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Black v. City of Chicago

August 16, 2010


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

Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer


In the early morning hours of October 20, 2006, a group of armed men knocked on Plaintiff Richard Black's front door, pointed a gun at him, and forced him to let them into his home. Once inside, the strangers demanded to know the whereabouts of Black's roommate Anthony Scott, a parolee registered with the Illinois Department of Corrections ("IDOC"). Black and others in the home told the men that Scott was not there. The men searched the residence for Scott and then departed. They did not take, touch, or damage anything.

Black, a pro se litigant, believes that the men were Chicago Police Officers in the company of an IDOC parole officer and that the group was acting pursuant to "Operation Spotlight," a statewide law enforcement effort that sought to aggressively enforce Illinois's parole laws. In this lawsuit, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Black alleges that the armed men threatened him and searched his home in violation of the Fourth Amendment and that the City of Chicago is liable.*fn1

Black has never actually determined the identities of the armed men who entered his residence, however; he has not named any individual officers as defendants; and he has produced no evidence that any of the wrongdoers were officers acting pursuant to City policy. There is, thus, no basis for a finding of liability against the City under Monell v. New York City Dep't of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978).For this reason, explained more fully below, the court grants the City's motion for summary judgment on all of Black's claims.*fn2


On summary judgment, the court views the facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draws all reasonable inferences in his favor. See Camp v. TNT Logistics Corp., 553 F.3d 502, 505 (7th Cir. 2009). Accordingly, the court draws the following account primarily from the witness testimony that Black has presented regarding the events of October 20, 2006.

I. The Entry Into Black's Residence

Plaintiff Black lives with his girlfriend, Marva Scott, and her adult children in an apartment on Chicago's northwest side. Marva's adult daughter, Karen Scott, is the leaseholder on the property. (K. Scott Dep. at 27.) Karen's brother, Anthony Scott, is on parole from the IDOC and reports the apartment as his primary residence. (Id. at 14-15.) Anthony's parole officer visited the apartment before October 20, 2006, and Karen knew him by sight. (Id. at 29.) Black himself is also on parole for an unrelated offense. (Black Dep. at 39-40.)

At 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. on the morning of October 20, 2006, Black was disturbed by someone knocking on his bedroom window. He pulled back the curtain and saw a Caucasian man who professed to be the parole officer for Anthony Scott. (Id. at 18.) The man shouted through the window glass that he wished to speak with Anthony. Black shouted back that Anthony was not at home, but the man gestured that he did not understand. Black then stepped to the front door and opened it to find a group of armed men waiting outside. One of the men had his gun drawn--a short assault weapon that Black described as an "Uzi"--and pointed it at Black. (Id. at 21, 38.)*fn3 The man brandishing the Uzi told Black that he was a police officer, but none of the men were in uniform, and none showed a badge, nor did Black see any squad cars parked outside. (Id. at 28, 55.) "I did not go through an I.D. check with them," Black testified. "They got the guns." (Id. at 43.) None of the men gave their names. Black testified that some of the men were wearing what appeared to be army fatigues. He also claims that one man was wearing dark clothing that, in Black's view, "indicated he was police." (Id. at 21.)

According to Black, the man pointed the Uzi "in [Black's] face" and asked to be admitted into the apartment. (Id. at 28.) Black told the men that he was going to get the leaseholder, but as he turned away from the door, the men entered behind him, rendering Black unable to close the door. (Id. at 28-29.) Once inside the apartment, Black said, one or more of the intruders went to wake up Karen and Marva in their bedrooms. (Id. at 29-30.)

Karen Scott testified that she stepped out of her bedroom as the men entered the apartment. (K. Scott Dep. at 15.) She remembered seeing one "black guy" and one "white guy." (Id. at 16.) Neither was in police uniform, Karen said, but the African-American man was wearing dark-camouflage army fatigues. (Id. at 16-17.) When asked how many men there were total, Karen said that she thought "[i]t was like two or three. Maybe more. I am not sure." (Id. at 17.) At no point did Karen hear the men identify themselves as either police or parole officers. (Id. at 22.)

None of the men gave their names or showed any identification at any point. (Id. at 31-32.) Some of the men were carrying guns, Karen said, but she never saw any of the men point their guns at anyone. (Id. at 26.) None of the men looked like the parole officer that Karen had seen previously visit Anthony at the apartment. (Id. at 30.)

Black remembered that one of the men who entered the apartment, a Caucasian wearing a trench coat, went through the entire apartment looking for Anthony. (Black Dep. at 32.) The man was not wearing anything that identified him as a law enforcement officer, nor did he identify himself as a police or parole officer. (Id. at 40.) Karen described the same man and said he carried a flashlight. (K. Scott Dep. at 18.) She further ...

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