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Goodman v. Clark

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

September 29, 2017

ADAM CLARK, et al., Defendants.



         This matter is before the court on defendants City of Hammond, Christopher Berdine, Ralph Bogie, Robert Bunner, Raymond Finley, Rudy Grasha, Brian Miller (also incorrectly sued as “Officer Edward”), John Ratajczak, Thomas Strabavy, Patrick Vicari, and Timothy Walczak‘s (“the Remaining Hammond Defendants”) motion for summary judgment (DE # 321) and defendants Christopher Crocker, Carrie J. Landau, Christopher Soyez, and Lori Warren's (“the FBI Defendants”) motion for summary judgment (DE # 327). Plaintiffs filed responses to the two motions. (DE ## 335, 336.) The Remaining Hammond Defendants filed a reply brief (DE # 342), as did the FBI Defendants (DE # 341). Accordingly, both summary judgment motions have been fully briefed and are ripe for ruling.


         On December 24, 2007, plaintiff Roy Goodman, Jr., was present at the River Oaks Shopping Center in Calumet City, Illinois, with his family members: daughter Reniece Goodman, son Roy Goodman, III, and wife Renee Goodman. (DE ## 323-11 at 49; 323-12 at 23; 323-14 at 27-28.) Roy Goodman, III, and Reniece Goodman were admittedly present in the JC Penny store at the River Oaks Center that day. (DE ## 323-12 at 23; 323-13 at 20.)

         That same day, an armed robbery occurred at the JC Penny store. (DE # 323-1 at 7.) After the robbery, a federal arrest warrant was issued for Roy Goodman, Jr., and a federal search warrant was issued for his residence at 5623 Maywood in Hammond, Indiana. (DE # 323-9 ¶ 4.) Both of the warrants were related to the armed robbery at the JC Penny store. (DE ## 323-1 at 6; 323-8 ¶ 3.)

         The FBI Defendants that remain in the case were each assigned to the Chicago Illinois South Resident Agency (“South RA”). (DE ## 328-4 ¶ 1; 328-5 ¶ 1; 328-6 ¶ 1; 328-7 ¶ 1.) After obtaining an arrest warrant for Roy Goodman, Jr., agent Lori Warren, from the South RA, sought assistance from the Indianapolis Field Division to execute the warrants in Hammond, Indiana. (DE # 328-1 ¶¶ 4-5.) Ted May, an FBI agent from the Indianapolis division, arranged the forces to be used for the execution of the warrants. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 8.) May contacted the Hammond Police Department to ask their SWAT team to make the initial entry into the residence for the search and arrest of Roy Goodman, Jr. (Id. ¶ 8.)

         Defendant Brian Miller was the chief of police of the Hammond Police Department in Hammond, Indiana at the time of the events at issue in this case. (DE # 323-8 ¶ 1.) Miller asserts he was contacted by the FBI, when it sought assistance in executing the warrants. (Id. ¶ 4.) He was informed that Roy Goodman, Jr., was “armed and dangerous” and that Roy Goodman, III was “possibly involved” in the armed robbery. (Id.)

         On December 28, 2007, members of the Hammond Police Department's SWAT unit, also known as the tactical unit, made the initial entry into the residence at 5623 Maywood in Hammond, Indiana. (DE # 323-9 ¶¶ 4, 7.) Ralph Bogie, a Hammond police officer, asserts that one of the Hammond SWAT officers knocked on a door at the rear of the house, but no one responded. (Id. ¶ 12.) The door was then forced open. (Id.) One of the officers, potentially Christopher Berdine, deployed a diversionary, or “flash-bang” device in the rear of the residence and in the basement. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 16-17; 335-11 at 3.)

         Plaintiffs were all in the residence, but they were upstairs in bedrooms at this time. (DE ## 323-9 ¶ 13; 335-9 at 5-6, 12; 335-13 at 7-8.) Following the use of the flash-bang devices, they went downstairs and were handcuffed. (DE ## 335-8 at 6-7; 335-9 at 5, 17; 335-13 at 8-9; 335-14 at 12.) Roy Goodman, Jr., asserts that he was slammed against a wall of his house by officer Ray Finley. (DE ## 335-14 at 18-20; 335-15.) The FBI then took him into custody. (DE # 323-8 ¶ 9.)

         Additionally, the FBI and the Calumet City Police Department asked Miller “to have the Hammond Police Department hold Roy Goodman, III, Renee Goodman and Reniece Goodman at the Hammond Police Department's facilities so that they could be interviewed by the FBI and the Calumet City Police Department.” (Id.) Plaintiffs assert that Defendant Rudy Grasha, a Hammond police officer, removed plaintiff Roy Goodman, III, from the residence. (See DE ## 335 at 4; 299-1; 335-1 ¶ 10.) Plaintiffs Reniece, Roy, III, and Renee assert that they were then taken to the Hammond Police Department's facilities. (DE ## 323-13 at 13-14; 335-8 at 12-13.) Reniece asserts they were in handcuffs at the facility, and they were fingerprinted at the facility. (DE ## 299-1; 335-8 at 12-13.) Reniece asserts that she was placed into a cell by herself and then questioned. (DE # 335-8 at 13.)

