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Darrius Whitehorn v. J.H. Lawson

February 21, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. Holderman, Chief Judge:


Plaintiff Darrius Whitehorn's Third Amended Complaint (Dkt. No. 76), which was filed on August 26, 2010, alleges that the defendant Chicago Police Officers Jeffrey Lawson, Fred Estrada, Charleston Harris, Shani Sun, and Craig Burton are liable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for false arrest and false imprisonment (Counts I & II). That complaint also alleges that the officers violated the Illinois Constitution (Count III) and intentionally inflicted emotional distress on Whitehorn (Count IV). Finally, it alleges that the City of Chicago is liable for the officers' actions (Count V).

Pending before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 101) seeking judgment on all counts of Whitehorn's Third Amended Complaint. For the reasons explained below, that motion is granted.


On August 17, 2009, Officers Lawson and Estrada started their shift in District 018 at approximately 10:30 p.m. (Dkt. No. 102 ("Defs.' SMF") ¶ 6.)*fn1 Officers Lawson and Estrada heard over the radio a call of a "person-with-a-gun" and traveled to the area of the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Lake Shore Drive on the east side of the City of Chicago to assist the responding unit. (Id. ¶ 8.) While en route, Officers Lawson and Estrada received an update over the radio reporting that a vehicle had been stopped, and that one or two occupants of that vehicle may have fled on foot and were still at large in the area. (Id. ¶ 10.) Officers Lawson and Estrada continued to travel south on Lake Shore Drive toward the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Lake Shore Drive. (Id. ¶ 11.) As Officers Lawson and Estrada approached Pearson Street, less than one block north of Chicago Avenue, Officer Lawson observed a vehicle stopped on Chicago Avenue facing westbound. (Id. ¶ 12.) Officer Lawson also observed two uniformed officers on foot running towards two male black individuals on Pearson Street, who were walking away from the area of the stopped vehicle. (Id. ¶ 13.) Officers Lawson and Estrada then turned west onto Pearson Street and, as they drove by the two officers on foot, one of the on-foot officers signaled with a hand gesture to Officer Lawson to catch up to the two walking males. (Id. ¶ 16.)

When Officers Lawson and Estrada reached the two males, Officer Lawson got out of the car and approached them on foot. (Id. ¶ 17.) The two males, Whitehorn and his friend, Jack, were very cooperative and both voluntarily produced State I.D. cards. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18; see also Dkt. No. 123 ("Whitehorn's Add'l Facts") ¶ 1.) Whitehorn and Jack told the officers they did not have a gun, and no weapon was found on either of them during a protective pat down. (Whitehorn's Add'l Facts ¶ 4; see also Dkt. No. 125 ("Defs.' Resp. to Whitehorn's Add'l Facts") ¶ 4.)

During this initial encounter, Officer Lawson ran Whitehorn's information through the squad's computer. (Defs.' SMF¶ 19.) A "hit" came back, linking Whitehorn's name to an outstanding extraditable warrant. (Id.; see also Dkt. No. 122 ("Whitehorn's Resp. to Defs.' SMF") ¶ 19.) The full extent of the information contained in the "hit" viewed by Officer Lawson is unclear from the record. It is undisputed that the LEADS system listed the name "Darius Q. Whitehorn" (spelled with one "r") as one of three aliases used by an individual named Kirk Arthur Davis ("Davis"),*fn2 and that Davis was subject to an outstanding warrant extraditable to Indiana. (Whitehorn's Add'l Facts ¶ 2; see also Defs.' Ex. H ("LEADS Response for Davis").) Officer Lawson testified at his deposition that he did not actually view the LEADS Response for Davis, however, because he did not run Davis's name through the computer. (See Defs.' Ex. E ("Lawson's Dep.") at 38:2-39:11; 42:13-43:2.) It is Officer Lawson's testimony that the information generated by running Whitehorn's name through the computer would be different than the information generated by running Davis's name through the computer, and that he did not view the LEADS Response for Davis at the time of Whitehorn's arrest. (Id.) Rather, Officer Lawson testified that he "got a hit in the computer" when he ran Whitehorn's name, and that his computer showed "a hit of an extraditable warrant for this person that I have right now detained . . . regarding a full extradition to Indiana regarding a strong-armed robbery." (Id. 17:6-22.) Officer Lawson did not recall seeing any names other than "Darrius Whitehorn" on his computer, and did not further explain the details of the "hit" he viewed on his computer screen. (Id. 17:23-18:5.) Although Whitehorn asserts that the "hit" viewed by Officer Lawson after running Whitehorn's name through the computer is the same as the LEADS Response for Davis, (see Whitehorn's Resp. to Defs.' SMF ¶ 19), this assertion is not supported by the evidence cited in the record. Regardless, the parties do not dispute that Officer Lawson's computer search of Whitehorn's name generated some type of "hit" linking Whitehorn to the same outstanding extraditable warrant that is referenced in the LEADS Response for Davis.

