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Thompson v. City of Indianapolis

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 22, 2016

FAMOUS THOMPSON and JAMIE JOHNSON, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF INDIANAPOLIS, Officer BRYAN ZOTZ, and Officer JASON ROSS, Defendants.

          ENTRY ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants City of Indianapolis (“the City”), Bryan Zotz (“Officer Zotz”), and Jason Ross' (“Officer Ross”) (collectively, “Defendants”) Motion for Summary Judgment. (Filing No. 42.) During a traffic stop by police officers, while riding as a backseat passenger in a vehicle, Plaintiffs Famous Thompson (“Thompson”) and Jamie Johnson (“Johnson”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”), were severely injured when Officers Zotz and Ross fired shots into the backseat of the vehicle. The Plaintiffs filed a Complaint against the Defendants, asserting violation of their federal civil rights under the Fourth and Eighth Amendments, as well as excessive force, assault, battery, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress under Indiana law. (Filing No. 1.) The Plaintiffs voluntarily withdrew their Eighth Amendment claim (Filing No. 43-6 at 2-3); (Filing No. 43-7 at 2-3), as well as their negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims (Filing No. 48). Therefore, the Motion for Summary Judgment applies only to the Fourth Amendment and the remaining state law claims. For the following reasons, the Court DENIES the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         As with any summary judgment motion, the following facts are reviewed in the light most favorable to the Plaintiffs, the nonmoving parties, and the Court draws all reasonable inferences in the Plaintiffs' favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009).

         In the evening on April 2, 2013, Daniel Veza (“Officer Veza”), with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, initiated a traffic stop on a red Chevrolet Blazer after he witnessed the vehicle run a stop sign. Officer Veza sent a message to Officer Ross requesting back-up because he believed there were five individuals in the vehicle. Id. at 3. As Officer Veza approached the vehicle, he observed that the windows were tinted and instructed the passengers to roll their windows down. Id. at 1. Officer Veza observed five people inside the vehicle. Id. Kevin Somerville (“Sommerville”) was in the driver's seat, Trisha Parish (“Parish”) was in the front passenger seat, Johnson was sitting behind the driver's seat, William Morris (“Morris”) was sitting behind the passenger's seat, and Thompson was sitting between Johnson and Morris. (Filing No. 44 at 2); (Filing No. 43-4 at 12, ¶¶ 9-24).

         Officer Veza asked Sommerville for his license and registration. Id; (Filing No. 43-4 at 15, ¶¶ 19-21.) Officer Zotz then arrived on the scene and assisted Officer Veza in collecting identification from the passengers. (Filing No. 48 at 2.) All passengers produced identification, except Johnson who stated that she did not have an Id. (Filing No. 44 at 3); (Filing No. 43-2 at 12, ¶ 3-7). Officer Veza returned to his vehicle to run reports on the five occupants. (Filing No. 48 at 2.) By this time, Officer Ross also arrived at the scene. (Filing No. 44 at 3.) While Officer Veza ran the reports, Officer Zotz communicated with the passengers and gathered information from them. (Filing No. 48 at 2.) Officer Zotz learned about prior arrests involving Morris. Id. Officer Zotz began to view Morris as a potential threat. Id.

         While running the reports on the passengers, Officer Veza learned that Sommerville did not have a valid driver's license and decided to remove the passengers and have the Blazer towed. Id. at 2. Officer Veza returned to the Blazer, removed Sommerville, and conducted a pat-down search. (Filing No. 44 at 3); (Filing No. 43-4 at 21, ¶14-16). Officer Zotz removed Parish and conducted a pat-down search. Id; (Filing No. 43-4 at 12, ¶12-13). Officer Zotz then began to remove the backseat passengers. (Filing No. 48 at 2.) Officer Zotz ordered Morris to step out of the vehicle. Id. Morris attempted to exit the vehicle, but the door did not open. Id. at 3. Morris informed Officer Zotz that the door was jammed and would not open. Id. Officer Zotz also attempted to open the door near Morris, but he could not get it open. (Filing No. 43-5 at 24 ¶¶ 20-21.) Morris continued trying to open the door. Id. at 4. Johnson also attempted to open her door, but the door failed to open. Id. at 4. Johnson informed the officers that her door would not open. Id.

         Officer Zotz then said, “show me your hands.” Id. Thompson raised his hands. Id. Officer Zotz pointed his gun and repeated, “show me your hands.” Id. Thompson continued with his hands raised, and Johnson raised her hands. Id. at 4. Morris remained with his hands on the door handle, attempting to get out of the car. Id. Morris then began to raise his hands. Id. Officer Zotz yelled, “He's got a gun, ” and shot six times. Id. at 5. Officer Ross approached the rear passenger side door, and shot five times. (Filing No. 44 at 6.) Johnson was shot twice, while attempting to exit the vehicle by jumping out of the rear driver's side window. (Filing No. 48 at 5.) Thompson suffered one gunshot wound while jumping to the front of the vehicle. Id. at 4. Morris was killed. (Filing No. 1.)

         On January 16, 2015, the Plaintiffs collectively filed their Complaint, alleging that Officer Zotz and Officer Ross violated their federal civil rights under the Fourth Amendment, as well as state law claims of excessive force, assault, and battery. (Filing No. 1.) The Plaintiffs also allege that the City is liable for excessive force, assault, and battery under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Id. On May 31, 2016, the Defendants collectively filed their Motion for Summary Judgment, alleging that the Plaintiffs were not “seized” as required by the Fourth Amendment, and Officers Zotz and Ross lacked the necessary intent to be held liable for the state law claims. The Defendants further allege that the City is entitled to summary judgment because the underlying state law claims fail as a matter of law. (Filing No. 42.)

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is appropriate only where there exists “no genuine issue as to any material facts and . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court reviews “the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). “However, inferences that are supported by only speculation or conjecture will not defeat a summary judgment motion.” Dorsey v. Morgan Stanley, 507 F.3d 624, 627 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Additionally, “[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 489-90 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). “The opposing party cannot meet this burden with conclusory statements or speculation but only with appropriate citations to relevant admissible evidence.” Sink v. Knox County Hosp., 900 F.Supp. 1065, 1072 (S.D. Ind. 1995) (citations omitted).

         “In much the same way that a court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment, nor is it permitted to conduct a paper trial on the merits of [the] claim.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations and quotation marks omitted). “[N]either the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties nor the existence of some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts is sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Chiaramonte v. Fashion Bed Grp., Inc., 129 F.3d 391, 395 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Defendants moved for summary judgment on the Plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claims of excessive force and unreasonable seizure, asserting that the Plaintiffs were not “seized” as required by the Fourth Amendment. The Defendants also moved for summary judgment on the Plaintiffs' state law claims, alleging that Officers Zotz and Ross lacked the necessary intent to be held liable for assault, battery, and excessive force. The ...


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