McNeil v. City of Easton

Decision Date10 March 2010
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 08-cv-01075.
Citation694 F. Supp.2d 375
PartiesElijah McNEIL, Plaintiff v. The CITY OF EASTON; Police Officer Peter Guerrier, Police Officer Anthony Chaney, Police Officer Darren Snyder, Police Lt. David Beitler, In Their Official Capacities As Employees Of The Easton Police Department, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Leonard Zack, Esquire, for Plaintiff.

David J. MacMain, Esquire and Janelle E. Fulton, Esquire, for Defendants.

ORDER

JAMES KNOLL GARDNER, District Judge.

NOW, this 10th day of March, 2010, upon consideration of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and the Brief in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, which motion and brief were filed April 30, 2009; upon consideration of plaintiff's Affirmation in Opposition and Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, which affirmation and memorandum were filed May 15, 2009; and for the reasons articulated in the accompanying Opinion,

IT IS ORDERED that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that judgment is entered in favor of defendants and against plaintiff.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff's amended Complaint filed June 16, 2008 is dismissed with prejudice.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Clerk of Court shall close this case for statistical purposes.

OPINION

This matter is before the court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Upon consideration of the Brief in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Defendants' Brief"), Plaintiff's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Plaintiff's Brief"), and the Statement of Relevant Undisputed Facts in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Undisputed Facts"), and for the reasons articulated in this Opinion, I grant Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and dismiss this action with prejudice.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff Elijah McNeil commenced this action on March 4, 2008 by filing a Complaint against The City of Easton, the Easton Police Department, Police Officer Peter Guerriere1, and various John and Jane Does individually and in their official capacities as employees of the Easton Police Department.

On May 2, 2008, the named defendants filed the Motion of Defendants, The City of Easton, the Easton Police Department, and Officer Peter Guerrier, to Dismiss Portions of Plaintiff's Complaint Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). On May 28, 2008, I approved the parties' Stipulation for Extension of Time for Plaintiff to Respond to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, and granted plaintiff an extension until June 16, 2008 to file an amended complaint.

On June 16, 2008, plaintiff filed his amended Complaint2 against The City of Easton, Police Officer Peter Guerriere, Police Officer Anthony Chaney, Police Officer Darren Snyder, and Police Lieutenant David Beitler in their official capacities as employees of the Easton Police Department.

In some respects plaintiff's Amended Complaint is not entirely clear. However, it appears to raise five Section 1983 (42 U.S.C. § 1983) claims for alleged constitutional violations3: (1) unlawful entry4; (2) false arrest5; (3) false imprisonment6; (4) malicious prosecution7; and (5) excessive force8.

Plaintiff also brings related Monell9 claims against The City of Easton for failing to train, supervise, or otherwise correct the defendant officers' alleged unconstitutional conduct.10 Finally, plaintiff raises pendent state law claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and assault and battery.11

Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment was filed on behalf of all defendants on April 30, 2009, together with Defendants' Brief and Undisputed Facts. Plaintiff filed his Affirmation in Opposition and Plaintiff's Brief on May 15, 2009, but did not file a statement of disputed material facts in response to defendants' Undisputed Facts.12

JURISDICTION

Jurisdiction in this case is based upon federal question jurisdiction. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343. The court has supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's pendent state law claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

VENUE

Venue is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because the events giving rise to plaintiff's claims allegedly occurred in the City of Easton in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, which is located within this judicial district. 28 U.S.C. § 118(a).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The court should grant summary judgment if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2); Startzell v. City of Philadelphia, 533 F.3d 183, 192 (3d Cir. 2008); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

The court must view all evidence and draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and summary judgment is appropriate only if there are no genuine issues of material fact. Startzell, 533 F.3d at 192. Only facts that may affect the outcome of a case are "material." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. at 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d at 211.

Once the party moving for summary judgment has satisfied its burden by showing that there are no genuine disputes as to any material facts, the non-movant must provide evidence to support each element on which it bears the burden of proof. See Monroe v. Beard, 536 F.3d 198, 206-207 (3d Cir.2008); Padillas v. Stork-Gamco, Inc., 186 F.3d 412, 414 (3d Cir.1999).