After running Whitehorn's name through his computer, Officer Lawson called in Whitehorn's information over the radio and received a confirmation from OEMC dispatch that there was a "hit" on Whitehorn for an extraditable warrant. (Defs.' SMF ¶ 20.) Whitehorn was then handcuffed and placed in the rear of the squad car about five minutes after the initial stop. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23.) Whitehorn and Jack, who was also handcuffed in the rear of the squad car, were then driven back to the stopped vehicle on Chicago Avenue. (Id. ¶ 23.) Whitehorn and Jack were asked if they knew the individual in the stopped vehicle. (Id. ¶ 24.) Whitehorn and Jack each said "no." (Id.) Other than being asked if they recognized the individual in the stopped vehicle, nothing else was said to Whitehorn and Jack at the scene of the stopped vehicle. (Id.) Officers Lawson and Estrada then arrested Whitehorn based on the "hit" received and confirmed by Officer Lawson, and brought Whitehorn to the police station. (Id. ¶¶ 26, 28.) During the time shortly after he was arrested, Whitehorn professed his innocence and urged Officers Lawson and Estrada to fingerprint him to prove his innocence. (Whitehorn's Add'l Facts ¶ 5.) In Officer Lawson's experience, both before and after Whitehorn's arrest, he has never had an arrestee ask to be printed. (Defs.' Resp. to Whitehorn's Add'l Facts ¶ 6.) Officer Estrada testified that he has occasionally had arrestees ask to be printed, but not often. (Id.; see also Defs.' Ex. F ("Estrada Dep") at 18:12-18.)

At the police station, Officer Lawson called the Chicago Police Department LEADS desk. (Defs.' SMF ¶ 28.) Officer Burton answered Officer Lawson's call, and confirmed that the NCIC national database showed a valid outstanding extraditable warrant linked to Whitehorn's name.*fn3 (Id. ¶ 29.) Officer Burton then gave Officer Lawson a "hold" number to enter in the arrest report of Whitehorn. (Id.) Officer Burton is the Field Inquiry Officer who handles all out-of-Chicago warrants (collar counties, cities, out-of-state, AWOL, Interpol, US Marshals), running LEADS (Illinois state) and NCIC (national) identifications. (Id. ¶ 30.) Officer Burton has the discretion to deem whether a fugitive warrant is valid or invalid. (Whitehorn's Add'l Facts ¶ 7.) After receiving confirmation from Officer Burton that Whitehorn was subject to a valid outstanding warrant extraditable to Indiana, Officer Lawson prepared the arrest papers and ordered a transport vehicle to take Whitehorn to the 1st District, where all extraditions are handled. (Defs.' SMF ¶ 31.) Officers Lawson and Estrada had no further involvement with Whitehorn or his detention. (Id. ¶ 32.)

