The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robertson, District Judge.
Plaintiff's, father and son, assert claims of false arrest and
excessive force against defendants Officer G.S. Hanna and three unknown
Washington Metropolitan Area police officers under the Fourth Amendment
to the Constitution and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff's also assert
common-law claims of false arrest and battery. The defendants, sued in
their individual capacities, have moved for summary judgment. For the
reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.
Plaintiff, Allen Weaver, Sr., is Caucasian. His son, a minor, is
biracial. On the afternoon of October 5, 1998, they boarded a red line
train at the Judiciary Square Metro station in Washington, D.C.*fn1
Plaintiff (hereinafter "plaintiff" refers to the father) bought a
40-ounce bottle of beer before boarding the train, drank some of it
before the train trip, and finished the bottle after leaving the Metro.
A woman on the train became suspicious of the plaintiff primarily
because he was different in appearance from his son and because their
conversation suggested to her that they did not know one another. She
followed plaintiff and his son as they exited the Metro and boarded a
bus. She advised the bus driver that plaintiff had kidnaped the child.
The driver contacted Metro's operations control center and did not move
the bus until the Metro transit police arrived.
The parties also have different versions of the conduct of the
officers. Plaintiff claims that his son was "grabbed" and "thrown to the
ground," while defendants allege that they "placed him on his feet."*fn2
In either case, the child was then placed in a police car.
Plaintiff avers that defendants then "slammed" him to the ground,
frisked him, confiscated his knife, pulled him up by the handcuffs and
"slammed" him into a car. Defendants state that they ordered plaintiff
to the ground, that he complied, that they handcuffed him, and patted
him down, and that they then assisted him to his feet.
It is undisputed that plaintiff told the officers that the child was
his son and gave them the telephone number of the babysitter; and that,
after the officers verified that the plaintiff was the child's father,
they apologized and drove him and his son home.
Law enforcement officers acting within the scope of their employment
have qualified immunity for claims asserted under section 1983, DeGraff
v. District of Columbia, 120 F.3d 298, 302 (D.C.Cir. 1997); Wardlaw v.
Pickett, 1 F.3d 1297, 1301 (D.C.Cir. 1993). It is undisputed, and in
fact alleged, that the defendant officers were at all times acting
within the scope of their employment as WMATA police officers. Complaint
at ¶¶ 5-6.
Plaintiff maintains, however, that these officers are not entitled to
qualified immunity because they lacked probable cause to arrest him. See
Wardlaw v. Pickett, 1 F.3d 1297, 1305 (D.C.Cir. 1993) ("[O]fficer
retains qualified immunity from suit if he had an objectively reasonable
basis for believing that the facts and circumstances surrounding the
arrest were sufficient to establish probable cause.") (citing Malley v.
Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341, 106 S.Ct. 1092, 89 L.Ed.2d 271 (1986)).
Defendants argue that the applicable standard is not "probable cause"
but "reasonable suspicion," because they did not arrest the plaintiff
but instead conducted a temporary investigative stop under Terry v.
Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 24, 88 S.Ct. 1868, 20 L.Ed.2d 889 (1968). A reasonable
suspicion, which requires less proof than probable cause, United States
v. White, 648 F.2d 29, 42 (D.C.Cir. 1981), is sufficient basis for a
Terry stop, see United States v. Christian, 187 F.3d 663, 668 ...