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Guzman v. City of Chicago

April 8, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Blanche M. Manning


With just a few weeks left in her pregnancy, plaintiff Maria Guzman rested in bed at her apartment the morning of June 14, 2005. Little did she know that outside lurked Chicago police officers and FBI agents. The officers and agents were preparing to storm her apartment. The officers thought it was a single-family residence where a drug suspect had lived. What they did not realize was that the building actually contained multiple units, and their suspect had not lived there for years.

As police started their search, they knocked on a front door. Guzman heard the knocks and went to open the door, but before she could get dressed officers broke through her door with a crowbar. She hit the floor while officers searched her apartment, which occupied the second floor of the building. When the search ended the officers freed Guzman, but rather than returning to bed, she sought medical attention at a hospital emergency room for stomach pains. The hospital admitted her, treated her for false labor, and released her the following day.

Guzman has sued the city of Chicago and two of its police officers for violating her constitutional rights. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Specifically, she has sued them for illegal search (Count I), false arrest (Count II), and use of excessive force (Count III). She has also included claims under state law for battery (Count IV), false arrest (Count V), willful and wanton conduct (Count VI), respondeat superior (Count VII), and indemnification (Count VIII). The defendants have filed a joint motion for summary judgment on all of her claims. In response, Guzman has abandoned her constitutional claim for excessive force (Count III) and her state law claims for battery (Count IV) and false arrest (Count V), but disputes that the defendants are entitled to summary judgment on her remaining claims. For the reasons that follow, the court grants the motion for summary judgment as to Counts I, II, III, IV and V, and declines to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state-law claims.


Defendant Marvin Bonnstetter is an officer with the Chicago Police Department who investigates gangs and gang-related crimes. During the course of an unrelated investigation, Bonnstetter met an inmate at the Cook County jail who expressed an interest in becoming a police informant upon his release from jail. Months later and after being released from jail, the informant contacted Bonnstetter to schedule a meeting at police headquarters. During the meeting, the informant told Bonnstetter and FBI agent James McDonald about various Chicago gangs and gang activity.

Among the alleged gang members the informant discussed with Bonnstetter was Ruben Estrada. The informant told Bonnstetter that he had recently seen Estrada at a single-family residence at 1536 W. Walton and that Estrada had displayed a pistol. The informant also described watching Estrada enter the residence through one door and exit through another. Much of what the informant told Bonnstetter about Chicago gangs confirmed information Bonnstetter already knew, and therefore Bonnstetter considered the informant to be credible. He further tested the informant's credibility by showing him numerous pictures of gang members they had discussed, including Estrada. The informant correctly identified the picture of Estrada.

Following the meeting with Bonnstetter and McDonald, the informant accompanied McDonald to the Walton building and confirmed that it was the building where he saw Estrada with the pistol. McDonald also noticed a real estate sign near a front window, which left him with the impression that someone was running a real estate business out of the home. Meanwhile, Bonnstetter ran the address of the Walton building through a police database, which listed Ruben Estrada as the resident of that building.

Bonnstetter also ran Estrada's criminal record and noted that Estrada had listed 1536 W. Walton as his address on eight occasions between April 1997 and May 2001. However, during that time he also listed other addresses, including 1636 W. Walton and 1538 W. Walton. Between March 2002 and April 2005 he listed other addresses, including 2943 N. Ridgeway and 1515 W. Cortez.

In addition to the information obtained from the confidential informant, Bonnstetter received additional information about Estrada from a fellow officer. The fellow officer told Bonnstetter about information he received from a different informant that "a man named Ruben [who] had been involved in narcotics activity at 1536 W. Walton and possible gunfire at that location."

Armed with all of this information, Bonnstetter completed a complaint seeking issuance of a search warrant including a warrant affidavit. An attorney from the state's attorney's office and a watch commander from the Chicago police department both reviewed the complaint, which Bonnstetter then presented to a state court judge. The informant accompanied Bonnstetter to answer any questions or address any concerns the judge might have had. Based on the complaint and Bonnstetter's affidavit, the judge signed the search warrant. The warrant commanded the search of "[a] male white Hispanic, named Ruben J. Estrada" and the premises of "1536 W. Walton, Chicago, Cook County, ILL. a single family residence," and instructed Chicago police to seize a "handgun and any proof of residency.that shows proof of residency or control of this house."

Contrary to the information Bonnstetter obtained from the informant, the building at 1536 W. Walton was not a single-family residence, but rather contained two residential units and one commercial unit. The commercial unit was occupied by a real estate office in the front of the first floor, while the rear of the first floor contained one of the residential apartments. The second residential apartment was located on the second floor of the building and was where Guzman lived.

On the morning of June 11, 2005, a team of about 11 Chicago police officers and 7 FBI agents executed the search warrant for the Walton building. Bonnstetter rang the doorbell several times at a door on the front of the house and entered the unlocked door after receiving no answer. Bonnstetter then went upstairs, found a locked door, announced his presence and, when no one responded, he forced his way through using a crowbar. Other police officers followed Bonnstetter into the apartment and commenced their search.

The parties do not agree on what occurred inside Guzman's apartment. According to Guzman, police stormed her apartment with guns drawn. The officers ordered her to the floor, where defendant Danilo Rojas pushed down on her back in order to keep her on the floor. Guzman attempted to reposition herself to protect her unborn child, but each time she tried Rojas applied more pressure to her back which prevented her from moving. After about 10 minutes, Rojas eventually let her get up from the floor to sit in a chair.

The defendants tell a much different story. While they agree that officers ordered Guzman to the floor, they deny that Rojas kept her on the ground by pushing her because they assert he did not enter the apartment until Guzman was already seated.

The entire search lasted about a half hour. As the officers left, Guzman's husband returned home and Guzman told him that something was wrong with her stomach. Worried for their unborn child, Guzman's husband took her first to her obstetrician and then to the hospital. She was admitted, diagnosed as suffering from false labor, ...

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