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Nelson v. City of Chicago

May 14, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge:


On October 20, 2008, Plaintiff Denzel Nelson filed the present seven-count Complaint alleging that Defendant Chicago Police Officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights, as well as state law claims of battery, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution.*fn1 Before the Court is Defendant Officers' Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendant Officers' summary judgment motion and dismisses this lawsuit in its entirety.


I. Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 56.1

When determining summary judgment motions, the Court derives the background facts from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements. Specifically, Local Rule 56.1 assists the Court by "organizing the evidence, identifying undisputed facts, and demonstrating precisely how each side propose[s] to prove a disputed fact with admissible evidence." Bordelon v. Chicago Sch. Reform Bd. of Trs., 233 F.3d 524, 527 (7th Cir. 2000). Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) requires the moving party to provide "a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue." Cracco v. Vitran Exp., Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009). "The opposing party is required to file 'a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon." Id. (citing N.D. Ill. R. 56.1(b)(3)(B)). Also, Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) requires the nonmoving party to present a separate statement of additional facts that require the denial of summary judgment. See Ciomber v. Cooperative Plus, Inc., 527 F.3d 635, 643-44 (7th Cir. 2008).

The purpose of Rule 56.1 statements is to identify the relevant admissible evidence supporting the material facts, not to make factual or legal arguments. See Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1060 (7th Cir. 2006). Moreover, the requirements for responses under Local Rule 56.1 are "not satisfied by evasive denials that do not fairly meet the substance of the material facts asserted." Bordelon, 233 F.3d at 528. In addition, the Court may disregard statements and responses that do not properly cite to the record. See Cichon v. Exelon Generation Co., L.L.C., 401 F.3d 803, 809-10 (7th Cir. 2005); see also Raymond v. Ameritech Corp., 442 F.3d 600, 604 (7th Cir. 2006) ("district courts are entitled to expect strict compliance with Local Rule 56.1"). Finally, district courts may only consider admissible evidence in assessing summary judgment motions. See Gunville v. Walker, 583 F.3d 979, 985 (7th Cir. 2009). With these standards in mind, the Court turns to the relevant facts of this case.

II. Relevant Facts

The parties in this matter are Plaintiff Denzel Nelson and Defendant Chicago Police Officers Thomas McKenna, Jason Van Dyke, Joseph Merkel, George Spacek, Michael Bubacz, and Jason Cartwright. (R. 67-1, Defs.' Rule 56.1 Stmt. Facts ¶ 3.) On August 21, 2007, Officers McKenna, Van Dyke, Cartwright, Merkel, Bubacz, and Spacek were members of the Chicago Police Department's Targeted Response Unit ("TRU"). (Id. ¶ 4.) TRU is a specialized unit, which is mission-driven to look for guns and drugs. (Id.) Defendant Officers began work at approximately 6:00 p.m. and were assigned to patrol the Sixth District in uniform and in marked squad cars. (Id.) That day, Officers Bubacz and Spacek were partnered with Officer Massas, who is now deceased. (Id. ¶ 5.) Officers Cartwright and Merkel were partnered, and Officers McKenna and Van Dyke were partnered. (Id.)

At approximately 7:00 p.m. on August 21, 2007, while on routine patrol in the Sixth District, Officer McKenna's and Officer Van Dyke's attention was drawn to a two-door Pontiac Grand Prix, which was traveling eastbound on 80th Street. (Id. ¶ 6.) In particular, Officers McKenna and Van Dyke observed four black males in the car with an air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror obstructing the driver's view. (Id. ¶ 7.) Because this is a minor traffic violation, Officers McKenna and Van Dyke initiated a traffic stop by operating the emergency lights on their squad car. (Id.) The Pontiac Grand Prix did not stop immediately, but continued eastbound on 80th Street then turned northbound onto South Carpenter Street, where it came to a stop at approximately 7926 South Carpenter Street. (Id. ¶ 8.)