Officer Shani Sun is and was the head extradition officer at all relevant times for the Chicago Police Department, where she is in charge of ten to twelve other extradition officers. (Defs.' SMF ¶ 35; Whitehorn's Add'l Facts ¶ 9.) On August 18, 2009, Officer Sun requested Davis's fingerprints from the Lake County Indiana Sheriff's Department. (Defs.' SMF ¶ 46.) The Lake County Indiana Sheriff's Department responded with a fax dated August 18, 2009, stating that it did not have any fingerprints to provide to Officer Sun. (Id. ¶ 47.) The Lake County Indiana Sherriff's Department also faxed a packet of material to Officer Sun, including a letter and warrant papers advising Officer Sun to detain Whitehorn for extradition to Indiana without bond, as well as a confirmation of the "hit." (Id. ¶ 44.) The packet of material from the Lake County Indiana Sheriff's Department identified Davis's name as associated with Whitehorn's Social Security number. (Id. ¶ 45.) That same day, Officer Sun also had Whitehorn's fingerprints compared to Davis's FBI fingerprint "class," as shown on the out-of-state warrant. (Id. ¶ 48.) Whitehorn's fingerprints came back as a possible match to Davis's FBI fingerprint class. (Id.)

Also on August 18, 2009, Whitehorn was brought before Judge Israel Desierto. (Id. ¶ 49.) Officer Harris presented Whitehorn's file to the court at the August 18, 2009 hearing. (Id.) Through his defense counsel, Lee Carson, Whitehorn advised Judge Desierto that he was not the person Indiana was seeking on the fugitive warrant, and counsel requested a continuance to a "short date" to determine "if in fact [Whitehorn] is not the person that they are truly seeking." (Id.; see also Defs.' Ex. O ("9/18/2009 Tr.") at 3:11-16.) Judge Desierto ordered a continuance of seven days, until August 25, 2009, to see if additional identifiers from Indiana could be obtained to ascertain whether Whitehorn was the individual wanted by the State of Indiana. (Defs.' SMF ¶ 49.)

On August 19, 2009, the Lake County Indiana Sheriff's Department advised Officer Sun that the out-of-state warrant belonged to the Hammond Indiana Police Department. (Id. ¶ 50.) Officer Sun's team then requested Davis's fingerprints from the Hammond Indiana Police Department on several occasions between August 19, 2009, and August 24, 2009. (Id. ¶ 51; see also Defs.' Ex. B ("Sun Dep.") at 64:21-65:15; 85:1-19.) On August 24, 2009, Officer Sun received an email from the Hammond Indiana Police Department with a packet of information that included a picture of Davis. (Id. ¶ 52.) Officer Sun had in her possession a picture of Whitehorn and, immediately upon reviewing the photograph forwarded by the Hammond Indiana Police Department, Officer Sun was able to ascertain that the person the Chicago Police Department held in custody was not Davis. (Id. ¶ 53; Defs.' Resp. to Whitehorn's Add'l Facts ¶ 13.) On August 24, 2009, approximately two hours after receiving the packet of information from the Hammond Indiana Police Department, Officer Sun's team sent a message to the Cook County Jail advising them to release Whitehorn. (Id. ¶ 54; see also Whitehorn's Resp. to Defs.' SMF ¶ 54.)

It is undisputed that, at some point during her investigation, Officer Sun obtained the criminal history report for Davis that was on file with the Chicago Police Department. (Whitehorn's Add'l Facts ¶ 13; see also Defs.' Ex. I ("CPD Criminal History Report").) The CPD Criminal History Report appears under the name "Jason B. Owens," another of Davis's aliases, and includes a profile picture of Davis. (Id.) The CPD Criminal History Report lists the names "Kirk A Davis" and "Darius Q Whitehorn" as aliases used by "Jason B. Owens." (CPD Criminal History Report at 1.) The CPD Criminal History Report also includes Whitehorn's date of birth and Social Security number as having been used by "Jason B. Owens" on a previous occasion. (Id.; see also Whitehorn's Add'l Facts ¶ 8; Defs.' SMF ¶ 38.)

The LEADS Response for Davis includes the following identifiers: black male; 5 foot 8 inches tall; 147 pounds. (Defs.' SMF ¶¶ 36-37, 40.) It is undisputed that Whitehorn is a black male, 5 foot 10 inches tall, who weighed 140 pounds on the date of his arrest. (Id. ¶¶ 36-37, 40.) The LEADS Response for Davis also includes two different Social Security numbers. (Whitehorn's Add'l Facts ¶ 8.) The first Social Security number listed in the LEADS Report for Davis, ending in -9563, is an exact match for Whitehorn's Social Security number. (Id.; see also Defs.' SMF ¶ 39.) The LEADS Response for Davis includes two different ...

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