Parsons v. Velasquez

Decision Date30 July 2021
Docket NumberCIV 20-0074 JB/KK
Citation551 F.Supp.3d 1085
Parties Jeffrey PARSONS, Plaintiff, v. William VELASQUEZ and Megan Carpenter-Barlow, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of New Mexico

A. Blair Dunn, Western Agriculture, Resource and Business Advocates, LLP, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Attorney for the Plaintiff.

Sean E. Garrett, Michael S. Jahner, YLAW, P.C., Albuquerque, New Mexico, Attorneys for the Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JAMES O. BROWNING, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the DefendantsMotion for Summary Judgment (Qualified Immunity Raised), filed November 20, 2020 (Doc. 18)("MSJ"). The Court held hearings on the MSJ on March 29, 2021, and April 1, 2021. See Clerk's Minutes at 1, filed March 29, 2021 (Doc. 37); Clerk's Minutes at 1, filed April 1, 2021 (Doc. 39). The primary issues are: (i) whether the Court can consider violations of the Albuquerque Police Department's Standard Operating Procedures ("SOPs") in determining whether the Defendants William Velasquez and Megan Carpenter-Barlow, Albuquerque Police Department ("APD") officers, violated Plaintiff Jeffrey Parsons’ rights under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America; (ii) whether qualified immunity shields the Defendants from J. Parsons’ claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable seizures, because no reasonable jury could find other than that (a) the Defendants’ conduct did not constitute a seizure, where the Defendants did not touch J. Parsons or draw their weapons, and where the interaction occurred largely in public view; (b) even if a non-investigatory seizure occurred, exigent circumstances justified the seizure, where J. Parsonsmother, Mary Parsons, experienced a medical emergency and requested that she be taken to a hospital; (c) even if a non-investigatory seizure occurred, the Defendants’ reasonable suspicion that J. Parsons was perpetrating acts of domestic violence toward M. Parsons, where M. Parsons’ granddaughter had called 911 and alleged that J. Parsons was acting threateningly toward M. Parsons, justified the seizure; or (d) there is no clearly established precedent demonstrating that the Defendants violated J. Parsons’ federal constitutional right against unreasonable seizures, where controlling caselaw has not held that police officers acting under sufficiently similar circumstances unconstitutionally seized a person; (iii) whether qualified immunity shields the Defendants from J. Parsons’ claims under § 1983 for violations of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable searches, because no reasonable jury could find other than that (a) the Defendants’ conduct did not constitute a search, because J. Parsons consented to the Defendants’ entry into his home by inviting them inside and by not objecting explicitly to their continued presence; (b) any search was a non-investigatory search justified by exigent circumstances, where M. Parsons experienced a medical emergency and wanted to be taken to a hospital; or (c) there is no clearly established precedent demonstrating that the Defendants violated his constitutional right against unreasonable searches, where controlling caselaw has not held that police officers acting under sufficiently similar circumstances unconstitutionally searched a person's home; (iv) whether qualified immunity shields the Defendants from J. Parsons’ claim under § 1983 for violations of substantive Due Process rights the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States secures, because (a) the Defendants’ conduct throughout their interaction with J. Parsons does not shock the judicial conscience, where their behavior toward J. Parsons was not particularly egregious; or because (b) there is no clearly established precedent demonstrating that the Defendants violated J. Parsons’ substantive Due Process rights, where controlling caselaw has not held that police officers’ conduct under sufficiently similar circumstances shocked the judicial conscience; (v) whether the Court should remand the state law claims if the Court grants the Defendants summary judgment on J. Parsons’ federal claims.

