United States District Court, District of Columbia
BETTY S. FLYTHE, Plaintiff,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants. Re Document No. 150, 151
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge.
Defendant Eagan's Motion for Summary Judgment and Denying
Defendant Eagan's Motion for Summary Judgment as to
December 26, 2009, an officer of the District of
Columbia's Metropolitan Police Department
(“MPD”) fatally shot Tremayne G. Flythe. Mr.
Flythe's mother, Betty S. Flythe, brought this action in
her personal capacity and on behalf of the estate of Mr.
Flythe against the District of Columbia (“the
District”) and the two officers directly involved in
the shooting, Officer Travis Eagan and Officer Angel Vazquez.
Against the officers, Ms. Flythe alleged constitutional
excessive force claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and common
law assault and battery claims. At summary judgment, the
Court concluded that qualified immunity shielded Officer
Eagan from Ms. Flythe's section 1983 and assault and
battery claims and, consequently, granted summary judgment in
his favor. See generally Flythe v. District of
Columbia (Flythe I), 994 F.Supp.2d 50, 66-68,
74 (D.D.C. 2013). The Court allowed Ms. Flythe's claims
against Officer Vazquez and some of her claims against the
District to proceed to trial, however, see generally
id.; Flythe v. District of Columbia (Flythe
II), 4 F.Supp.3d 216 (D.D.C. 2014), and a jury found
Officer Vazquez liable for assault (but not battery or
excessive force), and found the District of Columbia liable
“for assault and battery, for the actions of
both Officer Vazquez and Officer Eagan, ” Jury
Verdict, ECF No. 117 (emphasis added).
appeal, the D.C. Circuit affirmed the jury verdict in all
respects, but reversed the entry of summary judgment against
Officer Eagan. See Flythe v. District of Columbia
(Flythe III), 791 F.3d 13, 15 (D.C. Cir. 2015). On
remand, Officer Eagan has again moved for summary judgment,
arguing that notwithstanding the D.C. Circuit's decision,
summary judgment should be granted in his favor in light of
the record produced at trial. The Court disagrees, both
because the circuit did have the trial record before
it and also because, in any event, genuine issues of material
fact remain even after considering the trial testimony.
Accordingly, the Court will deny both of Officer Eagan's
motions. The Court does conclude, however, that the District
of Columbia's liability was settled by the first
trial-which has now been affirmed on appeal. As a result,
this case will proceed against Officer Eagan, alone.
Court and the D.C. Circuit have previously described the
facts surrounding Mr. Flythe's death on December 26, 2009
in detail. See Flythe III, 791 F.3d at 15-18;
Flythe I, 994 F.Supp.2d at 55-59. The Court assumes
familiarity with those prior opinions and will focus on the
facts most relevant to Officer Eagan's present motions
for summary judgment.
December 26, 2009, the owner of Petworth Liquor Store, Balbir
Singh Hundal, called the police to report that a man had
thrown an empty bottle at his store's window.
See Def. Eagan's Statement of Material Facts
¶ 3 (“Def.'s SUMF”), ECF No.
150-2. Mr. Hundal had called the police the
evening prior to report that the same man had thrown a brick
through, and broken, another store window. Id.
¶ 1. District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department
Officers Angel Vazquez and Travis Eagan arrived at Mr.
Hundal's store and then set off, separately, to canvass
the neighborhood assisted by Mr. Hundal's description of
the individual as a “black male wearing a black jacket,
[and] walking a dog.” Id. ¶¶ 5, 9;
see also J.A. at 1756 (Mr. Hundal's trial
Vazquez came across a male walking a dog on the 400 Block of
Kenyon Street, who he claimed fit Mr. Hundal's
description. J.A. at 362 ¶ 10 (Def. Vazquez's Stmt.
of Undisputed Facts). That man was Tremayne Flythe. After
parking his vehicle near the curb, Officer Vazquez instructed
Mr. Flythe to tie his dog to a fence pole, and inquired
whether he could ask Mr. Flythe some questions. Id.
