Hargraves v. Dist. of Columbia, Civil Action No. 12–1459 (BAH)

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Citation134 F.Supp.3d 68
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 12–1459 (BAH)
Parties Terrell D. Hargraves, Plaintiff, v. District of Columbia, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date22 September 2015

134 F.Supp.3d 68

Terrell D. Hargraves, Plaintiff,
District of Columbia, et al., Defendants.

Civil Action No. 12–1459 (BAH)

United States District Court, District of Columbia.

Signed September 22, 2015

134 F.Supp.3d 73

Michael S. Hollander, James Charles Bailey, Bailey & Ehrenberg PLLC, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Alex Karpinski, Portia M. Roundtree, Office of Attorney General, Washington, DC, for Defendants.


BERYL A. HOWELL, United States District Judge

The plaintiff, Terrell D. Hargraves, filed this lawsuit against the District of Columbia and two D.C. Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") Officers Kevin Lally and Sean Connors, alleging that, on September 30, 2011, the plaintiff sustained a "brutal" beating and wrongful arrest by the two defendant officers, in violation of the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6–7, 53–66 (Count III), ECF No. 8.1 The Amended Complaint also claims, in six additional counts, that the defendants committed multiple common-law torts, including battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and negligent supervision, negligent infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, false arrest, and conspiracy. Id. ¶¶ 39–52, 67–97. Following denial of the defendants' motion for partial dismissal of the plaintiff's claims and fourteen months of discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, which are now ripe for resolution. See Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Mot."), ECF No. 31; Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. ("Defs.' Mot."), ECF No. 33. For the reasons discussed below, the defendants are entitled to summary judgment in their favor.


As indicated by the pendency of cross-motions for summary judgment, the factual

134 F.Supp.3d 74

matters underlying this lawsuit are not generally disputed, although the parties request different inferences and legal conclusions to be drawn from the same facts. The generally undisputed facts are summarized below, followed by a brief overview of the procedural history of this lawsuit.

In the evening of September 30, 2011, at approximately 7:00 p.m., the defendant officers were driving in uniform and in a marked police vehicle northbound in the left lane of Minnesota Avenue, NE, near the intersection of Dix Street, NE, in Washington, D.C. Defs.' SMF ¶ 1, ECF No. 33; Pl.'s Resp. Defs.' SMF ("Pl.'s Resp. SMF") ¶ 1, ECF No. 37–1. The parties do not dispute that this a high crime area. Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 1. The defendant officers' police vehicle was passed on the right side by a car, in which the plaintiff was seated in the front passenger seat. Id . Upon noticing what they thought was a defective rear brake light on the passing car, the defendant officers switched over to the right lane behind the car. Defs.' SMF ¶ 1; Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 1; Defs.' Mot. Ex. B ("Lally Dep.") 24:21–22, ECF No. 33–2.

The defendant officers then observed the plaintiff looking over his shoulder and around, including in the direction of the police car. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 8, ECF No. 31–2; Lally Dep. at 27:14–22, ECF No. 33–2 (testifying that officers observed the plaintiff "look over his shoulder several times back at the police vehicle"); Pl.'s Opp'n Def.'s Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Opp'n") Ex. B ("Connors Dep.") at 23:11–17, ECF No. 37–3 (testifying that after police car pulled behind plaintiff's car, the plaintiff "start[ed] exhibiting nervous behavior in the form of—he starts looking over his shoulder, but he's looking over rapidly. And he's looking over briefly and rapidly, you know, to the point where it's almost like he's jerking his neck back, looking at us, looking forward, looking at us, looking forward.").2 The defendant officers further observed the plaintiff tap the shoulder of the driver and say something to him, at which time the driver came "to an abrupt stop in the middle of a highly trafficked road." Lally Dep. at 26:15–17, ECF No. 33–2; Pl.'s SMF ¶ 10; Defs.' Resp. Pl.'s SMF ("Defs.' Resp. SMF") ¶ 10, ECF No. 39–1. The plaintiff then "made an expedient exit from the vehicle." Lally Dep. at 27:20–22, ECF No. 33–2. While the plaintiff contends that he had merely reached his destination, the officers perceived the plaintiff's behavior to be suspicious since his gestures appeared to reflect nervousness after noticing the police presence and he appeared to make an expeditious exit from an abruptly stopped vehicle, which the officers suspected might be an effort to flee from the police. Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 9–12; Defs.' Mot. Ex. C ("Connors Dep.") 24:22–25:17, ECF No. 33–2; Defs.' Mot. Ex. D ("Lally Interrogs.") No. 7, ECF No. 33–3; Def.'s Opp'n Pl.'s Summ. J. ("Def.'s Opp'n") Ex. B ("Lally Dep.") at 32:15–33:4, ECF No. 39–3 (testifying to his perception of "an unprovoked flight from a police officer" based on plaintiff "making eye contact with us, having the hurried conversation with the driver, almost panicking, pointing to the side of the road, getting out of the vehicle, in the quick manner, this is all indicative of someone trying to separate themselves from a police contact or police stop.").

