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Pryor v. City of Chicago

February 1, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer


Plaintiff Ulysses Pryor alleges that he was wrongfully detained and injured by Defendants, Chicago Police Officers Edward McGovern and Todd Reykjalin. For the purposes of their motion for summary judgment, Defendants do not dispute that Pryor had a run-in with police. Instead, Defendants seek summary judgment because, they contend, Pryor has failed to produce sufficient evidence that McGovern and Reykjalin are the officers involved in the incident. For the reasons stated herein, Defendants' summary judgment motion is denied without prejudice to renewal if Defendants are unable to depose Attorney Joan Sorensen.


I. The Incident

Plaintiff Ulysses Pryor alleges that he was stopped near his home by two Chicago Police officers, slammed against the officers' car, searched, and detained for several minutes without cause. Several divergent accounts of the incident are in the record before the court. Where the facts are contested, the court credits Plaintiff's version of events and construes the record in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, the nonmoving party. Payne v. Pauly, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003).

A. Plaintiff's Account

Pryor lives near the intersection of Adams Street and Kilbourn Avenue on the west side of Chicago, Illinois. (Pl's 56.1 Resp. ¶ ¶ 1,4.) On the evening of March 27, 2006, between 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Pryor received a telephone call from his neighbor, Hector Negron. (Id. at ¶ 4-5.) Pryor agreed to meet Negron, who lived some six houses down the block, in an alley near his home to continue the conversation in person. (Pryor Dep. 2/10/09 at 27-29.) Approximately 15 minutes after he hung up, Pryor exited the back door of his house and entered the alley. (Id. at 30.) As Pryor walked eastward down the alley toward Kilbourn Avenue, a car headed north on Kilbourn abruptly stopped and blocked the mouth of the alley. (Id.) Pryor described the vehicle as a blue and white marked police car with a blue stripe down the side. (Id. at 31.) When Pryor reached the end of the alley, where the car stood, he asked the two officers seated in the vehicle if there was anything he could do for them. (Id. at 32.) When the officers did not respond, Pryor attempted to walk around the car. (Id.) As he did so, the officers jumped out of the car, and the driver seized Pryor's arm and twisted it behind his back, throwing Pryor against the car. (Id. at 32-33.)

After throwing Pryor against the police car and slamming the right side of Pryor's face against the vehicle, the driver handcuffed Pryor, removed the contents of his pockets, and placed him in the back seat of the car. (Id. at 64-66.) Pryor asked the grounds for his arrest, to which the officer replied, "Shut the fuck up." (Id. at 66.) Pryor claims he saw the driver type his name, which the officer read from an identification card taken from Pryor's wallet, into the car's computer. (Id. at 67.) The driver informed Pryor that he was "doing a drug trafficking stop" and asked whether Pryor had any outstanding warrants. (Id. at 68.) The officer who had been a passenger in the squad car remained outside the car during this time. After five minutes, the driver pulled Pryor from the car, removed the handcuffs, and the two officers sped away without any further explanation. (Id. at 71-73.) The contents of Pryor's pockets-his wallet, keys, loose papers, etc.-had been left on the rear of the police car, and they scattered as the car drove off. (Id. at 73.) Pryor gathered his belongings and went home without talking to Negron. Forty-five minutes later, Pryor went to the hospital with shoulder pain, the result, he believes, of injuries he sustained when the officer seized and twisted his arm. (Id. at 82.) A police sergeant on duty at the hospital that night attempted to question Pryor about the incident, but Pryor refused to talk with the sergeant. (Id. at 86.)

In his first deposition, Pryor described the officer who grabbed him, the driver, as a white male, approximately 5'10" in height and weighing between 150 and 190 lbs. (Id. at 50, 51.) Pryor recalled that the driver had stubble "all over his face" like a "twelve o'clock shadow." (Id. at 48.) He further testified that he believed the driver wore a skullcap on his head, but he admitted that he was uncertain about that. (Id. at 47.) Pryor admitted, further, that although he was face-to-face with the driver, he could not provide any more detailed description of the officer. (Id. at 35-36.) Pryor described the officer in the passenger seat as a white male who "could have been" 6'0" or 6'1" in height and who weighed between 180 and 250 lbs. (Id. at 50.)

