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Maddux v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia

November 16, 2015

O'Chauncey Maddux, Plaintiff,
District of Columbia, et al., Defendants

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          For O'CHAUNCEY MADDUX, Plaintiff: Gregory L. Lattimer, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF GREGORY L. LATTIMER, PLLC, Washington, DC; Malik Shabazz, LEAD ATTORNEY, SHABAZZ LAW GROUP/ B.L.F.J., Washington, DC.

         For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, A municipal corporation, ROBERT HAMRICH, Officer, 5th District Police Station, Defendants: Michael K. Addo, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL/DC, Washington, DC.

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         Amit P. Mehta, United States District Judge.


         Plaintiff O'Chauncey Maddux claims that, on November 14, 2013, he was assaulted, battered, and falsely imprisoned by members of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department. The incident left him with a broken hand. Plaintiff brought suit against the District of Columbia and the two police officers who he alleges unlawfully seized and injured him, Officer Robert Hamrick and Officer Maurice McDonald. Plaintiff, however, never served Officer McDonald with his Complaint, leaving only the District and Officer Hamrick as the defendants before the court. Defendants now seek entry of summary judgment[1] in their favor on three of Plaintiff's claims: (1) excessive force and unlawful seizure in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) assault and battery; and (3) false imprisonment.[2]

         After considering the parties' arguments, the court grants summary judgment in favor of Officer Hamrick on the excessive force component of Plaintiff's Section 1983 claim. It also grants summary judgment in favor of the District on the aspect of Plaintiff's assault and battery claim that relies on the conduct of Officer McDonald. However, the court denies Defendants' Motion as to: (1) the unlawful seizure component of Plaintiff's claim under Section 1983 against Officer Hamrick; (2) Plaintiff's assault and battery claim against Officer Hamrick and the District; and (3) Plaintiff's false imprisonment claim against Officer Hamrick and the District.


         A. Factual Background

         The facts in this case are substantially in dispute. The court, therefore, separately sets forth below the versions of the facts as asserted by Officers Robert Hamrick

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and Maurice McDonald, on the one hand, and by Plaintiff and his father, on the other.

         1. The Officers' Version of Events

         According to Officers Hamrick and McDonald, they were on warrant duty on the afternoon of November 14, 2013, when they approached a McDonald's restaurant located at 4900 South Dakota Avenue in Northeast Washington, D.C. See Deposition of Robert Hamrick, ECF No. 22-5, at 11:11-12:14 [hereinafter Hamrick Dep.]. Hamrick testified that, when he and McDonald arrived on the scene, a group of school-aged kids whom they had seen outside the restaurant earlier in the day were still there. Id. at 12:12-13:22. (McDonald, on the other hand, could not recall whether he had seen any juveniles earlier in the day at the McDonald's. Deposition of Maurice McDonald, ECF No. 22-7, at 15:7-17 [hereinafter McDonald Dep.].) Hamrick and McDonald sought assistance from D.C. Metropolitan Police Department Truancy Officers--specialized officers tasked with investigating juveniles for their absence from school. After Truancy Officers Kenneth Parker and Irene Smith[3] arrived at the McDonald's, Hamrick and McDonald pulled their car into the restaurant parking lot to provide assistance. Hamrick Dep. at 20:5-21:11; McDonald Dep. at 39:17-22. According to Hamrick, as he began walking toward the McDonald's, he observed Plaintiff walking away from the restaurant and toward an alley. Hamrick Dep. at 34:1-8. He suspected that Plaintiff was between the ages of 12 and 16. Id. at 23:16-19.

         Hamrick approached Plaintiff and asked Plaintiff to walk toward him. Plaintiff asked why, and Hamrick told Plaintiff that he looked like a truant and that he needed to verify Plaintiff's age. Id. at 35:7-14. Plaintiff stopped walking and responded that he was 19 years old. Id. at 35:16-17. Hamrick, however, did not believe Plaintiff and continued to ask him questions in order to verify his age, including asking for identification. Id. at 26:6-26:7, 35:16-22. Plaintiff did not have any form of identification with him. Id. at 46:8-10. Officer Hamrick explained that he would need to conduct a truancy investigation to verify Plaintiff's age. Id. at 53:19-54:6.

