United States District Court, District of Columbia
ROSEMARY M. COLLYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Shantelle Ford filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
the District of Columbia and D.C. Police Detectives John
Paprcka and James Bovino. Ms. Ford alleges that the Officers
entered her apartment without a warrant in violation of the
Fourth Amendment and that the District of Columbia caused the
constitutional violation due to its failure to properly
train, investigate, and discipline officers with respect to
warrantless entries. The Detectives’ motion for summary
judgment will be denied, and Plaintiff’s cross motion
will be granted. Furthermore, the District’s motion for
summary judgment will be granted, and Plaintiff’s
partial cross motion will be denied.
9, 2012, D.C. Police Detectives John Paprcka and Jim Bovino
served on Ms. Ford a grand jury subpoena relating to an
investigation into criminal activity by Ms. Ford’s
boyfriend. When the police arrived at her apartment, they
found the door two inches ajar and they heard a baby crying.
Detectives’ Mot. for Summ. J. (MSJ) [Dkt. 47], Ex. 1
(Paprcka Dep). at 9; id., Ex. 2 (Bovino Dep.) at
9-11. The detectives knocked at the door and identified
themselves several times. When no one answered they pushed
the door open and stepped in.
after the Detectives entered, Ms. Ford came out of the
bedroom holding the baby and she yelled at the Detectives,
telling them to leave. Paprcka Dep. at 10. They served her
with the subpoena and left. The parties do not dispute that
the Detectives entered Ms. Ford’s apartment without a
warrant and without consent.
Detectives contend that their entry into the apartment was
reasonable due to exigent circumstances. Detective Paprcka
asserts that he entered the apartment because he believed
that the child was neglected or there was a medical
The circumstances that were laid out in front of me gave me
reason to believe that it was either a neglect case or there
was a medical emergency, since the fact that--I knew
Shantelle Ford’s great love for the child based on
prior dealings with her. It was uncommon for her to be
separated from the child. And when the door is open and
there’s no response from an adult, that was a set of
facts and circumstances that rose to the point where I was
concerned for something happening inside the apartment which
caused for additional investigation to confirm everything was
Paprcka Dep. at 15-16. Detective Bovino echoed this reason
for entering the apartment. He stated:
We felt that there was something--something wrong, there was
something wrong in the apartment, because of what Detective
Paprcka said to me about this young lady not leaving--she
wouldn’t leave the baby, and we became concerned that
there was something going on or something wrong inside. . . .
There could have been a medical emergency of some sort. There
could have been criminal activity. I just didn’t know.
Dep. at 15-16. Detective Paprcka described the
baby’s crying as not “gut-wrenching, ” and
he thought that the baby sounded hungry or tired: “It
wasn’t a gut-wrenching hey, I just fell down and I hurt
myself and I’m really freaked out crying. It was a hey,
I’m hungry or I need some sleep type of deal
crying.” Paprcka Dep. at 18.
Ford contests the Detectives’ assertion that they had
reason to believe that there was either neglect or a medical
emergency. In fact, she contends that her baby was not crying
when the Detectives entered her apartment. This dispute of
fact is immaterial because, as explained below, even if the
Court accepts the Detectives’ version of the facts as
true, those facts do not reflect exigent circumstances
excusing the warrantless entry into Ms. Ford’s home.
Ford filed an Amended Complaint, Dkt. 32, alleging claims
against Detectives Paprcka and Bovino as follows: Count I, a
Fourth Amendment violation pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983;
Count II, invasion of privacy; Count III, intentional
infliction of emotional distress; and Count IV, trespass. Her
Amended Complaint also asserts a § 1983 Fourth Amendment
claim against the District of Columbia, alleging that the
District was deliberately indifferent to the need to train,
investigate, and discipline police officers regarding
warrantless entries. Plaintiff later withdrew her claim for
intentional infliction of emotional distress. See
Pl. Reply Re Detectives [Dkt. 62] at 1.
Defendants filed motions for summary judgment, and Ms. Ford
filed oppositions and almost identical cross motions.
District MSJ [Dkt. 46]; Detectives’ MSJ [Dkt. 47]; Pl.
Cross MSJ Re Detectives [Dkt. 49]; Pl. Opp’n to
Detectives’ MSJ 51]; Pl. Cross MSJ Re District [Dkt.
48]; Pl. Opp’n to District MSJ [Dkt. 50]. The matter
was fully briefed when all parties filed reply briefs.
See District Reply/Opp’n to Cross Mot. [Dkt.
58]; Detectives Reply/Opp’n to Cross Mot. [Dkt. 59];
Pl. Reply Re Detectives [Dkt. 60] (corrected version at Dkt.
62); Pl. Reply Re District [Dkt. 61] (corrected version at
Dkt. 64); Pl. Corrected Appendix [Dkt. 63]. Detectives
Paprcka and Bovino assert qualified immunity based on exigent
circumstances, i.e., that an objective officer would
have reasonably believed he needed to enter Ms. Ford’s
apartment to protect life or avoid serious injury and thus
that they did not violate the Fourth Amendment when they
entered Ms. Ford’s apartment. The District argues that
it is entitled to summary judgment as well because Ms. Ford
has not pointed to evidence showing that a District custom or
policy was the moving force behind the violation of her
Fourth Amendment rights and she has not presented evidence of
deliberate indifference to the need to train, supervise, and
discipline officers with regard to warrantless entries based
on exigent circumstances.