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Bernard Ellis v. Country Club Hills

March 24, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr.


This lawsuit arises out of a May 29, 2004 visit that certain Country Club Hills police officers paid to the home of Plaintiff Bernard Ellis ("Plaintiff"), during which the officers shocked Plaintiff with a taser, handcuffed, and arrested him. Plaintiff's current complaint [57] asserts three claims against the City of Country Club Hills ("the City") and two of its police officers, an "Officer McKinney" and an "Officer Jones" (collectively, the "Defendant Officers").*fn1 Count I alleges that Defendant Officers used excessive force during Plaintiff's arrest. Count II alleges that Plaintiff was provided with inadequate medical treatment at the police station in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiff seeks to impose liability on the City for Counts I and II under Monell v. New York City Dep't. of Social Services, 436 U.S. 665, 694 (1978) and its progeny, by alleging that the City's failure to properly train its officers caused Plaintiff's rights to be violated.*fn2 Count III seeks indemnification from the City pursuant to an Illinois statute, 745 ILCS 10/9-102.

Currently before the Court is the City's motion for summary judgment as to Counts I and II, and as to an aspect of Count III [60].*fn3 For the reasons stated below, the City's motion [60] is granted.

I. Background

The Court takes the relevant facts primarily from the parties' Local Rule ("L.R.") 56.1 statements:*fn4 The City's statement of facts [61] ("City SOF"), Plaintiff's response to the City's statement of facts [72] ("Pl. Resp. City SOF"), and Plaintiff's Statement of Additional Facts [72] ("Pl. SOAF").*fn5

A. Police Response to a Disturbance Call

On the night of May 29, 2004, three members of the Country Club Hills Police Department responded to a 911 call at the home of Bernard and Patrice Ellis. (Pl. Resp. City SOF ¶ 4--5). Christopher Ammons, the son of Patrice Ellis and Plaintiff's stepson, had called 911 to report that Plaintiff was beating his mother, based upon the crying and the other sounds he heard coming from his mother's bedroom. (Id. at ¶ 7; see also Deposition of Christopher Ammons at 7--8). Defendant Officer McKinney arrived first, followed by Defendant Officer Jones and Officer Keith Burke. (Id. at ¶ 10). Ammons jumped out of his brother's second floor window in order to meet the officers in the driveway of the home. (Id. at ¶ 8). Ammons advised the officers of his belief that Plaintiff had been beating his mother, and told the police that she needed medical attention.*fn6 (Id. at ¶ 11). The officers entered the residence.

When the officers entered the residence, Plaintiff was in the bedroom of his home with his wife Patrice. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 1). Patrice's cries of pain were due to a sickle cell anemia attack that she was experiencing at that time. (Id.). Plaintiff went into the hallway and spoke with Officer Burke, who greeted him and said that they had received a call about a disturbance. (Id. at ¶ 2). Plaintiff explained that his wife was having a sickle cell anemia attack, and Officer Burke asked to see her. (Id. at ¶ 3). Officer Burke walked to the bedroom and spoke to Patrice, who said that she was okay, but that she had not taken her medicine. (Id. at ¶ 4). Patrice denied "that there was anything else going on," and refused an ambulance. (Id.).

Plaintiff then asked the officers to leave. (Id. at ¶ 5).*fn7 At that point, the white officer, who appears to be Officer McKinney (City SOF ¶ 22), placed his hand on his taser.*fn8 (Pl. SOAF ¶ 6). Plaintiff asked the officers to leave again, and they refused. The officers then informed Plaintiff that they had called an ambulance. (Pl. SOAF ¶¶ 7--8). The conversation at this point is in dispute, as are the reasons for what happened next. (See Pl. SOAF ¶¶ 7--9; City SOF ¶¶ 13-- 14). No one disputes, however, that the officers then shocked Plaintiff with their tasers. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 11).

One of the officers (which one is disputed) fired, and one of the taser's two probes lodged in Plaintiff's right bicep. (Pl. SOAF ¶¶ 11, 12, 13; City SOF ¶ 22). Plaintiff was shocked several times, causing him to stumble into the bedroom and fall to the ground onto his chest. (Id. at ¶ 13). Plaintiff was then tased repeatedly; the parties disagree as to whether this was in the back, (City SOF ¶ 15), or on Plaintiff's right arm. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 16). The shocks caused Plaintiff pain and caused him to shake uncontrollably. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 16). The shocks subsequent to the initial shock were administered in "drive stun mode." (Pl. Resp. City SOF ¶ 15). At one point, Plaintiff heard an officer tell the other officer to hit Plaintiff with the taser behind his ear. (Id. at ¶ 15).

As Plaintiff lay on the ground on his chest in his bedroom, the black officer (who appears to be Officer Jones) handcuffed him. (Pl. SOAF ¶¶ 19--20). The officer then unfolded a three-foot long nightstick, (Id. at ¶ 17) and struck Plaintiff with it on his arm, back, leg, the back of his neck, his shoulder, and the right rear of his head two to three times. (Id. at ¶ 18). Officer Jones told Officer McKinney to hit him a few more times with the stun gun, which he did about four times. (Id. at ¶ 21). Plaintiff was then tased on his neck, between his neck and his head, his right arm, and his back. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-23). One of the officers kicked Plaintiff in the groin two to three times. (Id. at ¶ 24). Officer Jones also kicked Plaintiff in the face three to four times. (Id. at ¶ 25). Meanwhile, Officer Burke, standing nearby, refused to help or respond to Plaintiff's cries for assistance. (Id. at ¶ 26). Finally, the officers dragged Plaintiff, still handcuffed, out of the bedroom and into the living room, where they ran him into a wall. (Id. at ¶ 27). After Plaintiff fell, the officers kicked him in the face and groin again, punched him in the face, stood him up, and punched him in the face again. (Id.).

The entire ordeal lasted approximately fifteen to twenty minutes. (Pl. SOAF ¶ 28). Plaintiff was then driven to the police station, either by a black police officer (Pl. SOAF ¶ 29), or by Officer Burke (City SOF ¶ 17). During the ride, Plaintiff gave no indication of being in pain. (City SOF ¶ 18).*fn9 When he arrived at the station, another officer (a Sergeant Jagman) asked Plaintiff, "Man, what happened to you?" Jagman then pulled the taser prong out of Plaintiff's arm. (Pl. SOAF ¶¶ 30--31).*fn10 Plaintiff was bleeding from his arm and from behind his right ear. (Id.). Plaintiff told Jagman that the officers had "jumped [him]," but Jagman simply walked away. (Pl. SOAF ¶¶ 31--32).

B. Taser Usage and Policies

The parties do not disagree about the evidence presented in regard to the Police Department's taser policy. Lieutenant William Garrison testified in a deposition that he, along with Sergeant Kmetty, handles the training of Country Club Hills police officers in the use of the taser. (Pl. Resp. City SOF ¶ 25). Lt. Garrison was certified as an instructor in the use of the taser in 2004, (Pl. Resp. City SOF ¶ 24), after completing eight hours of training and passing a twenty-five question test (Pl. SOAF ¶¶ 34, 36). The training that Lt. Garrison and Sgt. Kmetty provided to County Club Hills police officers included a PowerPoint presentation, ...

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