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Johnson v. Sibley

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

September 20, 2019

ARTHUR SIBLEY, et al. Defendants.



         Plaintiff Christopher Michael Johnson brought this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He named as defendants Officers Arthur Sibley, Robert Stradling, Robert Muller, Mark Rand, and Lee Rabensteine. During execution of a search warrant, Mr. Johnson shot at the officers and was shot at by the officers in return. Mr. Johnson alleges that the search and the search warrant were invalid and unconstitutional. He further alleges that the IMPD officers’ shooting at him was unconstitutional.

         Before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Mr. Johnson, dkt. 48, and the defendants, dkt. 61. For the reasons explained below, Mr. Johnson’s motion for summary judgment, dkt. [48], is DENIED, and the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, dkt. [61], is GRANTED.

         The defendants’ motion to strike Mr. Johnson’s reply, dkt. [73], is DENIED and Mr. Johnson’s motion to not strike his reply brief, [1] dkt. [76], is GRANTED. While Mr. Johnson did not seek leave for the untimely filing, the Court exercises its discretion to permit Mr. Johnson to file a late-filed reply. United States v. Brown, 133 F.3d 993, 997 (7th Cir. 1998).

         I. Summary Judgment Legal Standard

         A motion for summary judgment asks the court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). On summary judgment, a party must show the court what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events. Gekas v. Vasilades, 814 F.3d 890, 896 (7th Cir. 2016). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). To survive a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must set forth specific, admissible evidence showing that there is a material issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party’s favor. Skiba v. Ill. Cent. R.R. Co., 884 F.3d 708, 717 (7th Cir. 2018). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. Miller v. Gonzalez, 761 F.3d 822, 827 (7th Cir. 2014).

         The court need only consider the cited materials and is not required to “scour every inch of the record” for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3); Grant v. Trs. of Ind. Univ., 870 F.3d 562, 573–74 (7th Cir. 2017). The non-moving party bears the burden of specifically identifying the relevant evidence of record. D.Z. v. Buell, 796 F.3d 749, 756 (7th Cir. 2015).

         When reviewing cross-motions for summary judgment, all reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the party against whom the motion at issue was made. Valenti v. Lawson, 889 F.3d 427, 429 (7th Cir. 2018) (citing Tripp v. Scholz, 872 F.3d 857, 862 (7th Cir. 2017)). Cross-motions for summary judgment does not imply that there are no genuine issues of material fact. R.J. Corman Derailment Servs., LLC v. Int’l Union, Local Union 150, AFL-CIO, 335 F.3d 643, 647 (7th Cir. 2003).

         II. Material Facts[2]

         The following facts are undisputed for purposes of the motion for summary judgment. To the extent they were not disputed by Mr. Johnson, the Court adopts portions of defendants’ statement of undisputed material facts.

         A. Mr. Johnson’s Presence at 2122 Spann Avenue on December 12 and 13, 2017

         On December 12, 2017, Mr. Johnson went to a friend’s house at 2122 Spann Avenue. Mr. Johnson does not own the property, nor did he live there. Mr. Johnson states that he paid certain utilities at 2122 Spann Avenue, such as the lights, water, internet, and phone line, but acknowledges he did not pay rent. Dkt. 66 at 3. According to Mr. Johnson, he was only at 2122 Spann Avenue “to hang out over there.” He was just “visiting” a friend’s aunt named Jenny. Mr. Johnson did not have the authority to determine who could or could not visit or reside there.

         At some point after Jenny left, Mr. Johnson remained in the home watching television and consuming cocaine. Later that evening, Jenny’s niece, Jasmine Miller, her brother, Hiro, and her brother’s girlfriend, Bree, came to the house. Mr. Johnson was still in the home at that time. Hiro and Bree slept in the living room and Mr. Johnson and Jasmine slept in the bedroom. The group spent the night there and remained there through the afternoon of December 13, 2017.

         At some point on December 13, 2017, Mr. Johnson’s friend, Jesse Hamler, came to 2122 Spann Avenue to discuss the purchase of a dog. Mr. Johnson and Mr. Hamler talked in the kitchen. Jasmine was still in the bedroom and Bree and Hiro were in the living room at the front of the house.

         B. IMPD Obtains a No Knock Warrant on the Morning of December 13

         In December 2017, an IMPD Narcotics/Vice Unit investigation revealed that a man known as “Baby Boy” was selling narcotics out of a dwelling at 2122 Spann Avenue. The detectives were able to identify “Baby Boy” as Christopher Johnson. At the time of this investigation, Mr. Johnson was on federal probation for dealing and possession of narcotics, and two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

         On December 12, 2017, IMPD SWAT Officer Lee Rabensteine was the assistant team leader for a search warrant that was going to be executed the following day at 2122 Spann Avenue. Lieutenant Robert Stradling, Sergeant Mark Rand, and Officers Arthur Sibley, Robert Muller, and William Amberger were also assigned to assist with the execution of the warrant. Officer Rabensteine performed a drive by of the location, where he observed “a good camera system on the house.” These cameras appeared to have “visibility on both Spann Avenue and the alley behind the target location.” Based on his observations, Officer Rabensteine believed that the team executing the warrant would be “compromised” as soon as they exited the vans at the target location.

         The investigation revealed that Mr. Johnson had a lengthy criminal history and was on federal parole for a serious violent felony, guns were present at the residence, the doors to the home were barricaded and there was a large, aggressive dog at the house. The officers had reason to believe that there was surveillance outside of the home. Based on these facts, the Narcotics Unit requested a no-knock search warrant[3] for 2122 Spann Avenue. The request was granted, and the court issued the no-knock warrant at 9:51:25 a.m. on December 13, 2017.[4]

         C. IMPD’s Service of the Warrant at ...

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