Bradford v. City of Seattle

Decision Date04 April 2008
Docket NumberNo. C07-365-JPD.,C07-365-JPD.
Citation557 F.Supp.2d 1189
PartiesRomelle BRADFORD, Plaintiff, v. The CITY OF SEATTLE, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Washington

Daniel Alejandro Mares, Law Offices of Lembhard G. Howell, Lembhard Goldstone Howell, Seattle, WA, for Plaintiff.

Anne Melani Bremner, Moses F. Garcia, Stephen Powell Larson, Stafford Frey Cooper, Seattle, WA, for Defendants.

ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

JAMES P. DONOHUE, United States Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY CONCLUSION

This is a civil rights lawsuit brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff has made federal and state law claims against an arresting City of Seattle police officer, his superior, and the City itself. Dkt. No. 6. The present matter comes before the Court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment, which asserts that the police officer had reasonable suspicion to stop the plaintiff, probable cause to arrest him, and did both using reasonable force under the circumstances. Dkt. No. 40 at 7-17. Furthermore, the defendants insist that the officer is entitled to qualified immunity for his actions, and argue that the City of Seattle is not subject to municipal liability under § 1983. Id. at 17-23. The plaintiff disagrees, insisting that genuine issues of material fact prevent summary adjudication on all but one of his claims for relief. Dkt. No. 42. After careful consideration of the motions, supporting materials, the governing law and balance of the record, the Court ORDERS that defendants' motion for summary judgment be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On the night of August 4, 2006, the Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club joined with the Skyway Boys and Girls Club for a dance. The event was scheduled to run from 9:00 p.m. to midnight at the Rainier Vista Boys and Girls Club in Seattle, Washington (hereinafter "the Club"). The plaintiff, Romelle Bradford, was the staff member in charge of the event. For events such as this, plaintiff and the entire staff, donned solid red t-shirts with the Club's insignia and "STAFF" screen-printed in white on the front of the shirts.1 On the night of the incident, plaintiff was also wearing a staff identification tag hooked to a lanyard which swung from his neck. Organizing and supervising Club events such as dances was nothing new for the plaintiff, who had been associated with the Club since he was fifteen years old.2

The dance proceeded as planned and, like most teenage dances, it was uneventful. Plaintiff called for the last song at approximately 11:30 p.m., turned on the Club's lights immediately thereafter, and began escorting members out the doors with the help of the staff. Shortly thereafter, several Club staff members noticed a group of kids walking back to the Club grounds with what were perceived to be hostile intentions toward a group that had just left the dance. Worried about a possible altercation, the staff members phoned, the police and quickly intercepted and dispersed the oncoming group before any officers arrived. Dkt. No. 43, Ex. A at 3.3 The parties agree that fights had occurred near the Club in the past, but that no fighting took place on the night in question.

It is equally undisputed that seven of the ten South Precinct patrol units responded to the Club, and that Officer Wayne Johnson was the first officer to arrive at the scene. Upon arrival, Officer Johnson observed that the dance had ended, "people [were] moving away from the community center," and that "everything was okay." Dkt. No. 43, Ex. F at 12, 14 (Johnson Dep.); see also id. at 40-43. His statements are consistent with those of the plaintiff. See, e.g., Dkt. No. 43, Ex. A at 3.

Officer Jake Briskey also responded to the 911 call. He noticed a large gathering of people near the intersection of Martin Luther King Way and South Alaska Street, and another group located near the Club entrance. Dkt. No. 41, Ex. A at 13 (Briskey Dep.). Similar to Officer Johnson's observations, Officer Briskey noticed that the groups were not in conflict with each other. Id. at 16-17. After parking Ms patrol car, Officer Briskey noticed a young man, later identified as the plaintiff, slowly jogging south past his patrol car and toward the group of kids gathered at the above-mentioned intersection. Plaintiff was in motion after a dance attendee told him that Club staff member and plaintiff's older sister, Bonnie Williams, was being accosted by a group of three teenage females down the street. Dkt. No. 43, Ex. A at 3; Dkt. No. 41, Ex. C. at 39-40. Plaintiff then saw Bonnie's daughter, Chanel, run toward her mother. Consequently, plaintiff set out to Bonnie's location in order to stop Chanel and keep the peace. See, e.g., Dkt. No. 41, Ex. C at 46-48, 58-59. It is undisputed that plaintiff jogged directly in front of a patrol car, which he noticed was occupied by an officer later identified as Officer Briskey. Dkt. No. 41, Ex. C at 51-56.

