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Grayer v. Greenwood

March 16, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John A. Nordberg Senior United States District Court Judge

Judge John A. Nordberg


This is a Section 1983 action with pendant state law claims. Plaintiffs seek damages for a warrantless search of their first floor apartment and for being detained for an hour to an hour and a half while police executed a search of the second floor apartment in the same building. Plaintiffs raise other related claims, complaining (among other things) about the scope of the search and the amount of time officers had guns drawn upon entering the first floor apartment. Plaintiff Janet Richardson asserts claims about her arrest made by police after they found what they believed were illegally copied DVDs being sold by Richardson out of the second floor apartment. Defendants move for summary judgment on all the federal claims. For reasons explained below, the motion is granted.


At the time of these events, plaintiffs Naomi and Rufus Grayer owned an apartment building at 3340 West Douglas Boulevard in Chicago. The building has three apartments -- one on the first and second floors and one in the basement. Rufus and Naomi were living in the first floor apartment along with their son Levarus Grayer and Naomi's godson, Daris Williams. One of their adult daughters, Janet Richardson, was living on the second floor.*fn1 The basement apartment was occupied by another adult daugher, Tasha Grayer, who lived there with her son. No one else lived in the building. In sum, it was a family-owned and family-occupied building.

A few days before November 5, 2005, an informant told police officers working on a Chicago gun task force that he had been in the second floor apartment with Levarus and that Levarus had two handguns. Police knew that Levarus was a convicted felon and a suspected gang member and that he also had been arrested for a number of violent offenses. They also learned that Levarus had previously identified 3340 West Douglas as his address. The police sought a search warrant. The informant appeared before the Magistrate Judge who, after questioning, found probable cause existed for a search of the person of Levarus Grayer and the second floor apartment. The warrant sought a 9 mm semi-automatic handgun and a .38 caliber revolver.

On November 5, 2005, after a strategy meeting to plan how the search would be conducted and after viewing pictures of Levarus Grayer, officers proceeded to 3340 West Douglas in several cars. It was in the middle of the afternoon. As they arrived, several officers went to the back of the building to secure the rear exits.

The parties dispute what happened next. Under the defendants' version, several officers recognized Levarus standing on the front porch. When he saw the officers, he fled into the building and into the first floor apartment. The officers rushed in and began knocking on the first floor door. Janet Richardson showed up as they were knocking.

Plaintiffs's version ends up at the same point, with Janet and the officers standing outside the door, but gets there in a completely different way. Plaintiffs deny that Levarus had been standing outside and assert that he had been in the house the whole time, watching tv for the previous three hours in his bedroom. Plaintiffs claim that officers entered the building and went immediately up the stairs to the second floor apartment. Janet Richardson had been sitting in the first floor apartment reading at the dining room table. She heard the footsteps going upstairs and went out of the first floor apartment and up the stairs to investigate. She met officers on the stairs and saw others inside the second floor apartment. The officers told her they were executing a search warrant for Levarus Grayer and a gun and asked Richardson if she knew where he was. She said he was inside the first floor apartment. The officers ran down to the first floor apartment door with Richardson following behind.

At this point, the two versions merge with officers knocking at the door and saying "it's the police, let [us] in." (Ex. 2 at 47.) The officers asked Janet if she would let them in the apartment. She said she couldn't because she had left her "set of keys" on the dining room table.

(Id. at 48.)*fn2 The officers continued to knock. Inside the apartment Tasha Grayer was sitting at the dining room table reading. She heard the knocking but did not move to open the door. (Ex. 5 at 46.) Levarus was watching tv. Naomi and Rufus were also somewhere inside the apartment. Hearing no response, and after knocking for what "seem[ed] like minutes" according to Janet Richardson (Ex. 2 at 46), the officers used a battering ram to break open the door.

The officers entered with guns drawn. Plaintiffs describe the scene as "chaos." Naomi Grayer was screaming. According to the officers, they holstered their guns within seconds after entering. Plaintiffs dispute this, asserting that it took officers three minutes to find Levarus in the back bedroom and arguing that it would be "reasonable to believe" that they would have kept their guns out until they found him. (Pl. Resp. to Defs. Fact No. 65.)

Officer Purkiss performed what defendants describe as a protective sweep around the area where they found Levarus Grayer. Plaintiffs argue that the search was broader and that the officers "trashed" the apartment by throwing clothes about the rooms, opening drawers in dressers, and moving mattresses. Rufus Grayer claims that money was missing from a pair of his pants in the bedroom and believes one of the officers must have stolen the money.

After securing the premises, the officers brought everyone into the front of the apartment. Levarus and Rufus were put in handcuffs. Defendants assert that the handcuffs on Rufus were removed "shortly thereafter," although plaintiffs ...

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