The Court concludes that: (i) the Court will not consider violations of the APD SOPs in deciding whether the Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity from J. ParsonsFourth Amendment claims, because, under controlling United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit caselaw, the SOPs are irrelevant to determining whether the Defendants violated J. Parsons’ federal constitutional rights; (ii) the Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on J. ParsonsFourth Amendment unreasonable seizure claim, because no reasonable jury could find other than that (a) the Defendants’ conduct did not constitute a seizure given that they did not touch J. Parsons, they did not draw their weapons, and the alleged seizure occurred primarily in public view; (b) even if the Defendants’ conduct constitutes a seizure, the exigent circumstances exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement justified the non-investigatory detention, because the Defendants reasonably believed M. Parsons’ medical emergency required immediate assistance; (c) even if the Defendants’ conduct constitutes an investigatory seizure, reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was ongoing justified the seizure, given that the Defendants received a 911 call from a family member alleging J. Parsons was abusing M. Parsons; and (d) there is no clearly established precedent demonstrating that the Defendants violated J. Parsons’ right against unreasonable seizures; (iii) the Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on J. ParsonsFourth Amendment unreasonable search claim, because no reasonable jury could conclude other than that (a) the Defendants’ conduct does not constitute a search, because J. Parsons consented to the Defendants’ entry; and (b) even if the Defendants’ conduct constitutes a search, it was a non-investigatory search exigent circumstances, namely M. Parsons’ medical emergency, justified; and because (c) there is no clearly established precedent demonstrating the Defendants violated his right against unreasonable searches; (iv) the Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on J. Parsons’ substantive due process claims, because (a) the Defendants’ conduct is, as he admits, not egregious; and because (b) there is no clearly established precedent indicating that the Defendants’ conduct is so egregious as to the shock the judicial conscience; and (v) the Court will remand J. Parsons’ State law claims, because there are no remaining federal claims. Accordingly, the Court will grant the MSJ and dismiss the case with prejudice.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

J. Parsons’ lawsuit arises from his encounter with the Defendants after the Defendants responded to a 911 call regarding J. Parsons’ elderly mother, M. Parsons. See Recording of 911 Call at 00:09-10 (dated Nov. 17, 2017), filed November 11, 2020 (Doc. 19)(Operator)("911 Call"). The encounter in J. Parsons’ home lasted less than forty minutes. See Barlow Lapel Video, filed November 11, 2020 (Doc. 19)("Barlow Lapel Video"); Velasquez Lapel Video, filed November 11, 2020 (Doc. 19)("Velasquez Lapel Video"). The Court lays out its undisputed facts below. Although the parties provided video recording of the entire encounter between the Defendants and J. Parsons, the Court describes in detail that encounter because J. Parsons disputes the characterization of that video footage extensively.

I. THE PARTIES.

At the time of the Defendants’ encounter with J. Parsons, both Velasquez and Barlow were APD officers. See generally Barlow Lapel Video; Velasquez Lapel Video. J. Parsons was a resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and resided in a house there with his elderly mother, M. Parsons. See Barlow Lapel Video at 01:03-16; Velasquez Lapel Video at 01:05-18. J. Parsonssister, Trish Hale, was a resident of Belen, New Mexico, who had driven to J. Parsons’ home in response to M. Parsons’ emergency. See 911 Call at 01:18-24 (Cardona). Megan Cardona was J. Parsons’ niece and M. Parsons’ granddaughter and was a resident of Washington state who placed the 911 call that prompted the Defendants’ dispatch. See generally 911 Call.

II. THE STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES.

The APD operates under a set of SOPS. Standard Operating Procedures, City of Albuquerque, https://www.cabq.gov/police/standard-operating-procedures (last visited June 17, 2021).1 Many of the APD's SOPs concern police officers’ interactions with persons experiencing behavioral health crises. See Albuquerque Police Dep't, Albuquerque Police Department Standard Procedural Orders, Response to Behavioral Health Issues (Apr. 2, 2021), https://documents.cabq.gov/police/standard-operating-procedures/2-19-response-to-behavioral-health-issues.pdf. At the time the incident took place in November 2017, the SOPs stated that, " ‘[w]hen responding to an incident, officers should consider whether the person may be in" a "behavioral health crisis.’ " Plaintiff's Complaint for Damages at ¶ 21, at 3, filed January 24, 2020 (Doc. 1)("Complaint")(quoting APD Procedural Orders SOP 2-19-5(A)).2 See Response ¶ 9, at 13. In addition, an ADP officer responding to an individual experiencing a behavioral health "should specifically request an ECIT (Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team) officer ... as backup.’ " Complaint ¶ 21, at 3 (quoting APD Procedural Orders SOP 2-19-7(A)(2)).3 See Response ¶ 13, at 14. APD officers should "gather information from ... family members" regarding a person experiencing a behavioral health crisis and "request professional assistance, if available ... to assist in communicating with" such an individual. Complaint ¶ 26, at 4 (quoting APD Procedural Orders SOP 2-19-7(A)(6)).4 See Response ¶ 9, at 13. When an officer refers a person to Adult Protective Services, the officer should "follow...

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