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Simmons v. City of Chicago

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

February 16, 2017



          Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge

         Defendants' Joint Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff Robert Simmons's (“Simmons”) 42 U.S.C. § 1983 unlawful detention, excessive force, and supervisory liability claims (“the Motion”) [ECF No. 93] is granted in part and denied in part.

         The Court grants summary judgment to Defendants on the lawfulness of Simmons's handcuffing and initial detention in the basement of the residence. The Court denies summary judgment to all Defendant Officers on Simmons's unlawful and unreasonable arrest at the residence, but grants summary judgment to Defendant City of Chicago on this aspect of Simmons's claim. The Court denies summary judgment to all Defendants on Simmons's unlawful detention claim as it relates to detention at the police station pursuant to his arrest. Further, the Court denies Defendants' Motion as to Simmons's excessive force claim, except as to Defendant City of Chicago. It denies Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on Simmons's supervisory liability claim.


         Before delving into the facts at issue on Defendants' Motion, the Court highlights the unusual nature and obfuscating tendencies of the filings in this case. Defendants' Statement of Uncontested Facts, under the auspices of summarizing portions of Plaintiff's deposition testimony, presents facts that are clearly contested. In so doing, Defendants have provided support for two distinct versions of the relevant events. In responding and filing its Statement of Additional Facts, Plaintiff compounds the confusion by introducing certain facts that support Defendants' version of events and others that support his version. What follows is the best parsing of these facts that the Court can manage in light of the tortuous record. For purposes of this Motion, inferences drawn from them are viewed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff (the non- movant). See, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         First, the parties do not dispute certain facts in the case, and exhibits attached to both parties' Statements help establish them. On March 9, 2014, Defendants Piechocki, D'Amato, Otten, and MacFarlane (the “Defendant Officers”), along with Officer Thomas Derouin, executed a search warrant at 2725 E. 92nd Street in Chicago, Illinois (“the residence”). (ECF No. 103 ¶ 1.) The search warrant was for narcotics, and its target was an African-American male nicknamed “Sunny, ” approximately 45-50 years in age, 5'5”-5'8” in height, weighing 140-160 pounds, and with brown eyes, a dark complexion, and black hair worn long and wavy. (Id. ¶¶ 2-3.) The warrant was procured with the assistance of a confidential informant, who claimed to have purchased narcotics from “Sunny” out of the basement door of the residence. (Id. ¶ 3.) The warrant relays several statements reportedly made by “Sunny” to the informant (alias John Doe). (See, ECF No. 94 (“Defs.' SOF”), Ex. C, p.2 (“What do you want and how much?”); id. (“[M]eet me at the back door.”); id. at p.3 (“You know I got the best shit around. Come back when you need some more.”).)

         Plaintiff Robert Simmons is an African-American male of medium-brown complexion with brown eyes. (ECF No. 103, Ex. 6 (“Arrest Rep.”), p.1.) On March 9, 2014, he was 67 years old, stood 5'11” tall, weighed 165 pounds, and had short hair - either “buzzed or bald.” (Id.; MacFarlane Tr. 42:17-22) He lived at 222 West 106th Place in Chicago, Illinois. (Arrest Rep. at p.1.) Simmons suffers from cerebral palsy and has a noticeable speech disorder. (ECF No. 104 (“Pl.'s SOAF”) ¶ 17; see generally Defs.' SOF, Ex. A.) What happened at the residence once the officers arrived to execute the warrant is hotly disputed.

         A. Plaintiff's Account

         Simmons was sitting at a table in the basement kitchen when he saw two officers enter the residence. (ECF No. 103 ¶¶ 4, 9.) Both were wearing all black, including police vests, with masks pulled over their faces that revealed only their eyes. (Id. ¶¶ 6, 15; ECF No. 104 (“Pl.'s SOAF”) ¶ 4.) The first officer who came in fell over, possibly tripping over a rug. (ECF No. 103 ¶¶ 5, 7; Pl.'s SOAF ¶ 2.) The second officer came in right behind the first and demanded to know what Simmons was doing. (Pl.'s SOAF ¶ 3.) Simmons, sitting at the table, responded that he was eating lasagna. (Id. ¶ 5; ECF No. 103 ¶ 9.) The second officer came to stand by Simmons and then punched him on the right side of his face with a closed fist. (ECF No. 103 ¶ 10; Simmons Tr. 69:19-71:1.) Some time while Simmons was seated and while the second officer was standing there, Simmons saw the first officer's gun discharge. (Simmons Tr. 68:19-69:8, 90:9-91:14.)

