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Caldwell v. Klemz

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

October 12, 2017

CHASE CALDWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
JESSE KLEMZ, WILLIAM KNAPP, JAMIE EROW, and TIMOTHY BELL, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          RUDY LOZANO, JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on “Defendants Jesse Klemz, William Knapp, Jamie Erow, and Timothy Bell's Motion for Summary Judgment, ” filed by the defendants on April 1, 2016. (DE #164.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion is GRANTED. The clerk is DIRECTED to close this case.

         BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff, Chase Caldwell (“Plaintiff”), filed his pro se complaint in this matter on December 12, 2014, after an incident with officers from the Porter County Sheriff's Department (collectively, “Defendants”). (DE #1.) In it, Plaintiff alleged that he was assaulted and Tased by Jamie Erow (“Officer Erow”) and was tackled and pushed by William Knapp (“Corporal Knapp”). According to Plaintiff, when he fled from those officers he was confronted by Timothy Bell (“Officer Bell”) and Jesse Klemz (“Sergeant Klemz”), who eventually broke his right wrist. (Id. at 2-3.) Plaintiff purported to bring those claims pursuant to 18 U.S.C. section 241. (Id. at 2.) At the preliminary pretrial conference, it was determined that any motion for leave to amend the pleadings was to be filed by April 30, 2015, by Plaintiff and by May 15, 2015, by Defendants. (See DE #19.) The discovery deadline was set for December 1, 2015. (Id.)

         On April 15, 2015, Plaintiff sought to amend his complaint in order to increase the amount of damages requested. (DE #23.) The motion was denied without prejudice by Magistrate Judge Paul R. Cherry for a variety or procedural defects. (DE #24.) Judge Cherry extended the deadline for filing a motion to amend the pleadings to May 9, 2015, for Planitiff and to May 22, 2015, for Defendants. Plaintiff refiled his motion to amend on April 27, 2015, and that motion was granted by Judge Cherry on June 5, 2015. (DE #26 & DE #35.) The amended complaint was docketed on June 10, 2015. (DE #40.) In it, Plaintiff requested additional monetary damages based on multiple injuries he suffered when Defendants allegedly punched him in the face, Tased him several times, and broke his right scaphoid. (Id. at 1.) Discovery commenced and was closed on December 1, 2015, without any requests to extend that deadline. However, on November 30, 2015, one day prior to the close of discovery, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend the amended complaint, followed by a flurry of additional motions to amend. (DEs #127, #130, #131, #132, #133, #135, #136, #140.) On January 11, 2016, Judge Cherry granted the original motion to amend while denying the rest. (DE #145.)

         The second amended complaint describes the alleged conduct of Defendants on February 18, 2014, and references 18 U.S.C. sections 241, 242, 245, and 249, as well as 42 U.S.C. section 14141, Article I, Section I of the Indiana Constitution, and Indiana Code 35-42-2-1(a)(C). (DE #147.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that:

I was grabbed by Officer William Knapp after complying with police order to supply Identification. After fleeing from officers both William Knapp and Jamie Erow, followed me in their police marked vehicles to the entrance of property of The Courts of Northwest Indiana were I was assaulted by all four officers at 127 E US-6 Frontage Rd Valparaiso IN 46383 . . . . As stated in my original complaint all four officers used their electronic stun guns (taser) on my body which includes permanent scarring. Officers Timothy Bell and Jamie Erow grabbed me in rude insolent manner. I recall Officer William Knapp using his electronic stun gun (taser) on my genitals and stomach. I recall Officer Jesse Klemz punching me in the face several times and breaking my right wrist.[1]

(Id. at 1, 5.)