Beyond the apparent race and size of the men, all Pryor could say for sure about the officers was that they were wearing dark-colored clothing and shoes, either blue or black. (Id. at 52.) Pryor did not remember whether the officers were wearing plain clothes or uniforms. (Id. at 47.) He could not recall seeing a vest, a badge, or a name tag on the officers. (Id. at 47, 34.) Pryor could not remember whether either officer wore eyeglasses, and he did not recall either man's hair or eye color. (Id. at 47-49; 51-52.) Pryor testified that it was dark outside, and he had never seen the two officers before. (Id. at 32, 116.) The court takes judicial notice that, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, sunset occurred at approximately 6:11 p.m. in the Chicago area on March 27, 2006.*fn1

Before filing this lawsuit, Pryor did not know the names, badge numbers, or any other identifying characteristics of the officers. (Id. at 52-53.) He testified initially that he did not know how his previous attorney had identified Officers Edward McGovern and Todd Reykjalin as the policemen who stopped him that night. (Id.) Then, after a break in deposition questioning and a conference with his attorney, Pryor remembered that, immediately after the incident, he had written down a four-digit number that appeared "on top of the car, the black plate that the police have on the top of their car with a four digit number." (Id. at 54, 58.) Prior testified that he had turned that number over to his former attorney, "Lawson Jersey," but that he no longer remembered the number he had written down. (Id. at 58-59.) When pressed, Pryor said: "Like I said, I am not sure [of the number]. I want to say 1123. I don't know why that hits my brain so much. 1123, but I'm not sure." (Id. at 132-133.)

At a second deposition, Pryor was shown two photo arrays that included photographs of Defendants Reykjalin and McGovern in plain clothes. Pryor was unable to pick out or identify either of the officers who stopped him. (Pryor Dep. 9/10/09 at 6-7.) Pryor stated: "No I couldn't identify [them] for the reason that I only see a face. I don't have a whole body. They had a uniform on, so to me they look totally different with clothes on. I would need them to look the same as they did that night with the uniform." (Id. at 6.)

B. Raynard Holloway's Account

Raynard Holloway testified that he witnessed the incident in the alleyway on March 27, 2006. Holloway has known Pryor for five or six years and is married to Pryor's first cousin. (Holloway Dep. 11.) Holloway stated that he was in the vicinity at the time of the incident because Hector Negron, Pryor's neighbor, was doing some work on Holloway's car. (Id. at 14.) Holloway recalled that the incident occurred between noon and 3:00 p.m., in daylight. (Id. at 26.) Holloway was near Negron's garage when he saw Pryor exit his house and cross the alley toward Negron's yard. (Id. at 26-27.) Holloway testified that he was standing on the sidewalk with Hector Negron when the police pulled up. (Id. at 27-28.)

According to Holloway, a standard blue and white Chicago police car pulled up to Pryor and stopped at the mouth of the alley. (Id. at 27, 30.) Two officers exited the car and started "harassing" Pryor. (Id. at 27.) Holloway called out to the officers and asked what they were doing. (Id. at 28.) According to Holloway, the officers told him to "mind my business." (Id.) The police car, the officers, and Pryor were "at least 15 feet" away from Holloway, and Holloway could not recall any distinguishing markings or numbers on the car. (Id. at 27, 30.) When asked to describe the officers, Holloway said, "Well, the only thing I know is white officers, with their uniforms. I don't know exactly." (Id. at 30-31.) Holloway believed both officers were stocky; he estimated that each officer weighed roughly 215 lbs and was between 5'10" and 6 feet in height. (Id. at 34.) Holloway recalled that both officers were wearing police uniforms, which Holloway described as navy pants, vests, and leather jackets. (Id. at 31-34.) Holloway couldn't say what color hair the officers had, could not distinguish between the two of them, and doubts that he would be able to identify either officer if he saw them again. (Id. at 35.) He has no further knowledge of the identity of either officer. (Id. at 55.)

C. Hector Negron's Account

Hector Negron was Pryor's neighbor at the time of the incident. (Negron Dep. at 7.) Negron is a mechanic. He met Pryor, whom he referred to by Pryor's nickname, "June," in 2007, when Pryor started coming to Negron for advice and maintenance on his car. (Id. at 10.) According to Negron, at some time between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on March 27, 2006, he was on his back porch when he saw Pryor exiting a car across the street. (Id. at 16-17.) Negron testified that he beckoned to Pryor with a hand gesture. (Id. at 17-18.) According to Negron, he and Pryor were walking toward each other and were roughly 15 feet apart, when two plain-clothes police ...

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