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Stamps v. Hernandez

September 14, 2010

COLLETTE STAMPS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ARTURO HERNANDEZ, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court are Cross-Motions for Partial Summary Judgment on Count 1 of the Complaint. For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiffs' Motion is granted in part and denied in part. Defendants' Motion is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

Collette Stamps and Walter Hopkins, along with Stamps' three minor children (hereinafter, the "Plaintiffs"), are suing the City of Chicago and eight of its police officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 after police broke down their apartment door and forcibly entered in what was admittedly a drug raid on the wrong apartment.

On November 24, 2007, Chicago police officer Daniel Honda ("Officer Honda"), learned from an informant (hereinafter, "John Doe") that a suspect was dealing drugs out of the third floor apartment of 1404 South Homan Avenue in Chicago, a Chicago Housing Authority ("CHA") building. Officer Honda had never relied on John Doe before and was unaware of any other Chicago police officer having done so. Officer Honda had arrested John Doe one or two days before for selling cannabis. John Doe led Officer Honda to the third floor of the building. At the top of the stairs were two doors. Officer Honda testified that there were no numbers on the doors. John Doe indicated that the door on the left, directly next to the stairwell, was the door to the apartment from which drugs were being sold. Officer Honda asked about the door on the right. John Doe told him that no one lived there and he didn't have to worry about it.

Officer Honda then prepared a complaint for a search warrant, in which he described the premises to be searched as, "The 3rd floor apartment of a three-story CHA building located at 1404 S. Homan Ave., Chicago, Cook County, Illinois." Sergeant Phillip Leibas ("Sergeant Leibas") reviewed the complaint and did not note any deficiencies. Sergeant Leibas advised Officer Honda to make sure he got the right apartment. Sergeant Leibas testified that he believed the warrant was for Apartment 303 (the apartment on the left) and that the number was on the door. Based on the complaint, the affidavit of Officer Honda, and the testimony of John Doe, a judge signed a warrant to search the "3rd floor apartment" of the building.

On November 25, 2007, immediately before execution of the warrant, the police team that was going to execute the warrant held a meeting. The police team consisted of at least 11 officers. Officer Honda, who had visited the building many times in his police work, drew a diagram of the building and explained to the other officers that the targeted apartment was the first door on the left on the third floor. He explained that there was a second door, but that it was not the targeted door.

The officers executed the search warrant on the evening of November 25, 2007. Officers Acevedo and Alaniz were the "breach" officers, meaning that their duty was to break down the door with a 50-pound metal cylinder. When they reached the top of the stairs, the breach officers went past the first apartment, on the left, to the second one, on the right. One of them commented that there were no numbers on the doors. The breach officers state that Officer Alaniz knocked on the door of the apartment on the right, announced his office, and said he had a search warrant. The residents of the apartment testified that they did not hear the knocking or announcements. Officers Acevedo and Alaniz then battered the door with the metal cylinder until it gave way.

Several police officers (it is disputed exactly how many) entered Plaintiffs' apartment to encounter Plaintiffs Collette Stamps, her boyfriend Walter Hopkins, and Ms. Stamps' three minor children having dinner. Officer Honda, who entered the apartment shortly after the breach, said that the majority of officers who were in the apartment at that time had their guns drawn and were pointing them at the occupants.

Police soon realized they were in the wrong apartment, apologized, and went over to the apartment on the left to execute the search warrant. They later came back to replace the door, although Plaintiffs stated that the replacement door did not lock properly. Plaintiffs claim that they have all suffered emotional distress since the incident and that the children have needed treatment by a psychologist.

Plaintiffs' Complaint brings claims against the officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Fourth Amendment for unreasonable search and seizure (Count 1) and excessive force (Count 2). Count 3 is a claim against the City of Chicago under 745 Ill. Comp. Stat. 10/9-102. Only Count 1 is at issue in the Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. Plaintiffs move for summary judgment against Defendants Honda, Acevedo, and Leibas for procuring an insufficiently particularized warrant and for unreasonably executing the warrant. Plaintiffs additionally move for summary judgment against Defendants Hernandez, Alaniz, and Calvillo for unreasonable execution of the warrant.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

Summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). A fact is material if it could affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, and a dispute is genuine where the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The court's role, when ruling on a motion for summary judgment, is not to weigh the evidence or determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue of material fact that warrants trial. Id. at 249. In making this determination, the court must view all the evidence and draw any reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Miller v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co., 203 F.3d 997, 1003 (7th Cir. 2000).

When ruling on cross-motions for summary judgment, the court evaluates each party's motion separately and on its own merits, resolving factual uncertainties and drawing all reasonable inferences against the party whose motion is under consideration. Patrick Schaumburg Auto., Inc. v. Hanover Ins. Co., 452 F.Supp.2d 857, 866 (N.D. Ill. 2006). If neither party demonstrates that ...


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