Montgomery v. Dist. of Columbia

Decision Date23 May 2022
Docket NumberCivil Action 18-1928 (JDB)
PartiesBRANDON MONTGOMERY, as personal representative for the estate of Gary Montgomery, Plaintiff, v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.
CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)

JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Brandon Montgomery brings this lawsuit on behalf of the estate of Gary Montgomery.[1] Am. Compl. and Jury Demand [ECF No. 48] (“Am. Compl.”) ¶ 30. Gary Montgomery, a mentally disabled man, was arrested in 2012 and charged with the murder of Deoni Jones. Id. ¶ 1. After five and a half years of incarceration pending trial, a jury found Montgomery not guilty. Id. Montgomery's amended complaint alleges that defendant District of Columbia violated his rights under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, by failing to accommodate his disability during the investigation. Id. ¶¶ 127-55. The District has moved for summary judgment on both claims. Def. District of Columbia's Mot. for Summ. J. [ECF No. 53] (“Mot.”) at 1. For the reasons explained below the Court will deny the District's motion.

I. Facts
A. Deoni Jones's Murder and Immediate Aftermath

On February 2, 2012, Deoni Jones was fatally stabbed while sitting at a bus stop in Washington, D.C. Def.'s Reply in Supp. of its Statement of Undisputed Material Facts and Resp. to Pl.'s Statement of Materially Disputed Facts [ECF No. 60-2] (“District's Reply in Supp. of SUMF”) ¶ 1. Homicide Detectives Brian Wise and Hosam Nasr were among the officers who investigated Jones's murder. Id. ¶ 2. Wise and Nasr spoke with Attalah Gabriel, a bystander who left the bus stop shortly before Jones was murdered. Id. ¶ 3. Gabriel reported noticing a man staring at Jones who had “really big eyes like he was high.” Id. ¶ 4. Video surveillance reveals that, shortly after Gabriel left the bus stop, Jones walked away as well and was followed by the man. Id. ¶ 5. Jones and the man, or someone who looked similar, returned to the bus stop a few minutes later, at which point the man stabbed Jones in the head. Id. After being presented with a photo array of nine individuals, Gabriel pointed to a photograph of Montgomery and said that he “look[ed] like” the man she saw at the bus stop. Id. ¶ 4; Investigative Suppl. Report re: Attalah Gabriel [ECF No. 53-16].[2]

Sakeithia Taylor and Jermaine Jackson were stopped at a nearby traffic light while Jones was attacked. District's Reply in Supp. of SUMF ¶ 6; Sakeithia Taylor Witness Statement [ECF No. 53-3] at 1. Taylor and Jackson left their vehicle, and while Taylor tended to Jones, Jackson chased after Jones's murderer. District's Reply in Supp. of SUMF ¶¶ 6-7. Jackson caught up to the murderer, punched him hard enough to make him fall to the ground, and kicked him multiple times. Incident/Investigation Report re: Jermaine Jackson [ECF No. 53-4].[3] The murderer managed to escape, and although Jackson chased him, Jackson could not keep up. Incident/Investigation Report re: Jermaine Jackson. Jackson later described the killer as a “Black Male, 5'9-5'11, 150-160lbs, medium complexion, between 33-40 years old, wearing blue jeans, a black quilted jacket, and a gray hooded sweat shirt underneath the jacket with the hood pulled up.” Id. Jackson also said he believed the suspect may have had a beard and that he was not sure if he would be able to identify him. Id. Taylor told the police that the suspect was “black with big wide eyes” and “was wearing a black and white knit hat” as well as “a black jacket.” Sakeithia Taylor Witness Statement at 1.

As part of their investigation, police publicly released a video of a man crossing a street near where the murder took place.[4] District's Reply in Supp. of SUMF ¶¶ 10-11. Two tipsters identified Montgomery as the man in the video. Id.; see Incident/Investigation Report re: Rosalind Tyums [ECF No. 53-5] at 1-2; Investigative Suppl. Report re: Arthur Medley [ECF No. 53-6] at 1. A third tipster, Michael Harris, initially identified the man in the video as Mark Johnson. Incident/Investigation Report re: Michael Harris [ECF No. 53-7] at 1. After Wise showed Harris a photograph of Montgomery, however, Harris said “you might be on to something but I don't think [Montgomery] walks that fast.” Id. at 2. Later, on February 6, Harris spoke with Wise and identified Montgomery as the man in the video. Id. During that conversation, Harris also stated that [Montgomery] is a little off. Like sometimes I say ‘What's up [Montgomery]' and he's fine but sometimes I say what's up and he's like ‘the FBI is watching me. I turned my TV off'. You never know what you're going to get with him.” Id.