Officer Lally then exited the police vehicle and approached the plaintiff, smelling "a strong odor of marijuana emanating from his person." Lally Dep. at 33:12–14,

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ECF No. 39–3; Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 18. Officer Lally verbally asked the plaintiff to stop, Defs.' Resp. SMF ¶ 16, but the plaintiff either did not stop, Defs.' SMF ¶ 3, or did not have a chance to stop, Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 3. Regardless, Officer Lally quickly caught up with the plaintiff and handcuffed his right hand. Pl.'s Mot. Ex. A ("Lally Dep.") 54:1–15 ("Q: Twenty feet away from him, you said, hey, man, stop. Did you start running after him? A: No. I took ... a few steps. Q: You took a few steps. But how did you get that 20 feet covered? A: Maybe a light jog."), ECF No. 31–3; id. 62:9–13; Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 3. The plaintiff then shoved his left hand into the waistband of his shorts and started struggling. Lally Dep. at 62:9–13, ECF No. 31–3 ("I applied the—my—using my right hand, I applied the handcuff to his right wrist. Immediately upon doing so, he takes his left hand, shoves it into his waistband and starts struggling").3 The officers are aware that when a suspect reaches into a waistband, he may be trying to retrieve a weapon, although in this case the plaintiff was not found to be in possession of any gun was found and the plaintiff explains that he was simply trying to pull up his shorts. Defs.' SMF ¶¶ 3–4; Defs.' Mot. Ex. A ("Pl.'s Dep.") 62:14–20, ECF No. 33–2 ("Q: Can you think of some reason why someone might think you're reaching into your shorts? A: Not really, but at that time they was coming—my shorts was coming down. They was down. They was off me. Q: Were you reaching to pull your shorts up? A: Right. Yeah.").

Officer Lally repeatedly yelled at the plaintiff to get on the ground, which the plaintiff did not do. Lally Dep. 26:2–3, ECF No. 31–3; Pl.'s Dep. 26:4–7, ECF No. 33–2. Officer Lally then called Officer Connors for backup. Lally Dep. 70:7–9, ECF No. 31–3. When the plaintiff's loose arm was pulled from the waistband of his shorts, he held both his hands in fists and stood in what Officer Lally described as a "traditional fighting stance." Id. 70:13–20. Around this time, Officer Lally used his metal ASP baton to hit the plaintiff's right leg, and Officer Connors performed a tactical takedown of the plaintiff in order to bring him to the ground. Id. 71:9–13. The plaintiff's loose arm was put into handcuffs when he was finally seated on the ground. Pl.'s Dep. 71:9–13, ECF No. 33–2. The parties dispute the precise amount of time that elapsed during this encounter, but the plaintiff agreed that it took no more than a few minutes. Id. 28:16–20; Defs.' SMF ¶ 8.

The plaintiff explains that he resisted giving Officer Lally his loose, right arm because he suffered nerve damage in that arm due to a previous gunshot wound and, further, that he said this this during the struggle. Pl.'s Dep. 28:3–12, ECF No. 33–2; Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 6; Am. Compl. ¶¶ 13. Indeed, Officer Lally testified that he heard the plaintiff say "I've been shot, I've been shot," but did not understand that he meant a gunshot had caused nerve damage and was the reason for resisting having handcuffs placed on his loose hand. Lally Dep. 62:14–22, ECF No. 31–3.

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After the plaintiff had been handcuffed, he allegedly told other MDP Officers that he had ingested an ecstasy pill, and was then taken to the hospital. Lally Interrogs. No. 6; Def.'s Opp'n Ex. D ("Pl.'s Dep.") 44:3–22, ECF No. 39–5.

The plaintiff was subsequently charged with two counts of assault on a police officer ("APO") for his active resistance to arrest, one count of possession of a controlled substance, and one count of destruction of the evidence of the controlled substance due to his alleged ingestion of an ecstasy pill. Pl.'s SMF ¶¶ 29–30. The two controlled substance charges and one of the APO charges were voluntarily dismissed by the government and, following a bench trial, on March 9, 2012, the Superior Court dismissed the remaining APO charge. Pl.'s...

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