Christian v. Sturdevant et al
Chief Judge Patti B. Saris: ORDER entered. The Court DENIES Sturdevant's motion for summary judgment with respect to Counts I, II, and IV. The plaintiff no longer presses Count V and has assented to dismissing the City of Brockton from the case. The Court therefore ALLOWS the city's motion for summary judgment. (Geraldino-Karasek, Clarilde)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
JOHN STURDEVANT, individually
and in his capacity as an
Employee, Agent, and/or Patrolman )
of the Brockton Police Dept.;
CITY OF BROCKTON,
October 18, 2016
Plaintiff Rahsheem Christian alleges that Defendant John
Sturdevant, a Brockton police officer, used excessive force in
apprehending the plaintiff. The defendant has moved for summary
judgment, asserting a qualified immunity defense and arguing
that no material facts are genuinely disputed.
In the early morning of June 9, 2012, Christian allegedly
committed a traffic violation while operating a moped. Officer
Sturdevant attempted to pull Christian over. Christian refused.
In his attempt to evade Sturdevant, Christian lost control of
the moped twice. The parties contest what happened next.
According to the defendant, Christian began “fumbling
around near the bike” and Sturdevant could not determine if
Christian “was going for a weapon.” Docket No. 33, Ex. 2 at 2.
Sturdevant then unleashed his canine. The canine bit Christian
and Sturdevant “shouted at him to get on the ground and he
failed to do so.” Id. Sturdevant then “struck [Christian]
several times sending him to the ground.” Id. While on the
ground, Christian continued to refuse Sturdevant’s commands. At
one point, Christian pushed Sturdevant and Sturdevant responded
by striking Christian again.
Christian tells a different story. After falling off of his
bike, Christian says he was lying flat on his stomach and was
not moving. He never tried to run and did not attempt to stand
up. He was unarmed and there was no evidence that he was armed.
Sturdevant then released his canine and the dog began biting
Christian. Before sending the dog, Sturdevant did not say
anything to Christian. He did not tell Christian to get down on
the ground or remain still. He also did not warn Christian that
he would unleash his dog if Christian failed to obey his
instructions. The dog bit Christian in multiple places. Afraid
that the dog would bite his neck and face, Christian tried to
stand. Sturdevant then ran over and began punching Christian in
the face. At no point did Christian hit or try to hit the
defendant. At no point did Christian advance towards Sturdevant
or make any threatening remarks or gestures.
“Summary judgment is only appropriately granted where there
is no genuine issue of material fact, and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Perry v. Roy, 782 F.3d
73, 77–78 (1st Cir. 2015); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A
genuine issue exists where the evidence is “sufficiently openended to permit a rational factfinder to resolve the issue in
favor of either side.” Nat’l Amusements, Inc. v. Town of Dedham,
43 F.3d 731, 735 (1st Cir. 1995). A material fact is “one that
has the potential of affecting the outcome of the case.” Calero–
Cerezo v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 355 F.3d 6, 19 (1st Cir. 2004).
“Qualified immunity shields federal and state officials
from money damages unless a plaintiff pleads facts showing
(1) that the official violated a statutory or constitutional
right, and (2) that the right was ‘clearly established’ at the
time of the challenged conduct.” Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S.
731, 735 (2011). “As with all determinations made at the summary
judgment stage, in determining whether qualified immunity is
appropriate, we view the facts in the light most favorable to
the nonmovant.” Ford v. Bender, 768 F.3d 15, 23 (1st Cir. 2014).
Under either qualified immunity prong, “courts may not resolve
genuine disputes of fact in favor of the party seeking summary
judgment.” Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S. Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014).
The Court finds that there is a genuine dispute of material
fact about what happened on the morning of June 9, 2012. Taking
the plaintiff’s version of the facts as true for the purposes of
this summary judgment motion, the Court finds that the defendant
would not be entitled to qualified immunity. The Court DENIES
Sturdevant’s motion for summary judgment with respect to Counts
I, II, and IV. The plaintiff no longer presses Count V and has
assented to dismissing the City of Brockton from the case. The
Court therefore ALLOWS the city’s motion for summary judgment.1
/s/ PATTI B. SARIS
Patti B. Saris
Chief United States District Judge
There is no Count III in the complaint.
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