         On February 2, 2016, this Court set the dispositive motion deadline for April 1, 2016. (DE #155.) The following day, Plaintiff filed what he entitled an “Interrogatory to Plaintiff Chase Richard Caldwell.” (DE #156.) On February 16, 2016, Defendants filed a motion to strike that interrogatory. (DE #160.) On March 25 and 30, 2016, Plaintiff filed two documents entitled “Plaintiff's Dispositive Motion, ” in which he requested that the Court strike the police report attached to Defendants' initial disclosures. (DE #161 & DE #162.) On April 1, 2016, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (DE #164.) That same day, Defendants also served Plaintiff with a Notice of Summary Judgment. (DE #163.) On April 5, 2016, Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to that motion. (DE #166.) On April 15, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to amend his pleadings before trial. (DE #167.) Defendants filed a reply in support of their motion for summary judgment on April 18, 2016, and a response in opposition to the motion to amend on April 21, 2016. (DE #168 & DE #169.) Subsequently, Plaintiff filed an additional motion for leave to amend his pleading, a memorandum in support of that motion, a reply and a corrected reply to Defendants' response in opposition to his motions to amend, and two additional memorandums in support of his motions to amend. (DEs #170, #171, #172, #173, #174, #175.) On May 11, 2016, Defendants filed a motion to strike docket entries number 170 through 175. (DE #176.) Plaintiff filed a response to that motion two days later. (DE #177.) Defendants filed a reply on May 19, 2016. (DE #178.) Plaintiff filed a sur-reply on May 23, 2016. (DE #179.) In an order dated September 2, 2016, the Court granted Defendants' motion to strike (DE #160) and struck the document entitled “Interrogatory to Plaintiff Chase Richard Caldwell” (DE #156), denied the “dispositive motions” filed by Plaintiff (DE #161 & #162), denied the motions for leave to amend filed by Plaintiff (DE #167 & #170), and denied Defendants' motion to strike. (DE #176.) The only motion remaining before the Court at this stage is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (DE #164.)

         DISCUSSION

         Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment must be granted when “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 genuine dispute of material fact exists when “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Not every dispute between the parties makes summary judgment inappropriate; “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Id. In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, the deciding court must construe all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Ogden v. Atterholt, 606 F.3d 355, 358 (7th Cir. 2010). “However, our favor toward the nonmoving party does not extend to drawing inferences that are supported by only speculation or conjecture.” Fitzgerald v. Santoro, 707 F.3d 725, 730 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Harper v. C.R. Eng., Inc., 687 F.3d 297, 306 (7th Cir. 2012)). A party opposing a properly supported summary judgment motion may not rely on allegations or denials in her own pleading, but rather must “marshal and present the court with the evidence she contends will prove her case.” Goodman v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010). If the non-moving party fails to establish the existence of an essential element on which he or she bears the burden of proof at trial, summary judgment is proper. Massey v. Johnson, 457 F.3d 711, 716 (7th Cir. 2006).

         While it is undisputed that pro se filings must be construed liberally, even pro se litigants must follow the rules of civil procedure. Cady v. Sheahan, 467 F.3d 1057, 1061 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing McNeil v. United States, 508 U.S. 106, 113 (1993)). Non-compliance with local summary judgment rules may warrant a penalty -- the court is within its discretion to ignore facts a litigant has proposed that are not submitted in compliance with those rules. Id. (citing Cichon v. Exelon Generation Co., L.L.C., 401 F.3d 803, 809-10 (7th Cir. 2005)). In this district, Local Rule 56-1 mandates that the moving party must include a “Statement of Material Facts” in its supporting brief and that a party opposing a summary judgment motion must file a response brief (or appendix) that includes “a section labeled ‘Statement of Genuine Disputes' that identifies the material facts that the party contends are genuinely disputed so as to make a trial necessary.” N.D. Ind. L.R. 56-1(a), (b). Local Rule 56-1 also imposes a duty upon a party seeking summary judgment against an unrepresented litigant to serve that party with a Notice of Summary-Judgment Motion (“Notice”). N.D. Ind. L.R. 56-1(f) (citing to Appendix C). The Notice explains what a summary judgment motion is and what the responding party's obligations are with regard to the motion. Id. The Notice includes copies of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 and Local Rule 56-1 itself, which, together, provide that factual positions must be supported with citations to the record and that the court is not required to consider materials that are not cited. Id. The Notice provides a warning that a failure to follow the rules may result in an adverse ruling by the court. Id. The Seventh Circuit has also made it clear that:

[a] district court is not required to wade through improper denials and legal argument in search of a genuinely disputed fact. And a mere disagreement with the movant's asserted facts is inadequate if made without reference to specific supporting material. In short, judges are not like pigs, hunting for truffles buried in briefs.

Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks, brackets, and citations omitted). Thus, when a non-movant fails to controvert a moving party's Statement of Material Facts with a properly supported Statement of Genuine Disputes, the movant's facts may be deemed admitted. Id. (“We have consistently held that a failure to respond by the nonmovant as mandated by the local rules results in an admission.”).

         Material Facts

         Because Defendants provided Plaintiff with the required Notice (DE #163), yet Plaintiff's response is devoid of a “Statement of Genuine Disputes” or citations to the evidence, [2] the well-supported facts presented by Defendants are considered undisputed and will be accepted as true.[3] Smith, 321 F.3d at 683; see also Timms v. Frank, 953 F.2d 281 (7th Cir. 1992). The facts[4]are as follows: On February 18, 2014, Officer Erow was dispatched to 127 E. U.S. Highway 6, the location of a private commercial sports facility called The Courts of Northwest Indiana (“The Courts”), in response to a male subject running on the courts, refusing to leave, and talking to himself. Officer Erow spoke with the complainant and the building owner regarding the individual. Officer Erow learned that the individual, whom they had never seen before, was running back and forth on the courts, talking to himself, and harassing a softball team. The individual had refused to leave the facility when asked. Officer Erow then spoke with the individual, whom she later identified as Plaintiff, and asked him if he had paid the required entrance fee. Plaintiff replied that he did not know he had to pay, so Officer Erow explained to him that he either had to pay the fee or leave because The Court's management felt he was disturbing the other patrons. Corporal Knapp arrived on the scene while Officer Erow was speaking with Plaintiff. Corporal Knapp heard Plaintiff say several times that he should not have to pay the fee, so he intervened at that point and told Plaintiff that he could either leave or be charged with criminal trespass. Plaintiff gathered his belongings and left The Courts.

         Once outside, Officer Erow asked Plaintiff to produce his identification because she intended to issue him a trespass warning, and Plaintiff handed over his Indiana Driver's License. As Officer Erow was providing Plaintiff's information to dispatch, he started walking away and stated that he “had to go” and that he was “going to his car.” Officer Erow asked Plaintiff to wait for her to finish running his information, but Plaintiff did not acknowledge her and kept walking. According to Corporal Knapp, Plaintiff attempted to walk directly through him as if he was not even there. Corporal Knapp put up his left hand to prevent Plaintiff from crashing into him. Corporal Knapp then asked Plaintiff to stand still and wait until they were done running his Driver's License, but Plaintiff did not acknowledge Corporal Knapp and continued to insist that he needed to go find his car. Corporal Knapp repeated his request that Plaintiff remain still, but Plaintiff proceeded to walk directly into Corporal Knapp, striking him with his shoulder in the process. As a result, Corporal Knapp asked Plaintiff to place his hands on top of Officer Erow's vehicle. Plaintiff ignored the request, so Corporal Knapp grabbed Plaintiff's right wrist and placed his hand on the hood of Officer Erow's vehicle. Plaintiff pulled his right arm free, dropped all of his belongings on the ground, and began to run away from Corporal Knapp and Officer Erow.

         After running a short distance, Plaintiff returned to where Officer Erow and Officer Knapp were standing. Due to Plaintiff's behavior and the fact that he had struck Corporal Knapp with his shoulder, Corporal Knapp advised Plaintiff that he was going to place him in handcuffs for safety purposes until the encounter was complete. Before Corporal Knapp touched him, Plaintiff became aggressive and started yelling, “Why are you trying to hurt me?” Corporal Knapp attempted to grab Plaintiff's right arm and wrist to place him in handcuffs, but before Corporal Knapp could get his handcuffs out, Plaintiff yanked his arm away. In the same motion, he turned to engage Corporal Knapp physically by using his hands to push off and away from him, which knocked Corporal Knapp to the ground. Corporal Knapp reached up to grab Plaintiff's jacket sleeve, but Plaintiff twisted his arm away and out of his coat.

         Officer Erow was able to see the struggle between Plaintiff and Corporal Knapp from where she was standing. When Officer Erow saw Corporal Knapp on the ground, she drew her Taser in a display of force. Officer Erow saw Plaintiff starting to run away as Corporal Knapp grabbed Plaintiff's jacket sleeve. Both Officer Erow and Corporal Knapp yelled verbal commands at Plaintiff to stop, but he did not comply. Officer Erow then deployed her Taser. One of the Taser probes made contact with Plaintiff's left lower back, but Plaintiff pulled free from his jacket, ripped off the probe, and proceeded to run away. Officer Erow and Corporal Knapp repeated their verbal commands for Plaintiff to stop, but he continued to flee. In light of Plaintiff's behavior, Officer Erow believed that Plaintiff presented a safety threat to officers, the public, and to himself.

         Corporal Knapp followed Plaintiff on foot as he ran across the parking lot, through knee deep snow, and over into neighboring properties. Corporal Knapp repeatedly ordered Plaintiff to stop running and come towards him, but Plaintiff ignored those commands. Corporal Knapp chased Plaintiff for approximately two-tenths of a mile, issuing commands for Plaintiff to stop the whole time. When Corporal Knapp observed Plaintiff hiding behind a tree at a neighboring residence, he gave Plaintiff verbal commands to surrender and come towards him with his hands visible. Plaintiff ignored those commands and turned to run through the snow back onto the driveway of The Courts.

         While Corporal Knapp pursued Plaintiff on foot, Officer Erow returned to her patrol vehicle and proceeded down the driveway of The Courts towards an access road for neighboring homes. She heard over the radio that Corporal Knapp had lost Plaintiff. Officer Erow spotted Plaintiff running away from a residence near the access road. She then witnessed Plaintiff change directions and head towards the access road where she was positioned. Officer Erow attempted to cut Plaintiff off with her vehicle, but he veered away in a different direction and headed through the snow covered area. Officer Erow exited her vehicle to pursue Plaintiff on foot. As she was doing so, she repeatedly gave Plaintiff verbal commands to stop and get on the ground. Plaintiff ignored those commands and continued running.

         Officer Bell arrived on the scene and saw Officer Erow pursuing Plaintiff on foot near the access roads to The Courts. Officer Bell could hear Officer Erow yelling the verbal commands at Plaintiff. Officer Bell got out of his vehicle and started running down the driveway of The Courts in order to attempt to cut Plaintiff off, but Plaintiff abruptly changed direction and headed back onto the snow covered are between the access road and the driveway, away from both Officer Bell and Officer Erow.

         As he ran, Officer Bell repeatedly yelled at Plaintiff to stop. Because Plaintiff refused to comply with his commands and those of Officer Erow, Officer Bell drew his Taser, turned it on, and aimed it at Plaintiff in a display of force. Officer Bell continued to yell loud and clear commands for Plaintiff to stop. Plaintiff slowed to a walk and proceeded towards Officer Bell, but as he approached, Plaintiff quickly side-stepped Officer Bell and proceeded to run away again. When Plaintiff was approximately seven to nine feet away from him, Officer Bell deployed his Taser, and the probes made contact with Plaintiff's lower abdomen.

         According to Officer Bell, the Taser appeared to have no effect on Plaintiff, who continued to ignore the commands to stop and proceeded to rip out the probes. Officer Bell closed the distance between them and attempted to apply the Taser in drive stun mode to Plaintiff's back. Officer Bell did so because, based on his training and experience, he believed applying the Taser probes in drive stun mode would complete the electrical circuit and ensure that a connection was made with ...


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