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Armour v. Country Club Hills

United States District Court, Seventh Circuit

January 8, 2014

ABEID ARMOUR, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTRY CLUB HILLS, COUNTRY CLUB HILLS OFFICERS JOHN SILAS (#857), GUIVEDA FRANCOIS (#108), BRIAN ZARNOWSKI (#819), JOSEPH WILLIAMS (#814), J. STRAYER (#866), DORLA THOMPSON (#860), DETECTIVE DEMPSEY, FORMER COUNTRY CLUB HILLS POLICE CHIEF REGINA EVANS, and UNKNOWN COUNTRY CLUB HILLS POLICE OFFICERS Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

JOAN B. GOTTSCHALL, District Judge.

On April 5, 2013, Abeid Armour filed a fourteen-count Third Amended Complaint against the City of Country Club Hills ("the City"), various City police officers, and former Country Club Hills Police Chief Regina Evans, [1] asserting claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law. Armour's claims stem from an incident on July 24, 2010, during which he was shot by a police officer, then charged with attempted murder, of which he was eventually acquitted. Now before the court are two motions. Evans moves to dismiss all claims in the Third Amended Complaint against her, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The City and City law enforcement officers John Silas, Guiveda Francois, Brian Zarnowksi, Joseph Williams, J. Strayer, Dorla Thompson, and Detective Dempsey (collectively, "the City Defendant officers") move to dismiss Counts 13 and 14 of the Third Amended Complaint, both of which are claims against the City pursuant to Monell v. Department of Social Services of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978). For the reasons that follow, the motions are granted in part and denied in part. The court denies Evans's motion to dismiss Counts 9 and 10, but clarifies that the claims in those counts may proceed only under a Brady theory. Armour's claim against Evans in Count 14 is dismissed. The City's motion to dismiss Count 13 is granted, while its motion to dismiss Count 14 is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

For purposes of the motions to dismiss, the court accepts the following facts alleged by Armour as true. See, e.g., Killingsworth v. HSBC Bank Nevada, N.A., 507 F.3d 614, 618 (7th Cir. 2007). At about 1:30 a.m. on July 24, 2010, Officer Silas fired at least six bullets at Armour, two of which struck him in the side. Officer Francois was present at the shooting.

To cover up the unjustified shooting, Officers Silas and Francois concocted false charges against Armour. Prior to the initiation of any criminal charges, City Defendant officers coerced false testimony from several eyewitnesses. The officers seized six teenagers at the scene of the shooting and held them for over sixteen hours before they were interviewed. Evans was present at the police station when the witnesses were detained. She was aware that the City officers were threatening the witnesses with criminal charges unless they gave statements consistent with Officer Silas's version of events, and she encouraged them to do so.

Armour alleges that Officers Silas and Francois conspired with Evans and the other City Defendant officers to charge and prosecute him. The officers failed to investigate the shooting, included false statements in police reports, and destroyed or hid material evidence. Officer Williams wrote false reports summarizing his interview with Officer Silas the morning after the shooting. Officer Strayer failed to properly investigate the shooting and created false reports regarding his attempts to retrieve video evidence of the shooting on July 25, 2010. Officers Thompson and Dempsey interviewed Armour at the hospital on July 24, 2010, fabricated a statement which they attributed to Armour, failed to record Armour's exculpatory statements, and created false reports regarding their interview with Armour. The officers knew that their reports would be relied upon by prosecutors.

Officer Zarnowski detained teenage witnesses and coerced them into giving false statements about the shooting, signed the coerced statements, failed to record witness statements which exculpated Armour, created false reports regarding witness statements and exculpatory evidence, created false reports about statements given by Silas and Francois, and conducted suggestive photo arrays. Officer Zarnowski interviewed Armour at the hospital on July 25, 2010, failed to record exculpatory statements by Armour, and did not stop questioning Armour when he asked for an attorney. Officer Zarnowski created false reports concerning his interview with Armour and testified based on those false reports before the grand jury and during Armour's September 2011 criminal trial.

Armour alleges that, as the City Defendant officers' supervisor, Evans encouraged them to present false reports, testify falsely to the grand jury and at Armour's trial, hide exculpatory evidence, and fail to properly investigate the charges against Armour. She did so in order to protect the City and the City Defendant officers from liability.

Relying on the officers' reports and the written statements of the witnesses, the Cook County State's Attorney's Office approved felony charges of attempted murder against Armour. Armour was formally indicted for the attempted murder of a police officer on August 17, 2010. Armour spent nearly fourteen months as a pretrial detainee at Cook County Jail. The City Defendant officers were in possession of an investigative report prepared by the Illinois State Police Public Integrity Task Force, which contained exculpatory evidence, but they failed to turn these documents over to Armour. Armour was found not guilty of all charges against him on September 15, 2011.

Armour filed a complaint in this court on July 25, 2011. He filed a Third Amended Complaint on April 4, 2013. Based on the alleged facts summarized above, Armour asserts the following claims in the Third Amended Complaint: (1) § 1983 Excessive Force against Officer Silas; (2) § 1983 Unlawful Seizure/False Arrest against the City Defendant officers; (3) § 1983 Failure to Intervene against Officer Francois; (4) Battery against the City; (5) Assault against Officer Silas and the City; (6) Malicious Prosecution; (7) Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; (8) state-law Civil Conspiracy; (9) § 1983 Civil Conspiracy; (10) § 1983 Due Process; (11) Respondeat Superior Liability against the City; (12) payment of tort judgment by the City pursuant to Illinois law; (13) a Monell "custom and practice" claim against the City; and (14) a Monell "policymaker" claim against the City and Evans.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) should be granted if Plaintiffs fail to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). The factual allegations in a complaint must "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56; see also Swanson v. Citibank, N.A., 614 F.3d 400, 404 (7th Cir. 2010) ("[P]laintiff must give enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together."). For purposes of a motion to dismiss, the court takes all facts alleged in the complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in the plaintiff's favor, although conclusory allegations that merely recite the elements of a claim are not entitled to this presumption of truth. Virnich v. Vorwald, 664 F.3d 206, 212 (7th Cir. 2011).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Evans's Motion to Dismiss

The Third Amended Complaint adds Evans as an individual defendant. She moves to dismiss all claims against her in the Third Amended Complaint. In response, Armour clarifies that he has not named Evans as a defendant in Counts 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. The claims alleged against Evans are thus the § 1983 due process and conspiracy claims in Counts 9 ...


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