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Eric Palmore-Lett v. Village of Schaumburg

October 24, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer


Plaintiff Eric Palmore-Lett alleges that he was unlawfully arrested by officers of the Village of Schaumburg and Harper College police departments. Palmore-Lett filed this lawsuit in state court, alleging federal and state claims against Schaumburg Detective Bryan J. Poradzisz and Kristopher Larson, a Harper College police officer. Defendants removed the case to this court and the parties have stipulated to dismissal of Plaintiff's state law claims. What is left are Plaintiff's claims of false arrest and unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment against the individual Defendants and Plaintiff's Monell claims against the Village of Schaumburg and Harper College. Defendants seek summary judgment on those claims. Because the court concludes that the officers' conduct was supported by probable cause, their motions are granted.


The following facts are drawn from the pleadings and the parties' Local Rule 56.1 submissions.*fn1

I. Investigation of Zaire Harris

In early May of 2010, Detective Bryan Poradzisz, who was employed by the Schaumburg Police Department (hereinafter "SPD"), began investigating reports of residential burglaries and an attempted burglary at the Remington Place Apartments, an apartment complex located in the Village of Schaumburg. (Vill. Defs.' 56.1(a) [36] at ¶ 8.) According to those reports, the offender forcibly entered residences and stole checks that he made payable to "Zaire Harris" and deposited at various ATMs. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 11.) In a May 12, 2010 interview, the property manager of the apartment complex told Poradzisz that a man named Zaire Harris (hereinafter "Harris") shared an apartment in the complex with four Harper College students. (Id. ¶ 10.)

As part of his investigation, Detective Poradzisz was able to obtain video images of a person cashing the forged checks.*fn2 (Id. ¶ 11.) The images, while not of good quality (Harper Coll. Defs.' Resp. to Pl.'s 56.1(b) [51] at ¶ 11), depicted an African-American male with dreadlocks. (Vill. Defs.'

56.1(a) ¶ 11.) When Poradzisz showed the images to two of the burglary victims, they recognized the man in the images as a neighbor who lived in the apartment complex. (Id. ¶ 15.) The victims told Poradzisz that they had spoken to the neighbor in the past and that he had told them he was a student at Harper College. (Poradzisz Decl., Ex. B to Vill. Defs.' 56.1(a) at ¶ 8.)

On June 7, 2010, Detective Poradzisz returned to the apartment complex and called on the unit in which Harris reportedly lived. (Vill. Defs.' 56.1(a) ¶ 13.) Poradzisz spoke with two individuals who lived in the unit and learned that Harris had recently moved out. (Id.) One of the former roommates confirmed that Harris was enrolled at Harper College and told Detective Poradzisz that Harris had a class in room D226 that met Monday through Thursday in the morning. (Id. ¶ 14.) Poradzisz also obtained additional information from the Secretary of State, confirming that Harris had a driver's license, which revealed that Harris was a 20-year-old African-American male who stood 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 175 pounds. (Poradzisz Decl. ¶ 9.) (Whether Poradzisz had access to Harris's driver's license photograph is not clear from the record.)

II. Seizure of Plaintiff

On June 23, 2010, at about 9:00 a.m., Detective Poradzisz and Detective Kwiatkowski, another SPD detective, drove to Harper College to locate Harris. (Vill. Defs.' 56.1(a) ¶ 16.) Upon arriving at Harper College, Poradzisz and Kwiatkowski went to the Harper College Police Station and spoke with Officer Joe Hernandez. (Id. ¶ 17.) It is undisputed that Officer Hernandez confirmed that Harris was enrolled in a class that met in room D226, which was in progress and scheduled to end at 9:30 that morning. (Id.)

Harper College dispatched Defendant Officer Kristopher Larson to meet the SPD detectives in Building D. (Harper Coll. Defs.' 56.1(a) [40] at ¶ 6.) Larson proceeded to Building D, where he met Detectives Poradzisz and Kwiatkowski and a second Harper College Police Officer, Rich Nowaczyk. (Pl.'s 56.1(b) [45-2] at ¶ 10.) Detective Poradzisz told the Harper College officers that he was looking for Zaire Harris, who was believed to be in classroom D226. (Harper Coll. Defs.' 56.1(a) ¶¶ 7-8.) The SPD detectives and Harper College officers arrived at room D226 as the class was about to end. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12.) There were approximately 18-25 students in the class. (Vill. Defs.' 56.1(a) ¶ 18.) Plaintiff was one of two African-American males in the classroom. (Id. ¶ 21.) At that time, Plaintiff was 19 years old, 5 feet 11 inches tall, and weighed 188 pounds. (PalmoreLett Dep., Ex. 3 to Pl.'s 56.1(b) at 5:24-6:17.) Plaintiff also wore his hair in dreadlocks that were approximately 2 to 3 inches long--not the same length as Harris's, though the parties do not say whether Harris's dreadlocks were shorter or longer. (Harper Coll. Defs.' 56.1(a) ¶¶ 11, 46, 47.)

First, the Harper College officers entered the classroom. (Pl.'s 56.1(b) ¶ 16.) Officer Larson approached Plaintiff and asked, "are you Zaire Harris?" (Id.) Plaintiff responded, "You've got the wrong guy." (Id.) Then Detective Poradzisz entered the classroom and approached the other African-American male; this other student was approximately 6 feet tall and did not wear dreadlocks. (Id. ¶¶ 20-23.) When Poradzisz asked the other student if he was Harris, the student responded that he was not and produced an identification card. (Id. ¶¶ 21-22.) Poradzisz then approached Plaintiff. Poradzisz identified himself as a Village of Schaumburg detective conducting a burglary investigation and told Plaintiff that he believed Plaintiff matched the description of the suspect. (Vill. Defs.' 56.1(a) ¶ 27.) Poradzisz asked Plaintiff for his name, and when Plaintiff replied that his name was Eric (id. ¶ 28), Poradzisz asked Plaintiff for his identification. (Pl.'s 56.1(b) ¶ 27.)

Plaintiff and Defendants present divergent accounts of what happened next. Plaintiff alleges that he did not have his identification with him and explained that it was in his car, in the parking lot. (Id.) Plaintiff and Detective Poradzisz agree that Plaintiff volunteered to retrieve his identification from his vehicle, and that Detective Poradzisz told Plaintiff that the officers would have to walk him to the parking lot. (Pl.'s 56.1(b) ¶¶ 27-28; Vill. Defs.' Resp. to Pl.'s 56.1(b) [48] at ¶ 48.) Officer Larson testified that Plaintiff refused to cooperate with the officers and refused to go to his vehicle to retrieve his identification. (Larson Dep., Ex. D to Harper Coll. Defs.' 56.1(a) at 39:8-40:15.) While Plaintiff insists he was not belligerent, boisterous, or combative (Pl.'s 56.1(b) ¶ 29), Defendants claim that Plaintiff became agitated and raised his voice during the encounter. (Vill. Defs.' 56.1(a) ¶ 35; Harper Coll.'s ...

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