         Shortly after Hamrick stopped Plaintiff, Truancy Officer Smith approached. According to Hamrick, Smith agreed with him that Plaintiff " looked to be a truant." Id. at 60:13-14. She explained to Plaintiff that they needed to conduct a truancy investigation. Id. at 59:11-60:21. Hamrick testified that, at the point Smith confirmed Plaintiff looked like a truant, Plaintiff was not free to leave until the officers completed their investigation. Id. at 60:13-21. Before then, he could have walked away. Id. at 55:13-57:3.

         Meanwhile, McDonald had approached another youth, named D'Andre, who initially was seen with Plaintiff, but who had walked toward and then entered a car parked in the McDonald's parking lot. McDonald Dep. at 39:17-40:11, 56:20-57:5. Inside the car was Chauncey Leroy Maddux--Plaintiff's father. Id. According to McDonald, Leroy Maddux became irate when McDonald tried to question D'Andre. Id. at 57:1-4. Leroy Maddux claimed that D'Andre was his son, " went on a rant," and " threated to sue" the police. Id. at 59:18-60:3. McDonald continued to try to question D'Andre but eventually deferred to Truancy Officer Parker, who was accompanying McDonald. Id. at 65:3-6. D'Andre ultimately produced identification that

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proved his age, but demonstrated that Leroy Maddux was not his father. Id. at 59:21-60:3. Leroy Maddux then instead claimed to be D'Andre's legal guardian. Id. at 60:1-3.

         Thereafter, Leroy Maddux left his car and intervened in the ongoing conversation between Hamrick and Plaintiff. Hamrick Dep. at 36:7. Leroy Maddux told Hamrick that Plaintiff was his son. Id. at 43:21-44:1. According to Hamrick, the officers did not believe Leroy Maddux because he had " claimed every child that we had stopped . . . w[as] his son[ ]." Id. at 43:19-44:7. Hamrick testified that Leroy Maddux's presence made Plaintiff increasingly unruly, combative, and uncooperative. Id. at 53:15-54:6. Plaintiff became verbally aggressive and balled his fists, id. at 48:17-21, and this behavior led Hamrick to take out his handcuffs. Id. at 61:9-11. Hamrick explained to Plaintiff that he was going to handcuff him because Plaintiff was agitated, which caused Plaintiff to calm down and cooperate. Id. at 65:1-21. According to Hamrick, Plaintiff voluntarily " handed" him his left arm to be handcuffed, id. at 65:8-12, and then " handed" him his right arm, id. at 65:22-66:2. Hamrick told Plaintiff that he was not under arrest. Id. at 65:2-5. As Hamrick handcuffed Plaintiff, Plaintiff informed Hamrick that his right hand had been injured and in a cast, which had since been removed, but the arm still bothered him. Id. at 66:6-13. According to Hamrick, he had not touched Plaintiff prior to handcuffing him. Id. at 49:8-18.

         McDonald's testimony minimally corroborated the foregoing events. McDonald stated that he followed Leroy Maddux to where Plaintiff and Hamrick were standing and heard Leroy Maddux repeatedly say that Plaintiff was his son. McDonald Dep. at 71:1-3. McDonald said that both Leroy Maddux and the youth he claimed was his son were " getting irate." Id. at 73:1-2. McDonald recalled that the youth--who McDonald was unable to identify during his deposition, id. at 74:14-18--was placed in handcuffs while McDonald tried to calm down Leroy Maddux, id. at 73:3-4. McDonald did not recall personally handcuffing the youth. Id. at 73:12-14.

         According to Hamrick, after Plaintiff was handcuffed, the officers walked him to Hamrick's police car and placed him inside, leaving the door open. Hamrick Dep. at 66:14-67:2. While Plaintiff remained in the car, Hamrick ran a database search, based on information Plaintiff provided, in order to confirm Plaintiff's identity. Id. at 76:1-7. Hamrick verified that Plaintiff had no outstanding warrants. Id. at 76:8-9. Also, during this time, Parker saw Plaintiff and confirmed that Plaintiff was not a truant. Id. at 77:5-9.

