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Young v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 20, 2018

LAMONT ANDRE YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          BERYL A. HOWELL CHIEF JUDGE.

         Lamont Andre Young, who was injured after being shot in the back during a confrontation with officers of the District of Columbia's Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”), filed suit against one of those officers, Thurman Powell, and the District of Columbia, raising Fourth Amendment Excessive Force and Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishment claims, under 42 U.S.C § 1983, as well as various claims under District of Columbia law. The Court previously dismissed several of the plaintiff's claims, including the Fourth Amendment claim against the District of Columbia, and the Eighth Amendment and common law excessive force claims against both defendants. See Young v. District of Columbia, 107 F.Supp.3d 69, 82-83 (D.D.C. 2015) (dismissing Count I against District of Columbia and Counts II and IV entirely). After over two years of discovery, the defendants have now filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (“Defs.' MSJ”), ECF No. 36, on the plaintiff's remaining claims in Count I (Fourth Amendment Excessive Force) against defendant Powell, and, against both defendants, Counts III (assault and battery), VI (Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress), and VII (Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress). For the reasons given below, the defendants' motion is denied.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         The material facts leading up to the moment of the shooting largely are undisputed. On December 26, 2013, MPD officers responded to a disturbance at 1728 W. Street SE, Washington, DC, where the plaintiff had had a verbal altercation with his friend, Crystal Perry. Incident Report at 1, 3, ECF No. 36-2; Dep. of Lamont Young (“Young Dep.”) at 9:17-19, ECF No. 36-2. Ms. Perry informed the officers that the plaintiff had secured a black semi-automatic handgun in his waistband prior to leaving Ms. Perry's apartment. Incident Report at 3. Ms. Perry also informed the officers that the plaintiff had made threatening remarks toward law enforcement. Id. One of the responding officers radioed a lookout for the plaintiff based on the information Ms. Perry had provided. Dep. of Thurman Powell (“Powell Dep.”) at 44:4-18, ECF No. 36-2; Dep. of Anthony Allen (“Allen Dep.”) at 9:10-20, ECF No. 36-2.

         Allen was on a routine street patrol when he heard the radio dispatch. Allen Dep. at 8:12-15, 9:10-14. The dispatch identified the plaintiff by name, provided a physical description, and informed dispatch that the plaintiff was armed, had threatened law enforcement officers, and frequented the Saddles discount store on the 2200 block of Alabama Avenue SE. Id. at 9:16- 10:3; Dep. of Thurman Powell (“Powell Dep.”) at 44:4-18, ECF No. 36-2. Allen went to a nearby police station and obtained an old mugshot photo of the plaintiff to help identify the plaintiff. Allen Dep. at 10:6-8, 12:3-6. Defendant Powell also heard the dispatch. Powell Dep. at 58:16-17.

         The next day, the plaintiff visited his barbershop to get a haircut. Young Dep. at 23:2-5. There was a wait to be served, so the plaintiff borrowed the keys to his barber's car to drive to a nearby restaurant for breakfast. Id. at 23:5-9. The plaintiff encountered some acquaintances selling cigarettes outside before he could reach the car, however, and stopped to talk to them. Id. at 26:3-19. Allen observed the plaintiff, who was wearing the same clothing the radio dispatch had described him to have worn the day before. Allen Dep. at 14:1-7. Allen requested backup, advising dispatch that he had located the plaintiff and that the plaintiff was known to carry a weapon. Id. at 14:7-12, 15:4-5. Defendant Powell responded to Allen's request for backup and arrived in his cruiser shortly thereafter. Id. at 14:20-15:1; Powell Dep. at 68:20-69:5. Upon arriving at the scene, defendant Powell observed the plaintiff leaning up against a wall, wearing the clothing Meyers's dispatch had described. Powell Dep. at 59:1-22, 76:6-7.

         The plaintiff's acquaintances observed Allen approaching them and dispersed. Young Dep. at 28:19-20. Allen pulled up in his MPD cruiser behind the plaintiff, then pulled in front of the plaintiff and exited his cruiser. Id. at 29:7-18, 30:5-7, 20-22. Defendant Powell exited his cruiser as well. Powell Dep. at 69:21-22. Both officers approached the plaintiff, whose hands were in his jacket pockets. Allen Dep. at 16:19-22; Powell Dep. at 45:17-46:13, 49:18-20. Allen ordered the plaintiff to remove his hands from his pockets. Allen Dep. at 18:21-22.