         Plaintiffs eventually filed suit against multiple defendants. The only defendants remaining in the case are the Remaining Hammond Defendants and the FBI Defendants. In their fourth amended complaint (DE # 151), plaintiffs bring seven claims against the Remaining Hammond Defendants and two claims against the FBI Defendants. This includes claims filed under both Indiana law and federal law. (See id.) All defendants have now moved for summary judgment. (DE ## 321, 327.)


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 requires the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery, against a party “who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “[S]ummary judgment is appropriate-in fact, is mandated-where there are no disputed issues of material fact and the movant must prevail as a matter of law. In other words, the record must reveal that no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party.” Dempsey v. Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Ry. Co., 16 F.3d 832, 836 (7th Cir. 1994) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that these requirements have been met. Carmichael v. Village of Palatine, Ill., 605 F.3d 451, 460 (7th Cir. 2010). “[T]he burden on the moving party may be discharged by ‘showing'-that is, pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325. Once the moving party has met his burden, the non-moving party must identify specific facts establishing that there is a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986); Palmer v. Marion County, 327 F.3d 588, 595 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324). In doing so, the non-moving party cannot rest on the pleadings alone, but must present fresh proof in support of its position. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Donovan v. City of Milwaukee, 17 F.3d 944, 947 (7th Cir. 1994). In viewing the facts presented on a motion for summary judgment, the court must construe all facts in a light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. Chmiel v. JC Penney Life Ins. Co., 158 F.3d 966 (7th Cir. 1998).


         A. The Remaining Hammond Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

         Multiple claims remain against the Remaining Hammond Defendants in plaintiffs' fourth amended complaint: the excessive force claim (Count I), the false arrest claim pursuant to the Fourth Amendment (Count III), the false arrest claim pursuant to state law (Count IV), the conspiracy claim (Count V), the malicious prosecution claim (Count VII), the “claim against the City of Hammond” (Count VIII), and the respondeat superior claim against the City of Hammond (Count IX). (DE # 151.) The Remaining Hammond Defendants have moved for summary judgment on all of these claims. (See DE ## 321, 322.) The court will discuss each claim, in turn.

         i. Excessive Force Claim: Flash-Bang Devices

         All four plaintiffs bring a claim for excessive force (Count I) pursuant to the Fourth Amendment. (DE # 151 at 6.) This claim consists of two theories, the first of which pertains to the use of flash-bang devices during the entry into plaintiffs' residence. (See DE # 151 ¶ 10.) Although the complaint alleged that all of the Hammond Officers (all of the Remaining Hammond Defendants besides the City of Hammond) used these devices (see id.), plaintiffs now only maintain this claim against Christopher Berdine. (DE # 335 at 7.) Berdine is the only Hammond Officer who admits he “may” have deployed a flash-bang device. (DE # 335-11 at 3.)

         The constitutional measure of an officer's use of force under the Fourth Amendment is whether the officer's actions were “‘objectively reasonable' in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them.” Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 397 (1989). “The ‘reasonableness' of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” Id. at 396. This reasonableness determination requires “a careful balancing of the nature and quality of the intrusion on the individual's Fourth Amendment interests against the countervailing government interests at stake.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

         In a prior order in this case, the court summarized the Seventh Circuit's position on the use of flash-bang devices:

The Seventh Circuit has stated that flash-bang devices may not be appropriate in every case, or even in most cases. Estate of Escobedo v. Bender, 600 F.3d 770, 784 (7th Cir. 2010); Molina v. Cooper, 325 F.3d 963, 973 (7th Cir. 2003). Their use can be reasonable if the officers have concern for their personal safety because they know that the defendant is dangerous and has access to a weapon and if the officers know that there is not a risk to other people. Id.

Goodman v. Clark, No. 2:09 CV 355, 2011 WL 3101769, at *13 (N.D. Ind. July 25, 2011). In Molina, the Seventh Circuit found no constitutional violation where officers had information that the suspect had a criminal record including aggravated assault, officers had information that the suspect was at home with access to weapons, the devices were deployed away from other innocent occupants, and no one was harmed by their use. Molina, 325 F.3d at 973; see also United States v. Folks, 236 F.3d 384, 388 n. 2 (7th Cir. 2001) (noting that the use of flash-bangs was “sufficiently careful” where police looked into a residence to make sure no one would be injured by a flash-bang device and police carried a fire extinguisher to prevent damage from the devices).