         After the punch, Simmons stood up, faced the officer, and asked why he had been hit; the officer then struck him in the face a second time. (Id. ¶¶ 11-12, 17; Pl.'s SOAF ¶ 6.) He eventually ordered Simmons to the ground, and Simmons complied. (ECF No. 103 ¶ 18; Pl.'s SOAF ¶ 7.) Because the officer was wearing a mask, Simmons cannot identify him. (ECF No. 103 ¶ 14.) The officer was about two inches taller than Simmons, and therefore over six feet tall. (Simmons Tr. 73:10-24.) No other officers entered the basement kitchen between the time Simmons was punched and when he got on the floor. (Id. 83:16-19.) During this time, the first officer remained on the floor, not moving. (ECF No. 103 ¶¶ 16, 19.) It took about three minutes from the time the two officers entered to when Simmons got on the floor. (Simmons Tr. 84:15-85:8.)

         Although his testimony is somewhat muddy on this point, Simmons apparently heard (but did not see) a second shot while on the ground, which he thought “came out of the house, came out of the kitchen.” (Pl.'s SOAF ¶ 12; Simmons Tr. 182:17-184:2.) After the gunshot, the officer who punched Simmons immediately handcuffed him while he was lying face down on the basement floor. (Id. ¶ 13; ECF No. 103 ¶ 20.) About two minutes later, that officer dragged Simmons, still in handcuffs, out of the house and threw him into a police van parked in the alley behind the residence. (ECF No. 103 ¶¶ 21, 23; Pl.'s SOAF ¶ 14; Simmons Tr. 95:8-96:12, 112:10-14.) While being dragged out of the basement, Simmons hit his left knee on a stairway, resulting in injuries. (Id. ¶ 18.) Simmons attempted to walk under his own power, but the officer was walking too quickly, a problem exacerbated by Simmons's cerebral palsy. (Pl.'s SOAF ¶¶ 16-17.) He subsequently defecated on himself while being dragged through the back yard of the residence. (Id. ¶ 19.) Simmons injured his head when he was thrown into the police van, and an unknown officer subsequently drove him to the 111th Street police station. (Id. ¶ 20; Simmons Tr. 100:5-101:11, 102:16-18, 112:15-113:23.) He remained in handcuffs the entire time. (Simmons Tr. 102:2-15.)

         Simmons only saw two officers but testified that five or six officers were in the house. (Pl.'s SOAF ¶ 15; ECF No. 103 ¶ 22.) Because the first two officers were wearing pullover masks or hoods, Simmons does not know whether it was Piechocki, Otten, D'Amato, MacFarlane, or Derouin who fell upon entering the residence. He similarly cannot be sure whether it was Piechocki, Otten, D'Amato, or MacFarlane who struck and handcuffed him, and then dragged him out of the house and threw him in the police van. (ECF No. 103 ¶¶ 24-25, 27-28, 30-31, 33-34.)

         B. Defendants' Account

         Defendant Otten first entered the basement kitchen of the residence to execute the search warrant and observed Simmons sitting at the table; he identified himself and told Simmons to put his hands up. (ECF No. 103 ¶ 39; Otten Tr. 38:7-40:10.) Simmons complied, and Otten then proceeded to the front room of the basement, with MacFarlane behind him. (Id. ¶¶ 40, 41.) When MacFarlane passed within a foot of Simmons, who was still sitting at the kitchen table, he heard a crash “like someone fell off a chair.” (Pl.'s SOAF ¶ 9; MacFarlane Tr. 43:21-45:5.) D'Amato, who did not proceed as far into the basement-level rooms as the other Defendant Officers, saw Simmons fall backwards out of his chair after he put his hands up. (Pl.'s SOAF ¶ 8; D'Amato Tr. 54:11-59:20.) It was then that he made physical contact with Simmons simultaneous to his falling out of the chair. (D'Amato Tr. 60:2-8.) Defendant Piechocki, on the other hand, testified that he heard a chair fall “immediately when” Defendant Officers opened the door to the basement of the residence. (Pl.'s SOAF ¶ 10; Piechocki Tr. 45:1-10.) When Piechocki “got inside” the residence, he saw that D'Amato had “taken control” of Simmons, who was on the floor. (Pl.'s SOAF ¶ 11; Piechocki Tr. 43:19-44:11.)