         At this point, the parties' narratives diverge. According to Allen, the plaintiff began “fu[mb]ling inside of . . . his jacket pocket with both hands as if he was trying to conceal something.” Allen Dep. at 21:17-19. Allen, concerned that the plaintiff was armed, again ordered the plaintiff to remove his hands. Id. at 21:19-21, 22:15-17. The plaintiff did not comply, and instead “pushed” his hands “down more and started fu[mbl]ing or fidgeting or . . . grasping something.” Id. at 29:5-7. Allen heard defendant Powell order the plaintiff to show his hands, and observed defendant Powell “reach out” toward the plaintiff. Id. at 38:6-10. According to Allen, the plaintiff then “aggressively turned toward Powell.” Id. at 39:8; 63:2-3. Allen then heard a gunshot. Id. at 44:9-11.

         Defendant Powell testified that he and Allen ordered the plaintiff to remove his hands from his pockets. Powell Dep. at 46:1-8. The plaintiff initially ignored these orders and walked away from the officers toward a vehicle parked in the middle of the street. Id. at 47:18-22; 51:20-22; 76:15. The plaintiff removed his hands from his pockets as he walked away. Id. at 77:7-8. Allen and defendant Powell again ordered the plaintiff to stop, but the plaintiff disobeyed, putting his hands back into his pockets and continuing to walk away. Id. at 77:10-17. Both officers repeatedly commanded the plaintiff to show his hands. Id. at 77:20-21. The plaintiff “then snatched his hand out of his pocket and put it inside his waistband.” Id. at 77:22- 78:1. The plaintiff suddenly “jerked his arm out, ” “as if he was pulling something out of his waistband, ” id. at 78:4-5, and “twisted towards” defendant Powell, ” id. at 125:4-6, 126:22- 127:2. Defendant Powell fired his gun once at the plaintiff, id. at 78:5-6, and then radioed for an ambulance and for his supervisors, id. at 82:9-13. The plaintiff was unarmed. Id. at 101:7-10.

         Crime scene investigators secured evidence from the scene, recovering a “glass bottle with a strong chemical odor” as well as a Glock 21 handgun from the right rear floorboard of a Lexus parked along 22nd Street SE. See Crime Scene Evid. Rpt. at 2, Items 11 & 13, ECF No. 36-2. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration later determined the bottled substance to contain phencyclidine (“PCP”). See DEA Chemical Analysis Rpt., ECF No. 36-2. Investigators found no gun on the plaintiff. See Crime Scene Evid. Rpt. at 2. Defendant Powell gave a statement to the MPD's Internal Affairs Division (“IAD”) later that day, asserting that he had been focusing on the plaintiff's forearm and the back of the plaintiff's hand before discharging his weapon. Pl.'s Opp'n Def.'s MSJ, Ex. 4a, Officer Powell Statement to IAD (“Powell Statement”) at 7, ECF No. 39-5. Defendant Powell did not say that he had seen anything in the plaintiff's hands prior to shooting him. Id. at 3, 5, 7. Defendant Powell told the IAD that he shot the plaintiff because the plaintiff had made a “motion” while removing his hands from his jacket, causing defendant Powell to fear for his life. Id. at 5, 7.[1]

         The plaintiff tells a different story. The plaintiff testified that his hands were in his pockets due to the cold December weather. Young Dep. at 32:15-22. According to the plaintiff, he initially complied with the instruction to remove his hands from his pockets, but then began to walk away because he believed Allen was harassing him. Id. at 31:4-32:19. The plaintiff reached his hands back into his pockets. Id. at 34:2-3. Allen commanded the plaintiff to freeze and remove his hands from his pockets, but the plaintiff refused and continued to walk away. Id. at 34:3-5. The plaintiff then removed his hands from his pocket, heard a “pow” noise, and fell to the ground from a gunshot wound to his back. Id. at 35:2-5, 36:21-37:2; Assistant Chief Robert Alder Testimony at Adverse Action Hearing at 114:18-19, ECF No. 40-3. At no point during this encounter did the plaintiff see defendant Powell. Young Dep. at 35:6-10.

