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Anderson v. City of Chicago

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

May 29, 2018

JAMES ANDERSON et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF CHICAGO et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Andrea R. Wood United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs James Anderson, Dorothy Whitfield-Anderson, Terrell Whitfield, Janice King, Toyothy Whitfield, and Semaj Henderson-Funchess have sued Defendants City of Chicago and Police Officers Joseph R. Papke, Durand E. Lee, and Brian T. Schnier[1] alleging that Defendants used excessive force, committed battery, and unlawfully seized property by killing a family dog, all while executing a search warrant for the residence located at 6540 South Drexel (“Drexel Residence”). Now before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Count VII.[2](Dkt. No. 50.) For the reasons discussed below, the motion is denied.

         BACKGROUND[3]

         On September 4, 2015, police officers executed a search warrant for the Drexel Residence. (Pls.' Resp. to Defs.' Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. of Undisputed Facts (“PRDSUF”) ¶ 6, Dkt. No. 67.) The warrant targeted an individual by the name of Jeremi Edinborough and authorized a search for crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia. (Id. ¶ 7.) That evening, when police officers arrived at the Drexel Residence to execute the warrant, Anderson was sitting on the front porch. (Defs.' Resp. to Pls.' Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Additional Stmt. of Facts (“DRPASOF”) ¶ 5, Dkt. No. 73.) According to Anderson, he shouted at the officers that no one was inside except for two young girls (King and Henderson-Funchess) and his dog. (Id. ¶ 7.) Defendants admit that Anderson told the officers about the two girls but deny that they were told about the dog. (Id.)

         The officers did not ask Anderson to open the doors to the Drexel Residence; instead, the officers were able to open the exterior door without using force and then used a ram to enter the home through the interior door. (PRDSUF ¶¶ 9-13.) Once inside, with Schnier going first and Papke following behind him, Papke faced a 50 to 60-pound, muscular “pit bull.” (Id. ¶¶ 13-15.) Defendants claim that the dog was about to attack the officers-that the dog had lips curled and teeth exposed, was charging, and was in the air going in Schnier's direction while Papke was also walking into the dog's path. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 16-18.) Papke then shot the dog, aiming at the dog's vital organs. (Id. ¶ 14; DRPASOF ¶ 13.)

         Only King and Henderson-Funchess were inside the Drexel Residence when the officers entered. (PRDSUF ¶ 21.) The two teenaged girls did not see what occurred to cause Papke to shoot the dog. (Id. ¶ 23.) But Henderson-Funchess claims that she heard the police knocking, yelling, and gunshots-all within seconds. (Id. ¶ 22.) And King claims that she heard the dog's nails on the floor as the officers were coming into the residence. (Id. ¶ 25.) Neither the officers nor King and Henderson-Funchess heard the dog bark, growl, or snarl at any of the officers. (DRPASOF ¶ 3.)

         The dog's name was Gucci King. (Id. ¶ 1.) According to Plaintiffs, he was a gentle and peaceful family dog known to the entire neighborhood. (Id.) Plaintiffs claim that Gucci King had no history of aggression and did not require a choke collar, as he was very obedient.[4] (Id.) When visitors entered the Drexel Residence, Gucci King would approach the front door to see who was arriving. (Id. ¶ 2.) And during a previous police raid at the Drexel Residence, Plaintiffs were permitted to place Gucci King in his cage before the search was conducted. (Id. ¶ 4.) The parties dispute whether Defendants knew about the presence of a dog at the Drexel Residence prior to entering it. (PRDSUF ¶ 8.)

