Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

GALES v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

April 27, 1999

NORMA GALES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robertson, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

Background

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 undisputed:

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 premises:

  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.

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 weapon.

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 ¶ ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.