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Williams v. City of Champaign

February 15, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Bernthal U.S. Magistrate Judge


In August 2004, Plaintiffs Debra Williams, Herman Williams, and Herman Rashad Williams filed a Complaint at Law (#1) against Defendants City of Champaign, Dennis Baltzell, Gary Leibach, Russell Beck, Rodney Mitchell, Michael Aschenbrenner, Richard Wilberg, David Shaffer, and Tod Myers, alleging violations of federal and state law. In December 2005, Plaintiff filed an Amendment to Complaint at Law (#27) adding Defendants Scott Carter, Chuck Carter, and Mydatt Services, Inc., and alleging federal and state law claims as to those Defendants. Federal jurisdiction is based on federal question pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The parties have consented to the exercise of jurisdiction by a United States Magistrate Judge.

In October 2006, Defendants City of Champaign, Baltzell, Leibach, Beck, Mitchell, Aschenbrenner, Wilberg, Shaffer, and Myers filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (#54). After reviewing the parties' pleadings and memoranda and the evidence presented, this Court GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (#54).

I. Standard

Summary judgment is granted "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."

FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must decide, based on admissible evidence, whether any material dispute of fact exists that requires a trial. Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, 920 (7th Cir. 1994). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of showing that no such issue of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

The Court must draw all inferences in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). However, the nonmoving party may not rest upon mere allegations in the pleadings or upon conclusory statements in affidavits; rather, he must go beyond the pleadings and support his contentions with proper documentary evidence. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. A scintilla of evidence in support of the non-movant's position is not sufficient to oppose successfully a summary judgment motion; "there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant]." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). The plain language of Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment against a party who fails to establish the existence of any element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Id. "In such a situation there can be 'no genuine issue as to any material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id.

II. Background

Plaintiffs Debra and Herman Williams are the parents of Plaintiff Herman Rashad Williams (hereinafter "Rashad"). Debra, Herman, and Rashad are African-American. Debra and Herman have filed individually and on behalf of Rashad. At relevant times, Defendants Baltzell, Leibach, Beck, Mitchell, Aschenbrenner, Wilberg, Shaffer, and Myers worked as police officers for the City of Champaign police department. Defendants Chuck Carter and Scott Carter worked as security guards for Mydatt Services and were working at Marketplace Mall on January 18, 2004.

A. Factual Background

The task of determining what proposed facts are disputed has been particularly time-consuming in this case because Plaintiff's "responses" to Defendants' proposed undisputed facts were often not responsive. For example, Defendants' Paragraph 33 states as follows:

Debra was told to walk out of the van backwards with her hands up. (pp. 23-4, Ex. K) Rather than walk backwards, however, Debra started walking forward because she was confused. (p. 24, Ex. K) Debra was escorted to the back of a police car. (p. 24, Ex. K). (#54, p. 9.) Plaintiffs assert that this is a disputed fact, stating as follows:

There were a lot of officers talking to Debra when she got out of the van. They were telling her to get out slowly, hands up, don't move. Debra didn't know what they were saying. EXH. C p. 23. Debra was escorted by one of the police officers to a police car and told to get in. EXH. C p. 24. (#63, p. 11.) As another example, Defendants' Paragraph 75 states as follows:

Herman does not know the names of any of the officers who had their guns drawn besides Sgt. Shaffer. (p. 12, Ex. J) The officers had guns out during "the time it took them to get all the passengers out of the vehicle" and handcuffed. (pp. 16-7, Ex. J) (#54, p. 14.) Plaintiffs assert that this is a disputed fact, stating as follows:

Herman observed about 5 or 6 officers with their guns drawn. The officers never told him exactly why they stopped the Williams' van despite him asking several times. Herman Williams Dep 11. (#63, pp. 15-16.) Neither of the responses quoted above cites a single fact that contradicts the statements in Defendants' Paragraphs 33 or 75. Many of Plaintiffs' "responses" to Defendants' proposed undisputed facts are similarly unresponsive, essentially presenting argument instead of presenting facts that contradict Defendants' statements.

