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Vaughn v. City of Chiacgo

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

June 18, 2015

ALBERT VAUGHN, SR., Administrator for the Estate of Albert Vaughn, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CHIACGO, MICHAEL COLLINS, ROBERT CUMMINGS, and MIGUEL RENTERIA, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ELAINE E. BUCKLO, District Judge.

Albert Vaughn, Sr. ("Vaughn"), the administrator of his deceased son's estate, claims that the City of Chicago and three of its police officers (collectively, "Defendants") violated his son's due process rights when they ordered him to drop his weapon during an altercation in West Englewood and then failed to protect him against a deadly assault.

Defendants have moved for summary judgment on the ground that no reasonable jury could return a verdict in Vaughn's favor. They also seek summary judgment based on qualified immunity. For the reasons stated below, I grant Defendants' motion.

I.

At the summary judgment stage, I must view the facts in the light most favorable to Vaughn and "give [him] the benefit of all conflicts in the evidence and reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the evidence." Fish v. GreatBanc Trust Co., 749 F.3d 671, 674 (7th Cir. 2014).

A.

On August 5, 2008, around 10:00 or 10:30 pm, Albert Vaughn, Jr. ("Albert") got into an argument with someone named Baron at a house party in the 7000 block of South Throop Street in Chicago, Illinois. See Defs.' Ex. B ("Alvin Dep.") at 16. The argument escalated into a fight outside the house. Id. at 16-17. Albert, who was eighteen years old at the time, knocked Baron unconscious and then went home with his younger brother Alvin Vaughn ("Alvin") and a friend named Fabian Stallworth ("Fabian"). Id. at 17.

At home, Albert and Alvin realized they had left their younger brother at the party and decided to go back for him. Id. As they were preparing to leave, Alvin heard Baron's friends banging on the door. Id. The banging stopped once police arrived in the area, at which point Albert, Alvin, and Fabian left the house and walked back to Throop Street. Id. at 18. In order to protect themselves, the three boys ripped boards with protruding nails from a porch and carried them back to the scene. Id. at 19.

Meanwhile, Chicago Police Department Officer Robert Cummings ("Officer Cummings") and his partner, Keion Feizel ("Officer Feizel"), had arrived at 70th and Throop Streets in response to a dispatch reporting a battery in progress. See Defs.' Ex. D ("Cummings Dep.") at 7. They were the first police officers to arrive. Id. at 9. When asked to describe the scene, Officer Cummings testified, "It was total chaos. People fighting everywhere. I'm guessing fifty people minimum out fighting in the streets." Id. at 10; but see Defs.' Ex. G ("Feizel Dep.") at 15 (testifying that no fights were taking place when he arrived).

Officer Cummings immediately called for backup and an ambulance to transport Baron to the hospital. Id. at 9. Additional officers, including Defendants Michael Collins and Miguel Renteria, started arriving at the scene within a minute of Officer Cummings's call for backup. Id. at 14. Officer Cummings then started breaking up fights and trying to disburse the crowd. Id. at 14-15. It took approximately five to six minutes to break up all of the fights in progress. Id. at 16.

Albert, Alvin, and Fabian arrived at the scene as police officers were trying to disperse the crowd. See Alvin Dep. at 18. Alvin testified that about five police officers drew their guns and ordered the boys to drop the wooden boards they were carrying. Id. at 18, 35. Officer Cummings admits that he pointed his gun at the three boys, ordered them to drop the boards, and threatened to arrest them unless they left. See Cummings Dep. at 35, 37. Albert and his two companions dropped their weapons, but refused to leave. See Alvin Dep. at 20. Instead, they started arguing with Baron's friends who were divided into two groups, one standing across the street and the other to their side. Id. at 22. The shouting match, during which Baron's friends shouted threats, lasted ten to fifteen minutes with about ten Chicago police officers standing nearby. Id. at 24, 35-36.

According to Alvin, a young man named Nathaniel Tucker ("Tucker") suddenly emerged from a nearby house and hit Albert twice with a metal baseball bat. Id. at 18, 25. Alvin, whose focus was trained on Baron's friends, did not notice Tucker until after he had bludgeoned Albert in the head. Id. at 25-26. Albert died from his injuries. The closest police officer, whom Alvin could not identify by name, was standing about ten to fifteen feet away in the middle of Throop Street at the time of the attack. Id. at 26. Alvin saw Tucker run away with several police officers chasing after him. Id. at 27. Tucker was arrested a few minutes after attacking Albert and later pleaded guilty to first degree murder.

B.

The Chicago police officers who were on the scene tell conflicting stories about how the attack occurred. Officer Cummings testified that Albert approached him after dropping the wooden board he had been carrying. See Cummings Dep. at 35. Albert refused to leave the scene until he found his little brother. Id. Officer Cummings told Albert the party was over and threatened to arrest him unless he left. Id. Albert complied and started walking south on Throop Street. Id. Officer Cummings returned his attention to dispersing the crowd when he saw Tucker jump out from behind an ambulance and hit Albert twice with a baseball bat. Cummings Dep. at 26-27, 35. Officer Cummings estimates he was standing about twenty five feet away from the attack, ...


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