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Charles v. City of Chicago

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

January 8, 2018

CITY OF CHICAGO, et al., Defendants.


          John Robert Blakey United States District Judge.

         This matter concerns the detention and treatment of Plaintiff George Charles during a police search of his neighbor's home. Plaintiff initiated this action against Defendant Officers and the City of Chicago in January 2016 and asserts the following claims: (I) Excessive Force and Failure to Intervene, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (II) Battery; (III) False Arrest and Failure to Intervene, in violation of § 1983; (IV) False Imprisonment; (V) Supervisory Liability under § 1983; (VI) liability for the City of Chicago under state indemnification law; and (VII) respondeat superior liability for the City. [1]. Defendants seek summary judgment with respect to Defendants Lieutenant Wiberg and Officers Uldrych and Barango on Counts I and II; summary judgment for all defendants on Counts III and IV; summary judgment for Lieutenant Wiberg on Count V; and summary judgment for the City of Chicago on Counts VI and VII to the extent that any underlying claims are disposed of. [36]. For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         On May 19, 2014, Defendants Lieutenant Wiberg and Officers Ortiz, Skarupinski, Barango, and Uldrych (Defendant Officers) executed a search warrant in Chicago, Illinois. DSOF ¶ 9.[1] Plaintiff resided next door to the target address. Id. ¶ 13. The two homes form one structure with a shared front porch; two concrete walkways lead up to the two front doors across the otherwise undivided front yard, and separate driveways lead past each side of the building toward a backyard. [44-2]; [38-5] at 19. When Defendant Officers arrived to execute the search warrant, Plaintiff was on his property, working on his car. DSOF ¶ 13. Plaintiff was either in his backyard or in his driveway, but in any event Plaintiff was underneath his car and unaware of the search until Defendant Officer Skarupinski approached him. See Id. ¶ 13, 15; [38-5] at 20.

         Officer Skarupinski was establishing a security perimeter around the target of the search warrant. DSOF ¶¶ 11, 12, 14. Police officers executing a search warrant establish a perimeter for the safety of the officers and any bystanders. Id. ¶ 11; [38-4] at 5. The perimeter includes at least “the four corners” of the target location, and in this case such perimeter covered the front yard, both driveways, and the back of the building. DSOF ¶ 12; [38-4] at 5-6. Skarupinski knew that the building contained two residences but he considered Plaintiff's property to be within the perimeter because the two homes were within one structure. DSOF ¶ 12; R. PSAF ¶ 3. The parties agree that when Skarupinski arrived, Plaintiff was not violating any laws. R. PSAF ¶ 4. From this point forward, the majority of material facts are disputed.

         Plaintiff asserts that-with his head under the car-he asked who was in his yard and received no response. R. DSOF ¶ 15. He says he then looked out from under the car and saw Officer Skarupinski with his gun already drawn. Id. The parties agree that Skarupinski told Plaintiff about the search warrant, and that Plaintiff replied that his home was not the target address. R. PSAF ¶¶ 7-8. Plaintiff claims that Skarupinski then grabbed him by the collar, pulled him to his feet, and handcuffed him tightly; when Plaintiff complained of his discomfort, Skarupinski told him to “shut the fuck up” and tightened the cuffs further. PSAF ¶¶ 10-14; R. DSOF ¶ 15. Defendants admit that Skarupinski “may have been the officer to handcuff Plaintiff, ” R. PSAF ¶ 11, but otherwise deny any roughness. According to Defendants, Plaintiff became angry and profane with Officer Skarupinski, which presented a safety risk in the context of establishing a security perimeter and executing a search warrant. DSOF ¶¶ 10, 16, 18, 19.

         Officer Skarupinski next brought Plaintiff around to the front of the house, at which point Plaintiff admits raising his voice at Skarupinski. PSAF ¶ 18. Out front, Plaintiff's next-door neighbors had also been detained and a “large crowd of people was gathering.” Id. ¶ 20; DSOF ¶ 21. Plaintiff was left handcuffed in the front yard for between 20 and 45 minutes. R. PSAF ¶ 22. Plaintiff states that he was in pain from the handcuffs throughout this period. PSAF ¶¶ 20-25.

         At this point, another disputed altercation occurred. Officer Ortiz had been searching the target home, but went out to the front yard where Officer Barango had apparently called for assistance. DSOF ¶ 23. Around this time, Lieutenant Wiberg also approached Plaintiff, who admits that he shouted at Wiberg and “told him shut the F up and that he wanted his handcuffs removed and the officers to get off his property.” R. DSOF ¶ 30. Plaintiff states that the officers were profane in response. PSAF ¶ 30. Wiberg then ordered the officers to put Plaintiff in a squad car. R. DSOF ¶ 31. Plaintiff admits that he refused to go and resisted being taken to the car. R. DSOF ¶¶ 34, 36. According to Plaintiff, Officers Ortiz, Uldrych, and Skarupinski then choked, punched, and kicked him before dragging him to the squad car. PSAF ¶¶ 31, 34-40.