Plaintiffs have also at times seriously mischaracterized the evidence. For example, in Paragraph 141, Plaintiffs state as follows:

The description of the suspect made available prior to the police stop was 'black male, late twenties, early thirties, that this perpetrator had grabbed five dollars from these two juveniles and scared them into giving him money, and that they, Marketplace, had been having problems with this individual panhandling before.'

EXH. I p. 14. (#63, p. 27 (emphasis added); also p. 32, ¶ 41.) The Court has reviewed the relevant portion of Plaintiffs' Exhibit I (Defendant Leibach's deposition) at page 14. During that deposition, counsel asked Leibach whether "the information which was made available at least to METCAD prior to the stop of the vehicle included a description of the perpetrator as being a black male late twenties, early thirties, that this perpetrator had grabbed five dollars from these two juveniles and scared them into giving him money, and that they, Marketplace, had been having problems with this individual panhandling before . . . ." (Leibach dep., p. 14 (emphasis added).) Leibach expressly testified that he did not recall receiving that detailed description of the suspect prior to making the traffic stop. (Leibach dep., p. 12.) He recalled only knowing that the suspect was a black male. Plaintiffs' characterization of this information as an undisputed material fact thus mischaracterizes the evidence regarding a significant issue in the case.

A proposed fact is not in dispute simply because a plaintiff lists that fact as "disputed." It is certainly not disputed when supported only by evidence that has been mischaracterized. Here, the Court has carefully reviewed the evidence, including both parties' references to particular testimony. Where the Court has determined from its review that Plaintiffs have raised a genuine issue as to proposed facts, the Court has construed the facts and drawn all inferences in Plaintiffs' favor. The Court has gathered the following facts from the evidence presented by the parties.

1. The Mall Incident

On January 18, 2004, Plaintiffs Debra, Rashad, and Anthony Thomas went to Marketplace Mall in Champaign, Illinois. On that date, Rashad was fifteen years old and approximately six feet tall. Anthony Thomas, Rashad's cousin, was fifteen years old, African-American, approximately five feet four inches tall, and had no facial hair. They left the mall at about 5:15 to 5:30 p.m. in Debra's black van which bore a license plate number of RASHAD8. Debra drove first to her mother's home where she visited briefly. Then she drove to her home.

On January 18, 2004, at about 5:41 p.m., Defendant Chuck Carter called METCAD and talked to Brian Peddycourt, who was working as a call taker at that time. Carter told Peddycourt that he had "just had a report of a fellow panhandling out here and then, uh, another officer just called me and the same guy robbed two people in the mall." (Peddycourt dep., p. 3.) Carter told Peddycourt that the perpetrator was seen leaving in a van with license plate RASHAD8. (Peddycourt dep., pp. 4-5.) Defendant Scott Carter also called METCAD and reported that a couple of girls said that "this guy has been asking them for money. And I -- we've had -- we've run him out of here before." (Peddycourt dep., p. 7.) Scott Carter also reported the that the vehicle in question was a dark-colored newer minivan with a license plate RASHAD8 and that a black woman was in the minivan. (Peddycourt dep., p. 7.) Scott described the panhandler as a black male, probably late 20s, early 30s, fairly tall, about six feet one inch, thin build, wearing a long black coat and a black hat. (Peddycourt dep., p. 8.) Scott told Peddycourt that no weapons were involved and the panhandler scared the victims into giving him the money. (Peddycourt dep., p. 9.) The victims were who reported this information to the security guards were twelve and fourteen years old. (Peddycourt dep., p. 9.) The entire conversation between the security guards and Peddycourt was replayed during Mr. Peddycourt's deposition and is part of that deposition.