B. Wise and Nasr's Investigation of Montgomery

Wise and Nasr first spoke with Montgomery on February 4. District's Reply in Supp. of SUMF ¶ 17. At that time, Montgomery was wearing a light brown jacket, khaki pants, and white tennis shoes.[5] Am. Compl. ¶¶ 68, 71; Video of Feb. 4, 2012 Interrogation [ECF No. 56-24].[6]Montgomery told the detectives that he had been wearing the same clothes for about four days, meaning they would have been the clothes he was wearing on the day Jones was murdered.[7] Am. Compl. ¶ 70; Feb. 4, 2012 Interrogation Tr. [ECF No. 56-15] at 10:3-6. Montgomery had some facial hair, but his face did not show obvious signs of bruising that he alleges would have been apparent had he been the man who fought with Jackson. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 38-43. In response to questions from Wise, Montgomery stated that he was “55 years young, ” 6'0”-6'2”, and 157-58 pounds. Feb. 4, 2012 Interrogation Tr. at 6:3-7:2. The detectives and Montgomery also discussed Montgomery's significant limp, caused by falling off a ladder around a year prior to the interrogation. Id. at 7:10-8:13.

Montgomery had a history of mental health issues and suffered from schizophrenia. District's Reply in Supp. of SUMF ¶ 22; Def.'s Resp. to Pl.'s Statement of Materially Disputed Facts [ECF No. 60-3] (“District's Resp. to Montgomery's Statement of Materially Disputed Facts”) ¶ 38; Am. Compl. ¶ 104. Montgomery alleges he “was experiencing severe psychosis” that was obvious at the time of his interrogation. Am. Compl. ¶ 103; see Pl.'s Opp'n to Mot. [ECF No. 56] (“Opp'n”) at 11-18. He points to the following exchange from that interrogation as illustrative of his clear mental health needs:

Wise: Well, tell me what happened at the bus stop. . . . Montgomery: In the process we're goin' (inaudible) this whole (inaudible) man, you know, I woulda been stop right there, you know, by the decency, you know. This, they know, this I did, you know, dead, honestly, you know. Cause I'm come, you know, come across things you know, in that order before. And um, the outcome pretty timely gets through man, I mean, dead, you know? Uh, it - it wasn't too much I could do like around the . . . four, you know, the end a wherever it was that was gonna be because entirely, entirely off from the way of oral hydrates and that's come to (inaudible) and a man is, you know, a man's like is, like I said, victimized. You know the wages of sin is death and that's what I woulda got, you know. And that's victimized, you know. A smoker. In the process of goin' - all are victimized when you're goin', you know, in the fall of entirely, you see. And that would be, like I said, (inaudible). I mean, I wouldn't be able to even talk to you, be what a victim is. Depends on what type a victim but somethin's happened to somebody would be the definition of the term victim. You know. Uh, a bit or beginnin' of some type a thing or the whole failure, that you know, victimize, the whole precedence of someone. And that woulda been, you know, uh, my outcome. To be anything. To be anything. You know. And was startin' to go that way but that's when this whole place, cause it's only the beginnin', what's here and then (inaudible) others, and once, like I said, a person sees, like - it's like a backstop on a baseball field. Sees the whole impetus, you know, of uh, what the - what the world is - is (inaudible) trans - you know - transferrin' to anything, transmittin' -the person knows he dies on that, um, that date. I mean, I talk to so many people (inaudible), you know, they just go right - right where it is they are.

Opp'n at 15-16 (quoting Feb. 4, 2012 Interrogation Tr. at 44:15-46:6).

In later depositions, Wise and Nasr acknowledged that it could be difficult to communicate with Montgomery. E.g., Brian Wise Dep. Tr. [ECF No. 56-3] (Wise Dep Tr.) at 205:20-22 (“I think sometimes I wasn't able to make out what he - the point he was trying to get across.”); Hosam Nasr Dep. Tr. [ECF No. 56-4] (Nasr Dep. Tr.) at 151:10-152:8 (“I remember at the points in the interview . . . his answers might've become a little nonsensical, a little - it seemed like maybe he was putting on an act or something.”). Wise and Nasr's supervisor, Sergeant Kevin Rice, also testified that “at some point, ” Wise told Rice that he “thought something was off mentally with Mr. Montgomery.” Kevin Rice Dep. Tr. [ECF No. 56-11] (Rice Dep. Tr.) at 146:9-12. During the February 4 interrogation, Wise asked Montgomery if he had “ever been diagnosed with mental” health issues, Feb. 4, 2012 Interrogation Tr. at 119:19-20, if he had ever seen a professional psychiatrist, Id. at 120:2-4, and if he “believe[d] that he had any type of mental issues, ” id. at 120:10-11. Montgomery generally denied needing mental help, but his denials were not always emphatic. E.g., id. at 120:15-19 (“Montgomery: If I start talkin' [to] myself I'll go [to a psychiatrist.] Wise: If you did, but do you? Montgomery: I don't think I do right now, yeah.”). When asked about how often...

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