S.T. v. City of Ceres

Citation327 F.Supp.3d 1261
Decision Date30 August 2018
Docket Number1:16-cv-01713-LJO-SAB
CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
Parties S.T., a minor BY AND THROUGH his guardian ad litem Jessica NIBLETT, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF CERES; Justin Canatsy; Jesus Salinas ; and Does 1-10, Defendants.

Sarah Lou Ann Garvey, Law Offices of York & Garvey, Los Angeles, CA, for Plaintiff.

Dale Long Allen, Jr., Philip John Downs, Jr., Allen, Glaessener, Hazelwood and Werth LLP, San Francisco, CA, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Lawrence J. O'Neill, UNITED STATES CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE
I. INTRODUCTION

This case arises from the shooting death of Albert Thompson ("Thompson" or "the Decedent") in the City of Ceres ("Ceres") by two police officers. The Decedent's surviving child – S.T., a minor by and through his guardian ad litem Jessica Niblett, ("Plaintiff") – brings claims individually and as successor in interest to his father's estate. Plaintiff brings the instant civil rights action against the City of Ceres ("Ceres"), police officers Justin Canatsy ("Canatsy") and Jesus Salinas ("Salinas") ("officer Defendants"), and unknown law enforcement officers ("Doe Defendants") (collectively, "Defendants"), alleging that the use of deadly force violated the Fourth Amendment and the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as alleging several California state law claims.

Defendants moved for summary judgment on all causes of action on June 28, 2018. ECF No. 24. Plaintiff filed an opposition on July 18, 2018, ECF No. 37, to which Defendants filed a reply on July 24, 2018. ECF No. 39. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343, and 1367. Venue is proper in this court, and the matter is ripe for review. The Court deems the matter appropriate for resolution without oral argument. See E.D. Cal. L.R. 230(g). Having carefully considered the record in this case, the parties' briefing, and the relevant law, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND 1

On January 5, 2016, Thompson was shot and killed by two police officers. The only testimony concerning the events that led to Thompson's death came from the two police officers involved in the incident, officers Canatsy and Salinas.

On January 5, 2016, officers Canatsy and Salinas arrived at an apartment complex located at 2601 Don Pedro Road in Ceres, California sometime after 9 p.m. UF 3, 7. The apartment complex layout was rectangular with apartments on the north and south side, and a parking lot in the central area between the apartments. Ex. C; UF 10.2 The south side apartments ran parallel to Don Pedro Road. Id. The entrance into the parking lot of the complex was at the southwest corner at the intersection of Don Pedro Road and El Camino Avenue. Id. The officers parked their patrol vehicles on Don Pedro, a short distance away from the entrance of the apartment complex. UF 9. Canatsy had information that a wanted parolee-at-large, David Manchaca, might be at the apartment complex and he discussed this with Salinas before they decided to go to the subject location to look for and arrest Manchaca. UF 3-5. Manchaca was reportedly armed and dangerous, around 6 feet tall with a medium build. UF 6. Both officers personally knew that the apartment complex was known as a location for drug dealing and sales. UF 8.

At some point after arriving, the officers covered their badges with black latex gloves. PUF 86. According to the officers' testimony, the officers did so for officer safety reasons, to prevent light from reflecting off their badges while they were waiting for Manchaca. Ex. A, Deposition of Justin Canatsy ("Canatsy Dep.") 30:21-31:12; Ex. B, Deposition of Jesus Salinas ("Salinas Dep.") 17:1-16; see also PUF 86. After arriving, the officers spent a few minutes looking around the complex. Canatsy called his informant who had indicated that Manchaca was at the subject location, but he did not answer. Canatsy Dep. 34:18-35:2, 40:7-41:1. While the officers were standing in front of the apartment complex on the west side near El Camino Avenue, Canatsy observed a man, later identified as Thompson, walk out of the entrance way of the complex. Canatsy Dep. 40:7-41:10.3 The officers both believed that Thompson could possibly be Manchaca. UF 14-15. Salinas testified that he had never seen Manchaca so it is not clear if he would have been able to recognize him. Salinas Dep. 19:21-20:3. However, the lighting conditions at the apartment complex were dark, particularly at the entrance. UF 11.4 When Canatsy first saw Thompson, all Canatsy could see was that he was wearing dark clothing and "just blended in with the dark." PUF 93. All Canatsy knew was that "he was a male and that was pretty much it." Id.