         DaQuan White, an employee at a store near the location of the incident, testified that he was standing outside on the sidewalk, approximately “15, 20 feet” from “where everything happened at, ” at the time “when everything went down.” Dep. of DaQuan White (“White Dep.”) at 125:23-25, ECF No. 40-1. White observed Young and saw Allen drive up. Id. at 127:22-23, 128:15. According to White, Allen instructed the plaintiff to remove his hands from his pockets, and the plaintiff initially complied, but then put his hands back in his pockets. Id. at 128:18-23. Allen again instructed the plaintiff to remove his hands from his pockets, and the plaintiff responded that the temperature was cold. Id. at 128:23-129:1. Allen repeated his command. Id. at 129:1-2. As Allen spoke, another officer pulled up. Id. at 129:2-3. At around this time, White “walked to the corner where Mr. Young was.” Id. at 130:5-6. The plaintiff removed his hands from his pockets, and the officer who just arrived shot him. Id. at 129:3-5. White testified that the plaintiff's hands were above his head and shoulders at the time he was shot. Id. at 129:5-14, 132:23-122:1. The plaintiff's hands remained above his head as the plaintiff fell to the ground. Id. at 134:11-12.

         On June 23, 2014, a jury convicted the plaintiff of unlawful possession of a firearm and carrying a pistol without a license. DC Sup. Ct. Dkt., United States v. Lamont A. Young, 2013 CF2 0022729. On September 10, 2014, the plaintiff was sentenced to 42 months' imprisonment on the unlawful possession count and to 16 months' imprisonment on the carrying a pistol charge, to be served concurrently. Id. The plaintiff filed suit against defendant Thurman and the District of Columbia, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, raising claims of excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, and cruel and unusual punishment, in violation of the Eighth Amendment Compl. ¶¶ 24-34, ECF No. 1. The plaintiff also raised claims of common law assault and battery, excessive force, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Id. ¶¶ 35-64. The defendants filed motions to dismiss, Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Complaint, ECF No. 5; Def. Powell's Mot. Partial Dismissal, ECF No. 12, which the Court granted in part and denied in part, dismissing the plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim against both defendants, the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim against the District of Columbia, the plaintiff's common law excessive force claim against both defendants, and all claims against defendant Powell “in his official capacity.” Order Granting in Part & Denying in Part Def. Powell's Mot. for Partial Dismissal, ECF No. 16; Mem. Op. at 18, ECF No. 15.

         Thereafter, at the plaintiff's request, to which the defendants consented, the Court repeatedly enlarged discovery in this case as the MPD's investigative and disciplinary processes unfolded. See Minute Orders, dated Dec. 21, 2015; Apr. 26, 2016; Aug. 30, 2016; Feb. 1, 2017; June 28, 2017. Specifically, the MPD's Use of Force Review Board (“UFRB”) investigated the shooting, reviewing statements and evidence that the MPD had amassed, and determined that defendant Powell's use of force was not justified and not within departmental policy. Pl.'s Mot., Ex. 1, UFRB Report at 1, ECF No. 39-1. In so concluding, the UFRB disagreed with the IAD investigator's recommendation that defendant Powell's use of force was justified and within departmental policy. Id. The MPD initiated disciplinary proceedings against defendant Powell, and the MPD's Adverse Action Panel ultimately found defendant Powell's use of force to have been objectively reasonable and not in violation of departmental guidelines, recommending that no action be taken against defendant Powell. Defs.' Reply Supp. Mot. MSJ (“Defs.' Reply”), Ex. 8, Adverse Action Panel Report at 22-27, ECF No. 43-2.

         Discovery in this case ultimately lasted over two years. See Minute Orders, dated June 19, 2015 and Sept. 27, 2017. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's remaining claims of Fourth Amendment excessive force, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”), and negligent infliction of emotional distress (“NIED”), Defs.' MSJ, which is now ripe for review.[2]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “In making that determination, a court must view the evidence ‘in the light most favorable to the opposing party.'” Tolan v. Cotton, 134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (quoting Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970)). In other words, “‘the evidence of the nonmovant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.'” Id. at 1863 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (alterations omitted)). “[A] ‘judge's function' at summary judgment is not ‘to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. at 1866 (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249). The Supreme Court has stressed, in the qualified immunity context, “the importance of drawing inferences in favor of the nonmovant.” Id.

         III. ...


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