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Jones v. City of Fort Wayne

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

March 21, 2017

KARL E. JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF FORT WAYNE, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JON E. DEGUILIO Judge United States District Court

         Plaintiff Karl E. Jones alleges in this case that Jon Bonar, a Fort Wayne police officer, used excessive force when arresting him during a traffic stop. He sued Officer Bonar and the City of Fort Wayne, asserting a variety of claims under state and federal law. The defendants removed the case to federal court, and have now moved for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the Court grants the motion as to Mr. Jones' federal claims, and remands the remaining claims to state court for further proceedings.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         A. Motion to Strike

         Before addressing the facts, the Court notes that the defendants have filed a motion to strike certain materials Mr. Jones submitted in response to the motion for summary judgment. The defendants first move to strike a number of paragraphs in Mr. Jones' affidavit on grounds of relevance. However, matters of relevance are best considered in connection with the merits of the underlying motion. If the materials are not relevant, they will not create disputes of material facts, and will not affect the outcome of the motion, [1] Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); they need not be stricken as well. The defendants also object to other materials on grounds of admissibility, arguing that the materials are speculative, constitute hearsay, or were not properly disclosed during discovery. Having reviewed those materials, the Court finds that they would not affect the outcome of the motion, so the Court declines to individually address the admissibility of those materials. Finally, the defendants object to a chronology submitted by Mr. Jones that transcribes and recounts what is depicted in a video that captured the incident. The chronology may be helpful for ease of reference, but to be clear, the Court relies on the video itself to determine what the video portrays. Fed.R.Evid. 1002. With that understanding, the Court denies the motion to strike.

         B. Facts

         Officer Jon Bonar is a police officer for the City of Fort Wayne. Early in the morning on Sunday, April 7, 2013, he was on patrol working an OWI enforcement program, and he observed a pick-up truck perform a U-turn and then accelerate to a high rate of speed.[2] He called for assistance and caught up to the vehicle at a stop light. Once the light turned green, he activated his lights, and the vehicle, driven by Karl E. Jones, pulled over after the intersection. Two other Fort Wayne police officers, Officer James Rowland and Officer Andrew Irick, were also present by that time. Officer Irick parked alongside Officer Bonar, and his dash camera recorded the ensuing incident.

         Officer Bonar approached the driver's side of the vehicle. When he arrived at the window, Officer Bonar smelled an odor of alcohol on Mr. Jones' breath, and observed that Mr. Jones had watery, blood-shot eyes. Officer Bonar asked if Mr. Jones had been drinking, and Mr. Jones turned his head away and said “no.” Mr. Jones then gave his driver's license to Officer Bonar, who returned to his car. Officer Bonar retrieved his portable breath test and returned to Mr. Jones' window. He asked Mr. Jones to take the breath test, but Mr. Jones turned away and said, “I ain't takin' that.” Officer Bonar then opened the driver's door and directed Mr. Jones to step out of the vehicle. Mr. Jones refused. Officer Bonar continued ordering Mr. Jones to exit the vehicle, but Mr. Jones did not comply. At that point, the truck was still running, and Mr. Jones' hands were on the wheel. Officer Rowland was standing behind Officer Bonar on the driver's side, and Officer Irick was standing outside the passenger door.

         Officer Bonar reached for Mr. Jones' left arm to remove him from the vehicle, but Mr. Jones pulled away. Officer Bonar then reached in to turn off the vehicle as Officer Rowland unlocked the doors so that Officer Irick could enter the passenger door. The three officers then struggled to remove Mr. Jones from the vehicle. Officers Bonar and Rowland pulled on Mr. Jones from the driver's side and Officer Irick pushed him from the passenger's side, while Mr. Jones resisted them by gripping the wheel. After several seconds of struggling, the officers were able to get Mr. Jones out of the vehicle. He ended up face down on the road, with Officer Rowland laying partially across his back and Officer Bonar on his right side. Officer Bonar grabbed Mr. Jones' right hand and placed it behind his back, after which he stood up and struck his knee into Mr. Jones' back or side. Officer Irick then arrived and knelt on Mr. Jones' left side. At that point, Officer Bonar moved near Mr. Jones head and crouched, placing his right knee on the back of Mr. Jones' neck, as the three officers worked to secure Mr. Jones' hands in handcuffs. Officer Bonar rocked back and forth at one point as he assisted with the handcuffs, and appeared to place much of his weight on Mr. Jones at times. It is not clear to what extent any force Officer Bonar applied to Mr. Jones at this point was meant to subdue and control him, or was merely incidental to Officer Bonar's attempt to get into position to secure Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones was speaking to the officers throughout this time, mostly asking the officers why he was being detained. Finally, Mr. Jones said, “Your knee's on the back of my neck, I have back problems, ” at which point Officer Bonar stood up and did not again touch Mr. Jones. The encounter lasted just over a minute from the time the officers began trying to remove Mr. Jones from the vehicle to the time Officer Bonar stood up.

         The other officers continued working to secure Mr. Jones in handcuffs, and then placed him in a squad car. Mr. Jones was then transported to the police station, where he received a breath test a little over an hour after the stop was initiated. Mr. Jones states that he was told that he passed the test, but he does not dispute that it recorded his blood alcohol content as 0.06%. Mr. Jones ultimately pled guilty to reckless driving, a Class B misdemeanor.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is proper when the movant shows 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). A “material” fact is one identified by the substantive law as affecting the outcome of the suit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A “genuine issue” exists with respect to any material fact when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. Where a factual record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial, and summary judgment should be granted. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citing Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Servs. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, this Court must construe all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable and justifiable inferences in that party's favor. Jackson v. Kotter, 541 F.3d 688, 697 (7th Cir. 2008); King v. Preferred Tech. Grp., 166 F.3d 887, 890 (7th Cir. 1999).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Mr. Jones asserts claims against Officer Bonar and the City of Fort Wayne arising out of these events. He asserts claims against Officer Bonar under federal law, alleging that Officer Bonar used excessive force against him. He also asserts claims against both Officer Bonar and the City of ...


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