A. Undisputed Facts Regarding The Shooting Of Thompson

Thompson was shot twice while running away from the officers in the parking lot of the 2601 Don Pedro apartment complex somewhere between the entrance on the southwest side, and the northeast side of the parking lot near where his body was found. UF 32, 42, 61-64; PUF 86, 105, 119, 122, 124-126. The officers were about 8 yards away from Decedent when they shot Decedent. PUF 98. The officers fired three volleys of shots during the encounter. UF 29-49. Canatsy testified he shot between 2-4 rounds and Salinas testified he shot between 5-6 rounds. PUF 98. Approximately 20 shell casings were found at the site of the shooting. PUF 127. According to the dispatch recording, approximately 14 seconds elapsed between the time that the officers reported to dispatch that they had "one running" from them and then reporting "shots fired". ECF No. 27-8, Ex. H.5 Canatsy believes he reported "shots fired" after the third volley. Canatsy Dep. 80:8-15.

At no point during the series of events did Thompson shoot at the officers or verbally threaten them. PUF 100; Canatsy Dep. 72:18-25; see also Salinas Dep. 38:25-40:25. Neither officer gave any warning before shooting the Decedent in any of the three volleys of shots. PUF 99, 110. In none of the volleys was there a pause between the shots. Canatsy Dep. 71:11-13; Salinas Dep. 30:21-22. Both the officers had cover during the second and third volley of shots. Canatsy Dep. 73:6-14; Salinas Dep. 31:15-21. No gun was found on Decedent, but a butane hand torch was found near Decedent's body. PUF 97.

Dr. Baik, the Sheriff's coroner, conducted the post-mortem examination of Thompson and recovered two bullets from Thompson's body. UF 59, 62. It is undisputed that Thompson was shot in the back. PUF 122, 124, 125. Both bullet trajectories go from right to left, back to front and slightly upward. PUF 122. Further, based on Dr. Baik's deposition testimony, the parties agree that based on the upward slant of the bullet trajectories, Thompson was likely in a bent position, running away when he was shot. UF 126; ECF No. 39 at 4 (Dr. Baik concluded "that Thompson was bending over when the bullets struck him in the back as he ran."). While Dr. Baik was not able to conclude the sequence of the two bullets, he did determine that the trajectory of one of the bullets left Thompson "no chance" of survival because it struck Thompson's heart and lung and that the other bullet was fatal without immediate surgery. UF 61, 65-66; PUF 123.

The autopsy indicated that Thompson had methamphetamine in his blood at the time of the incident. UF 69.6

B. Defendants' Account Of The Shooting 7

After initially walking out of the entry way of the parking lot, Thompson turned around and walked back in to the apartment complex and the officers began to follow him. UF 13, 17-18. The officers testified that when they first observed Thompson near the entrance of the parking lot, Canatsy gave him the command "hey, police, come here" to which Decedent replied "what's up guys." UF 17, PUF 94. Thompson turned and walked back into the apartment complex even after they identified themselves as police officers. UF 13, 16.8

Both officers testified that Thompson walked away from them with his hands near his waistband or pocket while looking back towards the officers. UF 17-18. According to the officers, Thompson then suddenly turned and faced the officers but continued to back away from them deeper into the parking lot with his hands either inside his pockets or inside his waistband. UF 19-23. Plaintiff disputes what the officers were able to see as to where Thompson's hands were, citing the fact that both officers had stated how dark the lighting was near and in the complex. Id. Thompson then started to run away from the officers and Salinas radioed dispatch that Thompson was running from them. UF 24. Then Thompson stopped and turned about to face Canatsy and drew an object from his pocket or waistband, which both officers believed resembled a black handgun, and pointed the object in the direction of the officers. UF 25-28.9 The officers then drew their firearms. Id. According to the officers there were three volleys of shots and approximately 7-10 rounds were fired between the two of them in the space between of the southwestern entrance of the parking lot to the northeastern end of the apartment complex. UF 29-49; PUF 98.

1. First Volley

The officers testified that they first fired because they believed Thompson was pointing a black gun-like object at them while running away from them in a northeastern direction and then turning to face them at a 45-degree angle. UF 29-32; Canatsy Dep. 50:15-52:12. Neither officer had the opportunity to warn Thompson before firing. Id. Following this volley, apparently Thompson then continued to flee northeast further into the parking lot. UF 32; Canatsy Dep. 57:24-58:4. Canatsy was not sure if any of the shots from the first volley struck Thompson. UF 36.

2. Second Volley

The officers then advanced further into the parking lot, pursuing Thompson, and took cover behind some of the vehicles parked on...

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