thompson. (Id. at ¶ 39.)

 IV. Detective Involvement

  After inspecting the scene of Thompson's wreck,*fn3 police detectives Kaminski and Fitzsimmons went to Mt. Sinai Hospital, where the ambulance had taken Thompson. At the hospital, Detective Kaminski told Paulette White-Thompson, the decedent's wife, that the medical examiner would determine the cause of death. Paulette White-Thompson also testified that one of the detectives told her that Mr. Thompson simply got out of his car after the wreck, clutched his chest, fell face first, and collapsed. 4 (R. 81-1, Def.'s Resp. to PL's Statement of Additional Facts, ¶ 9.) Fitzsimmons returned to the Area *fn4 detective division offices, where he interviewed all ten police officers who had been at the scene. (R. 76-1, Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Facts ¶¶ 88, 91.) Kaminski remained at the hospital and returned to Area 4 later to begin gathering the reports of the police officers. (Id. at ¶¶ 89, 92.) Kaminski and Fitzsimmons began typing the Case Supplementary Report, but Kaminski went on furlough before detectives finished the report on December 14, 2000. (Id. at ¶¶ 94-96.) Kaminski had no further involvement in the investigation. (Id. at ¶ 99.)

 V. Autopsy and Medical Examiner's Report

  The medical examiner, Dr. Barry Lifshultz, performed an autopsy on Thompson's body on December 6, 2000. Dr. Lifshultz could not determine the cause of death from the autopsy alone, but he reviewed the detectives' report of the incident as well. (R. 76-1, Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 106.) Based on his examination of the decedent's body and his review of the incident report, Dr. Lifshultz concluded that "James Thompson died as a result of asphyxia due to a choke hold," and that "[h]ypertensive cardiovascular disease and opiate intoxication contributed to death." (R. 69-1, Def.'s Statement of Facts, Ex. 14 p. 5.) Thompson suffered from severe hypertension and heart disease, his heart being three times the size of a normal person of Thompson's height. (R. 76-1, Pl.'s ...


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