Redmond v. San Jose Police Dep't

Decision Date16 November 2017
Docket NumberCase No. 14-cv-02345-BLF
PartiesBLAIR REDMOND, Plaintiff, v. SAN JOSE POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of California

[Re: ECF 130]

Plaintiff Blair Redmond ("Redmond") was sitting in the driver's seat of her parked vehicle near a skateboard park in San Jose, California, when police officers from the San Jose Police Department approached her and her boyfriend to question them for a suspected littering violation. A serious incident broke out between the officers and Redmond's boyfriend, which involved a physical altercation resulting in her boyfriend's arrest. From the outset, Redmond was recording the events on her cell phone, and at some point during the encounter she got out of the car to continue to record the incident. She claims that as soon as she got out of the car, one of the officers charged at her, grabbed her arm, stomped on her foot, punched her in the face, and dislocated her shoulder to stop her from filming. Redmond was ultimately arrested, but not charged, with resisting arrest.

Redmond brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of San Jose (the "City") and a number of police officers involved in the events (the "Officers") (together with the City, "Defendants"). Defendants move for summary judgment on all claims. See generally Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF 130 ("Mot."). The Court has considered the parties' briefing, the admissible evidence, the applicable law, as well as oral argument presented at the hearing held on September 20, 2017. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

A. Events Preceding Redmond's Encounter with the Officers

On the afternoon of April 17, 2013, Blair Redmond was with her boyfriend Joseph Evans ("Evans") in a parked car at Roosevelt Park in San Jose, California. Redmond was sitting in the driver's seat of the car while Evans was seated in the passenger seat fixing his skateboard. The car was legally parked in a space in the parking lot for a skateboard park.

Officers Daniel Pfiefer, Tony Diep, and Matthew Blackerby were also in Roosevelt Park on April 17, 2013. As part of the San Jose Police Department's "downtown services unit," these officers were tasked with addressing gang and narcotics activity, as well as responding to "quality of life" issues in downtown San Jose such as vagrants, drinking and urinating in public, and street-level drug dealing. See ECF 130-1 Exh. A ("Pfiefer Depo.") 44:21-45:4. The San Jose Police Department had received numerous complaints regarding gang, drinking, and narcotics activity in Roosevelt Park, and assigned the unit to patrol the area. Id. 103:7-105:16. On the day of the events at issue, Officers Pfiefer, Diep, and Blackerby dressed in plain clothes and drove an unmarked vehicle to Roosevelt Park. Id. 68:14-69:15.

The Officers noticed Redmond's car near the skateboard park, and that the vehicle had the front, back, and rear side windows covered by some type of shade or curtains. Id. 108:14-109:15. After patrolling the park for some time, the Officers returned to their vehicle and saw that Redmond's car was still in the parking lot. See ECF 130-1 Exh. C ("Blackerby Depo.") 111:24-112:6. Officers Pfiefer and Diep observed Evans throw "some type of metallic object or objects" out of the passenger side window. Pfiefer Depo. 110:19-22. The Officers decided to approach Redmond's car to investigate the littering issue. Id. 110:23-111:13. Redmond recalls that the Officers approached the passenger side of the car where Evans sat, but did not state any reason for their presence at the car. See ECF 134-2 ("Redmond Depo.") 95:11-17.

B. The Officers' Initial Exchange with Redmond and Evans

Initially, Officer Diep approached the passenger window of the vehicle followed byOfficer Blackerby while Officer Pfiefer walked around toward the driver's side of the vehicle where Redmond was located. See ECF 103-1 Exh. B ("Diep Depo.") 132:15-21; Pfiefer Depo. 112:14-113:5. What happened next is subject to various factual disputes. Officer Diep states that he stood at the passenger side window and identified himself as a San Jose police officer, showed the passengers his badge, and said "how are you guys doing?" Diep Depo. 132:19-133:1; see also Redmond Depo. 68:4-7. After Officer Diep stated something to that effect, Redmond recalls that she and Evans responded: "I want to speak to your sergeant, and we're going to record this incident." Redmond Depo. 68:4-7. Officer Blackerby testified that as soon as Officer Diep identified himself to the occupants of the vehicle, "the passenger [Evans] started screaming." Blackerby Depo. 114:21-22. In contrast, Redmond testifies that Officer Diep was intimidating, aggressive, and "escalated" his voice toward her with demands. Redmond Depo. 67:14-19.

Officer Diep testifies that he smelled marijuana in the vehicle. See Diep Depo. 148:11-15. According to Diep, Evans then began to roll the passenger side window all the way up, even though Officer Diep instructed Evans not to roll the window up. Id. 149: 7-9. Officer Diep then testifies that he opened the passenger door to the vehicle, which was unlocked. Id. 149: 9-14. Redmond testifies that she, not Evans, rolled up the passenger side window and locked the car doors in order to stay safe. See Redmond Depo. 79:14-21; 95:14-17. Before she was able to roll the passenger window all the way up, Redmond testifies that Officer Diep reached through the open window on the passenger side in order to unlock the door. The parties do not dispute that once Officer Diep got the door open, he observed Evans sitting in the passenger seat with a skateboard and tools on his lap.

Officer Diep testifies that he observed Evans with a box cutter in his left hand. See Diep Depo. 150:13-20. Officer Diep instructed Evans to "put the knife down," but Evans did not comply, instead continuing to yell and move the box cutter around. Id. 150:23-151:2. Officer Diep testifies that he did not reach into the vehicle until after he had given Evans the chance to drop the box cutter. Diep Depo. 151:3-24. In contrast, Redmond testifies that Diep was trying to remove Evans from the vehicle when Evans was just "sitting there" and Diep was grabbing at him. See Redmond Depo. 73:15-18. Officer Diep claims that Evans continued to move his left handaround in a swiping motion holding the box cutter. Diep Depo. 152:23-154:4. As Officer Diep reached into the vehicle in an attempt to control Evans' hand, the box cutter "shaved off a piece of skin" on Officer Diep's right thumb. Id. At that point, Officer Diep pulled his hand back and shouted "he just cut me." Id. 153:6-8.

Meanwhile, Officer Pfiefer was outside of the driver's side of the car where Redmond sat and he recalls that he ordered Redmond to get out of the vehicle. Pfiefer Depo. 112:18-113:5. Redmond testifies that at the same time as Officer Diep was grabbing Evans, Officer Pfiefer pounded on her window eight to ten times with his flashlight but was unable to break the window open. Redmond Depo. 98:1-8. Officer Pfiefer testifies that when he heard Officer Diep instruct Evans to drop the knife, he told Redmond to open the door to the car but she refused. Pfiefer Depo. 116:4-24. Only when Redmond refused to open the door did Officer Pfiefer recall that he unsuccessfully tried to break the driver's window of the car with his flashlight in order to open the door. Id. 117:20-118:8. A 40-second video of this portion of the incident while Evans and Redmond were still in the car is captured by Redmond's phone. See ECF 130-1, Exh. E.

As soon as he heard Officer Diep shout that he had been cut, Officer Pfiefer moved to the front of his vehicle, drew his firearm and pointed it at Evans who immediately raised his arms. Pfiefer Depo. 118:10-119:18. Redmond testifies that Evans' hands were empty at this point. Officers Diep and Blackerby then pulled Evans from the front passenger seat of the car. Diep Depo. 153:18-154:10. A struggle ensued, whereby Officers Diep and Blackerby had difficulty handcuffing and controlling Evans. Diep Depo. 155:5-7. Officer Diep used his radio to call for Code 3 backup. Diep Depo 154:20-155:7. The Officers testify that Officer Blackerby tripped over a cement parking divider and fell on his back with Evans on top of him. Blackerby Depo. 120:17-121:1. Redmond disputes the Officers' version of events, instead asserting that the Officers were on top of Evans, physically attacking him. Redmond Depo. 101:25-102:4

C. Redmond Gets Out of the Vehicle and is Arrested

While Officers Diep and Blackerby struggled with Evans, Officer Pfiefer was trying to keep an eye on Redmond while simultaneously monitoring the crowd of people that had started to form. Pfiefer Depo. 119:21-120:25. Pfiefer suddenly noticed Redmond "spring out of the car." Id.122:19-25. Redmond testifies that after seeing Officers Diep and Blackerby on top of her boyfriend behind the car, she decided to get out of the car with her arm extended holding her cell phone to record the incident. Redmond Depo. 101:25-102:4.

Officer Pfiefer stood between Redmond and the struggle occurring between the other officers and Evans. Pfiefer Depo. 123:13-124:11. Redmond moved toward him with a cell phone in her hand. When Officer Pfiefer told her to "back up," he testifies that she responded "Fuck you, I'm recording this shit." Pfiefer Depo. 125:5-11. Redmond testifies that when she got out of the car she initially "took a step" toward the back of the car toward the officers who were struggling with Evans. Redmond Depo. 103:8-24. However, she testifies that she immediately started "backtracking." Id. 103:14-17. She continued to record the incident with her outstretched hand, and told Officer Pfiefer that she was recording the incident. At that point,...

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