The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robertson, District Judge.
In this action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Norma
Gales sued the District
of Columbia, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD"), and
several MPD officers. She alleged that several officers, without
probable cause, wrongfully or recklessly obtained a warrant for
an address that did not exist; that they and other officers
unreasonably relied on that warrant to search her home; and that
the officers used excessive force and continued their search
after realizing that her address was not the address stated on
the face of the warrant. Gales also brought common law claims of
negligence, battery, and false imprisonment. On March 31, 1999,
after considering the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment, I issued an order granting the defendants' motion for
summary judgment and denying the plaintiff's. This memorandum
states the reasons for that order.
There is no dispute that, on March 27, 1997, several MPD
officers searched Ms. Gales' home at 1152 Sursum Corda Court,
N.W., using a warrant to search 1152 First Terrace, N.W., an
address that did not exist. The following facts are also
On March 25, 1997, in the course of a murder investigation that
had focused on one David Quincy Black, Detective Jeffrey Mayberry
applied to a judge of the D.C. Superior Court for a warrant to
search 1101 First Terrace, N.W. The application described the
THREE LEVEL BROWN BRICK DUPLEX HOUSE WITH THE NUMBERS
1101 ABOVE THE FRONT DOOR. THE FRONT DOOR IS WHITE
WITH A PEEPHOLE AND A SILVER MAIL SLOT IN THE DOOR
AND THERE IS A BROWN WOODEN STICK IN THE FIRST FLOOR
WINDOW. ACCORDING TO THE RECORDS OF THE MPDC,
DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES AND THE BAIL AGENCY
[sic] IS THE ADDRESS OF DAVID QUINCY BLACK.
Pl.'s Oppos.Mem., Ex. 23 at 2 (Warrant Affidavit dated Mar. 25,
1997). The "records of the MPDC" is a reference to the Washington
Area Law Enforcement System ("WALES"), a computerized database.
WALES did list 1101 First Terrace as David Black's primary
address, but it also listed 1152 First Terrace and two other
addresses. Having seen that address on the WALES printout, Det.
Mayberry did not further verify it before asking Officer Roger
Venzin to obtain a description of the premises the next day.
Mayberry Aff. at 41.
Officer Venzin had been assigned to the First District for
about five years and was "familiar" with the Sursum Corda
area.*fn1 Def.'s Mot.Summ.J., Ex. 23 (Venzin Aff.) at 1;
Mayberry Aff. at 57; Fox Aff. at 12. On March 27, 1997,
approaching from "L" Place, Officer Venzin drove to a parking lot
on First Terrace. From there he proceeded on foot and identified
what he thought was 1152 First Terrace. He did not see a sign for
Sursum Corda Court or any other street. Officer Venzin's
description of these premises — which turned out to be Ms. Gales'
home — was the basis for information Det. Mayberry gave to Det.
Middleton, who applied for a search warrant:
It is requested that a District of Columbia Search Warrant be
issued for the entire premises located at 1152 — 1st Terrace
Northwest, which is described as a three level brown brick duplex
building, with the numbers 1152 above the doorin [sic] brick. The
front door is metal and gray in color. The defendant stated when
he was arrested, that this was his home address.
Def.'s Mot.Summ.J., Ex. 5 at 2 (Warrant Affidavit dated Mar. 27,
1997) ("Middleton's Affidavit"). The application did not
mention the earlier warrant application for 1101 First Terrace.
It was submitted to, and approved by, the same Superior Court
judge who had issued the warrant for 1101 First Terrace. Both
warrants authorized police to search for physical evidence
linking Mr. Black to the crime — a dark coat, jeans, 9 mm pistol
and ammunition. Pl.'s Oppos.Mem., Ex. 23 at 1 (Search Warrant for
1101 First Terrace, dated 25 Mar. 1997); Def.'s Mot.Summ.J., Ex.
5 (Search Warrant for 1152 First Terrace, dated 27 Mar. 1997).
Officer Venzin led the warrant execution team to the house he
had earlier identified and described as 1152 First Terrace. It
was actually 1152 Sursum Corda Court, the home of Ms. Gales. The
door was slightly ajar because an extension cord was in the
doorway. Detective Middleton opened the door, banged on it and
announced, at least three times, "Search warrant; get on the
floor." Gales Depos. at 40. Ms. Gales was standing near the door.
She remained standing and laughed at Middleton's command,
"because she didn't know what was going on." Id. Another
officer then approached Ms. Gales with his pistol drawn and told
her twice to get on the floor. Id. at 44-46. When this second
officer reached Ms. Gales, who was still standing, he "snatched
[Ms. Gales'] left arm and put it behind [her], put his knee in
[her] back, and shoved [her] to the floor, and then put plastic
cuffs on [her]." Id. at 46.
Within one minute after Ms. Gales was placed on the floor,
another officer asked her for her name and address. Id. at 48,
51-53. Upon hearing Gales say she lived at 1152 Sursum Corda
Court, the officer asked twice whether the address was not
actually 1152 First Terrace. Id. 53-55. Suspecting that the
officers were searching the wrong house, Ms. Gales asked the
officers for a search warrant. She was told that one would arrive
later. Id. at 57-58. She offered the police no documentation to
prove that her address was Sursum Corda Court. Gales Depos. at
64. Early in the search, the police found "a gym-type bag with
live ammunition and between 200-300 small zip lock baggies."
Def.'s Mot.Summ.J., Ex. 10, Parks Aff. at 2. Lieutenant Parks,
based on his experience, "knew the baggies were of the type which
are commonly used to package illegal drugs for distribution in
the District of Columbia." Id. The ammunition found was five
bullets-four for a .32 caliber weapon, and one for a .22 caliber
The length of the search is disputed, as is the question
whether the police continued to search after they realized that
they were at the wrong address. It is undisputed, however, that
Ms. Gales was handcuffed for less than thirty minutes, and that
she was not harassed during this time. Gales Depos. at 63, 95.
The police maintain that any searching conducted after discovery
of the mistaken address was for the officers' safety.
Ms. Gales' complaint named the District, the MPD, Lieutenant
Rodney Parks, Detective Jacqueline Middleton, Detective Jeffery
A. Mayberry, Captain Alan Dreher, Officer Venzin, Officer Fox,
and "certain unnamed individual police officers and employees of
the [MPD], Jane and John Does One Through Ten." Amended Complaint
¶ 1. It alleged permanent physical injuries, pain and suffering,
humiliation, medical costs and expenses, lost income, impairment
of earning capacity, and property damage. Amended Complaint ¶ ...