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Hollingsworth v. City of Aurora

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

December 11, 2014

ARTERO HOLLINGSWORTH, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF AURORA, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

CHARLES R. NORGLE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Artero Hollingswoth ("Plaintiff") sues Defendants Aurora Police Officers Maxwell Worcester ("Officer Worcester") and Che Earwood ("Officer Earwood") (collectively, the "Officers") and the City of Aurora (collectively, "Defendants") for excessive force pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

The Court takes the undisputed facts from the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements, including the video evidence of the incident. See Defs.' L.R. 56.1(a)(3) Statement of Undisputed Facts In Support of Mot. for Summ. J. Exs. 1 & 2. To the extent that Plaintiff's version of the facts differs from what can be seen in the uncontested video, the Court views "the facts in the light depicted by the videotape." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380-381 (2007) ("Respondent's version of events is so utterly discredited by the record that no reasonable jury could have believed him. The Court of Appeals should not have relied on such a visible fiction; it should have viewed the facts in the light depicted by the videotape.").

On February 5, 2011, Aurora Police Officers Worcester and Earwood were on duty. During their in-service meeting prior to their shifts, the Officers became aware of an investigation into a robbery that had occurred earlier that morning. During the robbery, a substantial amount of money had been stolen. The victim identified his son as the driver during the robbery. Officers Earwood and Worcester were given a description of the suspect driver, his name, a description of the vehicle, and the license plate information, so that they could keep a look out for the suspect while on their patrols.

Later that day, Officer Worcester was driving down Galena Boulevard when he spotted a black Nissan Altima, which matched the vehicle description and license plate number of the vehicle involved in the robbery. The vehicle was being driven by the suspect, Jose "Joey" Velasquez ("Velasquez"). Velasquez's girlfriend, Nicole Deuchler, was in the front passenger seat and Plaintiff was sitting in the rear passenger-side seat. Plaintiff had accepted a ride from Velasquez in order to pick up food and cigarettes. At the time, Plaintiff did not know that Velasquez or his vehicle had been involved in a robbery earlier that day.

Next, Officer Worcester made a U-turn and activated his emergency lights. Officer Worcester noticed the two other passengers in the vehicle, but did not have any information about them. He then pulled toward the vehicle and exited his marked squad car while wearing his police uniform. Officer Worcester approached the driver's side of the black Nissan, and instructed the driver to place the vehicle in park and remain inside the car. The driver did not comply; instead, he drove away from Officer Worcester, turning right into Galena Boulevard heading east. The interaction was captured on video by Officer Worcester's squad car camera.

Officer Worcester used his radio to inform the police dispatch of the situation, stating that the suspects went east on Galena Boulevard. He then returned to his squad car, activated his siren, and attempted to follow the suspects. Officer Earwood heard Officer Worcester's radio transmission regarding the incident, as well as the previous transmissions about the robbery. Officer Earwood was located approximately one block away from Officer Worcester working on an unrelated case, and he immediately started to drive toward the location of the suspect vehicle in his marked squad car.

Officer Earwood's squad car also contained a camera which captured the following events on video. Officer Earwood activated his lights and allowed the suspects to drive past him going east on Galena Boulevard. He then made a U-turn and began following the vehicle in which Plaintiff was riding. Officer Worcester followed behind Officer Earwood in such a way that he could see both Officer Earwood's squad car and the suspect vehicle. Officer Earwood testified that he and the suspects were driving between forty and forty-five miles per hour. Plaintiff, however, testified that the vehicle that he was riding in was only going twenty miles per hour.

Approximately sixteen seconds after Officer Earwood began following the suspect vehicle, the rear passenger door opened. A second later, the front passenger door also opened, and the car continued moving down the street. Twelve seconds after the rear passenger side door opened, a man, later identified as Plaintiff, stuck his feet out of the moving vehicle. In the squad car video, Plaintiff's feet can be seen dangling from the car and dragging on the pavement. Fourteen seconds later, Plaintiff extricated himself from the rear passenger door of the moving vehicle, which had slowed, but not stopped. Once Plaintiff exited the vehicle, Velasquez drove away and turned right at the upcoming intersection.

When Plaintiff got out of the car, he faced away from Officer Earwood, stumbled, and pulled at the back of his pants. Plaintiff then turned around toward Officer Earwood and began to put his hands out when Officer Earwood leapt at Plaintiff and pulled him to the ground. Only three seconds had elapsed from the time that Plaintiff exited the moving vehicle and Officer Earwood took him to the ground. Officer Worcester joined Officer Earwood four seconds later and helped him secure Plaintiff. Neither of the Officers had his gun drawn. It took the Officers over a minute to handcuff Plaintiff, who can be seen kicking and struggling in the squad car video. After the Officers handcuffed Plaintiff, Officer Worcester moved Plaintiffs legs with his hands and his feet to help Plaintiff roll over and get into a sitting position. The Officers called an ambulance upon discovering that Plaintiff was injured.

Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit on July 7, 2011. On November 22, 2013, he filed his Second Amended Complaint, alleging one count of excessive force against the Officers pursuant to § 1983, and one count seeking indemnity against the City of Aurora pursuant to 745 Ill. Comp. Stat. 10/9-102. Defendants' motion for summary judgment is fully briefed and before the Court.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of ...


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