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Carthans v. City of Harvey

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

May 23, 2017

SHARENNA CARTHANS, as Special Administrator of the Estate of JEREMY ISAIAH HILL, SR., deceased, Plaintiff,


          SHARON JOHNSON COLEMAN United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Sharenna Carthans, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Jeremy Isaiah Hill, Sr., deceased, filed a seven-Count Second Amended Complaint, alleging excessive force under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, wrongful death and survival, against the officer defendants, the City of Harvey, and Acting Police Chief Denard Eaves. The Second Amended Complaint also asserts a claim of municipal liability against the City of Harvey. The City of Harvey and police officers Eaves, Ostrowski, Esparza, Sinnott, Gordon, Adams, Forbes, Porter, Pryor, Crocker, Washington, Wells, Simpkins, and the Does (collectively “the Harvey defendants”) move for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 on all claims [144]. Separately, the defendant officers Kelley, Smith, Saleh, Cole, Askew, and Jones, also move for summary judgment on all claims [147]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies the Harvey defendants' motion and grants the other officers' motion.


         The following facts are undisputed. Sharenna Carthans brings this law suit as the Special Administrator of the Estate of Jeremy Isaiah Hill, Sr., who is deceased. Jeremy Hill was a 27 year old African-American man, who was 5'6” and 232 pounds when he died. Defendants are the City of Harvey, Acting Chief of the Harvey Police Department Denard Eaves, and Harvey Police Officers Thomas Ostrowski, Julio Esparza, James Sinnott, Shane Gordon, Steven Kelley, Robert Adams, Cameron Forbes, Steven Pryor, Jeff Crocker, Lionel Smith, Steven Porter, Frederick Washington, Louay Saleh, Charles Cole, Richard Jones, Lemuel Askew, Roy Wells, and Linda Simpkins.

         In the late afternoon daylight, on June 25, 2013, Detective Esparza and Detective Ostrowski observed Hill driving his car at the intersection of 152nd Street and Marshfield Avenue in Harvey, Illinois. Hill disobeyed the stop sign and Esparza and Ostrowski activated their vehicle lights. (Dkt. 154, Plaintiff's Resp. to Def.'s L.R. 56.1(a) Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, at ¶ 7). Hill pulled over briefly, Esparza and Ostrowski exited their vehicle, and Hill sped off. (Id. at ¶ 8). At some point, Hill stopped his car and fled on foot with Esparza chasing after him. (Id. at ¶ 9). The foot chase lasted a couple of minutes and ended in a wooded area where Esparza found Hill lying down. (Dkt. 153, Plaintiff's Resp. to Def.'s L.R. 56.1(a) Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, at ¶ 7). The Police Report indicated that Hill fell several times during the foot chase. (Id. at ¶ 43). Ostrowski stayed in the vehicle during the foot chase. (Id. at ¶ 12). It is undisputed that Esparza did not draw his weapon, but plaintiff asserts that he may have drawn his asp because there is medical evidence that Hill may have been struck with a baton or similar instrument. (Id. at ¶ 8). Both Esparza and Hill were breathing hard and sweating. (Id. at ¶ 9). Esparza and Ostrowski arrested Hill in the area of 147th and Spaulding at approximately 1735 hours (5:35 p.m.) on June 25, 2013. (Dkt. 154 at ¶ 10). Ostrowski waited for the tow truck to arrive at the scene for Hill's car. (Dkt. 153 at ¶ 14).

         Officer Charles Cole and Officer Steven Kelley were on patrol in their squad car on June 25, 2013, when they heard a dispatch to respond to a chase that was in progress. (Id. at ¶¶ 11-12). When Cole and Kelley arrived at the location of the dispatch call, Esparza was bringing Hill out of a wooded area in handcuffs. (Id. at ¶ 14). Hill was breathing heavily. (Id. at ¶ 15). Neither Cole nor Kelley participated in the foot chase. (Id. at ¶ 16). Esparza turned the handcuffed Hill over to Cole, who took Hill by one of his arms. (Id. at ¶¶ 17, 19). Kelley performed a pat down search of Hill and did not recover any weapons or contraband. (Id. at ¶ 24). Hill did not resist while in Kelley and Cole's custody. (Id. at ¶ 27). Kelley and Cole had custody of Hill for approximately three to five minutes before turning him over to Officer Robert Adams and Officer Louay Saleh, and returning to the Harvey Police Station. (Id. at ¶¶ 26, 28). Kelley and Cole returned to the Harvey Police Station and went to the booking area, but did not assist with taking Hill to booking. (Id. at ¶ 34).

