Ramirez v. Escajeda

Decision Date20 August 2021
Docket NumberEP-17-CV-00193-DCG
PartiesMARIA RAMIREZ and PEDRO RAMIREZ, as Representatives of the Estate and Statutory Death Beneficiaries of DANIEL ANTONIO RAMIREZ, Plaintiffs, v. RUBEN ESCAJEDA, JR. and CITY OF EL PASO, TEXAS, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Texas


Presently before the Court are Defendants City of El Paso, Texas (the City) and Ruben Escajeda's (Escajeda) (collectively Defendants) Amended Motion for Summary Judgment Joined in Part by Officer Ruben Escajeda as to Causation” (ECF No. 90) (“Motion”), filed on September 2, 2020, and all relevant briefing filed thereafter. For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES the motion.

A. Factual Background.

This case arises from the circumstances surrounding the death of Daniel Antonio Ramirez (Ramirez). Plaintiffs, Pedro and Maria Ramirez, are his parents.[1] On June 23, 2015, after receiving a call from Plaintiffs, dispatch called out to El Paso Police Department (“EPPD”) officers to respond to a suicide in progress.[2] The reporter, Ramirez's mother, made clear that her son was in the process of preparing to hang himself from the basketball net in their backyard.[3]She made no mention of a weapon.[4] In relaying the emergency to the EPPD officers, dispatch announced the same: that it was a suicide in progress and made no mention of the presence of a weapon.[5]

Escajeda, then a police officer employed by the EPPD, responded to the call and arrived at the house alone.[6] Upon arrival to the Ramirez home, Escajeda did not announce himself to anyone at the house to talk with Plaintiffs, but instead went directly to the backyard.[7] As he approached the backyard, he drew his service weapon.[8] Once in the backyard, Escajeda shined his flashlight on Ramirez and saw him with a rope around his neck that was connected to a basketball hoop.[9]

As he approached Ramirez, Escajeda reportedly saw Ramirez staring forward with his hands clenched with tight fists to the part of the rope that was around his neck.[10] Escajeda then repeatedly ordered him to show him his hands.[11] After perceiving that his verbal commands were unsuccessful, Escajeda approached Ramirez within approximately five feet.[12] Escajeda then holstered his service weapon, drew out and deployed his taser on Ramirez.[13] During the tasing, Ramirez's body tensed, and Escajeda heard a “crunch” and saw Ramirez squeeze his fists even harder.[14] After tasing Ramirez, Escajeda removed the rope around Ramirez's neck and got him down from the basketball net.[15] Escajeda felt a faint pulse; however, Ramirez later arrived to the emergency room at Del Sol Medical Center at 11:06 p.m., and was pronounced dead at 11:24 p.m.[16]

B. Procedural Background.

On June 22, 2017, Plaintiffs filed the instant lawsuit alleging that Escajeda and the City deprived Ramirez of his constitutional rights.[17] Plaintiffs specifically allege that Escajeda used excessive force against Ramirez and that the City was “directly responsible” for Escajeda's alleged misconduct by:

A) maintaining a policy or custom of excessive force by officers that is so common and widespread as to constitute a custom that fairly represents municipal policy;
B) maintaining a policy or custom of excessive force by officers when the officer is on notice of a victim's mental health problems that is so common and widespread as to constitute a custom that fairly represents municipal policy;
C) failing to properly train, supervise, or discipline members of the [EPPD], including . . . Escajeda, not to use intermediate force, such as a taser, against an individual who does not pose a threat to the officer or others and does not display active aggression or defensive resistance;
D) failing to properly train, supervise, or discipline members of the [EPPD], including . . . Escajeda, on mental health issues and how to properly assess the situation and take action to de-escalate the situation and bring the crisis to a nonviolent conclusion where their officers have notice and knowledge that the person for whom they are called has mental health issues;
E) failing to institute proper procedures to ensure that EPPD officers use appropriate de-escalation tactics so as to bring the crisis to a non-violent conclusion in situations in which it is known that an unarmed resident has mental health issues; and
F) failing to pursue criminal or disciplinary charges or support criminal or disciplinary action against officers, including Escajeda, who have deprived citizens and residents of El Paso of their constitutional rights.[18]

At an earlier stage in the litigation, Defendants filed motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), both of which the Court denied on January 11, 2018.[19] On September 3, 2020, Defendants filed the instant motion.

