United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. Wood, United States District Judge.
lawsuit grew out of a long-standing feud between neighboring
couples: Plaintiff Hazel Jones-Huff and her now-deceased
husband, Joseph Huff, in one house, and Defendant Courtney
Hill, an officer in the Chicago Police Department, and his
wife, Cathy Hill, in the house next door. One day the Hills
placed a flower pot on or near the fence separating the two
couples' houses. Jones-Huff did not like where they put
it, so she and Cathy Hill began to argue. This was not their
first argument. But this time the argument escalated into
dramatic violence, with Huff and Defendant Hill ultimately
exchanging gunfire. After Huff shot and maimed Cathy Hill,
Defendant Hill returned fire, first killing Huff and then
shooting at Jones-Huff. In this lawsuit, Jones-Huff claims
that the shots Defendant Hill fired at her constituted
excessive force in violation of her rights under the Fourth
Amendment. She additionally argues that after shooting her,
Defendant Hill took actions resulting in her false arrest and
malicious prosecution in violation of state law. Defendant
Hill has moved for summary judgment on all of
Jones-Huff's claims. The Court denies that motion for the
reasons that follow.
time the events giving rise to this lawsuit occurred,
Defendant Hill was 46 years old, a 19-year veteran of the
Chicago Police Department, and married to Cathy Hill.
(Def.'s Resp. Pl.'s Stmt. Add'l Undisputed Facts
(“DRPAUF”) ¶ 56, Dkt. No. 84; Pl.'s
Resp. Def.'s Stmt. Undisputed Facts
(“PRDSUF”) ¶ 4, Dkt. No. 87.) Jones-Huff was
91 years old and her husband was 86 years old. (PRDSUF ¶
1; DRPAUF ¶¶ 1, 12.) The Hills and the Huffs had
known each other for at least a dozen years. (PRDSUF ¶
7.) The Hills had lived at 8417 South Carpenter Street in
Chicago since at least 1999. (PRDSUF ¶ 4.) Jones-Huff
lived at a neighboring lot, numbered 8411 South Carpenter
Street, with her husband. (DRPAUF ¶ 1.) Each house had a
yard in back. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 3.) Between the
two yards ran two fences. (DRPAUF ¶ 10.) One was a
wrought iron fence; the other was a six-foot “cyclone
fence with white privacy slats.” (PRDSUF ¶ 16;
DRPAUF ¶¶ 8, 10.)
April 25, 2014, Cathy Hill was in her back yard. (PRDSUF
¶¶ 1, 3.) Jones-Huff was in her own back yard, on
her side of the fences. (Id. ¶ 1.) The Hills
had placed a flower pot on the Huffs' fence.
(Id. ¶ 2.) The parties agree that Jones-Huff
pushed the pot, although they dispute whether she pushed it
with a stick or with a broom and also whether she knocked it
to the ground altogether. (Id.) According to
Jones-Huff, she “used a stick to move the pot off her
fence, ” and although she did not knock it to the
ground, “Cathy Hill began running toward the fence
screaming and yelling obscenities, ” (id.
¶ 3), and then “pour[ed] dirt over the fence onto
[ ] Jones-Huff's head.” (DRPAUF ¶ 4.)
Defendant Hill tells a different story. He claims that
Jones-Huff used a broom to cause the flower pot “to
fall” to the ground, where it broke, such that Cathy
Hill “heard the crash of the flower pot” hitting
the ground. (Def.'s Stmt. Undisputed Facts ¶ 3, Dkt.
No. 69.) He further claims that after Cathy Hill and
Jones-Huff began to argue, Jones-Huff swung a broom
“over the fence and hit Cathy Hill on her head”
and then did the same to Defendant Hill (Id.
¶¶ 8-9.) These disputes turn out to be of greater
moment than one might expect at first blush.
the parties disagree about whether Jones-Huff broke the
flower pot and hit the Hills, they agree that the two women
argued loudly. (DRPAUF ¶ 3; PRDSUF ¶ 5.) At some
point, Cathy Hill referred to Jones-Huff as a
“bitch.” (DRPAUF ¶ 5.) The sounds of the
argument reached Defendant Hill, who was in front of his
house. (PRDSUF ¶ 5.) At the time, he was off duty and in
civilian clothes “but did have his duty weapon on his
person.” (Id. ¶ 6.) Defendant Hill walked
to his back yard upon hearing his wife and Jones-Huff
arguing. (Id.) The parties dispute what he saw.
Although Jones-Huff denies having hit Cathy Hill with a
broom, Defendant Hill claims that he saw her do so.
(Id. ¶ 8.) Whether or not Defendant Hill saw
Jones-Huff hit his wife, he did dial 911, apparently in
response to whatever was going on between the two women.
(Id. ¶ 11.)
point, Huff also arrived at the scene. The parties agree that
Defendant Hill was talking to the 911 operator using an
earpiece and facing away from the Huffs' property when
Cathy Hill saw Huff exit his house into his back yard armed
with a shotgun. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) Cathy Hill
yelled to her husband, “he's got a shot gun.”
