United States District Court, District of Columbia
Kessler United States District Judge.
Ray Bernard Williams, brings this lawsuit against Defendants,
Daniel W. Merritt and Cory Bines, two police officers with
the District of Columbia's Metropolitan Police
Department, and the District of Columbia (collectively
"Defendants"). On February 22, 2014, Williams got
into an altercation with employees of a liquor store. The
Officers responded to a 911 call and, upon arriving at the
store, arrested Williams. During the course of the arrest,
the Officers delivered several blows to Williams which
resulted in significant injuries to his head and face.
claims that the arrest and use of force violated the Fourth
Amendment, as well as various laws of the District of
Columbia. Defendants have moved for summary judgment. Motion
for Summary Judgment [Dkt. No. 49]. After consideration of
the Motion, the various briefs, and the entire record herein,
the Court will deny Defendants' Motion with respect to
the claims of excessive force, assault and battery, and
intentional infliction of emotional distress against Bines
and the District, but will grant the Motion with respect to
all other claims.
facts of this case are largely not in dispute because they
were recorded by the liquor store's security cameras,
which documented virtually all of the relevant events. Those
videos have been submitted to the Court. Exhs. 1 & 2 to
Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. No. 51 -1
& 51 -2]. The First Video captures what took place in the
main area of the store, directly in front of the counter and
cash registers. [Dkt. No. 51-1]. The Second Video captures
what took place in what appears to be the vestibule of the
store. [Dkt. No. 51-2]. Both videos carry synchronized time
February 22, 2014, Williams entered DC Metro Wine &
Spirits. Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Material
Facts ¶ 1 [Dkt. No. 49]. After entering, Williams began
to act in an unruly manner. See First Video 20:06:53
(showing him throw an unidentified object at a store
employee). Williams then moved outside the view of either
camera, and got into an altercation with the store employees.
When Williams reenters the frame, two of the store employees
have grabbed him and are dragging him to evict him from the
store. First Video 20:08:02-20:08:11. Before being thrown
out, Williams threw at least one punch at the store
employees. Id. They then ejected Williams from the
store. Second Video 20:08:09-20:08:20.
being forcibly removed from the store, Mr. William reentered
less than two minutes after being thrown out. Second Video
20:10:08. Over the course of the next several minutes, he
exited and reentered the store. See First and Second
Videos 20:14:45-20:18:20. During this time, he milled about
the aisles, drank a beverage, and repeatedly gesticulated at,
and said things to, the store employees. Mr. Williams
reentered the store a final time, Second Video 20:18:20, and
then proceeded to lean against the store counter for roughly
two-and-a-half minutes. First Video 20:18:40-20:21:10.
undisputed that sometime after the altercation, during the
period when Williams was lingering in and around the store, a
store employee called the police to report that Williams had
committed assault. Defendants' Statement of Undisputed
Material Facts ¶ 4. Merritt was the first officer to
arrive on the scene. Id. ¶ 5; Second Video
20:20:35. He then spoke with the store's employees, who
identified Williams as the assailant. Defendants'
Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ¶ 8. Throughout
the thirty seconds after Merritt entered the store, Williams
was calmly leaning against the counter. First Video
Merritt was speaking with the employee, Bines entered the
store. Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts
¶ 9; Second Video 20:21:00. Within seconds of Bines
entering the store, Merritt directed him to arrest Williams.
Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ¶
11; First Video 20:21:05-20:21:15. Bines moved towards
Williams and placed his right hand on Williams' upper
right arm to make the arrest. First Video 20:21:12. In
response, Williams jerked his upper body. Id.
20:21:13. Bines let go of Williams and then patted him
several times on his left shoulder in an apparent attempt to
calm Williams down while Merritt approached them to help make
the arrest. Id. 20:21:14-20:21:21. Merritt and Bines
then attempted to secure Williams' arms in order to
handcuff him but Williams resisted and a struggle began.
Officers attempted to handcuff Williams, the struggle moved
from the counter area into the vestibule. Id.
20:21:33. As it continued, Bines and Williams fell to the
floor. Second Video 20:21:45. On the ground, both Officers
wrestled to secure Williams, with Bines delivering three
blows in quick succession to Mr. Williams' body.
Id. 20:22:00-20:22:05. After these blows, Bines
climbed on top of Williams and pinned him to the ground.
Id. 20:22:05-20:22:23. While Williams was pinned,
Merritt kneeled immediately adjacent to them, attempting to
secure Williams' hands. Id. 20:22:23-20:22-59.
Williams was pinned to the ground, seemingly immobile, for
nearly 30 seconds.
with Williams still pinned to the ground, Bines delivered
four additional blows to the upper parts of Williams'
body over the course of the next 45 seconds. Id.
