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Savage v. City of Twin Falls

United States District Court, D. Idaho

April 13, 2015

MICHAEL COLEMAN SAVAGE, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF TWIN FALLS, a political subdivision of the State of Idaho, TWIN FALLS CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT, BRIAN PIKE, CHIEF OF POLICE FOR TWIN FALLS POLICE DEPATMENT, TWIN FALLS POLICE OFFICER TIMOTHY ARREDONDO, TWIN FALLS POLICE OFFICER ISAIAH DAY, and John and Jane Does, I-X, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

EDWARD J. LODGE, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 25), Defendants' Motion in Limine (Dkt. 72), and Defendants' Motion to Strike various documents filed in support of Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. 81).

The parties have submitted their briefing on the motions and the matter is now ripe for the Court's review. Having fully reviewed the record herein, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the motions shall be decided on the record before this Court without oral argument.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Michael Coleman Savage ("Savage") filed suit against Defendants City of Twin Falls, Twin Falls City Police Department, Brian Pike, Chief of Police for Twin Falls City Police Department, Twin Falls City Police Department Officers Timothy Arrendondo and Isaiah Day, and Jane/John Does I-X (collectively referred to hereinafter as "Defendants"). Brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Savage alleges Defendants acted in their official capacities to deprive him of the rights protected by the Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

The incident leading to Savage's suit occurred on May 20, 2011. At approximately 5:30 p.m. on that date, Twin Falls City Police Officers Timothy Arredondo ("Arredondo") and Isaiah Day ("Day") were on patrol duty when Arredondo was contacted by off-duty Twin Falls Police Officer Joel Woodward ("Woodward"). Woodward advised Arredondo that a suspected drug dealer Kevin Fuller ("Fuller") was driving with a suspended license in the vicinity of the 400 Block of Eastgate Drive in Twin Falls. Woodward reported that Fuller was driving a maroon Chevy pickup truck. Arredondo and Day drove to Eastgate Drive to see if Fuller could be located. When they arrived, Arredondo called Woodward and was advised that Fuller had just exited his car and entered a home located at 457 Eastgate Drive. It is undisputed that Savage owned the home located at 457 Eastgate Drive and that Fuller was staying there. Upon arrival, Arredondo and Day observed two unidentified males exit the home and get into a white Dodge Ram truck. The parties vehemently dispute what happened next.

According to Savage, he left his home and got into his white Dodge Ram in order to drive a friend's son, Bradly Bushnell ("Bushnell"), home after having given Bushnell a ride to the grocery store. After taking Bushnell to the store, Savage and Bushnell went to Savage's home to watch television for 20 minutes in order to kill time before Savage had to pick his son up from a field trip at 6 p.m. Savage and Bushnell were leaving Savage's home when Fuller arrived. Savage told Fuller that he was taking Bushnell home and picking up his son, and Fuller went into Savage's home through the garage. As he was leaving his home with Bushnell, Savage noticed Arredondo and Day drive slowly by his home. Savage made eye contact with the officers as they drove by his home. Savage then backed out of his driveway and pulled behind Arredondo and Day in their patrol car. Arredondo pulled over to the side of the road, and Savage pulled around the patrol car in order to continue to Bushnell's home.

Shortly after he pulled around the patrol car, Savage heard a short "whoop" of the patrol car's siren. As he had just left his home and was driving below the 20 mile per hour speed limit, Savage assumed the officers were after someone else and kept driving. A short time later he heard another "whoop" of the siren. At this point Savage realized the officers were attempting to pull him over. In order to avoid traffic, Savage pulled into a dead end street and stopped his truck on the side of the road. Savage was getting his wallet and driver's license out when the patrol car screeched to a stop next to his truck. Arredondo and Day immediately exited the patrol car with their guns drawn, and approached either side of Savage's vehicle yelling, "You son of a bitch... put your hands up." (Dkt. 67-2, CD filed in support of Plaintiff's Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (hereinafter "Dkt. 67-2"), Exhibit 1, Savage Deposition, pp. 77-78.) Savage and Bushnell complied and put their hands up. Arredondo then screamed at Savage to put his hands up higher where Arredondo could see them. Savage again complied.