         2. Plaintiff's and Leroy Maddux's Version of Events

         Plaintiff and his father, Leroy Maddux, recounted a very different series of events. Plaintiff testified that, shortly after leaving the McDonald's, he began to walk toward his father's car when Hamrick and a female Truancy Officer approached him. Deposition of O'Chauncey Maddux, ECF No. 20-2, at 34:6-11, 54:21-22 [hereinafter Pl. Dep.]. Hamrick said: " Stop. This is a truancy investigation." Id. at 34:10-13. Plaintiff responded that he was over the age of 18, insisting " that has nothing to do with me," and continued walking. Id. at 34:14-22. Hamrick then put his hand on Plaintiff and said " stop, motherfucker." Id. at 35:7-9, 55:8. Plaintiff stopped as ordered, but continued to tell Hamrick that he was over 18 and that " this has nothing to do with me." Id. at 35:7-18. Plaintiff then leaned against a parked car to demonstrate that he did not intend to run. Id. at 62:10-18. Nevertheless, Hamrick continued to berate and curse at him. Id. at 36:2-5, 52:14-19, 62:19-63:2.

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          According to Plaintiff, the female truancy officer who was with Hamrick--Smith--had stopped him in the past, when he was in high school, for truancy investigations. Id. at 36:12-37:1. Plaintiff stated that Smith had stopped him " [m]ore than enough times for [her] to recognize me and know my age." Id. at 36:18-19, 39:2-5. Plaintiff testified that he told Hamrick that the Truancy Officer could confirm that he was older than 18. Id. at 44:10-13. But despite her history with Plaintiff, Smith remained silent the entire time. Id. at 36:6-8, 44:3-45:1.

         Eventually, Hamrick asked Plaintiff for identification. Id. at 45:7-13. Plaintiff responded that he would have to ask his father to verify his age and pointed out that his father was nearby. Id. Hamrick then grabbed Plaintiff's left arm, walked him to another car, and placed him against the back of it. Id. at 45:14-17, 63:16-64:20, 65:3-11. Hamrick pulled out his handcuffs and ordered Plaintiff to put his hands behind his back. Id. at 67:6-8. Plaintiff complied, but told Hamrick about his injured hand. Id. at 67:16-21.

         Before Hamrick could handcuff him, McDonald walked toward Plaintiff, " huffing and pouting and, like, just angry," and grabbed the handcuffs from Hamrick. Id. at 45:17-46:3, 48:5-20, 68:1-8. Plaintiff said to McDonald: " Can you please watch my hand[?] I don't want you to do anything to harm it." Id. at 46:4-6. McDonald-- not Hamrick --then took Plaintiff's right hand and twisted it, while handcuffing him. Id. at 46:7-13, 68:9-69:6. Plaintiff heard a " pop" sound and exclaimed that his hand was broken. Id. at 46:11-16. McDonald nevertheless handcuffed Plaintiff and then walked him to his police car. Id. at 70:1-9, 71:15-19. According to Plaintiff, his father approached only after he was in handcuffs. Id. at 70:22-71:10.

         Plaintiff's father's recollection of the sequence of events differs somewhat from that of his son. Leroy Maddux testified that he left his car after he saw Hamrick grab his son and walk him toward a car. Deposition of Chauncey Leroy Maddux, ECF No. 20-3, at 55:20-56:8, 59:18-60:14 [hereinafter Leroy Maddux Dep.]. Truancy Officer Smith was with Hamrick, but McDonald was not. Id. at 61:10-62:2. Leroy Maddux asked Hamrick what was happening, and Hamrick responded that Plaintiff fit the description of a suspect who had committed a crime earlier that morning, but refused to disclose the alleged crime. Id. at 62:9-63:2, 68:6-16. McDonald then approached Leroy Maddux, who continued to talk to Hamrick, and told him to back up. Id. at 69:1-70:21. McDonald told Hamrick to " watch the perp" --by which he meant Leroy Maddux--took the handcuffs from Hamrick, and handcuffed Plaintiff. Id. at 77:18-79:22. Leroy Maddux heard his son say: " [They] broke my hand." Id. at 83:21-22. As the officers took Plaintiff to the police car, Hamrick ...

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