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Miner v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 9, 2015

CHARMIN MINER, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants

Page 261

For CHARMIN MINER, GARY BALDWIN, Plaintiffs: Joseph D. Gebhardt, LEAD ATTORNEY, The Law Offices of Gary M. Gilbert & Associates, P.C., Silver Spring, MD.

For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant: Shermineh C. Jones, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC.

Page 262

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BERYL A. HOWELL, United States District Judge.

The two plaintiffs in this matter, Charmin Miner and Gary Baldwin, allege that the defendants, the District of Columbia and four District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department (" MPD" ) Officers, violated the plaintiffs' constitutional and common law rights during a traffic stop at the Anacostia Metro Station in Southeast Washington, D.C. See generally First Am. Compl. (" FAC" ), ECF No. 13. The defendants now seek summary judgment, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, on all claims. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. (" Defs.' Mot." ) at 1-2, ECF No. 26. For the reasons set forth below, the defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

The parties dispute many aspects, and the import, of the events giving rise to the instant suit. Compare Defs.' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (" Defs.' SMF" ), ECF No. 26, with Pls.' Resp. Defs.' SMF (" Pls.' SMF" ), ECF No. 28-1. The factual allegations set out in the FAC, as supported and supplemented by the record, are summarized here, with relevant disputes identified where necessary.

On February 6, 2012, the plaintiffs " were dropping their friend off at his apartment when they noticed another vehicle pull in front of them." Defs.' SMF ¶ 1. As the plaintiffs drove away, the vehicle

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they had previously noticed " backed up and traveled in the same direction as they did." Id. ¶ 2. The plaintiffs allege that, in doing so, the unidentified vehicle " started chasing [them]" through a nearby alley, driving so quickly as to stir up road debris as it passed. Pls.' SMF ¶ 2. Alarmed, the plaintiffs admit that Plaintiff Miner, who was driving, " began to make 'quick' lefts and 'quick' rights to lose the [other] vehicle . . . traveling at about 50 or 60 miles per hour," Defs.' SMF ¶ ¶ 3-4, although the plaintiffs contend that, at least initially, the plaintiffs were attempting to allow the unidentified vehicle " to get around [them]," Pls.' SMF ¶ 3. The unidentified vehicle was only identified as an unmarked police SUV at the time of the plaintiffs' stop and detention. FAC ¶ ¶ 10, 15, 19. The plaintiffs allege that when the defendant officers allegedly began chasing the plaintiff's vehicle, the defendant officers had no probable cause to detain them, a state of affairs that continued at the Anacostia Metro Station. See FAC ¶ ¶ 64-66.

As the defendants continued following the plaintiffs, the plaintiffs believed they were being chased by unknown assailants, Pls.' SMF ¶ 5, eventually resulting in the plaintiff driving " on the wrong side of the street" at up to " 80 or 90 miles per hour," Defs.' SMF ¶ 5. After approximately five minutes, the plaintiffs believed " that they had lost the [other] vehicle," but upon seeing the vehicle again, the plaintiffs again began to speed to escape. Defs.' SMF ¶ 6. Eventually, the plaintiffs " drove into a 'one-way' street that was labeled with a 'Do Not Enter' sign traveling at about 70 miles per hour" at the Anacostia Metro Station. Defs.' SMF ¶ 7. The plaintiffs " believe that, when pursued, they were being subjected to a carjacking or gang intimidation" and therefore " sought to drive [their] vehicle to an open, well-illuminated area." FAC ¶ ¶ 13-14.

Plaintiff Miner states that as he approached the Metro Station he " was really looking for a police officer, or somebody to run to," Pls.' Opp'n Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. (" Pls.' Opp'n" ) Ex. 1 (Dep. of Plaintiff Charmin Miner (" Pl. Miner's Dep." )) at 29:5-7, ECF No. 28-3. Plaintiff Miner avers that he came to a stop next to a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (" Metro" ) Police Officer, to whom he stated " somebody's chasing me, somebody's chasing me." Id. at 29:18-19.

Shortly after Plaintiff Miner brought his vehicle to a halt, four people, later identified as MPD officers, emerged from the pursuing SUV and " yelled to [the plaintiffs] 'Where the guns and drugs at?'" Defs.' SMF ¶ 8. The plaintiffs allege that at this time, the four MPD officers " pulled Mr. Miner and Mr. Baldwin from Mr. Miner's vehicle, threw them on the ground, and put guns against their bodies, i.e., their heads and backs." FAC ¶ 14. Plaintiff Baldwin stated at his deposition that an unknown officer " just came over and you know, took his hand and pushed my back down and put the knee on my back, you know, make sure I wouldn't go nowhere." Defs.' SMF ¶ 9. Plaintiff Miner alleges that " Officer Elliott" grabbed him by the shirt " and threw [him] on the ground," Defs.' SMF ¶ 11, " pointed [a] gun at Plaintiff [Miner's] head," Pls.' SMF ¶ 11, and stepped on Plaintiff Miner's glasses, which had fallen off his face, Defs.' SMF ¶ 11. As Plaintiff Miner was being " forced into a passive position on the ground," Plaintiff Miner avers that he " asked the officers several times why they did not turn on their lights or sirens," but did not receive an answer. FAC ¶ 19. Plaintiff Miner also alleges that he was " picked . . . up off the ground and . . . put on the hood of [a] car," Defs.' SMF ¶ 13, after Plaintiff Miner had his hands placed behind his back, id. ¶ 12. Both plaintiffs allege that as a result of these actions, including the

Page 264

MPD officers " aggressively point[ing] guns" at them, the plaintiffs were put " in fear for their lives." FAC ¶ 17.

The plaintiffs allege that they were detained " against their will and without legal justification for approximately one half hour," FAC ¶ 20, during which time " the officers asked for and ran their names in the system," after which the plaintiffs were told " they were free to leave." Defs.' SMF ¶ 14. Plaintiff Miner was not issued a traffic citation. FAC ¶ 22.

The next day, Plaintiff Miner " spoke with Assistant Chief of Police Diane Groomes and told her about the incident." FAC ¶ 23. After documenting his allegations in an email on February 8, 2012, " Assistant Chief Groomes acknowledged Mr. Miner's email and wrote that his complaint would be forwarded to MPD's Internal Affairs Division." Id. Plaintiff Miner was later contacted by an MPD Lieutenant, who interviewed Plaintiff Miner regarding the incident. Id. ¶ 24. The plaintiffs were later informed that " MPD found that there were insufficient facts to substantiate Mr. Miner's complaint," and that the officers involved were " not discipline[d] . . . for the February 6, 2012 incident, although MPD did discipline them for not patrolling their assigned area on that date." Id. ¶ 25.

The plaintiffs allege nine causes of action under common law and Federal law: Count I for common law " False Detention and/or False Arrest," FAC ¶ ¶ 35-37; Count II for common law " Assault," id. ¶ ¶ 38-40; Count III for common law " Battery," id. ¶ ¶ 41-43; Count IV for common law " Negligent Supervision," id. ¶ ¶ 44-46; Count V for " Negligent Supervision under" 42 U.S.C. § 1983, id. ¶ ¶ 47-57; Count VI for violation of the plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the District of Columbia, id. ¶ ¶ 58-62; Count VII for violation of the plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the individual MPD officers, id. ¶ 63-66; Count VIII for violation of the plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment right to be free from the use of excessive force during a seizure, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the District of Columbia, id. ¶ ¶ 67-72; ...


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