         Officer Robert Adams and Officer Louay Saleh arrived at the scene after Kelley and Cole. (Id. at ¶ 16). They were responding to a call for an assist to transport an individual in custody to the Harvey Police Department. (Id. at ¶ 61). Adams and Saleh took custody of Hill and placed him in the back of their squad car for transport to the Harvey Police Station. (Id. at ¶¶ 30-31). Saleh searched Hill before placing him in the back of the squad car. (Id. at ¶ 62). While en route to the police station, Adams asked Hill for his information for an inquiry in LEADs via the in-car computer. (Id. at ¶ 64). Hill was not aggressive or verbally abusive during the ride to the station. (Id. at ¶ 66). Adams and Saleh parked in the salley port of the Harvey Police Station. (Id. at ¶ 33). Saleh struggled with escorting Hill into the station. Hill was cooperative, but fell to the ground. (Id. at ¶ 67).

         In the booking area at the Harvey Police Station, Hill was seated and handcuffed to a bench. (Id. at ¶ 36). Hill had trouble breathing. (Id. at ¶ 37). At no point while in booking did Hill become combative. (Id. at ¶ 38). Kelley performed a custodial search on Hill in booking, but did not find any drugs or weapons. (Id. at ¶ 39). Kelley gave Hill water two or three times while in booking. (Id. at ¶ 40). Cole also searched Hill in booking. (Id. at ¶ 41). Saleh observed Kelley and Cole search Hill and then went to the booking division desk to complete Hill's arrest cards. (Id. at ¶ 69).

         Booking Officer Frederick Washington testified that Hill was sweating and breathing heavily when the officers brought Hill into the booking room, and that Officer Jones notified the sergeant.[1](Dkt. 153 at ¶ 21). Washington also testified that he checked on Hill every two or three minutes to monitor his breathing because Hill said he could not breathe. (Id. at ¶¶ 21-22). Jones also testified that Hill was checked every two or three minutes and he continued to breathe heavily. (Id. at ¶ 23). Jones did not recall Hill requesting medical attention. (Id. at ¶ 24). When Jones noticed Hill slumping over, she notified the Sergeant so that an ambulance could be called. (Id. at ¶ 25). Bud's Ambulance arrived and attempted to resuscitate Hill, who was not breathing. (Id.). Jones was present when the ambulance arrived and watched the paramedics place paddles on Hill's chest. (Id. at ¶ 26). She did not see any evidence that he had been hit or struck on the chest. (Id.). The EMT with Bud's Ambulance, Jennifer McCann, also testified that she did not recall whether she saw any evidence of physical trauma on Hill. (Id. at ¶ 65). McCann further testified that she could not opine as to the reason why Hill's heart was asystole.[2] (Id. at ¶ 66). Kelley left the booking room before the paramedics arrived, but Cole remained in the booking area until paramedics arrived. (Dkt. 154 at ¶¶ 41, 42). Kelley and Cole went back on patrol after the paramedics arrived. (Id. at ¶ 43).

         Dr. Joshi examined Hill upon his arrival at hospital. He testified that he received information from police and the EMT that Hill's heart was asystole prior to Hill's arrival at hospital. (Dkt. 153 at ¶ 67). Dr. Joshi also testified that he did not notice any scratches, bruising, bleeding or anything on Hill's chest near his heart and that none of the abrasions he observed was life threatening. (Id. at ¶ 68). Dr. Ponni Arunkumar performed the initial autopsy and was unable to determine a cause of death. (Id. at ¶ 69). She testified that she could not rule out blunt force trauma as the cause of death. (Id.). Dr. Arunkumar also testified that heart arrhythmia can be caused by physical exertion, including a recent police chase. (Id. at ¶ 71).

         Chief Denard Eaves has been the Acting Chief of the Harvey Police Department since 2007. (Dkt. 153 at ¶ 57). He testified that he was not on duty the night that Hill died. (Id. at ¶ 58). He also testified that his officers are not medically trained paramedics and that when a death occurs in custody it is automatically investigated by an independent agency. (Id. at ¶¶ 62, 63).

         Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is proper when “the admissible evidence shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” McGreal v. Vill. of Orland Park, 850 F.3d 308, 312 (7th Cir. 2017), reh'g denied (Mar. 27, 2017) (quoting Hanover Ins. Co. v. N. Bldg. Co., 751 F.3d 788, 791 (7th Cir. 2014)); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In deciding whether summary judgment is appropriate, this Court accepts the nonmoving party's evidence as true and draw all ...

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