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Sara Bridewell, Randy Manuel, and Lisa Rhodes v. City of Chicago

June 27, 2012

SARA BRIDEWELL, RANDY MANUEL, AND LISA RHODES, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO, KEVIN EBERLE, AND BRIAN FORBERG, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Harry D. Leinenweber

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons stated herein, the Motion is granted in its entirety.

I. BACKGROUND

The following are the facts on which the parties agree, unless otherwise indicated.

On the evening of September 3, 2006, Walter Chandler ("Chandler") drove his sport utility vehicle into Plaintiff Lisa Rhodes' ("Rhodes") Nissan Altima on Chicago's southeast side. Chandler fled. Rhodes, her sister Sara Bridewell ("Bridewell"), Randy Manuel ("Manuel") and Anthony Watkins ("Watkins") got in Rhodes' car and gave chase. Chandler turned into what appeared to be a dead-end alley and Plaintiffs' car pulled up behind him, blocking his attempt to reverse out of the alley. Bridewell, Rhodes and Manuel got out of the car and confronted Chandler. Bridewell approached from the passenger side of the SUV, Manuel and Rhodes from the driver's side. Rhodes reached into the SUV and took Chandler's keys out of the ignition. Bridewell at some point yelled out that Chandler had a gun and the three ran. A shot rang out, followed by Chandler's head slumping onto his steering wheel, setting off the horn.

A witness reported that minutes later, two men in white T-shirts approached the SUV. At least one appeared to have a gun, and more shots rang out, followed by the men running away. Police were called and Rhodes and Bridewell approached police when they arrived. Rhodes told them that the occupant of the SUV had shot at her and her sister, although she did not mention there were two other men in her car with her when they followed the SUV. Later, Defendant Chicago Police detectives Kevin Eberle ("Eberle") and Brian Forberg ("Forberg") arrived on the scene and after some investigation ordered Rhodes and Bridewell taken to Area 2 police headquarters for further questioning. Manuel was picked up nearby and also taken to Area 2. Watkins was also arrested. There does not seem to be any dispute that all Plaintiffs, at least as of their first interrogations at the police station, were under arrest.

Bridewell was interrogated for 63 hours before being brought before a judge; she never admitted to shooting Chandler. Rhodes was questioned in a windowless room for many hours without a bathroom break and at one point urinated in the interrogation room. Police say they told her she could take bathroom breaks. Nonetheless, Rhodes told police "for a long time" she never saw Bridewell shoot Chandler until finally changing her story to say Bridewell had fired at Chandler. Pls.' Ex. AA at 2. Watkins was interrogated for 27 hours until he, too, said he saw Bridewell shoot Chandler. Manuel invoked his right to counsel.

Bridewell was charged with murder and jailed for three years while she awaited trial until prosecutors dropped the charges. Among the problems prosecutors found with the case was the fact that DNA swabs taken from a gun found in the center console of the SUV next to Chandler had not been immediately tested, and when they eventually were tested, yielded no useable results. Prosecutors also found that a lie-detector technician's questioning of Rhodes (during which she broke and changed her story) was not so much an objective lie-detector test as it was a "completely biased" interrogation. Pls.' Ex. AA, at 2. The fact that Bridewell and Rhodes voluntarily approached police when they arrived also did not necessarily reflect guilt.

All three Plaintiffs and Watkins each tested negative for gunshot residue some six hours after the shooting, although police reports indicated Bridewell had, at some point, washed her hands before testing, possibly removing any gunpowder. The Cook County medical examiner was forced to revise his autopsy report two years after he completed it after Plaintiffs' autopsy expert pointed out Chandler's gunshot entry wound had deposits of soot. This, the medical examiner conceded, is an indication of close range firing. That detail is possibly supportive of Bridewell's story that Chandler had accidentally or purposely killed himself after they ran away. (The sole, fatal wound was, in fact, found to be inflicted by the gun found in Chandler's car when police arrived.) The medical examiner still believes the shooting is a homicide, however.

In 2008, Plaintiffs filed this suit. The counts that remain are each Plaintiff's unlawful arrest claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the individual Defendants (Counts I, II and III), Plaintiff Bridewell's state law malicious prosecution claim against the City and the individual Defendants (Count V) and Bridewell's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against the City and the individual Defendants (Count VI).

Cook County prosecutors dropped the murder charge in 2009. Further facts relevant to specific counts of this suit will be addressed below.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper only if 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. A fact presents a genuine issue if it is one on which a reasonable fact finder could find for the nonmoving party. ...


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