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Ditterlinel v. Ray

United States District Court, S.D. Illinois

December 7, 2017

DELANA D. DITTERLINE, TERRY L. DITTERLINE, BRYAN A. DITTERLINE, and BRANDON A. DITTERLINE, Plaintiffs,
v.
KITISHA N. RAY, DUSTIN TURSKA, LYLE WOMACK, and LLOYD BOSECKER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          J. PHIL GILBERT, DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 51.) The plaintiffs have filed a timely response in opposition. (Doc. 52.)

         I. BACKGROUND

         The material facts of this case are hotly contested, but here is a summary of the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party: the Ditterlines. The Ditterlines live in Mounds, Illinois. One day, Officer Dustin Turska of the Mounds Police Department pulled over one of the two sons in the family-Brandon Ditterline-for an alleged seat-belt violation. Brandon provided Officer Turska with his registration and driver's license. Officer Turska then gave Brandon a verbal warning and told Brandon that he was free to go. (Doc. 51-3, Terry Ditterline Dep. 12.)

         Unfortunately, what appears at first-glance to have been a routine traffic stop is not so simple. Brandon had recently confessed to members of his family that the police kept pulling him over. His brother-Bryan Ditterline-was particularly upset by this revelation because he believed the repeated traffic stops to be baseless. So when Bryan received a call from his mother-Delana Ditterline-that the police had pulled Brandon over once again, Bryan got in a truck with his father-Terry Ditterline-and went to do something about the situation. They found Delana and Officer Turska in a Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) parking lot and parked next to Delana's vehicle. (Doc. 52-1, Bryan Ditterline Dep. at 23-27.)

         Once Bryan and Terry parked, Bryan exited the truck shirtless and confronted Officer Turska. Officer Turska allegedly exclaimed: “who the hell are you?” (Id. at 26:16.) Bryan claims that he responded: “I'm Bryan Ditterline . . . you keep messing with my brother . . . what was your probable cause?” (Id. at 26:16-18.) Officer Turska then asked Bryan for his identification, which Bryan did not have with him. Terry then yelled at Bryan to get back in their truck. Bryan complied. Terry then exited the truck to show Officer Turska his own identification, but Turska allegedly declined to take it. At this point, the Ditterlines claim that Officer Turska was getting “loud” and “cocky”, so they decided to leave the scene and go back home-despite Officer Turska's instructions to stay. (Id. at 32:20-33:1.) Officer Turska followed the Ditterline's truck and turned on his emergency patrol lights after approximately three blocks. The Ditterlines refused to stop, so Officer Turska signaled for back-up and followed the Ditterlines all the way back to their home.

         Once the Ditterlines arrived back home, Bryan exited his father's truck and started walking towards the house. Officer Turska jumped out of his police car, drew his gun, and allegedly pointed the laser-dot scope at Bryan's head. Another officer and defendant in this case, Kitisha Ray, drew her taser. Officer Turska screamed at Bryan to get on his knees and Bryan immediately complied. Turska then restrained Bryan on the ground and supposedly kicked him so hard that his face fell into the dirt. The force of the blow also caused Bryan's medication to fly out of his pocket, which Turska purportedly stomped on multiple times despite Bryan's pleas to the contrary. Turska then picked Bryan up, handcuffed him, punched him in the eye, and placed him in the squad car.

         Back at the truck, Terry faced problems of his own. Another law enforcement official at the scene-Deputy Kent Ray of the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department-drew his weapon and ordered Terry to show his hands. But Terry claims to suffer from Parsonage-Turner Palsy Syndrome, a disease which causes him severe pain and prevents him from raising his left hand above his waist. Terry told Deputy Ray about his disease and showed him his shoulder brace. When Deputy Ray ordered Terry to exit his truck, Terry said he was physically unable-so Deputy Ray purportedly reached in and yanked Terry out. Terry reportedly screamed in pain and told the officers again that he had a disease, which prompted Deputy Ray to say “I don't give a rat's ass about your disease. I'm going to choke you the F [sic] out.” (Doc. 52-2, Terry Ditterline Dep. 72:7-9.)

         Terry then stuck his finger in Deputy Ray's eye in order to stop Deputy Ray from hurting him further. This prompted Officer Lyle Womack of the Mounds Police Department-standing nearby-to threaten Terry that he would tase him, to which Terry responded it “wouldn't be very advisable because my finger is in his eye socket and it would cause the gentlemen's eye to blow up.” (Id. at 76.) Officer Turska then rushed over to assist Ray and Womack. Terry then told the officers that he would let Deputy Ray go if Ray did the same for him, and then Terry would walk to the back of his truck and let the officers arrest him. The officers agreed to the deal, so Terry and Deputy Ray released each other and Terry walked to the back of the truck. But when the officers went to cuff him, Terry alleges that they violently forced his arms behind his back in defiance of his cautions about his disease.

         When Delana saw that Deputy Kent Ray had drawn his weapon at her husband, she attempted to intervene and tell them about Terry's disease. But another officer at the scene- Kitisha Ray of the Mounds Police Department-grabbed Delana and pushed her into the side of a truck. Delana said that she recently had back surgery and told Officer Kitisha Ray that she was hurting her, but Officer Ray allegedly replied “back surgery my ass” and handcuffed Delana. (Doc. 51-2, Delana Ditterline Dep. 40:18-20.) Delana then claims that Officer Kitisha Ray dragged her to a nearby police SUV and attempted to shove her into the vehicle, but Delana told Officer Ray again that she was hurting her and that she could not get into the SUV easily because of her physical impairments. Officer Kitisha Ray apparently let Delana go at this point, but Ray also warned her that she could go “ghetto” on Delana: Officer Kitisha Ray admits to this allegation and describes “ghetto” as meaning “[a]ll rambunctious and out of control and just -- I mean, whatever was whatever.” (Doc. 51-5, Kitisha Ray Dep. 75:16-19.)

         The last plaintiff is Brandon Ditterline: the brother who Officer Turska pulled over to set off this series of events. Brandon was at the house during the conflict and witnessed the officers dragging his father out of his truck, watching from afar. Apparently one of the officers-Lyle Womack-put his hands on his weapons, ran towards Brandon, and ordered Brandon to freeze. When Brandon asked why he needed to freeze, Officer Womack allegedly shoved Brandon in his chest-hurting Brandon because of his past open-heart surgery-and punched Brandon in the side of the head. Brandon then claims that he stuck his arm out to prevent Officer Womack from drawing his taser because he was scared that the electric shock could have killed him considering his heart defect. (Doc. 51-4, Brandon Ditterline Dep. 25 77-79.)

         Following this brawl, the Ditterlines filed a pro se complaint against the defendants in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 6.) The complaint is centered on one theory: the defendants used excessive force against the defendants in violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. The only remaining defendants in the case are Officer Turska, Officer Kitisha Ray, Officer Womack, and Officer Bosecker-an officer who was not present for any of the events mentioned in this summary, but was allegedly responsible for pulling Brandon Ditterline over repeatedly without cause, causing the family's anger that led to this entire situation. This matter is now before the Court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         i. ...


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