2. The Report to METCAD and the Incident History Detail

Mr. Peddycourt testified that he was acting as call taker on January 18, 2004. As part of that job, he answers phone calls and enters data from those calls at a console. As call taker, Mr. Peddycourt does not record every word of the information he receives. It is his job to find out the nature of the event at issue and enter the information into the terminal so that it is available to law enforcement agencies. (Peddycourt dep., pp. 47, 22.) The data that he enters into the computer is disseminated via the METCAD system and is available to be retrieved by dispatchers at various police agencies who then can broadcast relevant information to police officers. Police officers have no direct contact with the call taker. (Peddycourt dep., p. 23.)

Police officers may be able to access the text entered by the call taker that is available to the dispatchers via mobile data terminals but it requires some effort and is not automatic. (Peddycourt dep., p. 25.)

Between 17:42:20 and 17:47:36 (the times are computer-generated at the time the person entering the data hits the "enter" key), Mr. Peddycourt entered the following information:

17:42:20 Text: JO, susp left in a unk van lic/RASHAD8 left sb on Market \Comp: Chuck Carter-MPM sec. 17:42:20 MP Shopic today at 16:01:26 (98 more) 17:42:31 Text: RP is getting all infor from another sec ofcr spking w/vict 17:43:28 Location: 2001 Kankakee Dr (NE Sec) \ Phone: 217/511-3177 Comp: VZW call 17:43:28 Text: Have sec ofcr spking w/vict on tx now. Occ 10 ago. 17:43:46 Text: Sus veh drk colored newer mod mini van 17:44:37 Text: Susp was trying to get money from people, asked the 2 victs to help him push his van into a spot, they did and he grabbed $5 from them. 17:45:24 Text: Susp BM, Late 20's early 30's, thin/tall, lsw/long blk coat, blk hat. Also a hvy set bf in the van. RP says they have been having prob's w/him panhan out here 17:45:47 Text: Sec is if of Man Alive in Bergners Wing 17:46:53 Text: Susp scared vict into giving him the $$$. Vict are 12 and 14 YO 17:47:36 Comp: Chuck Carter-MPM sec --> Scott Carter Phone: -->493-5933 17:47:36 Comp: Scott Carter \Ph: 493-5933, No further information (#64-7, p. 24.) This information was available to the dispatcher. Based on this information, a dispatcher radioed information to police officers, leading to the stop of Debra's minivan.

When a call taker enters data, an Incident History Detail is initiated with specific times listed for certain actions. The computer generates the time record when the person entering the information hits enter at the terminal. (Peddycourt dep., pp. 46, 56.) The Incident History Detail for the Mall incident shows that Mr. Peddycourt entered his first report at 17:42:20, listed the incident type as "Robber Robbery," and assigned it a Priority 1 which indicates that it just occurred or that it is a serious incident or both. (Peddycourt dep., pp. 46-47.) Besides showing what information Mr. Peddycourt entered at the console, the Incident History Detail indicates the times at which a dispatcher communicated with police officers. (Peddycourt dep., pp. 23-24.) It may show some of the content or purpose of the transmissions but it does not indicate the precise content of those transmissions. (Peddycourt dep., pp. 55, 23-24.) For example, at 17:46:55, the Incident History Detail indicates that an officer (Defendant Leibach, indicated by his number 726) radioed the dispatcher that he was at East Washington Street and North Ash Street with the suspect vehicle. (Peddycourt dep., p. 55; Incident History Detail for 17:46:55.)Plaintiffs have not suggested that the Incident History Detail is an inaccurate reflection of the chronology of events.

The Incident History Detail provides the following information. Mr. Peddycourt entered the first record at 17:42:20. The dispatcher put an officer (Defendant Baltzell, badge number 712) on the ticket at 17:42:26. (Peddycourt dep., pp. 21-22.) During the next few minutes, a number of other officers reported to dispatch. At 17:43:26, the dispatcher reported an ID from Defendants Beck and Smith and Officer Schaffe Smith. At 17:43:56, the dispatcher transmitted information regarding the license plate number RASHAD8, Debra Williams' name and address, and a description of the vehicle. At 17:46:55, Defendant Leibach reported that he was at East Washington Street and North Ash Street with the suspect vehicle. At 17:47:02, Defendant Shaffer (903) reported that he was at East Washington Street and North Ash Street. At 17:48:27, Defendant Myers (905) reported that he was at Washington and Ash and that three subjects had been detained.