¶ 13. Mr. Flythe and Officer Vazquez then moved to the
rear of Office Vazquez's cruiser. Officer Vazquez
testified that, as they did so, Mr. Flythe's demeanor
changed and Mr. Flythe began playing with his jacket,
prompting Officer Vazquez to ask whether Mr. Flythe
“ha[d] anything on [him] that [Officer Vazquez] should
know.” Id. at 402-03 (deposition of Angel
Vazquez). Officer Vazquez testified that Mr. Flythe answered
in the affirmative, pulled out a knife and attempted to stab
Officer Vazquez. Id. at 403. Officer Vazquez
“pushed or kicked” Mr. Flythe, drew his firearm,
and fired two shots before the gun jammed. Id. at
408-09. After clearing the jam, Officer Vazquez was able to
fire two additional 7(h)(1) (“In determining a motion
for summary judgment, the Court may assume that facts
identified by the moving party in its statement of material
facts are admitted, unless such a fact is controverted in the
statement of genuine issues filed in opposition to the
motion.”). shots, which he claimed missed Mr. Flythe.
Id. at 409-10. Mr. Flythe then untied his dog, and
ran down Kenyon Street. Id. at 410.
to Officer Vazquez's account, however, five other
witnesses to the altercation all testified that they did not
observe Mr. Flythe with a knife. See Id. at 539-40,
543 (deposition of Mary Frances McCotter); id. at
532-33 (deposition of Sabrina Shapiro); id. at
549-50 (deposition of Janean Willard); id. at 555-56
(deposition of Jonathan L. Poole); id. at 560
(deposition of Linda Smith). Several even testified that Mr.
Flythe's hands were raised, or that his palms were open
and forward, suggesting that he could not have been carrying
a knife. See Id. at 543 (McCotter Dep.);
id. at 533 (Shapiro Dep.); id. at 549
(Willard Dep.); id. at 555 (Poole Dep.). Those
witnesses either testified to the same at trial or had the
relevant portions of their deposition testimony read into
evidence. See, e.g., id. at 1407-17
(portions of deposition of Linda Smith read into evidence);
id. at 1420 (testimony of Mary Frances McCotter);
id. at 1429, 1431 (testimony of Janean Willard);
id. at 1435, 1444 (testimony of Jonathan Poole);
id. at 1448 (testimony of Sabrina Shapiro).
Officer Eagan had been patrolling the same neighborhood,
accompanied by Mr. Hundal. He heard the following over the
OFFICER [Vazquez]: Eagan. Four hundred block of Kenyon.
OFFICER: Hey, (inaudible), copy.
DISPATCHER: 3206 (phonetic).
OFFICER: Drop the knife.
OFFICER: Drop the knife.
. . .
OFFICER: Tried to stab me, ma'am. My gun jammed. Get
official on this location.
Id. at 222-23 (radio run call). In response, Officer
Eagan drove around the block and proceeded toward Kenyon
Street. Id. at 731-32 (deposition of Travis Eagan).
Officer Eagan testified that, while he was driving northbound
on Warder Street, he saw Officer Vazquez running westbound.
Id. at 732. Officer Vazquez's weapon was out, he
was pointing, and he said that Mr. Flythe was “running
westbound.” Id. Officer Eagan testified that
he looked westbound-down the 500 to 600 block of Kenyon
Street-and “saw the suspect running on the north
sidewalk in a westbound direction with the dog.”
Id. Officer Eagan then turned left down Kenyon
Street and proceeded forward, eventually parking his car near
the 600 block, in order to cut off Mr. Flythe. Id.
at 733. Officer Eagan ordered Mr. Flythe to “get on the
ground . . . now[.]” Id.
Eagan testified that, instead of obeying his command, Mr.
