Pineda v. Toomey

Decision Date16 July 2008
Docket NumberNo. 07-2462.,07-2462.
Citation533 F.3d 50
PartiesCarlos PINEDA and Alexandra Perez, Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. Joseph TOOMEY and Joseph Watts, Defendants, Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit

Before HOWARD, Circuit Judge, SELYA, Senior Circuit Judge, and STAFFORD,* Senior District Judge.

STAFFORD, Senior District Judge.

Plaintiffs/appellants, Carlos Pineda ("Pineda") and Alexandra Perez ("Perez"), appeal from the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of the defendants/appellees, Joseph Toomey ("Toomey") and Joseph Watts ("Watts"), in this action for false arrest, unlawful search, and excessive force. We affirm.

I.

On April 28, 2003, a person was shot and killed at a Mobil gas station in Boston. Suspects were seen leaving the scene in a white minivan. Hearing a report of the incident over their patrol car radio, District 4 ("D-4") Boston Police Officers William J. Gallagher ("Gallagher") and Patrick Foley ("Foley") headed to the gas station. While on their way, the officers were stopped by a motorist who asked if they were looking for a white minivan. The motorist reported that the white van was with a white Honda down on Cass Boulevard. When, minutes later, the officers saw a white Honda traveling on Cass Boulevard, they began following the Honda. There was no white minivan with the Honda. Foley could see and was able to identify the driver of the Honda as Norberto Serrano ("Serrano").

After Serrano turned from Cass Boulevard onto a street in police District 2 ("B-2"), he parked the Honda in a curbside parking place and exited the vehicle. The officers then activated their overhead lights, stopped their cruiser, and approached Serrano on foot. Seeing the officers, Serrano jumped back in the Honda and sped away. The officers immediately initiated a chase. While Foley was driving, Gallagher informed the dispatcher that they were chasing a car that may have been involved in the D-4 homicide at the Mobil gas station. The officers were soon after joined in the chase by units from the state police and from various Boston Police districts C-11, B-2, B-3, C-6, and D-4.

Serrano ultimately turned into the Franklin Hill housing project, which was in the B-3 police district, and stopped. Immediately behind the Honda and leading the procession of police cars was a cruiser driven by B-2 Boston Police Officer James Coyne ("Coyne"). Coyne saw two females exit the Honda; Coyne apprehended one and the other fled. Coyne also saw a black man run from the Honda into one of the apartments, specifically unit # 81. Coyne described the man's attire as black boots, gray pants, and a gray long-sleeved shirt with a design on the front.

B-2 Boston Police Officer Andrew Fay ("Fay") pulled into the housing project soon after Coyne. Hearing from Coyne that two suspects had fled, Fay and a number of other officers spread out to search the outdoor premises. Other officers knocked on the door of apartment # 81. Within minutes, Fay joined the four to six officers who were already in the apartment. As Fay entered, he noticed that some officers were talking with a man clad only in boxer shorts standing in the doorway. Directed to the back of the apartment, Fay rushed past the boxer-clad man to a back bedroom, where he found a black man dressed in underwear hiding in a closet. The man was sweating profusely and was trying to hide his clothing. Foley, who was also present in the apartment, identified the man as Serrano, the driver of the Honda. Fay handcuffed Serrano took him out of the apartment, and placed him in the back of a police car. According to Fay, Serrano was placed in custody not only because he was a possible suspect in a homicide case but also because he had violated the law by fleeing from the police, driving erratically, running red lights, and operating a vehicle in a dangerous manner. Fay estimated that two to four minutes elapsed, at most, between the time he entered the apartment and the time he escorted Serrano out of the apartment. Serrano's clothing, which matched the description given by Coyne, was retrieved from the closet and placed in evidence bags.

Before Fay left the apartment with Serrano in tow, he talked with one of the three B-2 supervisors present at the scene. Sergeants from other districts, some in uniform and some in plain clothes, were also present. During those minutes when he was securing Serrano, Fay was unsure whether any particular officers were "in charge," although typically B-3 sergeants would be "in charge" at a B-3 site. Fay said that where, as here, there were multiple sergeants from multiple districts, he would take orders from all of the sergeants but would "probably seek some kind of clarification" if the sergeants' orders were contradictory.

By the time Fay exited the apartment with Serrano, the man who was earlier standing in the doorway had been handcuffed and removed from the apartment. That man, Pineda, was sleeping in the apartment with his wife, Perez, and two children when officers knocked on his door and announced themselves as Boston Police officers. After Fay rushed into a back room, an unidentified Boston Police officer grabbed Pineda, twice pushed him up against a wall, and handcuffed him. Pineda was then taken outside in his underwear, where he was filmed by television cameras as he was placed in the back of a Boston Police cruiser. Pineda estimates that 45 to 70 seconds may have elapsed between the time when he opened the door and the time when he was handcuffed and removed from the apartment. Pineda was taken to B-3 headquarters, fingerprinted, placed in a cell for a few hours, interviewed by D-4 homicide officers, and then returned to his home. Pineda cannot identify the officer(s) who threw him against a wall, handcuffed him, and took him to B-3 headquarters, except to say that he saw a Boston Police Department badge or patch and he was placed in a Boston Police cruiser.

As events were unfolding at the Franklin Hill housing project, Detective Dennis Harris ("Harris"), a homicide investigator, was told to go to the housing project to see if there was any link between the people arrested there and the D-4 homicide that occurred earlier in the evening. When he arrived at the project, Harris learned that two individuals had been taken to B-3 headquarters for questioning. Harris proceeded to B-3, where he interviewed first Serrano and then Pineda. Harris quickly determined that Pineda had nothing to do with either the homicide or the high-speed chase. Indeed, Harris determined that neither Pineda nor Serrano was involved in the homicide.

When he was finished with the interviews, Harris drove Pineda back to his apartment. Two D-4 officers, Gallagher and Foley, were still in the apartment. They had been ordered by a superior officer to keep the apartment secure until they were otherwise notified. According to Pineda, his apartment had been turned upside down while he was gone. Perez explained that, after Pineda and Serrano were taken out of the apartment, the many officers who remained in the apartment asked Perez where the gun was. When she denied knowing anything about a gun, the officers began looking in closets, opening drawers, flipping mattresses, emptying boxes, removing cushions from the furniture, and...

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