As noted in the Court's January 26, 2021 Order (ECF No. 133), on November 4, 2020, Escajeda filed his individual reply, wherein he claims that he is entitled to qualified immunity.[20]To avoid prejudicing Plaintiffs and the risk of an improvident or ill-advised opinion, the Court afforded Plaintiffs “an adequate opportunity to respond” to Escajeda's qualified immunity arguments by granting them and Escajeda leave to file supplemental briefing solely to address such matter.[21] Plaintiffs filed their supplemental brief on February 10, 2021; Escajeda filed his own on February 16, 2021.[22] The Court considers the arguments therein as if they were part of the instant motion.


Summary judgment is appropriate when “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “A genuine dispute of fact exists when evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party, and a fact is material if it ‘might affect the outcome of the suit.' Willis v. Cleco Corp., 749 F.3d 314, 317 (5th Cir. 2014) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986))). In deciding whether a genuine dispute as to material fact exists, a trial court considers all of the evidence in the record and “draw[s] all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, ” but “refrain[s] from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.” Turner v. Baylor Richardson Med. Ctr., 476 F.3d 337, 343 (5th Cir. 2007) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Instead, the court “only ‘give[s] credence to the evidence favoring the nonmovant [and] that evidence supporting the moving party that is uncontradicted and unimpeached, at least to the extent that that evidence comes from disinterested witnesses.' Orr v. Copeland, 844 F.3d 484, 490 (5th Cir. 2016) (second alteration in original) (quoting Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150-51 (2000)).

Procedurally, the party moving for summary judgment “bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” E.E.O.C. v. LHC Grp., Inc., 773 F.3d 688, 694 (5th Cir. 2014) (alterations in original) (quotation marks and citation omitted). When the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may satisfy this responsibility by “point[ing] out the absence of evidence supporting the nonmoving party's case.” Latimer v. Smithkline & French Labs., 919 F.2d 301, 303 (5th Cir. 1990); see also Boudreaux v. Swift Transp. Co., 402 F.3d 536, 544-45 (5th Cir. 2005).

If the moving party succeeds, “the onus shifts to the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” LHC Grp., 773 F.3d at 694 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). However, the nonmoving party “cannot defeat summary judgment with conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or only a scintilla of evidence.” Davis v. Fort Bend Cty., 765 F.3d 480, 497 n.20 (5th Cir. 2014) (quotation marks and citation omitted).


By their motion, Defendants request that the Court grant summary judgment in their favor on all of Plaintiffs' claims because they argue that: (1) Escajeda is entitled to qualified immunity; (2) Escajeda's tasing of Ramirez did not cause his death; (3) the City's use-of-force policy was not the moving force behind Ramirez's death; (4) the City did not fail to institute proper policies and procedures to deal with people suffering from mental health crises; (5) the City did not fail to train its officers on how to respond to situations where people suffering from mental health crises are involved; and (6) the City did not fail to investigate or discipline its officers for excessive force. The Court addresses Defendants' arguments in that order.

A. Escajeda's Entitlement to Qualified Immunity and Whether Escajeda Caused Ramirez's Death.
1. Whether causation is incorporated within or separate from the qualified immunity analysis.

As a threshold matter, Plaintiffs and Escajeda first contest whether proof of causation is necessary for determining qualified immunity or whether it is an issue that the Court must resolve separately. Escajeda contends the former Plaintiffs the latter. Escajeda contends that causation is incorporated within the first step in the qualified immunity analysis-namely, whether the officer “violated a clearly established constitutional right.” Escajeda's Sur-Surreply at 5-6, ECF No. 135; Escajeda's Suppl. Br....

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT