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Hamilton v. City of Fort Wayne

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana

November 13, 2017

MICHELLE HAMILTON, for next friend and minor son, J.H., Plaintiff,
CITY OF FORT WAYNE, et al., Defendants.



         The Plaintiff, Michelle Hamilton, on behalf of her minor son J.H., sued the City of Fort Wayne and six of its police officer for events that occurred at her residence in October 2015 after she called police for assistance with J.H., who is an autistic teenager. According to the allegations in the First Amended Complaint [ECF No. 21], the City discriminated against J.H. under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act when it denied him the benefits and protections afforded to individuals without disabilities. The Plaintiff also alleged that the officers, Manny Aguilar, Timothy Bobay, Shane Carrier, Anthony Green, James Haupert, and Michael Sierks, violated the Fourth Amendment when they either subjected J.H. to an unreasonable seizure involving excessive force or failed to intervene in such a seizure. Lastly, the Plaintiff asserted a state tort claim for assault and battery against the officers and, under a theory of respondent superior, against the City.

         On August 28, 2017, the Defendants requested summary judgment on all the Plaintiff's claims. (Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 47.) The Plaintiff, in response, dismissed her claims against Officers Aguilar, Bobay, Carrier, Haupert, and Sierks (Pf.'s Resp., ECF No. 49), but opposed summary judgment on her claims against the City for violations of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as her claim that Officer Green violated the Fourth Amendment and committed assault and battery. On October 11, 2017, the Defendants filed a Reply Brief [ECF No. 53], and the matter became ripe for this Court's consideration.


         At the time of the events at issue, J.H., at fifteen years old, was nearly 5'11", and 200 pounds. He has a variety of psychological disorders, including conduct disorder, borderline personality disorder, ADHD, and autism. According to the Plaintiff, J.H. has the intellectual functioning of someone who is younger than five, although this would not be apparent from his general appearance. It would, however, become evident by his chosen topics of conversation. J.H.'s history reveals that he is prone to severe “meltdowns” accompanied by intense physical aggression. He has hit, kicked, and/or bit numerous people in a variety of circumstances, including family members and school staff.

         Of great concern to the Plaintiff is J.H.'s tendency to try to run away from his home without regard to his personal safety. The Plaintiff and J.H., along with J.H.'s siblings, including his older brother Jaiyvian, live in a townhouse near Lower Huntington Road. J.H. does not understand the danger that vehicular traffic presents to his well being. Therefore, when J.H. attempted to flee from his house on the evening of October 28, 2015, the Plaintiff asked Jaiyvian to stop J.H. from running toward Lower Huntington Road, where he could have been seriously injured. Additionally, had he succeeded in running away, they would have been faced with trying to find J.H. in the dark. When verbal attempts were insufficient to stop J.H., Jaiyvian physically restrained J.H., who aggressively fought back by punching, kicking, and biting. The Plaintiff herself was hit by J.H. when she attempted to separate her two sons.

         The Plaintiff called 911 to report that J.H. was attempting to flee the area of the home and to request assistance. Multiple officers promptly responded to the scene. They arrived to find J.H. and Jaiyvian punching and kicking each other while Jaiyvian lay on top of J.H. on the ground. J.H. was yelling, and the Plaintiff asked the officers to hurry. The officers struggled to break up the fight, and J.H. continued to roll around, kick, and resist as Officer Sierks and Officer Green attempted to control and restrain him. During the events, Jaiyvian broke away from two other officers, ran to J.H., and began yelling at Officer Green because he did not like the way that Officer Green was treating J.H.[1] Jaiyvian and J.H. were both eventually handcuffed. Jaiyvian was taken to a squad car. Because efforts to calm J.H. and to convince him not to flee were not successful, the officers decided the best course was to take J.H. to a separate squad car parked a short distance away.

         J.H. initially refused to walk to the squad car, but then told the officer that he would walk on his own. However, when the officers agreed to let him walk, he went limp. On the way to the car, the Plaintiff kept trying to talk J.H. into calming down, but J.H. continued to scream while alternating between making his body go limp and trying to break free.

         As the officers were trying to get J.H. to the squad car, he kicked Officer Sierks in the shin, causing him to stumble and lower his hold on J.H. Officer Green saw that Officer Sierks had been kicked, and thought it might have been a kick to the groin. According to the Plaintiff, she saw Officer Green punch J.H. one time in the face in response. Both parties agree that Officer Green told J.H. that if he did not walk or if he kicked at officers again, Green would use his taser. The parties also agree that the Plaintiff objected to Green's verbal threat, telling Officer Green that J.H. did not even know what that meant, and that he could not be tased because he was autistic and had seizures. In the Plaintiff's version, she also charged at Officer Green and yelled at him for punching her son, and he started yelling back.[2]

         Eventually, J.H. was successfully placed in the squad car. Officer Aguilar, who had Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, was asked to come to the scene to assess the situation. CIT is a collaborative approach used by the Fort Wayne Police Department to address the needs of persons with mental illnesses, link them to appropriate services, and divert them from the criminal justice system if appropriate. Green, as well as the other officers who responded to the scene, had CIT and other mental health training. In 2005, Green had received forty hours of CIT training, which is the most detailed training provided. He also received a forty-five minute autism and CIT update in January 2013 and a thirty minute mental illness training in October 2014. Aguilar received the same forty hours of CIT training in 2010, but also received eight hours of CIT training in each of the following years.

         After Officer Aguilar talked to J.H., Officer Green transported J.H. to the hospital, in accordance with standard protocols. J.H. was not treated for any injuries. Jaiyvian was let out of the squad car and not charged with any offense because the officers concluded that he had initially been attempting to help his mother with J.H.


         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         The purpose of summary judgment is to avoid unnecessary trials, and thus summary judgment must be entered where “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). If the defendants satisfy their initial burden upon a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff is required to marshal and present to the court the evidence upon which a reasonable jury could rely to find in her favor. Goodman v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, Inc., 621 F.3d 651, 654 (7th Cir. 2010). Although facts and reasonable inferences are construed in favor of the nonmoving party, this does not extend to inferences supported only by speculation or conjecture. Singer v. Raemisch, 593 F.3d 529, 533 (7th Cir. 2010). Material facts are those that are outcome determinative under the applicable law. Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 427 (7th Cir. 1997).

         B. Rehabilitation Act and Americans With Disabilities Act

         Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Section 202 of the ADA both prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. Under Section 504, “[n]o otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States . . . shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 29 U.S.C. § 794. Section 202 similarly provides that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” 42 U.S.C. § 12132. Claims under the two statutes can be considered together. See Wagoner v. Lemmon, 778 F.3d 586, 592 (7th Cir. ...

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