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Hawkins v. Mitchell

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Urbana Division

November 15, 2012

William K. HAWKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
Rodney S. MITCHELL, in his individual capacity, and James M. Bowersock, in his individual capacity, Defendants.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Jude Marie Redwood, Redwood Law Office, St Joseph, IL, for Plaintiff.

David E. Krchak, Thomas Mamer & Haughey, Champaign, IL, for Defendants.

OPINION

MICHAEL P. McCUSKEY, District Judge.

This case is before the court for ruling on the Motion for Summary Judgment (# 36) filed by Defendants, Rodney S. Mitchell and James M. Bowersock, and the Motion for Summary Judgment (# 45) filed by Plaintiff, William K. Hawkins. This court has carefully reviewed the arguments of the parties and the documents filed by the parties. Following this careful and thorough review, this court concludes that Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims regarding his arrest and are not entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims regarding the use of excessive force. This court concludes that there are genuine issues of material fact which preclude summary judgment on the excessive force claims. Therefore, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (# 36) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part. Because Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on some of Plaintiff's claims and factual issues prevent the entry of summary judgment on the remaining claims, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (# 45) is DENIED.

FACTS [1]

On May 31, 2008, Plaintiff and Sarah

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Bumgarner (Sarah) [2] spent the day and evening together. Plaintiff testified at his deposition that they had been dating since 2005, but that Sarah probably also saw other people. Both Plaintiff and Sarah consumed alcohol during the time they were together on May 31, 2008, and were at Plaintiff's house that evening. Plaintiff testified that he had Red Bull and vodka that night and that he and Sarah split a twelve pack of beer, but perhaps did not finish all of it.[3] Sarah stated in her affidavit that Plaintiff brought up the topic of a serious relationship and " became very upset, started to yell and became verbally abusive" because she did not agree with him. Sarah stated that she told Plaintiff she needed to leave the house because she was scared he would try to hurt her as he had done in the past. Sarah stated that she began packing up some clothing that she had brought to Plaintiff's house to launder. She said that, as she was packing the clothes, Plaintiff yelled at her to get out of his house and began throwing her clothes into the front yard.[4] Sarah stated that, as she was scrambling to leave the house, she could not find her car keys. She asked Plaintiff to give her the keys and he told her he did not have them and continued to be verbally abusive. Sarah stated that she called the police so that they could help her retrieve her keys so that Plaintiff would not try to hurt her. Sarah stated that she advised the dispatcher that Plaintiff was intoxicated and could be violent when he was intoxicated.

At his deposition, Plaintiff denied ever striking Sarah or being verbally abusive to her but stated that she could be verbally abusive when she was drinking. Plaintiff testified that he and Sarah had a disagreement around 10:30 the evening of May 31, 2008. He said that he started bugging her about seeing him more often and she got annoyed and started yelling. Plaintiff testified that Sarah was drunk and became very verbally abusive when she was drunk. According to Plaintiff, Sarah had a habit of lying and blaming others when she was drunk. Plaintiff testified that they had a discussion for about 40 minutes and Sarah

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began gathering her things and left, taking her laundry with her. In his affidavit, Plaintiff stated that the front door of his house locks automatically when closed. Plaintiff testified that he went upstairs to bed and did not recall Sarah telling him she did not have her car keys.

At 11:37 p.m. on May 31, 2008, a call came to the Metropolitan Computer Aided Dispatch (METCAD) from Sarah indicating a domestic situation at Plaintiff's address.[5] According to the affidavit of Deanne Brazelton, the METCAD dispatcher who received the call, she labeled the call a domestic situation based upon the information she received from Sarah. Brazelton stated that Sarah reported that there was an argument between Plaintiff and her and that Plaintiff had locked her out and her keys were in the residence. Brazelton stated that she asked Sarah if alcohol was involved and Sarah replied that both of them were intoxicated. Then, consistent with her training and METCAD's routine practice, Brazelton asked Sarah if Plaintiff had any weapons in his possession and Sarah responded that she was not sure. Brazelton then entered into the computer the location of the domestic dispute, that there had been an argument between Sarah and Plaintiff, that both were intoxicated, and that it was unknown if any weapons were in the possession of Plaintiff. Brazelton also entered that Sarah had stated that Plaintiff had a history of abusiveness toward her. Brazelton stated that, whenever there is a domestic dispute in progress, it is to be labeled " Priority 1" which indicates to the officer that this call deserves the highest priority. In that situation, the computer automatically recommends that two officers proceed to the scene. Jennifer Frost, another dispatcher for METCAD, radioed police officers that there was a Priority 1 incident in progress at Plaintiff's address.

Defendant Mitchell was the first to arrive at Plaintiff's residence. The dispatch log related to the incident states that Mitchell arrived at 11:41 p.m. Mitchell stated in his affidavit, and confirmed in his deposition testimony, that when he arrived he saw Plaintiff standing outside the front door of the residence and saw Sarah in the front yard. Mitchell testified that Sarah was crying and appeared to be very upset. Mitchell stated that Plaintiff was yelling at Sarah that he did not have her keys. Mitchell stated that Plaintiff then closed the door. Mitchell spoke to Sarah who told her that Plaintiff " gets violent sometimes." Sarah told him she wanted to retrieve her keys and then leave. Mitchell testified that he smelled an odor of alcoholic beverage from her breath or about her person. He testified that he visually checked her for signs of physical battery and saw no bleeding, torn clothing or other signs of physical battery and Sarah said she was okay.

