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McNair v. Merrionette Park Police Dep't

September 22, 2010


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


Plaintiff Derrik Jarrad McNair brings this pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants Thomas Brown and John Bruce, two police officers with the Merrionette Park Police Department, arrested him without probable cause. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment, and Plaintiff has filed 20 pages of documents, which were docketed as "Exhibits," in response to the motion. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.

I. Summary Judgment Standard

The standard for review of a summary judgment motion is well-recognized. The court will grant summary judgment when 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)(2). In reviewing the record, the court will consider the evidence, and draw reasonable inferences from it, in the light most favorable to the non-movant, Miller v. Am. Family Mut. Ins., 203 F.3d 997, 1003 (7th Cir. 2000), but a party cannot defeat summary judgment by relying on unsubstantiated facts or by resting on its pleadings. See Hemsworth v., Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 490 (7th Cir. 2007); Greer v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chicago, 267 F.3d 723, 729 (7th Cir. 2001). Instead, the party who bears the burden of proof on an issue must affirmatively demonstrate that there is a genuine issue of material fact for which a trial is required. Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490.

Our court has adopted rules for presentation of record materials in support of and in opposition to summary judgment. Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) directs the party seeking summary judgment to provide "a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue . . . ." Ammons v. Aramark Uniform Servs., Inc., 368 F.3d 809, 817 (7th Cir. 2004). Local Rule 56.1(b)(3) requires the nonmoving party to admit or deny every factual statement proffered by the moving party and to identify, with evidentiary citations, any material facts that establish a genuine dispute for trial. See Schrott v. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., 403 F.3d 940, 944 (7th Cir. 2005). When a litigant fails to respond to a Local Rule 56.1 statement, the court assumes the uncontroverted statement is true. Raymond v. Ameritech Corp., 442 F.3d 600, 608 (7th Cir. 2006). The Seventh Circuit has endorsed strict enforcement of these requirements, holding that the court is not required to "'scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment.'" Hall v. Bodine Elec. Co., 276 F.3d 345, 354 n.4 (7th Cir. 2002) (quoting Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001)).

Defendants have explained these rules to Plaintiff by way of the "Notice to Pro Se Litigant Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment" called for in Timms v. Frank, 953 F.2d 281, 285 (7th Cir. 1992), and Lewis v. Faulkner, 689 F.2d 100, 102 (7th Cir. 1982). Despite this notice, Plaintiff has not filed a response in numbered paragraphs, instead submitting 20 pages of documents without any separate statement of facts. Defendants have moved to strike Plaintiff's response but, in the interest of deciding the case on its merits, the court denies the motion and construes the facts and the exhibits Plaintiff has submitted in the light most favorable to him, recognizing that any statement in Defendant's Rule 56.1 submission that is not properly challenged is deemed admitted.

II. Facts

The following are drawn from Defendants' L.R. 56.1(a)(3) Statement of Material Facts (hereinafter, "Defs.' 56.1"). Johnnie Watters is a 16-year-old employee of Dominick's Finer Foods at 115th and Kedzie, where he works as a bagger and assists with store security. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶¶ 1-2.) Mr. Watters was working the afternoon shift on July 7, 2008, when he observed a "young man, black, doing some shoplifting" and saw the man place some items inside his pants. (Id. ¶¶ 4-7.) The man Mr. Watters was watching ran out of the store and got into his truck, with Mr. Watters right behind him. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.) Mr. Watters saw a police car in the parking lot and reported to the police officer that the man in the truck had just stolen items from the store. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13.)

Mr. Watters testified that as he stood outside the store, he observed the man make a left turn from the parking lot, despite a posted sign prohibiting left turns. (Id. ¶¶ 15-17.) He also saw the police officer drive up behind the truck, put his lights on, and stop the truck. (Id. ¶ 14.) A second police officer arrived at the scene and, as Mr. Watters looked on, the man in the truck stepped outside and stood with one of the police officers while the second officer searched the vehicle. Suddenly, the man pushed the police officer and fled on foot, with the police officers giving chase. (Id. ¶¶ 18-21.) Mr. Watters was able to identify the man he saw shoplifting in a photograph from the Illinois Department of Corrections printout for Plaintiff McNair. (Id. ¶ 9.)