Plaintiff cannot avert summary judgment with speculation or by resting on the allegations in his pleadings, but rather must present competent evidence from which a jury could reasonably find in plaintiff's favor. Ridgewood Board of Education v. N.E. for M.E., 172 F.3d 238, 252 (3d Cir.1999); Guinan v. A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children, 597 F.Supp.2d 485, 493 (E.D.Pa.2009) (Surrick, J.).

FACTS

Based upon the pleadings, record papers, exhibits, and defendants' Undisputed Facts, the relevant facts, viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff, are as follows.13

At approximately 2:00 a.m. on October 14, 2007, plaintiff Elijah McNeil and his girlfriend, Pamela Davis, returned to plaintiff's home in Easton, Pennsylvania after a night of drinking and "got loud," turned the television on "loud," and engaged in "loud" sexual intercourse during which Miss Davis screamed.14 Plaintiff and Miss Davis were making "lots of noise. . . . Two o'clock, three o'clock in the morning, lots of noise, surrounded by lots of senior citizens."15

At approximately 3:30 a.m., an unidentified woman called Northampton County's emergency 911 telephone line to report a domestic dispute in which a woman was calling for help.16 The 911 caller reported that "the male at the residence never lets the female come to the door when she needs help."17

Defendant Officers Peter Guerriere and Darren Snyder responded to plaintiff's residence, where they heard a woman screaming and loud banging coming from the house.18 Based upon the nature of the 911 call and the loud noises coming from plaintiff's home, the officers believed that there was an assault in progress and were concerned for the woman's safety.19

Officer Snyder called for backup, and pursuant to Easton Police Department procedure, sought and obtained permission from defendant Lieutenant David Beitler to enter the residence without a warrant.20 Officers Guerriere and Snyder then entered plaintiff's home.

Officers Guerriere and Snyder checked the first floor of the home and went to the staircase leading to the second floor.21 Miss Davis went down to the first floor and was directed to sit down by Officer Guerriere who kept her within his view.22

Officer Snyder began to climb the stairs when plaintiff appeared at the top of the stairs and descended three steps.23 Officers Guerriere and Snyder ordered plaintiff to come down the rest of the stairs, but plaintiff stopped and refused to comply.24 Plaintiff was very angry that the officers were in his home and told them that they would have to shoot him.25

Officer Snyder observed targets in the shape of a man's silhouette on the wall or a door with what appeared to be bullet holes from target practice.26 Officer Snyder was "very fearful" that plaintiff would obtain a weapon or barricade himself on the second floor, which plaintiff could have accomplished in a matter of seconds.27 The requested backup had yet to arrive, and Officer Snyder was "extremely concerned" for the safety of himself, Officer Guerriere, and Miss Davis.28

Plaintiff ignored the officers' commands and started to ascend the stairs back to the second floor, which was not yet checked by the police, and where plaintiff could have access to a weapon.29 Officer Snyder fired his taser, embedding its darts into plaintiff and delivering a five second electric discharge, to immobilize plaintiff and to prevent him from reaching the second floor.30

Plaintiff fell to the floor with his hands underneath himself.31 After regaining control of his motor skills, plaintiff did not comply with Officer Snyder's commands to show his hands.32 Officer Snyder then delivered a second five second electric discharge from his taser, after which plaintiff complied and put his hands out to the side.33

Defendant Officer Anthony Chaney then arrived to provide backup, assisted Officer Snyder in handcuffing plaintiff, and left without further involvement in the incident.34 Lieutenant Beitler arrived after Officer Chaney, but plaintiff did not see Lieutenant Beitler at his home.35 Before plaintiff was handcuffed, an unidentified officer kicked him in the back of the head.36

Upon searching the second floor, the officers found an unnamed male in his twenties.37

In accordance with Easton Police Department procedure, Officers Guerriere and Snyder took plaintiff to Easton Hospital for...

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