Arredondo immediately ordered Savage out of the vehicle. Savage complied and got out of the vehicle, and Arredondo holstered his gun. (Id., p. 79.) As Arredondo approached him, Savage asked Arredondo why he had been pulled over. Arredondo responded, "Shut the f____up. You're under arrest." (Id., p. 80.) Arredondo ordered Savage to put his hands behind his back. Instead of complying, Savage again asked why he had been pulled over. Arredondo responded by telling Savage he was under arrest and ordering Savage to lay on the ground face down with his hands behind his back. (Id. ) Savage questioned why he was under arrest. Arredondo again responded by ordering Savage to get on the ground face down. (Id., pp. 81-82.) At this point, Day came around Savage's truck to assist Arredondo and also ordered Savage to put his hands behind his back. Savage maintains he did not comply because he wanted to know why he had been pulled over and why he was under arrest. Savage felt the situation was abnormal because he hadn't done anything wrong yet was ordered out of his vehicle at gun point, and told he was under arrest, seemingly without provocation. (Id. ) Every time Savage asked for an explanation, however, he was ordered to shut up and get face down on the ground.

When Day joined Arredondo on the driver side of the truck, both officers grabbed Savage's wrists and attempted to handcuff him. Savage tried to pull his arms away, and admittedly stated, "why did you pull me over, you mother-f____punks?" (Id., p. 89.) Arredondo responded by forcefully shoving Savage into his pickup. Savage grabbed onto the truck and felt "a flurry" of punches to the back of his head and back. (Id., p. 91.) While the officers punched him, Savage testified in his deposition that he continued to hold onto his truck because:

I want somebody to see what's going on because I just feel like I'm being scooped off the street and kidnapped and whisked away. I'm buying time. I'm not going to go anywhere because I've got a hold of my pickup until, you know, I've got some answers.

(Id. )

Savage then felt a blow he believed to be a kick to his left side, knocking the wind out of him and shoving him further into the pickup truck. (Id., p. 93.) After the blow, Arredondo yanked Savage's head to the side by pulling Savage's hair and punched Savage in the right side of his face. (Id., pp. 96-98.) Savage was temporarily knocked unconscious from the force of the blow, and fell to the ground. He landed on his stomach with both arms pinned beneath him and both officers on top of him. When Savage regained consciousness on the ground he stated, "I'm done. I'm done." (Id., p. 99.) Arredondo continued to punch Savage after he was on the ground and had surrendered. Day had one knee in the small of Savage's back and the other in Savage's shoulder when Arredondo again punched Savage in the face. The officers then roughly pulled Savage's arms out from underneath him and handcuffed him. (Id. ) They left Savage lying face down on the ground, handcuffed and bleeding profusely, as they called for back-up. It is undisputed that no one administered first aid or offered to help Savage until back-up arrived. At that point Twin Falls Police Sergeant Howe raised Savage off the street into a kneeling position and immediately ordered other officers to clean Savage up and get him medical attention. (Id., p. 107.)

Savage was taken to St. Luke's Magic Valley Hospital and treated for concussion, fractured occipital lobe, and for multiple extensive, deep lacerations and contusions. He was then taken to county jail and incarcerated from Friday night until around 2:00 p.m. on Monday. Although Savage was charged with assault and battery on a police officer, and resisting or obstructing arrest, the charges were ultimately dropped.

Defendants have a very different view of the May 20, 2011 stop and arrest. They allege that when they passed 457 Eastgate they observed a vehicle leave the home with two unidentified individuals inside. Arredondo and Day believed Fuller may have been one of the two individuals in the white Dodge Ram. (Dkt. 25-3, ¶ 5.) Noticing the Ram had a severely cracked windshield, Arredondo put on his lights immediately after Savage pulled around him in order to pull the truck over and see if Fuller was inside.[1]

Arredondo claims he immediately put on his overhead lights and siren after Savage passed the patrol car, but Savage refused to stop and proceeded approximately three blocks into a dead-end street.[2] (Id., ¶ 6.) Defendants allege Savage then made an abrupt "U-turn" on the dead end street in what Arredondo and Day viewed as an attempt to escape. (Id., ¶ 7.) Arredondo then blocked the dead end street with his vehicle, and Savage attempted to go around it before he ultimately pulled over. Once Savage stopped his truck, the officers exited their vehicle with their guns drawn, and asked Savage to put his hands on the wheel. (Id. )