At his own deposition in this case, Plaintiff McNair admitted that he went to Dominick's Finer Foods at 115th and Kedzie on July 7, 2008, and that he spoke with a black male (Mr. Watters). (Id. ¶¶ 22-24.) He testified, further, that he exited the parking lot from the far west end onto 115th Street. Before exiting the lot, Plaintiff looked in his rearview mirror and saw a police vehicle with its emergency lights flashing. (Id. ¶¶ 25-26.) Plaintiff admits that the police car pulled up behind him and that the police officer exited his vehicle and questioned him about what had happened at Dominick's. (Id. ¶¶ 27-28.) Plaintiff confirmed Mr. Watters's account that a second officer arrived and that the officers asked him to step out of his vehicle; he testified that they then engaged in a conversation relating to his vehicle and its license plates. Plaintiff admits that he panicked and ran from the officers. (Id. ¶¶ 29-32.) He also conceded that, had a Dominick's employee reported that an individual matching Plaintiff's description was observed shoplifting, that report would have given the police officers probable cause to pull him over. He admitted, further, that he was told that someone from the store had stopped the police car and pointed toward him. (Id. ¶¶ 33-34.)

Defendant Officer Thomas Brown was on patrol in the Dominick's parking lot on July 7, 2008, when an employee came out of the store, advised him that a suspicious person was leaving the store, and pointed out a vehicle about to exit the parking lot. (Id. ¶¶ 35-37.) Defendant Brown pulled up behind the vehicle as it was making a left turn from the parking lot, where a "right turn only" sign is posted. Defendant Brown activated his emergency lights and stopped the vehicle. (Id. ¶¶ 38-40.) As reflected in his police report, Defendant Brown concluded he had probable cause to stop the vehicle for two reasons: (1) the Dominick's employee pointed it out to him as possibly being involved in a crime and (2) the driver of vehicle made a left turn in violation of the posted sign prohibiting such a turn. (Id. ¶ 41.)

III. Analysis

The Fourth Amendment "right of the people to be secure in their persons . . . against unreasonable searches and seizures" generally requires a law enforcement officer to have probable cause for a search and seizure. The police have probable cause to forcibly detain an individual when "the facts and circumstances known to a reasonable arresting officer would support the belief that the suspect has committed or is committing a crime." Driebel v. City of Milwaukee, 298 F.3d 622, 643 (7th Cir. 2002), citing Marshall v. Teske, 284 F.3d 765, 770 (7th Cir. 2002); Woods v. City of Chicago, 234 F.3d 979, 996 (7th Cir. 2000). Probable cause is not evaluated "from the perspective of the omniscient observer, but on facts as they would have appeared to a reasonable person in the position of the arresting officer." Marshall, 284 F.3d at 770, citing Mahoney v. Kesery, 976 F.2d 1054, 1057 (7th Cir. 1992). To support a finding of probable cause, the officer is only required to demonstrate "'a probability or substantial chance of criminal activity . . . .'" Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 685 (7th Cir. 2003), quoting United States v. Gilbert, 45 F.3d 1163, 1166 (7th Cir. 1995). If an arrest is supported by probable cause, there is no constitutional violation "merely because the complaint later turns out to be unfounded." McKinney v. George, 726 F.2d 1183, 1187 (7th Cir. 1984); see also Delgadillo v. Paulnitsky, No. 05 C 3448, 2007 WL 1655252, *6 (N.D. Ill. June 1, 2007) (Keys, J.).

In the instant case, Plaintiff has offered nothing that rebuts the testimony of Mr. Watters, a Dominick's employee, that he reported to Defendant Brown that Plaintiff had possibly been involved in criminal activity. (Defs.' 56.1 ¶¶ 12, 36.) Defendant Brown saw the individual identified by Mr. Watters about to exit the parking lot. (Id. ¶ 37.) And, as Defendant Brown approached Plaintiff's vehicle, he observed Plaintiff making a prohibited left turn. (Id. ¶ 38-39.) This traffic violation provided yet another basis for probable cause to stop Plaintiff's vehicle. (Id. ¶ 41.) In short, the evidence submitted by Defendants establishes that Defendants ...

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