20:22:59, 20:23:18, 20:23:17, 20:23:45. Finally, after Bines
delivered the fourth and final blow, the Officers were able
to gain control of Williams's hands, Second Video
20:23:47, and place him in handcuffs. Id. at
aspects of the altercation are not evident from the video.
First, the exact strike point of these four blows is unclear.
Williams contends that they were either directly to his head
or caused his head to be slammed into the ground.
See Plaintiffs Statement of Undisputed Material
Facts ¶¶ 22-25 [Dkt. No. 51]. Second, it is unclear
what degree of control the Officers had over Williams prior
to handcuffing him. Bines' testified that he struck
Williams despite having pinned him because: (1) Williams
failed to comply with the Officers' commands to place his
hands behind his back; and (2) Williams was actively trying
to get up from the floor. Plaintiffs Statement of Undisputed
Material Facts ¶ 25. Williams disputes this, arguing
that he tried to comply by allowing the Officers to secure
his hands, but was unable to do so because of the way in
which the officers had pinned him. Id. ¶ 26.
remained on the ground, handcuffed, until the paramedics
arrived, placed him on a gurney, and carried him out of the
store. Second Video 20:24:45-20:41:00. As a result of this
encounter Williams suffered a broken nose, a head contusion,
and a subgaleal hematoma. Plaintiffs Statement of Undisputed
Material Facts ¶¶ 32, 33. According to expert
testimony, the hematoma is evidence of significant blunt
force trauma to the head and possible brain trauma.
Id. ¶¶ 33-35.
filed this lawsuit in the Superior Court for the District of
Columbia on February 19, 2014. See Complaint [Dkt.
No. 1-2]. The Complaint contained nine counts, alleging: (1)
violations of the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth
Amendments; (2) assault and battery; (3) false arrest; (4)
false imprisonment; (5) intentional infliction of emotional
distress; (6) negligent infliction of emotional distress; (7)
negligence; (8) negligent supervision, retention, and
training by the District of Columbia; and (9) respondeat
superior liability of the District of Columbia. Id.
On May 12, 2015, the District had the case removed from
Superior Court to this Court. [Dkt. No.1].
the Defendants moved to dismiss several of the claims
contained in the Complaint. [Dkt. No. 6]. The Court granted
the Motion to Dismiss, dismissing Williams' claims under
the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as his
claims of false imprisonment, negligent infliction of
emotional distress, negligence, negligent supervision,
retention, and training, and respondeat superior
liability. Order [Dkt. No. 36]. That left in place
Williams' Fourth Amendment claim, as well as his common
law claims of assault and battery, false arrest, and
intentional infliction of emotional distress.
have now moved for summary judgment on all remaining counts.
Motion for Summary Judgment ("MSJ") [Dkt. No. 49].
Williams filed an Opposition. [Dkt. No. 51]. Defendants filed
a Reply, [Dkt. No. 54], and the Motion for Summary Judgment
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment may be granted only if the pleadings, the discovery
materials, and affidavits on file show that there is no
genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
See Arrington v. United States, 473 F.3d 329, 333
(D.C. Cir. 2006); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). "A dispute over a
material fact is 'genuine' if' the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.'" Arrington, 473 F.3d at
333 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc.. 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A fact is "material" if it
might affect the outcome of the case under the substantive
governing law. Id.
burden is on the moving party to demonstrate the absence of
any genuine issues of material fact. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett. 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). When a moving party
successfully does so, the nonmoving party must show the
existence of a genuine issue of material fact by providing
"specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial, " and "may not rest on mere allegations
or denials" to prevail. Burke v. Gould, 286
F.3d 513, 517 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (quoting Anderson,
477 U.S. at 248 (internal quotation marks omitted). The
moving party is entitled to summary judgment when the
nonmoving party fails to offer evidence sufficient to
establish an essential element of a claim on which it will
bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S.
reviewing the evidence on a motion for summary judgment, the
court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party and draws all inferences in her favor.
Johnson v. Perez, 823 F.3d 701, 705 (D.C. Cir.
2016). "Credibility determinations, the weighing of the
-evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the
facts are jury functions, not those of a judge at summary
judgment." Barnett v. PA Consulting Grp.. 715
F.3d 354, 358 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted). Accordingly, the Court's role is
"not [to] determine the truth of the matter, but instead
[to] decide only whether there is a genuine issue for
Claims that the Arrest Was Unlawful
Counts 1 and 3 of his Complaint, Williams alleges that his
arrest was unlawful. First, in Count 1 he alleges that his
arrest violated the Fourth Amendment because it was executed
without a warrant and the Officers lacked probable cause to
make the arrest. Second, in Count 3 he alleges that his
arrest violated the District's law governing warrantless
arrests, which requires more than probable cause to arrest an
individual for simple assault. See D.C. Code §
23- 581 (a)(1)(C). The Defendants have moved for summary
judgment on both counts.
The Arrest of Williams Was Not Unreasonable and Did Not