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Franklin v. Blackman

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

November 25, 2014

DANIEL BLACKMAN, Star No. 7954, MATTHEW JOHNSON, Star No. 14518, and THE CITY OF CHICAGO, Defendants.



On October 22, 2012, two Chicago police officers apprehended and arrested Willie Franklin in front of his house, reasonably believing that Franklin may have committed a serious assault. Franklin sued the officers, Daniel Blackman and Matthew Johnson, under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, alleging that the City's police officers violated his civil rights by arresting him and using excessive force during the arrest. He also sued the officers, as well as the City of Chicago, for the tort of malicious prosecution, alleging that the officers and the City maliciously facilitated criminal charges against him. The officers and the City move for summary judgment on all claims. The Court grants the motion as to the false-arrest and malicious prosecution claims because they fail as a matter of law, and the Court denies the motion as to the excessive force claims because of a genuine dispute as to material fact.


In the late afternoon of October 22, 2012, Officers and Blackman were on patrol in the Englewood neighborhood when they received a call about an armed assault against a woman holding a baby. Dep., Dkt. # 50-1 at 5-6; Blackman Dep., Dkt. # 50-2 at 15, 20-21. Dispatch described the assailant as a black male in blue jeans and a blue jacket, with dreadlocks. Blackman explained in his deposition that he and Johnson decided to respond because the suspect was possibly armed and because the assault occurred near a high school. They drove eastward down 69th Street toward Normal. Id. at 23.

As the officers drove toward the intersection of 69th Street and Normal, Blackman observed an individual matching the description of the assailant. Id. at 24-25. According to Blackman, the individual was walking westbound down 69th Street toward S. Lowe Avenue. The officers made an abrupt u-turn on 69th Street, and Blackman observed the individual flee southbound on Lowe. Id. at 31. The officers pursued a person that they believed to be a "suspect" on Lowe roughly halfway down the block. Id. at 33-34. Blackman stated in his deposition that he observed the suspect standing in front of the front gate of a house. Id. at 34. The house was located on the 6900 S. Lowe block, directly one block east of the location of the armed assault at 6912 S. Union. Franklin Dep., Dkt. # 50-5 at 158. The officers got out of their patrol car, and Blackman stated in his deposition that he had his gun drawn because he believed "the subject to be armed" based on the call from dispatch. Dkt. # 50-1 at 36. Blackman identified himself as a police officer and yelled for the suspect to stop. Blackman stated in his deposition that he observed the individual whom he believed to be the suspect cross the gate and run up a front porch at the house. Johnson's recollection of events is similar.

According to Willie Franklin, on October 22, 2012, he was working on his car in the backyard of his house at 6912 S. Lowe Avenue. Franklin Dep., Dkt. # 50-5 at 15. He wore a blue jacket and dreadlocks. Id. at 40, 71. Franklin stated in his deposition that he had walked around the house to the front and was standing on the front porch when he noticed police officers approaching his house. Id. at 18. Franklin observed five police officers, guns drawn, get out of three different patrol cars. Id. at 19-20. Franklin stated that he was carrying a plastic bag containing a car part. Id. at 24-25. His two pit bulls were in the front yard. Id. at 25.

The parties greatly contest what happened next during the confrontation in front of 6912 S. Lowe Avenue. Blackman stated in his deposition that he heard Franklin yell for someone inside the house to open the door. Blackman Dep., Dkt. # 50-2 at 41. Blackman told Franklin that an assailant had recently attacked someone with a gun around the corner and instructed Franklin to come outside the gate to speak with the officers. Id. at 42. According to Blackman, he saw that Franklin had his hands inside the blue jacket, and when Blackman asked Franklin to show his hands, Franklin would not comply. Id. at 42-43.

The officers, still with guns drawn, approached Franklin on the front porch. Id. at 49. Franklin held both hands inside his jacket, according to Blackman. Id. at 40. According to the officers, Johnson attempted to secure Franklin by grabbing Franklin's elbow, and a scuffle ensued, with Officer Blackman ordering Franklin to stop resisting. The physical altercation subsided after Officer Blackman performed an "emergency takedown" of Franklin after which a struggle continued until handcuffs were placed on Franklin with Johnson's assistance. Id. at 51-85.

Franklin contends that he was standing on the front porch when the officers yelled to him that they would shoot him and his dogs if Franklin did not drop the bag he was holding. Franklin Dep., 50-5 at 26. Franklin stated in his deposition that he immediately dropped the bag and then began to walk toward the officers who unlatched the gate and grabbed Franklin as he stood near the bottom of the porch stairs. Id. at 29, 32. Franklin stated in his deposition that after being pulled outside his gate the officers frisked him, as he stood with his hands resting on the fence, by patting down the outside of his clothes with their hands. Id. at 36, 41. According to Franklin, he stood tall with his legs spread and his hands resting on the fence. Id. at 44.

Franklin claims that without provocation one of the officers, Blackman or Johnson, struck him numerous times in his back while he was kicked and punched numerous times by more than one officer in the chest and face while he repeatedly screamed for his mother. Id. at 43-50. He stated that when he was thrown to concrete he was held down and handcuffed. Id. at 52-69. Franklin further details continuous kicking in the face. Id. at 66-70. Franklin recalled that, at some point, officers picked him off the ground and put him in a patrol car. Id. at 71-72. More officers and police cars then arrived at the scene, according to Franklin. Id. at 72, 76.

Additional uncontested facts include statements from Officer Doyle, Denise Davis, and Ashley Wilson. There were three witnesses to various portions of the arrest in question. Officer Patrick Doyle was also on patrol in October on W. 69th Street when he received the radio call about the armed assault by a dreadlocked man in a blue jacket. Doyle Dep., Dkt. # 50-4 at 6, 15. Doyle made a u-turn and observed a marked patrol car turning southbound on Lowe. Id. at 7. Doyle drove southbound on Lowe and observed a parked patrol car and two officers with a handcuffed man, who was the same individual that Doyle had seen walking on 69th Street. Id. at 7-8. Doyle stated that he did not see the officers use any force on Franklin or take Franklin down to the ground. Id. at 10.

Denise Davis lived on the block of 69th and Lowe. Davis was sitting at home when she heard someone yell "mom." Davis Dep., Dkt. # 56-2 at 5. Davis ran outside and saw one patrol car and two police officers. Id. at 7. Davis, standing across the street and four houses down from Franklin's house, observed the two officers standing over Franklin on the ground. Id. at 7-8. Davis stated in her deposition that one officer hit Franklin a few times with a stick and that the other officer kicked him about two times in the head. Id. Davis recalled that she then saw the officers pick Franklin up and place him in the patrol car. Id. at 8.

Additionally, another neighbor, Ashley Wilson submitted a one-paragraph, handwritten statement in which she stated that she "came out the door, " saw Franklin yelling, and saw "an officer hit [Franklin]" while Franklin was on the ground. Dkt. # 56-11 at 2. The statement is dated "10-22-2012."

The parties do not dispute the post-arrest events. Blackman and Johnson took Franklin into custody and drove him to where the assault victim was waiting with a police officer for identification. Blackman Dep., Dkt. # 50-2 at 89. The victim looked inside the patrol car and ...

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