At 17:54:48, the dispatcher reported that Officer Baltzell (712) was with a victim at the Mall. At 17:56:21, the dispatcher reported that Officer Mitchell (717) was at the Mall. At 18:07:39, the dispatcher reported that Baltzell (712) was en route to East Washington and North Ash Streets with the victim for a showup. (Baltzell dep., p. 58.) At 18:07:51, the dispatcher reported that Mitchell was en route to East Washington and North Ash Streets with a victim for the showup. At 18:13:18, the dispatcher reported a communication from Mitchell that the showup was negative.

At 18:14:19 and 18:15:04, the dispatcher reported that Baltzell and Mitchell had left the scene to take the victims to the police station for interviews and to wait for their parents.

(Mitchell dep., pp. 15-17.) At 18:16:39, 18:21:27, 18:21:43, and 18:27:56, the dispatcher reported that Wilberg (799), Shaffer (903), Leibach (726), and Myers (905), respectively, had left the scene and were back in service. (See Baltzell dep., pp. 58-59, explaining procedure regarding officers calling in when they have left the scene.) At 18:28:05, the dispatcher reported that Smith (782) had left the scene and was back in service; Beck was with him. At 18:38:16 and 18:48:33, the dispatcher reported that Baltzell (712) and Mitchell (717) were back in service. At 18:48:33, the dispatcher closed the incident history.

3. The Stop

Defendant Leibach testified that he was the first officer to arrive at the Williams' home. He testified that he remembered the dispatcher transmitting information regarding "a robbery call, and the suspect reportedly left in a dark colored minivan with a license Rashad 8 . . . ." (Leibach dep., p. 10.) Leibach specifically recalled the dispatcher using the word "robbery," and stating that the suspect was a black male and the license plate returned to 505 North Ash. (Leibach dep., pp. 10-13, see also Baltzell dep., pp. 28-29.) He acknowledged that the Incident History Detail showed that the call taker provided additional information to METCAD, but he did not recall the dispatcher transmitting any other details. He stopped Debra's van at about 17:46.

4. Debra

Around this time, several other officers arrived at the scene. Debra leaned her head out of the minivan and asked what was going on. Officer Leibach and several other responding officers drew their weapons and Leibach ordered Debra to get out of the van. Debra stuck her head out of the van window and yelled, "What is going on?" (Debra dep., p. 21.) Leibach ordered her to put her head inside the van or he would shoot her. Leibach then escorted her to a police car. (Debra dep., p.24.) During this time, several officers had their guns drawn and pointed at Debra. An officer ordered her to get out of the van, put her hands up, and walk backward to a police car. (Debra dep., pp. 23-24.) Debra walked forward because she was confused. (Debra dep., p. 24.) She repeatedly asked what was going on. (Debra dep., pp. 24-25.)

Debra testified that she felt very upset, scared, and traumatized as she walked from the van to the police car. Rashad testified that Debra started to cry when she got out of the van and saw all the guns. (Rashad dep., p. 41.) When she got into the police car, she told Officer Liebach that she was having trouble breathing and asked him not to close the door. (Debra dep., p. 25.) He told her he would open the window but she had to get in. (Debra dep., pp. 25, 101.) The officer then asked her some questions about who was in the van. (Debra dep., p. 101; Leibach dep., pp. 28-29.) While Debra was in the police car, she made three cell phone calls, to her sister Cora and her brothers Craig and Al. (Debra dep., p. 64). She also talked to her husband, who was standing on the sidewalk (Debra dep., p. 113, "I kept hollering out to him and talking to him and trying to ask him, see what was going on.")

Officer Leibach let Debra out of the police car immediately after the showup which occurred at 18:13.*fn1 (Leibach dep., p. 29.) Debra was detained for a maximum of twenty-five minutes, from approximately 17:50*fn2 until about 18:15.

