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Laverne Armstrong, Robbin Armstrong, and Cordero Armstrong v. Michael Maloney

February 21, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Edmond E. Chang


Plaintiffs Laverne, Robbin, and Cordero Armstrong filed this lawsuit against a group of Chicago police officers (the Officers), along with the City of Chicago.*fn1 The Armstrongs seek to recover damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Both sides have filed motions for summary judgment [R.113; 119]. For the reasons explained below, the Armstrongs' motion is denied and the Defendant Officers' motion is denied in part and granted in part.


In deciding the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the respective non-moving party. On January 12, 2007, at around 5 p.m., Officer George Niedzwiecki and his partner, Officer Piotr Szczurowski, were dispatched to the 400 block of North Hamlin. R.121 ¶ 28. There, they encountered Aimee Dunlap,*fn2 who told the two officers she had just found the car that she had earlier reported as stolen. R. 114 ¶ 9. According to the officers, she also said that Corvell Hodges, her ex-boyfriend, was the one who stole her car. R.121 ¶ 29. Dunlap asked the officers to arrest Hodges (who was not present at the time) but Officer Niedzwiecki explained that Dunlap would have to agree to swear out a warrant for his arrest first.R.121, Exh. D (Niedzwiecki Dep. at 26). The officers then left the scene. Id. at 30--31.

A few hours later, the two officers were again dispatched to the 400 block of North Hamlin because of a report of domestic battery. R. 121 ¶ 31. When they arrived, they saw both Dunlap and Hodges in the area. Id. ¶ 64. At this point, the parties disagree as to what Dunlap said. The officers maintain that Dunlap told them that Hodges hit her and that she wanted him arrested. R. 121 ¶ 32. In contrast, Dunlap denies that she ever told the officers that Hodges hit her. R. 114 ¶ 26.

The parties do agree, however, that at this point, Officer Szczurowski asked Hodges, "Come here. We want to talk to you." R. 114 ¶ 35; R. 121 ¶ 35. As the officer said that, Hodges began to run (according to Hodges and Dunlap, he walked, not ran) away from the scene. R. 121 ¶¶ 35-37. Officers Szczurowski and Niedzwiecki both jumped out of the squad car, and gave chase. Id. ¶ 37. At this moment, according to the officers, Dunlap yelled out that Hodges had a gun. Id. ¶ 38. The officers also testified that Dunlap later said that Hodges was known to have a gun, but that she was not sure if he was carrying a gun with him at that time. R. 114 ¶ 42. Dunlap denies ever making these statements. Id. ¶ 41.

During Officer Niedzwiecki's chase of Hodges, Officer Niedzwiecki used his radio and stated, over the air, that he was chasing a domestic battery suspect who might have a gun. R. 121 ¶ 38. But the officers were unable to catch Hodges, and soon gave up chasing him. R. 114 ¶ 46. They decided to wait to see if he would come back. R. 121 ¶ 40. Hodges did indeed return, and when the officers saw him, they saw him climbing over the gate and jumping into the backyard of 425 North Hamlin. Id. ¶ 41.

The officers saw Hodges run up the stairs and pound on the door of the second floor apartment while yelling, "Let me in. Let me in." Id. ¶ 75. The door opened, and Hodges was let inside. Id. By this time, several officers had arrived at the scene, but the officers did not have a warrant to enter the second-floor apartment. Officer Szczurowski went over the air and let everyone know that Hodges had gone inside the second-floor rear door of the apartment and had closed the door behind him. Id. ¶ 78. Those living inside the apartment were Charles, Laverne, Cordero, and Robbin Armstrong, along with Robbin's infant daughter. R. 114 ¶ 55.

To continue the pursuit of Hodges into the apartment, Officer Szczurowski, along with four or five plainclothes officers, ran up the stairs, and began pounding on the door while yelling, "Police. Open up the door." Id. ¶ 79. According to Officer Niedzwiecki, the woman behind the door asked if the officers had a warrant. R. 114 ¶ 58. The officers replied that they did not. Id. The woman refused to open the door; the officers broke down the door and entered the apartment. R. 121 ¶¶ 50, 80. In total, ten to twelve officers entered. Id. ¶¶ 85, 137. The officers ordered all the apartment's occupants to get on the ground, and all of the occupants complied. Id. ¶ 111. As the search for Hodges began, the parties dispute what happened next.

In the officers' version of events, Robbin Armstrong tried to mislead the officers into believing that Hodges had escaped the apartment. Officer Szczurowski recalled Robbin yelling, "There's nobody here. He ran out the front door." R. 121 ¶ 83. Officer Niedzwiecki also heard Robbin tell the officers that Hodges ran out the front door. Id. ¶ 57. Other officers confirm that Robbin made these statements. Id. ¶ 163. In contrast, Robbin denies making any of these statements. R. 155, Exh. I (Robbin Dep. at 140--141). According to her, she told the officers that there were only five people inside the apartment because she was unaware that Hodges had entered. R. 121 ¶ 124.

The parties do agree that the officers soon found Hodges and arrested him. R. 114 ¶ 63. After the arrest, the officers continued to search the apartment. R. 154 ¶ 18. Cordero Armstrong claims that the officers kicked and stepped on his face and back. Id. ¶ 11. The officers also arrested Robbin Armstrong because they believed she tried to mislead them into thinking that Hodges was not in the apartment. R. 121 ¶ 125; R. 114 ¶ 73.

Soon after, the police officers left the Armstrong apartment. After they left, the Armstrongs discovered that the back door was broken. R. 154 ¶ 21. They also discovered that Robbin Armstrong's bed and the railings were broken, and $250 was missing from Robbin's bedroom. Id. ¶¶ 22--24.

Officer Maloney later prepared and signed a misdemeanor complaint that charged Robbin Armstrong with Obstructing a Police Officer. R. 114 ¶ 76. On February 26, 2007, the Circuit Court of Cook County struck the charge from the docket with leave to reinstate. Id. ¶ 78; R. 125 at 17. The charge was eventually dismissed. R. 129 at 7.

These events led to this lawsuit. In August 2008, Laverne, Robbin and Cordero Armstrong filed a five-count complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. R. 1. The first three counts were false arrest, search and seizure, and failure-to-intervene claims by each of the Armstrongs against all of the defendants. Id. ¶¶ 19--29. The last two counts were claims (relating to her arrest and prosecution) by Robbin Armstrong against all of the defendants.*fn3 Id. ¶¶ 30--41. The Armstrongs filed a motion for partial summary judgment on Counts 1, 2, and 5. R. 113. The officers filed a motion for summary judgment on all claims. R. 125.


Summary judgment must be granted "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The same standard applies to cross-motions for summary judgment. Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, Local 176 v. Balmoral Racing Club, Inc., 293 F.3d 402, 404 (7th Cir. 2002). Rule 56 "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). All ...

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