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Lee v. Jones

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

April 7, 2014

YOLANDA LEE, Plaintiff,
v.
P.O. ANTWON JONES, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

JAMES T. MOODY, District Judge.

This matter is before the court on defendant Antwon Jones motion for summary judgment. (DE #36.) Plaintiff Yolanda Lee brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 alleging that her rights under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution were violated when Jones used excessive force to effect her arrest.[1] For the reasons set forth below, the motion is to be denied.

Background

Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are not genuinely disputed. At approximately 9:00 a.m. on April 1, 2008, plaintiff Lee's daughter, E-Toi, called Lee from school. (DE #41-2 at 13.[2]) E-Toi said that she had been suspended and wanted her mother to come pick her up. ( Id. at 13-14.) Lee, accompanied by her son Erik (who was about 8 years old at the time[3]), got her friend and neighbor Christol Thompson to give them a ride. ( Id at 14.)

After arriving at the school Lee was invited to the office of Assistant Principal Krystin Carlson to discuss the reason for E-Toi's suspension. ( Id. at 15.) School Principal Derrick White was also present. ( Id. at 16.) At some point during the meeting, Principal White left and returned with defendant Jones. ( Id. ) Jones is a City of South Bend police officer who was at the school as a community resources officer.[4] White said to Jones: "I need you to come into this meeting. We have an irate parent in here." (DE # 37-5, deposition p. 21.)

White and Jones returned to the meeting, and Lee announced that she was leaving. (DE #41-2 at 17.) As she (along with E-Toi, Erik and Thompson) left the building, Jones followed her out. ( Id. at 19.) In his view, he was escorting her to be sure she left the building and the school grounds. (DE #37-5, deposition pp. 27-36.) Shortly thereafter, before Lee left the grounds, Jones arrested her and she was charged with disorderly conduct, criminal trespass, and resisting arrest. (DE #37-2 at 2.) Lee ultimately pleaded guilty to, and was convicted of, disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. (DE #37-1 at 2.)

The circumstances leading up to Lee's arrest are disputed. According to Lee, she remained calm at all times. (DE # 41-2 at 18.) As Jones followed her out of the building, he was yelling, screaming and swearing at her, telling her she needed to "get the fuck out now." ( Id. at 18-19.) She thought he was only a security guard and did not know he was a police officer, and as she exited the building she used her cell phone to call 9-1-1. ( Id. ) When they got in front of the school Erik told Jones to stop talking to his mother "like that, " and Jones responded "shut the fuck up." ( Id. at 21.) Lee told Jones not to speak to her son like that because he has a mental disability, and Jones responded, "I don't give a fuck." ( Id. ) He told Lee to leave or he would charge her for trespassing. ( Id. )

Lee began stepping off the curb into the school's parking lot; she was limping because she had two broken toes and was wearing an "air walk boot." ( Id. ) She stood still because she was afraid of losing her balance and falling. ( Id . at 22. ) She admits that at about this time she called Jones a "fat fucker." ( Id. ) Jones said that if she didn't move he would arrest her, and that was when she first realized he was a police officer. ( Id. ) She began to walk again, holding onto a car because she thought she was going to fall. ( Id. ) She heard her daughter, her son, and Thompson calling her name, and in Lee's words:

[B]efore I could even turn around he had my right hand in a handcuff, and he pushed my arm so hard behind my back that I heard something break. And we rolled together on the car, and we ended up-my back was against the car and his elbow was against my throat.

( Id. )

A police car arrived (apparently due to Lee's 9-1-1 call) and Lee got into it, complaining to Jones that the handcuffs were too tight. ( Id. at 28). He told her that they were fine. ( Id. ) After posting bond and being released, it is undisputed that later that day Lee went to the hospital emergency room complaining of pain in her wrist. ( Id. at 31.) Sixth months later, after constant pain in her shoulder, Lee was diagnosed as having a previously-broken collar bone, which she believes occurred when she heard the snap when Jones forced her arm behind her. ( Id. at 33.)

School Principal White's and defendant Jones' descriptions of what occurred are consistent with each other, but markedly different than Lee's. According to White, Lee was using profanity in the meeting, and that as soon as he returned with Jones, she said that the school personnel "were all motherfuckers" and that she didn't need "this bullshit." (DE #37-4 at 2.) White told her that if she didn't stop using such language, he would have her removed from the premises. ( Id. ) She continued in that vein, and White said "this meeting is over." ( Id. at 2-3.) She continued using profanities as she walked out, escorted by Jones. ( Id. at 3.)

According to Jones, he followed Lee out of the meeting as she kept using profanities and he told her "Ma'am, you need to leave before you end up going to jail." (DE #37-5, deposition p. 27.) All the way out, as Jones kept telling her she needed to leave, she kept stopping to curse at him. ( Id., deposition pp. 28-32.) Jones does not recall if he felt physically threatened. ( Id., deposition p. 34.) After they were outside the school he told her that if she stopped again she was going to jail. ( Id. ) For that events occurring after that, defendant Jones relies solely on Lee's deposition testimony, accepting her version of the arrest for the purposes of his summary judgment arguments.[5]

Thus, to summarize, Jones' version of the events is that Lee was being hostile, verbally abusive, and not leaving the school grounds as quickly as he believed his orders warranted. Lee's version, which the court must credit on summary judgment, is that she was calm and Jones was the one being hostile and verbally abusive. She was leaving as quickly as she could given her broken toes, and Jones, using a degree of force not necessary in the circumstances, twisted her arm so hard that she heard something snap, and laid on top of her on a car ...


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