At the time Leibach let her out of the car, he observed that she was still upset. (Leibach dep., p. 30.) He testified that he was not aware that she was having chest pains and did not observe that she had any other condition that warranted an ambulance being brought to the scene. (Leibach dep., p. 31.) Debra testified that when she got out of the police car, she was still very upset, she was having trouble breathing, she was shaking, and her head and chest were hurting. (Debra dep., p. 112-13.) Although she was feeling badly, she testified that she never asked any officers to call 911 or get an ambulance for her. (Debra dep., pp. 35, 110.) An officer helped her out of the police car and helped her sit down on the ground. (Herman dep., p. 38.) Herman, Cissilla (her sister), and Craig (her brother) were standing around her. (Debra dep., p. 113.) They all observed that Debra was upset and agitated, and was complaining of feeling poorly, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and chest and head pain. (Herman dep., p. 38, stating that Debra was complaining that her chest hurt and she couldn't breathe; Anthony Craig Williams dep., pp. 20-21, stating that Debra was crying and shaking and acting like she was about to faint; Cisscilla Brown dep., p. 13, stating that Debra was upset, crying, and shaking.) Herman asked an officer to call an ambulance. (Herman dep., pp. 37-38.) The officer or officers said no. Then Craig asked an officer or officers to call an ambulance. The officer or officers continued to say no, or "right now, I can't" but did not explain why. (Anthony Craig Williams dep., p. 28.) At that point, Craig called 911 and requested an ambulance.

The ambulance arrived sometime before 6:29, because the EMTs recorded her pulse at that time. (Pool dep., p. 9.) Debra's heart rate at that time was 112; Dr. Poole testified that anything less than 100 would be a normal pulse for a healthy 37-year-old woman with Debra's physical characteristics. (Pool dep., p. 9.) The ambulance transported Debra to the hospital. Debra arrived at the emergency room at 6:47 p.m. where she complained to Dr. Stephen Pool of chest pain and shortness of breath. (Pool dep., p. 6.) Dr. Pool's examination indicated increased heart rate, increased respiratory rate, and normal blood pressure. Dr. Pool diagnosed Debra with anxiety. He released her without restrictions at 8:30 p.m. that evening. When he discharged her, her vital signs had returned to within normal limits. Her pulse rate had dropped to 98 and she was no longer experiencing any pain.

5. Herman

Herman came out of his house while Debra, Rashad, and Anthony were still in the minivan. He testified as follows:

[After Rashad called me], I immediately put on my shoes and stuff and come outside with the cordless phone in my hand . . . . I come out our side door into the driveway, and started walking down towards the van. I see all the officers out of they car with the guns out.

So I immediately start saying, this is my wife and my son and my nephew in this van. What is the problem? What is going on? I know they haven't done anything. And as I was approaching the van, Sergeant Shaffer was the one that was coming up toward me with his gun out, saying sir, you need to step back or we shoot. So, I said shoot for what? I said first of all, let me let you know this is a cordless phone that I have in my hand so you wouldn't accidentally shoot me thinking that this is a gun. So I tell them again, I said well, sir, this is my wife and my son in this van, they just coming from Marketplace Mall. Why are you guys out here with your guns and stuff out on my wife and my son and my nephew? So he said well, we investigating. Never did tell me exactly what was going on. But he said you need to step back. So I said okay. Fine. That's fine.

So I stepped back a little bit. (Herman dep., pp. 6-7.) He also stated that the officers had the guns out during the time it took them to get all of the passengers out of the van and into the police cars. (Herman dep., pp. 16-17.)

6. Rashad

During January 2004, Defendant Beck was patrolling with Officer Shaffe Smith. On January 18, 2004, both officers were working at the police station when they heard a dispatch relating to an incident at Marketplace Mall. They immediately proceeded to the Washington Avenue address. When they arrived, Leibach and Shaffer were already there.*fn3 Beck drew ...

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