         Otten heard a gunshot when he was in the front room of the basement level, some 7-8 steps from Simmons. (Id. ¶ 47.) After clearing that area, he ran back to the basement kitchen. (Id. ¶ 48.) Defendant MacFarlane was behind Otten when he went to the front of the residence but ahead of Otten when they returned to the kitchen area. (Id. ¶¶ 41, 42, 49.) The gunshot occurred roughly 10 seconds after MacFarlane entered the residence. (Id. ¶ 44.) D'Amato also heard a gunshot and saw Officer Derouin fall into the basement kitchen from the stairwell where he was shot. (Id. ¶ 45.) D'Amato then proceeded upstairs. (Id. ¶ 46.)

         MacFarlane handcuffed Simmons because police were executing a search warrant where the target was unknown, a police officer had been shot, and a handgun (Derouin's) came to rest in close proximity to Simmons. (ECF No. 103 ¶ 50.) Unknown uniformed officers relieved MacFarlane of detaining Simmons. (Id. ¶ 54.) He went upstairs once relieved of Simmons and, after “a couple of minutes, ” went to the hospital with D'Amato and Otten to see Derouin. (Id. ¶¶ 57-58.)

         D'Amato did not remove Simmons from the residence and did not see who did. (Defs.' SOF ¶ 59; D'Amato Tr. 120:23-121:7.) D'Amato and MacFarlane testified that Simmons was a possible fit for “Sunny.” (Id. ¶¶ 65-66.) Defendant Officers deny striking Simmons, and D'Amato denies punching him in the face. (ECF No. 103 ¶¶ 36-37). Only MacFarlane admits to handcuffing him. (Id. ¶ 38; MacFarlane Tr. 115:7-15.)

         C. Further Undisputed Facts

         Throughout the entire ordeal at the residence, Defendant Officers never considered Simmons a threat, and he fully cooperated with their requests. (D'Amato Tr. 67:2-6; MacFarlane Tr. 75:4-10; Otten Tr. 44:5-11.) In an interview with Chicago Police Detective Thomas Lieber on March 10, 2014, Defendant D'Amato relayed that a “[s]uspect [was] sitting at kitchen table” and that there was a “[t]ake down of suspect in kitchen.” (Pl.'s SOAF ¶¶ 26-29.) Defendants “Piechocki, Otten, and MacFar[lane]” then proceeded “further into basement to clear, ” with D'Amato “[g]etting ready to handcuff suspect in kitchen.” (Id. ¶ 29.) A contemporaneous photograph shows D'Amato dressed in dark-colored jeans, a black hooded sweatshirt, a black Chicago Police raid vest, black boots, and a black beanie or ski cap. (Defs.' SOF, Ex. E-3; D'Amato Tr. 117:13-118:5; ECF No. 103 ¶ 32.)

         Defendant Otten played no role in physically detaining or removing Simmons from the home or in deciding what charge to place on Simmons's arrest report. (ECF No. 103 ¶ 51.) Once Derouin was taken to the hospital, Otten went upstairs, spent a minute or less there, and then went back outside. (Id. ¶¶ 52-53.) Contemporaneous photographs of Otten show him wearing medium-dark colored jeans, a camouflage hooded sweatshirt, a black Chicago Police raid vest, and gym shoes. (Defs.' SOF, Ex. E-2; D'Amato Tr. 116:16-12.)

         Defendant MacFarlane did not tell anyone to arrest Simmons, nor did he make any decision to remove Simmons from the residence. (Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 55-56.) A contemporaneous photograph depicts MacFarlane in khaki cargo pants, a gray long-sleeved undershirt with a black short-sleeved shirt over it, a black Chicago Police raid vest, black shoes, and a Chicago Blackhawks ball cap. (Defs.' SOF, Ex. E-4; D'Amato Tr. 118:6-19.)

