United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
E. Bucklo United States District Judge.
early morning hours of March 7, 2015, officers Matthew Lyons
and Anthony Colon of the Village of Round Lake Park police
department responded to a 911 call reporting that a woman had
jumped from a window and was lying in the snow. The officers
arrived at the scene and found the woman, later identified as
Natasha Alexander, unconscious and bleeding.
Plaintiff-Natasha's cousin-was in a car parked in the
driveway of plaintiff's sister's house, a few doors
down from where Natasha lay. Officer Colon spoke briefly with
plaintiff, then asked her to get into Officer Lyons's
squad car to get out of the cold. Plaintiff got into the car,
and Officer Lyons pulled off, leaving Officer Colon at the
Officer Lyons transported plaintiff to the police station, an
argument erupted in the squad car, prompting Officer Lyons to
pull over into the parking lot of a nearby restaurant and
call for backup. Officer Colon and Officer Brandon Gullifor
of the Village of Round Lake Police Department arrived at the
scene, and together the officers removed plaintiff from the
car and handcuffed her. Later, she pled guilty to domestic
battery of Natasha and battery of Officer Lyons. Plaintiff
brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that
the officers used excessive force during her arrest.
me are defendants' motions for summary judgment, which
argue that on the undisputed record, the force they used was
reasonable under the circumstances; and that even if the
force the officers used was excessive, they are entitled to
qualified immunity. For the reasons that follow, I conclude
that even when all factual disputes are resolved in
plaintiff's favor, the record would not allow a
reasonable jury to find that defendants violated
plaintiff's constitutional rights, and I grant summary
judgment on that basis.
the parties present starkly different accounts of the events
culminating in the challenged use of force, I assume the
facts are as plaintiff recounts them wherever the record
reasonably allows. On the night in question, plaintiff was at
her sister's house for a birthday celebration when her
cousin Natasha arrived in a “rageful” state.
Pl.'s Dep., DN 55-1 at 44, 51. Plaintiff tried to calm
Natasha down, but matters escalated, and plaintiff pushed
Natasha onto a couch. Natasha “charged at”
plaintiff, “busting” plaintiff's nose.
Id. at 55, 66. Plaintiff went to the bathroom to
tend to her nose, then left the house and sat in a car in the
driveway. Id. at 57, 65-66. As she sat in the car,
Officer Colon approached and asked, “why was [Natasha]
hiding in the bushes?” Id. at 71. Plaintiff
saw Natasha talking to police outside the house. Id.
at 70. Natasha was sitting on the curb and shaking her head,
and she “didn't look like herself” but was
not bleeding and did not look injured. Id. at 72,
74. Officer Colon asked plaintiff to step inside his car
“[b]ecause it [was] cold outside, and [he] want[ed] to
talk to [her].” Id. at 73, 75. Plaintiff
agreed to get in the back of the squad car. Id. at
74, 82. Officer Lyons immediately pulled off. Id. at
testified that she told Officer Lyons that she wanted to call
her sister to tell her where she was being taken. Officer
Lyons then “flipped out” and started screaming
that she could not use her “f***ing cell phone in [his]
car.” Officer Lyons pulled over, “smashed the
door open, ” and told plaintiff to “step the f*ck
out” of his car. Plaintiff remained “completely
calm” but refused to get out. Id. at 87-88.
Officer Lyons was trying to “snatch” plaintiff
out of the car when Officers Colon and Gullifor arrived.
Id. at 89. The officers continued to tell plaintiff
to get out of the car. Plaintiff refused to get out, but she
remained calm and did not yell, swear, or kick at the
officers. Id. 89-90, 97.
testified that the officers then forced her out of the car
and “slammed” her to the ground, injuring her
face, elbow, and knee. Id. at 94, 141-143. As
plaintiff lay on the ground, the officers put their knees on
her back and pulled at her arms. Id. at 96-98. She
told the officers they were hurting her, but they did not
stop, so she “just played dead.” Id. at
96. Sometime later, plaintiff was taken to the hospital in an
ambulance, but she refused medical care after seeing Officer
Lyons laughing and joking with hospital staff. Id.
at 105. She told a doctor, “[j]ust send me home. Send
me home or take me to jail.” Id. at 109, 111.
portion of plaintiff's arrest was captured by the
“dash cam” device in Officer Gullifor's squad
car. The video recording begins as officer Gullifor pulls up
behind Officer Lyons's parked squad car in the parking
lot of The Pizza Place restaurant, where Officer Lyons had
pulled over. See Exh. D to Round Lake Park
Def.'s L.R. 56.1 Stmt.; Pl.'s Dep. at 27. Officer
Gulliver then approaches Officer Lyons's vehicle on foot,
where one officer can be seen standing off to the side of the
vehicle, while another officer not visible on screen can be
heard arguing with plaintiff. Plaintiff can be seen and heard
screaming obscenities at the unseen officer from within the
vehicle. The officer tells her, “I'm about two
seconds away from cuffing you.” Plaintiff responds,
“cuff me, cuff me motherf***er, ” and continues
to scream obscenities. The standing officer then opens the
rear passenger's side door, and plaintiff yells
“get your motherf***ing hands off me.” An officer
tells her, “you gotta get cuffed, ” and she
screams “don't f***ing touch me” then begins
kicking the officer at the rear passenger door while
continuing to scream. The officers can be heard to shout
“stop resisting!” multiple times as plaintiff
continues to swear and kick. The audio then cuts out as the
video shows the officers pull plaintiff out of the car and
onto the ground.
what occurs next is outside the range of the video camera.
Still, two of the officers can be seen to struggle with
plaintiff on the ground for approximately fifteen seconds.
Thereafter, the two officers stand up while the third remains
outside the camera's view. Several minutes go by, during
which time an ambulance arrives. (The ambulance cannot be
seen on the video, but its flashing lights can be seen in
reflection off of the squad car). The officers then spend
several minutes struggling to get plaintiff back into the
squad car as she stands at the open rear passenger door, then
sits partially inside, screaming obscenities at the
officers. Finally, the officers get plaintiff into
the car and drive away.
was charged with multiple felony offenses based on the events
of March 7, 2015. She ultimately pled guilty to a misdemeanor
charge of battery, admitting that she kicked Officer Lyons,
and a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery, admitting that
she struck Natasha.
judgment is appropriate when the pleadings, depositions,
admissions, and other evidence of record show 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); Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). I must consider the
record as a whole and construe all facts in the light most
favorable to plaintiff. Payne v. Pauley, 337 F.3d
767 (7th Cir. 2003). The Supreme Court has added a caveat,
however, that the non-movant's version should not be
credited when it is clearly contradicted by a video recording
capturing events that is in the record. Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380-81 (2007).
argue that the dash cam recordings, together with
plaintiff's guilty pleas and her admissions in
conjunction with those pleas, establish as a matter of law
that the force the officers used in the course of her arrest
was reasonable. Plaintiff does not dispute that the dash cam
footage “partially depict[s] some of the events in
question, ” but she insists that it does not discredit
her version ...