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Stepney v. City of Chicago

October 20, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James B. Zagel United States District Judge

Judge James B. Zagel



Plaintiffs filed their seven-count third amended complaint alleging that Defendant Police Officers violated both their constitutional and state rights when they illegally searched the Stepney home in a display of vigilante justice. Defendants now move for partial summary judgment. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.


On August 28, 2007, Cynthia Stepney ("Cynthia"), her four children, Dorian, Darius, Toni, and Rodney, her nephew Tristan, niece Robin, and her brothers Derrick and Jefty were present at a single family home at 8446 S. Winchester, Chicago, Illinois ("Stepney home"). That evening, Officer McClendon ("McClendon") received a call from his neighbor telling him that his home had been burglarized. McClendon was on duty with a gang intelligence team when he received this call. At the time, McClendon, Branch, Maldonado, Cuadrado, and Hein were investigating an incident unrelated to this lawsuit. In response to the call, McClendon and seven members of his team left their assignment in an attempt to retrieve his possessions. A Sony PlayStation console, seventeen video games, and a flat screen television were stolen from McClendon's home. Team members Maldonado, Cuadrado, Hein, Branch, Hawkins, Teresi, and Waller went to McClendon's neighborhood to help McClendon in his search. None of the Defendant Officers were dressed in a police uniform that night.

During the team's investigation, at approximately 9:30 p.m., Hawkins and Teresi approached the Stepney home where several young adults were on the front porch. Hawkins asked if he could speak with a parent, and Cynthia came to the front door. Hawkins asked Cynthia if the officers could conduct a "walk through" of her home for McClendon's stolen items, but she said no. The officers entered the Stepney home anyway and conducted a search for the stolen goods.

Hawkins handcuffed Tristan to the porch railing, punched him in the stomach, and twisted his arm. Though Teresi observed this interaction, he did not intervene to stop Hawkins' actions. Hein and Teresi walked from the front of the Stepney's home into the Stepney's back yard to stop anyone who exited the house from the back.

McClendon entered the home with Cuadrado and Branch. After entering the home, McClendon accused Dorian of stealing his electronics. The two began arguing and McClendon punched and choked Dorian, and pushed him down onto a couch. Cuadrado and Cynthia were present and witnessed this altercation. During the scuffle, Cynthia was restrained by two officers, hit in the face, and knocked over, hitting a table that shattered into pieces. Dorian was handcuffed and placed in a police car.

Maldonado denies having any contact with any Plaintiff at the Stepney home. Waller testified that when he arrived at the home, he walked up to the house and saw Cynthia and McClendon speaking to each other in the front of the house. He denies entering the Stepney home.

While the officers were in the Stepney home, there was a chaotic scene which included shouting, crying, and the use of profanity. No member of McClendon's team filed a police report in connection with the search of the Stepney home. Defendant Officers did not find any of McClendon's stolen property at the Stepney home. In fact, it was later discovered that McClendon's property was stolen by neighborhood teenagers.

While the Defendant Officers were in the Stepney home, Jefty called 911 three times: at 10:32 p.m., at 10:47 p.m., and at 10:57 p.m. Jefty complained to the 911 operator about the Defendants' conduct and requested a supervisor. At 10:48 p.m., a dispatcher radioed for a supervisor to report to the Stepney home. Although Unit 610 was going to accept the assignment, Defendant Sergeant Schulz ("Schulz") (Unit 620) volunteered to take the assignment stating "I'll take care of it." Schulz testified that he was too busy to respond directly to the Stepney home, and that he did not arrive until after midnight. Schulz could not remember anything specific that he was doing that evening that would have prevented him from going directly to the Stepney home, though he does recall that it was a "crazy night." No documents indicate what Schulz was doing between the time he was dispatched at 10:48 p.m. and midnight. Schulz was wearing his police uniform. Members of the McClendon team were at the Stepney home until approximately 11:30 p.m. Schulz testified that when he arrived at the Stepney home he saw no officers, and no one outside. He states that he rang or knocked on the front door, but no one answered. Plaintiffs contend that they were in the home and awake in the living room until approximately 3:30 a.m.


Summary judgment should be granted when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of triable fact exists only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Pugh v. City ...

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