Arredondo maintains Savage stated, "f____ing punk, what the f____did you stop me for?" as soon as he approached Savage's vehicle. (Id. ) Deciding that Savage presented a safety issue because of his attempted escape and aggressive demeanor, Arredondo felt he should detain Savage before explaining why he had been stopped, and ordered Savage out of the vehicle and to place his hands behind his back. (Id., ¶ 8.) Arredondo claims Savage responded, "F_____ you, " and stood over Arredondo "with his jaw clenched, fists balled, and sticking his chest out." (Id. ) Defendants do not detail what occurred next, nor provide specifics of the rest of the traffic stop. Defendants also do not dispute that Arredondo punched Savage in the face with a closed fist both before Savage fell to the ground and after Savage had stated, "I'm done, " and was lying prostrate on the ground, with Day on top of him and his arms pinned beneath him. However, Defendants allege that during the course of the arrest Savage struck Arredondo in the nose, causing it to bleed, and also struck Day in the lip. (Dkt. 25-3, ¶ 9.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment is appropriate if no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). An issue is "material" if it affects the outcome of the litigation and requires a trial to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth. S.E.C. v. Seaboard Corp., 677 F.2d 1289, 1293 (9th Cir. 1982). Disputes over facts that are irrelevant to an element of a claim or defense will not preclude entry of summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). An issue is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-movant. Id.; Rivera v. Philip Morris, Inc., 395 F.3d 1142, 1146 (9th Cir. 2005). The party moving for summary judgment must demonstrate there are no genuine issues of material fact. Horphag v. Research Ltd. v. Garcia, 475 F.3d 1029, 1035 (9th Cir. 2007).

In responding to a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the non-movant cannot merely rely upon the pleadings, but must present specific and supported material facts, of significant probative value, to preclude summary judgment. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court views the evidence and draws inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Because factual disputes are to be resolved at trial, the court does not resolve conflicting evidence with respect to disputed material fact, nor does it make credibility determinations, in ruling on summary judgment motions. Id.

ANALYSIS

Congress has created a cause of action against individuals who, while acting under color of law, violate the constitutional rights of private citizens. Section 1983 provides, in pertinent part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any State... subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivations of any rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured[.]

42 U.S.C. § 1983.

"Section 1983 does not create any substantive rights, but is instead a vehicle by which plaintiffs can bring federal constitutional and statutory challenges to actions by state and local officials." Anderson v. Warner, 451 F.3d 1063, 1067 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Cholla Ready Mix, Inc. v. Civish, 382 F.3d 969, 978 (9th Cir. 2004)). "The purpose of § 1983 is to deter state actors from using the badge of their authority to deprive individuals of their federally guaranteed rights." Id. (citation omitted).

To establish a prima facie case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a Plaintiff "must adduce proof of two elements: (1) the action occurred under color of law' and (2) the action resulted in a deprivation of a constitutional right or a federal statutory right." Souders v. Lucero, 196 F.3d 1040, 1043 (9th Cir.1999) (quoting Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981)). Here it is undisputed that Arredondo and Day were acting under "color of law" when they stopped and arrested Savage. The question is thus whether Savage was deprived of constitutional rights during the course of his arrest. Savage alleges he was deprived of the rights protected under the Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments during his arrest.

The Supreme Court has determined where, as here, an excessive force claim arises in the context of an arrest or investigatory stop of a free citizen, it is most properly characterized as one invoking the protections of the Fourth Amendment, which "guarantees citizens the right to be secure in their persons... against unreasonable seizures' of the person."[3] Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989) (citing Tennessee v. Garner, 471 U.S. 1, 7 (1985)). The Graham Court further held that " all claims that law enforcement officers have used excessive force-deadly or not-in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other seizure' of a free citizen should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment and its reasonableness' standard, rather than under a substantive due process approach.'" Id. at 395 (emphasis in original).

I. Excessive Force

Determining whether the force used in the course of an arrest is "reasonable" under the Fourth Amendment requires "a careful balancing of the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against the countervailing governmental interests at stake." Id. at 396 (internal quotations and citation omitted). Fourth Amendment jurisprudence has long held that the "right to make an arrest or investigatory stop necessarily carries with it the right to use some degree of physical coercion or threat thereof to effect it." Id. (citing Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 22-27 (1983)). Because police officers "are often forced to make split-second judgments, " not "every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge's chambers, " violates the Fourth Amendment. Santos v. Gates, 287 F.3d 846, 853 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028, 1033 (2d Cir. 1973)). However, "even where some force is justified, the amount used may be excessive." Id. ...


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