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Rice v. District of Columbia

June 7, 2010

LARRY D. RICE, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Police officers John Stathers and Derek Starliper entered a house in Northeast Washington, D.C. with their guns drawn and told everyone to "freeze." When Plaintiff Larry Rice heard "freeze," he was in a back room and he attempted to flee out the window. Officer Stathers entered the back room and stopped Mr. Rice from leaving. A struggle ensued, and Officer Stathers shot Mr. Rice. Detective Ali Roberts lodged a criminal complaint against Mr. Rice, charging him with interfering with a government official. The D.C. Superior Court later dismissed the felony charge at the request of the prosecutor. As a result, Mr. Rice filed suit asserting violations of the U.S. Constitution (via 42 U.S.C. § 1983) and numerous torts. Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss certain counts of the Amended Complaint. Mr. Rice opposes. As explained below, the motion will be granted.

I. FACTS*fn1

Mr. Rice alleges that on April 23, 2008, he was in the back room of a house located at 5827 Fields Place, NE, Washington, D.C. He heard a police officer say "freeze" to Joseph Maxwell who was in the front room of the house. At that time, Mr. Rice opened the window in the back room and began climbing out. When he had managed to get his head and one leg out of the window, Officer Stathers entered the back room with his gun drawn. With his gun in one hand, Officer Stathers grabbed Mr. Rice's leg with his other hand. Officer Stathers shot Mr. Rice in the abdomen. Subsequently, Officer Stathers lowered Mr. Rice out of the window and onto the ground. Then Officer Stathers and Officer Starliper began hitting Mr. Rice in the head and screaming at him to provide his name. The Officers then dragged Mr. Rice to the front of the house where Mr. Rice waited thirty minutes for an ambulance to arrive. The officers arrested Mr. Rice.

As a result of the gunshot wound, Mr. Rice sustained severe injuries including a lacerated liver and diaphragm. He underwent emergency surgery and remained in the hospital from April 23 through May 27, 2008. He developed pneumonia while in the hospital.

Detective Roberts signed a criminal complaint against Mr. Rice on May 2, 2008, charging Mr. Rice with a violation of 22 D.C. Code § 851(b) (intimidating, impeding, interfering with and retaliating against a government official). See Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 35], Ex. A. The criminal complaint was based on an attached affidavit signed by Officer D. Randolph, badge number 2067. Officer Randolph's affidavit sets forth a different version of the facts:

Officer Stathers observed Defendant Rice attempting to hide behind a dresser. Officer Stathers identified himself and ordered Defendant Rice to show him his hands. Defendant Rice turned and began to assault Officer Stathers. Defendant Rice attempted to take Officer Stathers['] service weapon. Officer Stathers and Defendant Rice struggled over the service weapon. The weapon discharged, striking Defendant Rice in the abdomen. Defendant Rice continued to resist. Officer Starliper joined in the struggle. The officers and Defendant Rice crashed partially through a rear window. Officer Stathers and Officer Starliper were able to gain control of Defendant Rice and place him in handcuffs.

Id., Ex. A at 2. On January 21, 2009, the Superior Court dismissed the felony charge at the request of the prosecutor. See id., Ex. B.

As a result of the foregoing, Mr. Rice filed this suit against the District of Columbia, Officers Stathers and Starliper, and Detective Roberts. The Amended Complaint sets forth twenty-one counts as follows:

Count I -- Battery (against Officer Stathers);

Count II -- Battery (against Officer Starliper);

Count III -- Battery (against the District of Columbia);

Count IV -- Negligence (against Officer Stathers);

Count V -- Negligence (against District ...


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