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Pryor v. City of Chicago

September 15, 2010


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


In this lawsuit, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff Ulysses Pryor contends that he was assaulted and detained without cause by two unidentified Chicago Police officers. Despite extended discovery, however, Pryor has not produced evidence that links the two police officers named as Defendants in this case with the events in question. Pryor himself cannot recall any distinguishing characteristics of the officers who stopped him; he was unable to identify Defendants in photographic arrays; and police records indicate that Defendants were responding to another call at the time the incident occurred. The only potential piece of evidence that explained how the two Defendant officers even came to be named in this lawsuit-a declaration attributed to retired attorney Joan Sorensen-was stricken from the record after Ms. Sorensen testified that she had no personal knowledge of the case and no recollection of having seen or signed the declaration. See Pryor v. City of Chicago, ___ F. Supp.2d ___, No. 07 C 2479, 2010 WL 2698305 (ND. Ill. July 7, 2010). In the wake of that revelation, Defendants renewed their motion for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, the motion is granted.


I. The Incident

The court has summarized the facts of this case at length in two earlier opinions, including its order initially denying Defendants' motion for summary judgment. See Pryor v. City of Chicago, No. 07 C 2570, 2010 WL 431470 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 1, 2010). As explained earlier, Pryor alleges that, sometime between the hours 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on the evening of March 27, 2006, he was stopped by two Chicago Police officers as he attempted to walk through an alley near his west side home. For no reason that Pryor could discern, the officers grabbed him, slammed him against their police car, and handcuffed his hands behind his back. The officers searched Pryor's pockets, put him in the back of their police car, and ran a computer check on his name. Pryor testified that he himself saw one of the officers enter his name into the computer. After detaining Pryor for roughly five minutes, the officers pulled him from of the car, removed the handcuffs, and sped away without offering any further explanation. Pryor believes that he sustained a shoulder injury during the encounter.

A. Pryor's Attempts to Identify Defendants

Following the event, Pryor could offer only the most general descriptions of the two officers involved: they were both Caucasian males. Pryor says that one of the officers, the driver, was about 5'10" in height and weighed between 150 and 190 pounds. He had stubble "all over his face" like a "twelve o'clock shadow." (Pryor Dep. at 48.) Although Pryor was face-to-face with this man, Pryor testified, he was unable to provide a more detailed description. The other officer, whom Pryor referred to as the "big guy," was between 6'0" or 6'1" in height and between 180 and 250 pounds in weight. (Id. at 50.) Beyond the apparent race and size of the men, all that Pryor could say for sure about the officers was that they were wearing dark-colored clothing and shoes. It was dark outside, Pryor testified, and he had never seen the two officers before.*fn1 Pryor did not remember whether the officers were wearing plain clothes or uniforms and did not recall seeing a vest, a badge, or a name tag on either officer. He could not say whether either officer wore eyeglasses or what color either man's hair or eyes were. In short, Pryor could not recall any characteristics that distinguished either officer from other Caucasian males in the same broad size range.

Police Officers Edward McGovern and Todd Reykjalin are the individual officers named as Defendants in this action.*fn2 For purposes of this motion, Defendants do not dispute that Pryor was accosted by two police officers. They simply dispute whether they are those two officers. They deny having had any contact with Pryor on the evening of March 27, 2006, and in fact contend that they were responding to a call elsewhere in the city at the time that Pryor had his run-in with police. At his deposition, Pryor initially testified that he did not know how his attorneys had identified McGovern and Reykjalin as the two policemen who allegedly stopped him on the night in question. 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.) Pryor testified that he turned the four-digit number over to an attorney (who Pryor identified as Lawson Jersey), but he did not remember exactly what the number was. Pryor said he believed the number was 1123, but he was not sure. On the night of March 27, 2006, Officers McGovern and Reykjalin were assigned to a marked patrol car on Beat 1114 in Chicago's 11th Police District. The number 1114 was displayed on top of their marked car on a clearly-visible black plate with white numbers.

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 man as one of the officers who stopped him. 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." (Pryor Dep. Sept. 10, 2009 at 6-7.) This statement is somewhat inconsistent with Pryor's earlier testimony that he was unsure whether the officers were wearing uniforms. It is unclear whether Pryor was ever shown other photo arrays of police officers in uniform.

B. Eyewitness Accounts

Two other witnesses claim to have observed the March 27 incident: Raynard Holloway and Hector Negron. Holloway is married to Pryor's first cousin and Negron is Pryor's friend and neighbor. Both witnesses testified that they happened to be in the area and saw the alleged events take place. Holloway testified that he and Negron were standing together on a sidewalk with a view of the alley when a standard blue and white Chicago police car pulled up and stopped where the alley met the street. According to Holloway, it was still daylight--he guessed the time was between noon and 3:30 p.m.-when he saw two officers exit the car and proceeded to "harass" Pryor. Holloway estimated that Pryor and the officers were about 15 feet away from him, and he claims that he called out and asked what the officers were doing. One of the officers told Holloway to "mind [his] business," Holloway testified, so he didn't interfere. (Holloway Dep. at 27). When asked to describe the two officers he had seen, Holloway said: "Well, the only thing I know is white officers, with their uniforms. I don't know exactly." (Id. at 30-31.) He testified further that he believed both officers to be stocky; he guessed that each weighed roughly 215 pounds and that each was between 5'10" and 6 feet in height. He also recalled that both officers were wearing police uniforms, which Holloway described as navy pants, vests, and leather police jackets.

Beyond these details, Holloway could not remember anything else about the officers and doubted that he would be able to identify them if he ever saw them again.

Negron testified that he too was present when the incident occurred, but he denies that Holloway was with him and he estimates that the incident actually took place between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. According to Negron, he was on his back porch when he saw Pryor walking down the alley. As Pryor walked toward Negron, a dark grey, four-door sedan-not a marked squad car-pulled into the alley. Negron, who is an auto mechanic by trade, recognized the model of the car as a Crown Victoria and described the vehicle as a "regular detective car." (Negron Dep. at 52.) According to Negron, two men in plain clothes got out, threw Pryor into the backseat of the car, and "just drove off with him." (Id. at 25.) Of all the witnesses, Negron gave the most detailed description of the men who grabbed Pryor. He described the driver of the car as about 6'0" tall and weighing 200 lbs. He had light brown hair and was balding slightly. He also had a long face with a long nose, "and he was white, real white." (Id. at 28-29.) The other man, also white, was 5'9" in height and weighed "a little bit more than 200 [lbs]." (Id. At 27.) He was bald and "chubby," with a round face. Neither man was in police ...

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