Immediately after plaintiff passed the patrol car, Officer Briskey—fearing plaintiff was running towards the crowd to "engage in a fight"—ordered him to stop, yelling "Freeze!" or a similar, command. See Dkt. No. 41, Ex. C at 56, and id. Ex. A at 19.4 Plaintiff glanced back at the officer but did not stop, believing that Officer Briskey was not yelling at him. Id. Ex. C at 58-59 (Bradford Dep.) ("I really did not believe he was talking to me, because I had clearly jogged right in front of his vehicle and my staff shirt was on. So I was looking back to see who he was talking to."). Officer Briskey then put his patrol car in reverse, backed it up and stopped, quickly exited the patrol car, and began to run after plaintiff. Seconds later, a second command was shouted by Officer Briskey who, at less than ten feet away, yelled at the plaintiff to "Stop, get on the ground." Id. Ex. C. at 60. Plaintiff immediately stopped, pivoted, and turned to face the officer, who was completing his charge toward the plaintiff. Id.

In this extremely brief period of time, plaintiff held up his staff badge with one hand and tugged on the logo of his shirt with the other, exclaiming "I'm a staff member." Id. Ex. C at 63, 72. The parties interpreted these actions in very different ways. Plaintiff insists he was attempting to identify himself as a staff member intent on keeping the peace. Id. Ex. C at 60-61. Officer Briskey, on the other hand, perceived plaintiffs quick pivot and hand-raising gesture as an aggressive, fighting stance, and viewed plaintiffs keys, which were apparently attached to the badge, as a possible weapon. Id. Ex. A at 21-22. Furthermore, Officer Briskey believed plaintiff had consciously disregarded his first command ("Freeze") and half of his second ("get on the ground"). Id. Ex. A at 27. With a forearm strike to plaintiffs face, Officer Briskey effectively ran over the plaintiff, knocking him to the ground. Id. Ex. C at 63.5 The parties vigorously dispute whether Officer Briskey had enough time to stop, and it is unclear whether he provided enough time for plaintiff to comply with his commands.

Plaintiff stood up, identified himself again and repeatedly urged Officer Briskey to recognize his status as a staff member. Officer Briskey responded by putting plaintiff under arrest and "escorting" him to the patrol car. He did so by grabbing and twisting plaintiffs left arm in an armbar fashion, spinning and then "slamm[ing]" him on the hood of the patrol car. Id. Ex. C at 79, 80. Plaintiff continued to display his Club badge and explain that he was a staff member, until Officer Briskey ripped the badge off its key chain and threw it to the ground. Id. Ex. C at 91. Plaintiff and several witnesses further state that Officer Briskey threatened to "fucking break [plaintiffs] arm if [he] moved," and admonished that "if he ever got back up," Officer Briskey "would knock him the fuck out." Id. Ex. C at 88-89, and: Ex. E (Foxx, Beaver, Rhone, and Smith decls.); see also Dkt. No. 43, Ex. B. Officer Briskey does not deny making these comments, but insists they were produced by plaintiffs active resistance to the arrest. Id. Ex. A at 36-37.

While at (or on) the patrol car, Officer Briskey attempted to keep the crowd of at least twenty Club members and staff away by threatening to pepper-spray them. Id. Ex. C at 73, 82, 84. At some point during the physical contact, plaintiff was handcuffed. At 11:40 p.m.—one minute after he radioed his arrival to dispatch—Officer Briskey reported "[o]ne in custody, under control." Id. Ex. B at 14. Three minutes later, Officer Briskey reported that he was en route, with the suspect, to the South Precinct. Id. Ex. B at 14.6 Officer Johnson explained to concerned Club staff members, including plaintiffs sister Bonnie, that they would be able to pick up plaintiff at the precinct. Dkt. No. 43, Exs E, and F at 23. Family and friends traveled to the precinct in order to do so, but were denied.

Plaintiff was not released from the precinct. He was first placed in a cell for three hours. Dkt. No. 41, Ex. B at 5. While at the precinct, Sargent Eric Zerr spoke about the incident with Officer Briskey, Officer Johnson, and plaintiff. Dkt. No. 43, Ex. B at 16-17, 54-55. Sargent Zerr photographed plaintiff, asked about any injuries, and noted general concerns about his health! Id. Ex. B at 53-56, 66-67. Based on his interviews with the officers and plaintiff, Sargent Zerr decided that plaintiff would be booked and transferred to King County Jail. Id. Ex. B at 36, 50-51.

Plaintiff spent the night in jail. While there, he was made to strip down, given a red jail outfit, and placed in a small cell with eighteen other arrestees. Dkt. No. 41, Ex. B at 6. At 8:00 a.m. the next morning, plaintiff was notified for the very first time that he was being booked for resisting arrest and obstruction of...

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