         The present case is analogous to Molina. The undisputed facts of this case indicate that Roy Goodman, Jr. was suspected of the severe crime of armed robbery, using a firearm. (DE # 323-8 ¶ 3.) The search warrant further indicated that the deadly weapon used in the crime may have been present at the residence. (Id. ¶ 4.) Along with the apparent risks to the officers, it is undisputed that the devices were deployed downstairs while plaintiffs were upstairs, away from the devices. (DE ## 323-9 ¶ 13; 335-9 at 5-6, 12; 335-13 at 7-8.) The team also had fire suppression equipment at the ready. (DE # 323-9 ¶ 13.) Thus, the risk to the occupants was limited as compared to the risk to the officers.

         Accordingly, the court finds defendants' (specifically, Berdine's) actions to be reasonable. Summary judgment is appropriate on this claim.

         ii. Excessive Force Claim: All Other Force

         Plaintiffs second excessive force theory, in their fourth amended complaint, relates to allegations that all of the Hammond Officers “struck and/or grabbed” plaintiffs. (DE # 151 ¶ 10.) Defendants move for summary judgment on this claim. (DE # 322 at 19.) In their response on this issue, plaintiffs only object to the entry of summary judgment as to Roy Goodman, Jr.'s claim against Defendant Ray Finley for slamming him into a wall of his house. (DE # 335 at 7.) Therefore, summary judgment is appropriate, as an initial matter, on all excessive force claims unrelated to this alleged slamming.

         Defendants assert qualified immunity on this excessive force claim. (DE # 322 at 19.) When confronted with an assertion of qualified immunity, the court must address two questions: (1) “whether the plaintiff's allegations make out a deprivation of a constitutional right” and (2) “whether the right was clearly established at the time of defendant's alleged misconduct.” McAllister v. Price, 615 F.3d 877, 881 (7th Cir. 2010). The court may choose which of these two prongs to address first. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236 (2009).

         Once the defense of qualified immunity has been raised, it becomes plaintiffs' burden to defeat it. Mannoia v. Farrow, 476 F.3d 453, 457 (7th Cir. 2007). However, Roy Goodman, Jr. has not made any attempt to establish that his right not to be “slammed” was clearly established.[2] At most, plaintiffs merely cite the general excessive force standard of Graham and a decision that was entered several years after the execution of the warrant in the case at hand (Howard v. Ealing, 876 F.Supp.2d 1056 (N.D. Ind. 2012)). (See DE # 335 at 6-7.) Neither of those decisions can act as a closely analogous case establishing (at the time of the alleged slamming) that Finley's conduct was unconstitutional. See Siebert v. Severino, 256 F.3d 648, 654-55 (7th Cir. 2001). Nor does any of plaintiffs' meager analysis on this claim indirectly convince the court that the violation was so obvious to be clearly established.

         On the other hand, defendants cite at least one case which, on its own, calls into question whether the violation was clearly established. See Sow v. Fortville Police Dep't, 636 F.3d 293, 304 (7th Cir. 2011) (officer did not use excessive force where the officer pushed the plaintiff after he was arrested, causing him to bump his head on a squad car). Plaintiffs have not met their burden as set forth above. Thus, defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on this claim.

         iii. False Arrest Claim Pursuant to the Fourth Amendment

         All four plaintiffs assert a false arrest claim (Count III) pursuant to the Fourth Amendment against all of the Hammond Officers. (DE # 151 at 7.) However, in their response brief, plaintiffs only oppose summary judgment on this claim as to two defendants. (DE # 335 at 7.) They now assert only that Defendant Brian Miller falsely arrested plaintiffs Reniece, Roy, III, and Renee Goodman, and Defendant Rudy Grasha falsely arrested Roy Goodman, III. (Id. at 7-8.) Therefore, as an initial matter, summary judgment is granted on Roy Goodman, Jr.'s Fourth Amendment false arrest claim and on any false arrest claims against defendants other than Miller and Grasha.

         Although plaintiffs' present their claim as a Fourth Amendment “false arrest” claim, the language of the Fourth Amendment actually prohibits unreasonable seizures, rather than false arrests. See Caldwell v. Jones, 513 F.Supp.2d 1000, 1006 (N.D. Ind. 2007) (“Only government activity that constitutes either a ‘search' or a ‘seizure' is regulated by the Fourth Amendment.”); see also Mudd v. City of New Haven, Ind., 196 F.Supp.3d 882, 891 (N.D. Ind. 2016) (interpreting a false arrest claim brought under the Fourth Amendment as a claim for unreasonable seizure of person).

         Consequently, to establish a constitutional violation under the Fourth Amendment, plaintiffs must demonstrate (1) that defendants' conduct constituted a “seizure” and, if so, (2) that the seizure was “unreasonable.” Caldwell, 513 F.Supp.2d at 1006. A person has been “seized” under the Fourth Amendment if “in view of all the circumstances surrounding the incident, a reasonable person would have believed that he was not free to leave.” Id. “A seizure thus occurs when a government actor by means of physical force or show of ...

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