         According to Plaintiffs, after the officers entered the Drexel Residence, King and Henderson-Funchess were handcuffed, even though they were teenagers at that time and were not trying to attack or hurt the officers. (DRPASOF ¶¶ 14, 16; Ex. E to Defs.' Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 6, Dkt. No. 52-6; Ex. F to Defs.' Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 6, Dkt. No. 52-7.) While being handcuffed, Henderson-Funchess was subjected to offensive comments and also was pulled up and then slammed to the ground face-down (her lip split open when her face hit the floor). (DRPASOF ¶ 17.) She was also asked about her name and then threatened with harm to her family. (Id. ¶ 20.) Meanwhile, King was pulled upright by her hair, leaving a bald spot on her head. (Id. ¶ 18.). At some point during the raid, King and Henderson-Funchess both had guns pointed at them. (Id. ¶ 23.) For their part, Defendants deny placing King in handcuffs and assert that Henderson-Funchess was handcuffed due to being verbally combative. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 16.) Defendants also deny taking the other actions attributed to them in Plaintiffs' version of events, other than that Lee took down general demographic information for King and Henderson-Funchess. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 18, 20, 23.)

         According to Plaintiffs, once handcuffed, King and Henderson-Funchess were seated on the couch in such a way that King could see Gucci King's dead body and called various offensive names. (Id. ¶¶ 19, 27.) King tried to talk to Papke about why he shot Gucci King, but Papke responded sarcastically, giving mocking commands to the dead dog and telling King to “go play with him.” (Id. ¶¶ 24-26.) Defendants deny that any name-calling or mocking took place but admit that Papke might have spoken to King (although he cannot recall what was said between them). (Id. ¶¶ 19, 24, 25, 27.)

         Plaintiffs assert that as a result of what happened during the raid, King and Henderson-Funchess suffered bruising on their wrists and Henderson-Funchess was taken to a hospital to receive treatment for her split lip. (Id. ¶¶ 28, 29.) Both of them reacted emotionally to the events with screaming and crying. (Id. ¶¶ 27, 30.) Henderson-Funchess was scared to leave home and missed school for a week; she was later treated by a psychiatrist due to the incident. (Id. ¶¶ 31, 32.) King also saw a counselor and was prescribed medication, but she claims that nothing helped “because Gucci [King] was not coming back.” (Id. ¶¶ 34, 35.) In addition, according to Plaintiffs, the officers who raided the Drexel Residence left the home “torn up” and with several items missing. (Id. ¶¶ 36-39.)

         In this lawsuit, Plaintiffs have brought the following claims against the police officer Defendants: claims for use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution by King against Schnier (Count I) and Henderson-Funchess against Lee (Count III), claims for common law battery by King against Schnier (Count II) and Henderson-Funchess against Lee (Count IV), and claims for the unconstitutional seizure of Gucci King in violation of the Fourth Amendment by Anderson, Whitfield-Anderson, [5] both Whitfields, and King against Papke (Count VII). Plaintiffs have also named the City of Chicago as a Defendant in counts for indemnification (Count IX) and for respondeat superior responsibility (Count X). The present motion challenges the unconstitutional seizure claim only.

         DISCUSSION

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Smith v. Hope School, 560 F.3d 694, 699 (7th Cir. 2009). A genuine issue of material fact exists if a reasonable jury could find in favor of the nonmoving party. Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). In deciding a summary judgment motion, the court must consider the record as a whole, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Bay v. Cassens Transp. Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000).

         It is well-established that police officers are entitled to qualified immunity from liability for civil damages under § 1983 unless the officers violated a federal statutory or constitutional right and their conduct's unlawfulness was clearly established at that time. See D.C. v. Wesby, 1385. Ct. 577, 589 (2018). “Qualified immunity balances two important interests-the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield officers from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably.” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 231 (2009); accord Green v. Newport, 868 F.3d 629, 632-33 (7th Cir. 2017). Although qualified immunity is an affirmative defense, once a defendant evokes the doctrine, the plaintiff bears the burden of defeating it. Purvis v. Oest, 614 F.3d 713, 717 (7th Cir. 2010). To overcome qualified immunity, a plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) the facts, taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, show that the officers violated a constitutional right, and (2) the right was clearly established at the time of the conduct at issue. Id. at 720. ...


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