(Id. ¶ 15.) Defendant Hill then turned to face
Huff, who shot across the fence toward the Hills' back
yard. (Id. ¶ 16.) Huff's shots struck Cathy
Hill, who was then “lying on the ground[, ] screaming
out in pain[, ] profusely bleeding.” (Id.
¶¶ 17, 20.) Her injuries ultimately resulted in the
loss of her right eye and the amputation of her right arm at
the elbow. (Id. ¶ 17.) After Huff shot his
wife, Defendant Hill drew his duty weapon and returned fire.
(Id. ¶ 18.) He struck and killed Huff, whose
shotgun fell to his feet. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19.)
Defendant Hill kept his gun drawn and pointed at Jones-Huff.
(Id. ¶ 19.) During the exchange of gunfire, he
had remained on the phone with the 911 operator, to whom at
some point he reported that shots had been fired.
(Id. ¶ 22.)
parties dispute what Jones-Huff did after Defendant Hill shot
her husband. Defendant Hill claims that Jones-Huff walked
over to Huff's body and then bent down and touched it.
(Id.) He further claims that he did not know whether
Huff's shotgun remained loaded, so he not only instructed
Jones-Huff to back away from the gun but also warned her
that, if she did not do so, he would shoot her. (Id.
¶¶ 19, 22.) Instead of following his instructions,
however, Jones-Huff grabbed the barrel of the shotgun
“and moved it about an inch closer to her.”
(Id. ¶ 23.) Defendant Hill also claims that
Jones-Huff “reached . . . a second time and touched the
barrel of her husband's gun, even though [he] order[ed]
her to get away from the gun or he would shoot her.”
(Id. ¶ 26.) Jones-Huff tells a different story.
She says that she begged Defendant Hill to let her comfort
Huff but “she never got close enough to her husband to
even talk to” him. (Id. ¶ 19.)
undisputed that, at some point after shooting Huff, Defendant
Hill shot at Jones-Huff twice. (Id. ¶¶ 24,
27.) The parties do dispute, however, how far Defendant Hill
was from Huff's shotgun and whether he could have reached
it at the time he shot Jones-Huff. They also dispute whether
Jones-Huff was bent down or standing next to Huff's body
(and the shotgun at his feet) when Defendant Hill shot her.
After Jones-Huff was shot, she walked up the stairs from her
back yard into her house. (Id. ¶ 33.)
The Aftermath of the Shootings
point during his 911 call, Defendant Hill reported to the
dispatcher that “2 people are shot.” (DRPAUF
¶¶ 28-29.) After the shootings, other police
officers eventually arrived at the scene. (Id.
¶ 33.) Defendant Hill remembers about half a dozen
officers responding, but he did not know any of them. (PRDSUF
that day, Defendant Hill signed a criminal complaint against
Jones-Huff for battery and unlawful aggravated assault of a
peace officer. (Pl.'s Stmt. Add'l Undisputed Facts
¶ 41, Dkt. No. 72.) Specifically, his complaint stated
that Jones-Huff knowingly and intentionally threatened him
while she was in control of a shotgun. (PRDSUF ¶ 41.)
Although Jones-Huff does not dispute that, after April 25,
2014, Defendant Hill never met with his superiors in the
police department to explain what had happened, she claims
that “Lieutenant Margaret Sears believed Plaintiff had
‘brandished a gun' and she approved the charges
against Plaintiff based on the Narrative of the arrest report
that Plaintiff was in control of a gun.” (Id.
¶ 43; DRPAUF ¶ 64.) Jones-Huff was ultimately tried
in state court by a judge and found not guilty. (DRPAUF
¶ 51.) Following her acquittal, Jones-Huff brought this
civil lawsuit. The amended complaint asserts a federal claim
against Defendant Hill pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
use of excessive force, as well as state law claims against
him for false arrest and malicious prosecution. Defendant
Hill has moved for summary judgment on each of these claims.
considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court
construes all facts and reasonable inferences in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party. See Harney v.
Speedway SuperAmerica, LLC, 526 F.3d 1099, 1104 (7th
Cir. 2008). But “favor toward the nonmoving party does
not extend to drawing inferences that are supported by only
speculation or conjecture.” Fitzgerald v.
Santoro, 707 F.3d 725, 730 (7th Cir. 2013) (internal
citation and quotation marks omitted). The “mere
existence of some alleged factual dispute”
does not suffice to defeat a motion for summary judgment.
Dawson v. Brown, 803 F.3d 829, 833 (7th Cir. 2015)
(internal citation and quotation marks omitted) (emphasis in
original). Rather, summary judgment is appropriate if
“there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact
and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Material facts are those
“that might affect the outcome of the suit under the
applicable substantive law.” Lawrence v. Kenosha
Cty.,391 F.3d 837, 842 (7th Cir. 2004) ...