Mitchell, who was dressed in full Champaign police uniform, knocked on the front door of the house. Plaintiff testified that he thought it was Sarah at the door, so he came downstairs and opened the door. Plaintiff testified that Mitchell, who he recognized as a police officer because of his uniform, stepped into his house and backed him up. Mitchell stated that Plaintiff opened the door and screamed " what?" Mitchell testified that he identified himself and advised Plaintiff he was there to investigate a domestic incident. Mitchell testified that Plaintiff attempted to close the door on him, so he put his foot in the door so Plaintiff could not close it. Mitchell

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stated that he told Plaintiff to identify himself and explain what had happened. Plaintiff testified that he was shocked by Mitchell's presence in the house. Plaintiff asked Mitchell what he was doing in the house and told Mitchell that he needed to step out of the house. Mitchell asked Plaintiff again for his identification and advised Plaintiff he needed to make sure no one had been battered. Plaintiff testified that he does not recall what Mitchell was saying. Plaintiff testified that he reached in his pocket and got his phone to call his attorney. According to Mitchell, Plaintiff yelled at Mitchell to leave and then pulled out a cell phone and called someone he identified as his attorney.

At 11:45 p.m., Defendant Bowersock arrived on the scene. Bowersock testified that Sarah was outside crying with clothes strewn about the ground. Mitchell motioned to Bowersock to enter the residence. According to Bowersock, Plaintiff yelled and cursed at both him and Mitchell and was flailing his arm. Bowersock testified that his understanding of the situation was that Plaintiff had taken Sarah's keys and refused to return them to her. Plaintiff testified that he did not see a second officer come into his home. Plaintiff testified that he spoke to his attorney on his cell phone and told him that he had a police officer in his home and the officer would not leave. His attorney told him to ask if the officer had a warrant, so he asked Mitchell if he had a warrant and Mitchell said no. Plaintiff testified that his attorney also told him to ask if he was under arrest. He asked Mitchell, and Mitchell said no. Plaintiff testified that Mitchell then threw him to the ground, even though he did not do anything to resist the arrest, and Mitchell busted his head into the floor. Plaintiff testified that his cell phone went flying across the room. Plaintiff testified that Mitchell handcuffed him, yanked him off the ground and hauled him to the squad car. Plaintiff testified that, at that time, he did not see another officer.[6]

Bowersock stated that he told Plaintiff to end the cell phone conversation and speak to Mitchell. Bowersock stated that he told Plaintiff they were investigating a reported domestic incident and Plaintiff needed to identify himself. Bowersock testified that Plaintiff did not acknowledge him. Bowersock stated that he told Plaintiff that the phone call needed to end or Plaintiff would be arrested. When Plaintiff refused to complete his phone conversation, Bowersock advised Plaintiff he was under arrest. Bowersock stated that Plaintiff then tensed his muscles and said, " No I am not, I haven't done anything, this is my house, get the fuck out of my house." Bowersock stated that Plaintiff began to physically try and pull away and he and Mitchell took Plaintiff to the ground. Mitchell stated that Plaintiff struggled with them and Mitchell and Bowersock took him to the ground. Mitchell stated that he never touched Plaintiff's head during the struggle to arrest him and any contact Plaintiff's head had with the floor was inadvertent. According to the dispatch log, Plaintiff was arrested at 11:46:43, less than two minutes after Bowersock arrived on the scene. Mitchell and Bowersock stated that Plaintiff resisted being handcuffed and struggled with them while being escorted to the police car. In her affidavit, Sarah stated that she could hear Plaintiff being combative and yelling at the police officers while they were in the house and that she saw him struggling

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with the officers when they escorted him outside of the house in handcuffs. Plaintiff testified that he was compliant with the officers.

Plaintiff's attorney, Todd Reardon, stated in his affidavit that he received a telephone call from Plaintiff around 11:35 p.m. on May 31, 2008. Reardon stated that, after Plaintiff had asked Mitchell if he had a warrant and if Plaintiff was under arrest and Mitchell replied, " No, I just want to talk to you," Reardon told Plaintiff " he did not have to talk with the officer, that the Officer had no right to be in the house and he could just tell the officer to get the fuck out of the house." Reardon stated that he heard Plaintiff say, " Just get the fuck out of my house, my attorney says you have no right to be in here." Reardon also heard Plaintiff say in a firm voice but not yelling or screaming, " if you do not have a warrant get the fuck out of my house." Reardon stated that the then heard Mitchell yell, " I've had enough of this shit" and then the phone went dead.[7]

Mitchell stated that he noticed blood on Plaintiff's forehead when Plaintiff was in the backseat of the police vehicle. Bowersock testified that, after Plaintiff was arrested and placed in the squad car, he calmed down and said that he did not know where Sarah's keys were. Plaintiff then gave Sarah permission to go into the house and look for her keys. Bowersock testified that Sarah said she was going to have someone come and pick her up. Mitchell stated that he transported Plaintiff to the Champaign County satellite jail. According to Mitchell, Plaintiff cleaned up the cut and stated that he did not require any medical attention. Plaintiff was booked for resisting or obstructing a peace officer and domestic violence. He was later charged with resisting a peace officer, a misdemeanor. All charges were eventually dismissed on the State's motion. Plaintiff testified that he found Sarah's keys about three days after May 31, 2008, between the ...


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