         Defendant Piechocki was only in the home for a few seconds before he heard a gunshot. (ECF No. 103 ¶ 61.) He went upstairs at some point after the shooting of Derouin and did not see any males with long wavy hair. (Id. ¶ 62.) While organizing the civilians found at the residence for transport to the police station, Piechocki saw a small bag of what appeared to be crack cocaine on the floor of the upstairs living room. (Id. ¶ 63; Piechocki Tr. 77:10-78:5.) Piechocki ordered the civilians to the police station for officer safety and because they were potential suspects with respect to Officer Derouin's attempted murder and aggravated battery, with respect to possession of a handgun and the narcotics that were found, and because it was unclear who “Sunny” was. (Id. ¶¶ 64, 68-69.) When Simmons “was being escorted to one of the transport cars, ” Piechocki heard him say, “I shit on myself.” (Piechocki Tr. 62:15-22.) A contemporaneous photograph shows Piechocki dressed in light-colored jeans, a gray hooded sweatshirt, a black Chicago Police raid vest, and black boots. (See, Defs.' SOF, Ex. E-1; D'Amato Tr. at 108:9-22.)

         Although evidence has not been submitted to the Court indicating the respective heights of the four Defendant Officers, a comparison of their contemporaneous photographs (which were taken against the same backdrop) indicates that D'Amato and MacFarlane are the tallest. There is no evidence before the Court as to how Officer Derouin appeared on the night in question and whether he could fairly be characterized as wearing “all black.”

         Once Piechocki left the residence, he had no contact with Simmons and, once the scene was turned over to detectives, he no longer maintained control over custody of the detained civilians. (ECF No. 103 ¶¶ 70-72.) Pursuant to Chicago Police Department orders, the residence was an active crime scene that needed to be secured, and, with only a few exceptions irrelevant here, civilians are not permitted access to the residence. (ECF No. 103 ¶ 67; Defs.' SOF, Ex. H & H-3.) The search pursuant to the warrant was delayed and had to be completed by an outside unit at approximately 3:00 a.m. on March 10, 2014. (Id. ¶ 76.)

         Simmons's arrest report recites a charge of possession of a controlled substance, but no criminal complaints were ever filed against him. (Pl.'s SOAF ¶ 21; Arrest Rep. at p.1.) His arrest report was prepared for administrative purposes, with Officers Otten and D'Amato listed as arresting officers because they were affiants of the warrant. (Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 77-79.) None of the Defendant Officers physically detained Simmons once he was at the police station. (Id. ¶ 80.)

         At the police station, Simmons was photographed, fingerprinted, and then held until being released without charges at 1:25 p.m. on March 10, 2014. (Pl.'s SOAF ¶¶ 21-22.) Simmons gave a voluntary statement to Detective Pat Ford and ASA George Cannellis at approximately 11:45 a.m. on March 10, 2014. (ECF No. 103 ¶ 73; Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 93-94.) At some point prior to that statement, Simmons was informed that he was free to leave. (Id. ¶¶ 74-75.) However, he was in “lockup, ” meaning “in a cell” and “under arrest, ” for approximately 14 hours - until at least 10:36 a.m. on March 10 when he was transferred “Out Of Lockup for A/S Interviews.” (Ford Tr. 42:15-43:1; Arrest Rep. at p.5) At his deposition, Detective Ford claimed that Simmons remained under arrest because of possession of a controlled substance and because his role in the shooting of Officer Derouin was unclear. (Ford Tr. 43:2-17.) The record before the Court is silent on when, if ever, Simmons was read Miranda warnings.

         In his arrest photo, Simmons exhibits a black eye on his right side. (See, Pl.'s SOAF ¶ 23 & Ex. F.), Photographs taken by his family members the day of his release also indicate a black eye on Simmons's right side, as well as bruises on his left knee and lower leg. (See, Pl.'s SOAF ¶ 24 & Ex. G.) On March 12, 2014, Simmons sought treatment for his injuries, reporting that “on 3/9/14 he was arrested by the police and thrown into their van and he struck his head and knee, ” which caused him to complain of “right inner eye redness, outer eye bruising, and pain on right side of head, right knee painful.” (Pl.'s SOAF, Ex. H, p.1). He was diagnosed with a head contusion, “subconjunctival hemorrhage” of his right eye, and a knee contusion. (Id. at p.3.) He underwent a CT scan on March 13, 2014, which discovered “mild soft tissue swelling on the right temporal region.” (Pl.'s SOAF, Ex. I, p.1.)


         Summary judgment must be granted “if the movant shows that 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). A genuine issue of material fact exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In evaluating summary judgment motions, courts must view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Scott v. Harris,550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). The Court does not make credibility determinations as to whose story is more believable. Omnicare, Inc. v. UnitedHealth ...

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