         Defendants claim that when Lieutenant Wiberg ordered the officers to put Plaintiff in the squad car, Plaintiff was not yet under arrest; the officers were trying to prevent Plaintiff “from further agitating the crowd that was becoming hostile and potentially dangerous.” DSOF ¶¶ 31-32. Defendants deny any physical abuse. R. PSAF ¶¶ 31, 34-40. Defendants also dispute Plaintiff's identification of Officer Uldrych as one of the officers involved in his detention and alleged abuse on the front lawn; they assert that Uldrych was the transport officer, and point to Plaintiff's own testimony that he did not interact with the transport officers at this time. Id. ¶¶ 31-32; [38-5] at 15.

         The parties agree that Officer Barango helped pull Plaintiff into the squad car. R. DSOF ¶ 38. The parties also agree that Lieutenant Wiberg never touched Plaintiff and that the officers at least believed they had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff for resisting and obstructing peace officers when they attempted to put him in the squad car. Id. ¶¶ 42-43. Finally, Plaintiff admits that he identified the officers that used force against him as having “dark hair, brown hair, sandy brown hair, or blonde hair, ” and that Officer Barango, by contrast, was bald. Id. ¶¶ 40-41.

         Once in the squad car, Plaintiff was driven to the police station. Id. ¶ 47. At the station, Plaintiff was not processed; instead, Lieutenant Wiberg spoke with Plaintiff and ultimately decided that he should be released without charge. See id. ¶¶ 49-51. Plaintiff was at the station for about an hour, after which two officers drove him home. Id. ¶ 52.

         Plaintiff brought this action in January 2016 against the City of Chicago, Lieutenant Wiberg, and Officers Ortiz, Skarupinski, Love, Ewing, Puszkiewicz, Soraghan, Pierce, Baker, Altenbach, Arrellano, Barango, Figus, Uldrych, and Casales. [1]. The claims against Officers Ewing, Puszkiewicz, Pierce, Baker, Arrellano, Figus, Casales, and Love have been dismissed by stipulation. [27, 35]. This Court also granted Defendant's motion to dismiss claims for punitive damages against Officer Barango, who died in September 2016. [32, 34] Still before the Court are Plaintiff's claims against the City, Lieutenant Wiberg, and Officers Ortiz, Skarupinski, Uldrych, and Barango.

         II. Legal Standard

         A motion for summary judgment can be granted only when there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine dispute of material fact exists where “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). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of establishing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The motion will be granted only if, viewing the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, no jury could reasonably find in the nonmoving party's favor. McDonald v. Hardy, 821 F.3d 882, 888 (7th Cir. 2016).

         III. Analysis

         The number of disputed material facts in this case requires this Court to deny Defendants' motion for summary judgment with respect to many of Plaintiff's claims. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. Specifically, when resolving Plaintiff's claims requires a credibility determination between conflicting accounts, that determination properly belongs to the factfinder. See Id. at 255; Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d 767, 770 (7th Cir. 2003). Plaintiff's admissions, however, have eliminated disputes about certain facts, and this Court grants summary judgment where those admissions leave “no genuine issue for trial.” A&M Records, Inc. v. A.L.W., Ltd., 855 F.2d 368, 372 (7th Cir. 1988).

         This Court addresses each of Plaintiff's claims in turn. Defendants raise a qualified immunity defense for their actions relating to Plaintiff's initial detention and arrest; this Court considers that defense within its discussion of Plaintiff's claims for excessive force, false arrest, and false imprisonment.

         A. Excessive Force and Failure to Intervene

         Claims that law enforcement used excessive force when “making an arrest, investigatory stop, or other seizure” are analyzed under the Fourth Amendment. Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 388 (1989). Whether the force used in connection with a specific seizure is permitted under the Fourth Amendment turns on whether the officer's actions were “objectively reasonable in light of the facts and circumstances” as they appeared at the time. Id. at 396. A police officer who fails to intervene when he has reason to know that excessive force is being used may be liable under § 1983. Yang v. Hardin, 37 F.3d 282, 285 (7th Cir. 1994).

         Plaintiff's excessive force claim incorporates all the events described above. Construed in Plaintiff's favor, his Complaint thus alleges excessive force during his initial detention as well as during the alleged subsequent beating. Defendants seek summary judgment on Plaintiff's excessive force and failure to intervene claim (I) with respect to Defendants Wiberg, Barango, and Uldrych.

         1. Initial Detention

         When Officer Skarupinski initially detained Plaintiff, it is undisputed that Plaintiff was within the security perimeter around the target of the search. DSOF ¶ 12. Police officers executing a search warrant “may take reasonable action to secure the premises and to ensure their own safety and the efficacy of the search.” L.A. Cnty., Cal. v. Rettele, 550 U.S. 609, 614 (2007). That can include detaining persons entering the security perimeter around the target location. United States v. Jennings, 544 F.3d 815, 818 (7th Cir. 2008). The right to detain someone “necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it, ” but the Fourth Amendment demands that such force be reasonable under the circumstances, balancing the citizen's interest against government intrusion with the “countervailing government interests.” Jacobs v. City of Chicago, 215 F.3d 758, 773 (7th Cir. 2000) (internal quotation marks omitted). To strike that balance, courts consider “the severity of the crime at issue”; ...

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