At that time, the driver's side door opened and a black male, wearing a white t-shirt, blue jeans, and white gym shoes, exited the car and began to flee. (Id. ¶¶ 9, 10.) Officer McKenna was about 30 to 40 feet away from the suspect when he began to chase the suspect and ordered the suspect to stop. (Id. ¶ 11; R. 82-1, Pl.'s Rule 56.1 Stmt. Facts ¶ 5.) Officer McKenna then chased the suspect northbound on the west sidewalk on South Carpenter Street and eventually followed him to the west alley between Carpenter and Aberdeen Streets. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 12; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 6.) Meanwhile, Officer Van Dyke stayed behind to secure the Grand Prix and the remaining occupants. (Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 6.) As Officer McKenna was chasing the suspect, he called over the radio that he was engaged in a foot chase and gave directions and a description of the suspect as a black male wearing a white t-shirt, blue jeans, and white gym shoes. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 12; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 8.) As Officer McKenna rounded the corner, he saw that the suspect had a gun in his right hand. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 12.) The suspect continued to run at which time Officer McKenna identified himself as a police officer and told the suspect to stop. (Id. ¶ 13.) Officer McKenna then radioed that the suspect was armed and gave his location. (Id.)

Shortly thereafter, Officer McKenna saw the suspect throw a gun in a dumpster in the alley after which Officer McKenna went to the dumpster to look for the gun. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 16.) Officer McKenna testified that he observed the suspect turn back to look at him at the end of the alley. (Id. ¶ 16.) During the time Officer McKenna was looking in the dumpster, he did not see the gun and he lost sight of the suspect for about ten seconds. (Id. ¶ 17; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 27.) Officer McKenna then walked quickly to the end of the alley and when he reached the end of the alley, he looked left and saw a black male dressed in a white t-shirt, blue jeans, and white gym shoes standing near the corner of 80th and Carpenter Streets looking back at him. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶¶ 18, 19; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 11.) Officer McKenna testified that he believed it was the same person he had seen fleeing the Pontiac Grand Prix with the gun. (Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 19.)

During that same time period, Nelson, who was wearing a white t-shirt, jeans, and white gym shoes, was standing alone in the area of 7951 South Carpenter Street. (Id. ¶ 20.) Upon hearing the call over the radio that one of their units was in a foot chase, Officers Cartwright and Merkel drove to the area. (Id. ¶ 21.) As Officers Cartwright and Merkel arrived at the scene, Officer McKenna pointed over at Nelson, who he thought was the suspect. (Id. ¶ 22.) Officers Cartwright and Merkel then stopped their car where Nelson was standing, grabbed his arms, tripped him to the ground, and took him into custody. (Id. ¶ 23.) Thereafter, one of the officers placed Nelson in handcuffs and then both officers put Nelson in the squad car. (Id. ¶ 25.) The officers then drove Nelson to the alley where the other Chicago Police Officers were looking for the gun. (Id.) At that time, Officer Merkel recovered the gun -- which was fully loaded -- from the dumpster. (Id. ¶¶ 26, 27.) During the time of his arrest, Nelson was a block from the dumpster where the gun was located and Nelson did not have a Firearm Owner's Identification card or any other documentation enabling him to carry a gun. (Id. ¶ 28.) Also, at the time of his arrest, there was no one else in the alley or immediate area who met the description of the suspect other than Nelson. (Id. ¶ 24.)

During his arrest, Nelson denied that he was the suspect. (Id. ¶ 29.) Nelson also told the police officers that he had seen the suspect run down the street and that he had just come from a friend's house. (Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 17.) After Nelson's arrest, the occupants of the Grand Prix and another individual, Ryan Barnes, told the police officers that they had the wrong guy. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 20.) Officers Merkel and Cartwright nevertheless transported Nelson to the police station and Officers Van Dyke and McKenna processed Nelson. (Id. ¶ 21.) On the way to the police station and during processing, Nelson told the police officers that the handcuffs were tight on his wrists. (Defs.' Stmt. Facts ¶ 39.)

Meanwhile, Defendant Officers Spacek and Bubacz proceeded to the scene after they heard the radio call, but about halfway there, they heard another radio call notifying them that the suspect was in custody. (Id. ¶ 31.) Officers Spacek and Bubacz eventually arrived at the scene of Nelson's arrest and remained on the scene for a half an hour to watch the Pontiac Grand Prix, which was eventually towed. (Id. ¶¶ 36, 37; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 22, 23.) In addition, Officers Spacek and Bubacz did not write or review any reports for Nelson's arrest. (Defs.' Stmt. ...

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