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Walton v. Gourley

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

September 1, 2017

ANTON D. WALTON, Plaintiff,
v.
BRANDON GOURLEY, KATIE BLANKENSHIP (FIGUEIRA), BRIAN OAKES, and KENNETH WINSLOW, Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          JONATHAN E. HAWLEY U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Before the Court is the Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (D. 41).[1]The Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, initially responded to the motion with a document docketed as an exhibit to his original complaint, which contains various documents produced in discovery. (D. 45). The Defendants then filed a reply to the Plaintiff's filing, construing that filing as a response to their motion. (D. 46). However, Walton then filed a motion seeking additional time to file a response to the motion for summary judgment, he noting that he was attempting to retain counsel. After a hearing, the Court granted Walton's motion and gave him until August 31, 2017 to file an additional response to the pending summary judgment motion. That deadline has passed, and Walton has neither retained counsel nor filed a supplemental response to the Defendants' motion. Accordingly, the motion is now ripe for a ruling, and, for the reasons stated, infra, this Court GRANTS the motion for summary judgment.[2]

         I

         Walton filed a pro se complaint, later amended, alleging that City of Springfield, Illinois police officers used excessive force during their arrest of him, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (D. 1, 34). Specifically, he alleges that when a police officer tackled him during his arrest, the use of excessive force resulted in the breaking of Walton's left clavicle. Id.

         The undisputed facts forming the basis of Walton's complaint are as follows. On May 17, 2015, Walton went into a local gas station, walked behind the counter, and pocketed three packs of cigarettes without paying for them. After he left the store, an employee confronted Walton, asking that he return the cigarettes. Walton denied taking the smokes (although he now admits that he did) and walked across the street to avoid further confrontation with the employee.

         That employee flagged down Defendant Officer Gourley, who happened to be passing by in his marked squad car. After the employee filled Officer Gourley in on what had happened, the officer, through his car window, told Walton to “stop” and “come here.” Although Walton heard the commands, he ignored them, continued to walk away, and increased the speed at which he was doing so- eventually running instead of walking. Officer Gourley began to chase Walton on foot, taking multiple twists and turns as he did so. Although he issued multiple commands for Walton to stop, Walton kept on running.

         When Officer Gourley finally caught up to Walton, Officer Gourley applied downward pressure to him which forced both of them to the ground-aka he tackled him. The fall broke Walton's left clavicle. Once on the ground, Walton still refused to comply with Officer Gourley's command to lay on his stomach with his hands behind his back, only doing so after Officer Gourley threatened to pepper spray him. After all this had happened, Defendant Officer Figueira arrived to assist. Walton was then informed that he was under arrest for retail theft and resisting and obstructing a police officer.

         When Walton complained of shoulder pain, Office Gourley saw that Walton's shoulder was scraped and bruised. The Officer then called an ambulance, which took Walton to the hospital. There, an X-ray revealed that Walton had a broken left clavicle. At some point during all of this, Officer Gourley contacted his supervisor, Defendant Sergeant Brian Oakes, and informed him about what had transpired. As for Police Chief Kenneth Winslow, he had no personal involvement in or knowledge of anything that had happened until becoming aware of events during the course of this litigation.

         II

         A

         Summary judgment is appropriate “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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The moving party has the burden of providing proper documentary evidence to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323- 24 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the opposing party must come forward with specific evidence, not mere allegations or denials of the pleadings, which demonstrates that there is a genuine issue for trial. Gracia v. Volvo Europa Truck, N.V., 112 F.3d 291, 294 (7th Cir. 1997). “[A] party moving for summary judgment can prevail just by showing that the other party has no evidence on an issue on which that party has the burden of proof.” Brazinski v. Amoco Petroleum Additives Co., 6 F.3d 1176, 1183(7th Cir. 1993).

         Accordingly, the non-movant cannot rest on the pleadings alone, but must designate specific facts in affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories or admissions that establish that there is a genuine triable issue; he “‘must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material fact.'” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256-57 (1986)(quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)); Hot Wax, Inc. v. Turtle Wax, Inc., 191 F.3d 813, 818 (7th Cir. 1999). Finally, a scintilla of evidence in support of the non-movant's position is not sufficient to oppose successfully a summary judgment motion; “there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.

         B[3]

         As an initial matter, no claim exists against Defendants Figueira, Oaks, and Winslow. These defendants had nothing to do with the force involved in the breaking of Walton's clavicle. Officer Figueira showed up after Officer Gourley had taken Walton down, Officer Oaks was merely informed of the events after the fact, and Chief Winslow only learned of the events as party to this litigation. Without any personal involvement in the use of the force at issue in this case, these Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on Walton's claim as it relates to them. See Chavez v. Illinois State Police, ...


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