Flythe ran past him in close proximity for three to four feet
before “Mr. Flythe jumped through the air and changed
his momentum by doing a hop . . . and [then] started coming
towards” Officer Eagan. Id. at 734. Officer
Eagan stated that he began retreating, but that Mr. Flythe
“made a motion toward his waistband and [Eagan] saw a
silver blade of what [he] believed to be a knife coming up
out of his waistband.” Id. Officer Eagan
described how Mr. Flythe was holding his weapon as follows:
“He [was] holding it in a fashion so that if the handle
were-if the knife were vertical, the blade was pointing down
and the handle up, he had the handle grasping it from the top
so that if you were to bring your thumb back to your
shoulder, the handle would be toward your shoulder and the
blade of the knife would be forward of you.”
Id. at 736. At trial, Officer Eagan testified that
Mr. Flythe raised the knife above his head. See Id.
at 1663 (“He raised it above his head and advanced
towards me.”); id. at 1671 (“He raised
the knife above his head and was running at me.”). At
that point, Officer Eagan stated that “I was ordering
him to drop the knife, I'll shoot, drop the knife,
I'll shoot. He continued to advance towards me. I
discharged my weapon . . . .” Id. at 428. Mr.
Flythe fell to the ground. Id.
the altercation between Officer Eagan and Mr. Flythe, Mr.
Hundal remained in the parked patrol car. Although much of
his view was obstructed by the other cars parked on Kenyon
Street, see J.A. at 1758-60, he claimed that at the
critical moment at issue here-around the time he heard the
gunshots-he could see the tops of Mr. Flythe's and
Officer Eagan's heads and their shoulders, id.
at 518-19 (deposition of Balbir Hundal); id. at 1760
(trial testimony). His testimony regarding when Officer Eagan
fired is inconsistent, however. At one point during his
deposition he stated that, when the shots were fired, Mr.
Flythe and Eagan were “face to face.”
Id. at 508, 519. At another point, however, he
appears to claim that Officer Eagan exited the patrol car and
shot at Mr. Flythe while chasing him. Id. at 517
(“Q: Was he still running when he fired his gun? A:
Running still, yes.”); id. at 1760 (trial
testimony: “Q: Before he came face-to-face with the
policeman, had you heard any gunshots? A: Yes, I heard
gunshots . . . I heard that when they running . . .
Edmonds, another witness to the shooting, was standing on the
west end of the Kenyon Street block, almost at the
intersection with Georgia Avenue. In her initial police
interview, she stated that as soon as Officer Eagan's car
pulled up to Mr. Flythe, “the police officer . . .
immediately jumped out of the car, ran, started running, and
I saw him chasing another gentleman.” J.A. at 580
(transcript of police interview). She then stated: “he
is chasing him and I heard, I hear [sic] two gunshots, pop,
pop.” Id. at 581. Ms. Edmonds stated that she
“couldn't see where the gunshots came from, ”
although she presented her “opinion” that
“the police officer was shooting at the young
man.” Id. At trial, however, Ms. Edmonds
claimed that she saw Mr. Flythe run and then hide
“behind a pole, ” and that Officer Eagan
“pulled up” to Mr. Flythe, “jumped out of
his vehicle, ” “immediately pointed his gun,
” and “went straight to him and shot him.”
Id. at 1481-82 (trial testimony). When presented
with her prior statement in which she claimed not to have
seen where the gunshots came from, Ms. Edmonds eventually
admitted that it was possible she reported during her
interview that she had not seen where the gunshots came from,
but maintained during her in-court testimony that “I
absolutely know where the gunshot came from.”
Id. at 1499-1500. The videotape of Ms. Edmonds
initial interview was played for the jury as impeachment
evidence. Id. at 1507.
Vazquez, meanwhile, testified that he was not sure whether
Mr. Flythe had stopped running or not before Officer Eagan
fired shots at him. He stated, “I know he was not
stopped but I don't know if he was running-walking, I
mean, he was towards Officer Eagan.” J.A. at 414. He
also indicated that “prior to the shot [being fired],
” he did not ever see Mr. Flythe stop running.
Id. at 413. Finally, Ivan Cloyd, another bystander,
reported during a police interview that he saw Mr. Flythe
“running when the officer was shooting at him.”
J.A. at 577. At trial, Mr. Cloyd again said that he ...