United States District Court, District of Columbia
B. WALTON United States District Judge.
Cutchin (“the plaintiff” or
“Cutchin”) brings this action against
Metropolitan Transit Police Department (“MTPD”)
officers Christian Muñoz (“Muñoz”)
and Francisco Santiago (“Santiago”) in their
individual capacities. Amended Complaint (“Am.
Compl.”) ¶¶ 6-8. Cutchin alleges that these
defendants violated his rights protected by the Fourth
Amendment to the United States Constitution when they falsely
imprisoned him and used excessive force when they arrested
him. Id. ¶¶ 27-28. In addition, Cutchin
brings an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim
against the two officers. Id. ¶ 29. He demands
a declaratory judgment and compensatory and punitive damages.
Id. (Prayer for Relief). This matter is before the
Court on Defendants Santiago and Muñoz's Motion
for Summary Judgment. For the reasons discussed below, the
Court grants the motion.
The Defendants' Asserted Facts
and Muñoz were partners, Memorandum of Points and
Authorities in Support of Plaintiff['s] Opposition to
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (“Pl.'s
Opp'n”), Exhibit (“Ex.”) 1 (Trial
Transcript) at 47:3-9, assigned to the Metro Enforcement
Division, “a casual clothes unit specifically for the
buses, ” id., Ex. 1 at 43:24-44:1, to work at
the Anacostia Metro Station “due to high robberies and
continued [fare] evasion problems” at that location,
id. at 45:6-7, see also id. at
124:25-125:13. On January 29, 2013, id., Ex. 1
at 44:17-19, at or about 5:40 p.m., id., Ex. 1 at
47:16, they “were at the 90 bus bay” because that
particular route was “having issues with [fare]
evasions and . . . assaults, ” id. at
was seated in the front of the bus near the entrance door
approximately three feet from the fare machine. Id.,
Ex. 1 at 48:15-22. The bus driver had disembarked to take a
break. Id., Ex. 1 at 48:5-8. During such breaks,
Muñoz testified that occasionally “customers who
would take advantage of the situation kind of jump on the bus
without paying” the fare. Id., Ex. 1 at
47:23-25. If a passenger paid his fare using a SmarTrip card,
the machine beeps, id., Ex. 1 at 48:22-49:4, and if
the payment has not “gone through, ”
id., Ex. 1 at 49:2-3, the machine makes “a
real loud annoying noise” instead, id., Ex. 1.
at 49:5-6. A passenger who transfers from one bus to another
may use a SmarTrip card, and he would have “about two
hours to get onto another bus without . . . having to pay
another [fare].” Id., Ex. 1 at 49:9-14.
his seat at the front of the bus, Muñoz observed two
or three passengers board the bus and pay their fares.
Id., Ex. 1 at 50:4-22. Muñoz then observed
Cutchin board the bus, id. at 50:23-25, with a
female companion, id. at 51:6-9, and “kind of
look to his left and to the right, ” id. at
51:1-2. Muñoz took this as “an indication”
that Cutchin was “looking for the bus driver to see if
[he was] being looked at, ” id., Ex. 1 at
51:3-4. Muñoz testified that Cutchin “just
walked to the rear of the bus.” Id., Ex. 1 at
51:4-5. In other words, according to Muñoz, he
observed Cutchin board the bus without paying his fare.
Statement of Material Facts Not In Dispute (“Defs.'
Facts”) ¶ 8; see Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex.
1 at 50:2-51:18. “At that time[, ] [Muñoz]
notified [his] partner who was outside to let him know [they
had] one individual who didn't pay for the bus and [they]
were going to take him off the bus.” Pl.'s
Opp'n, Ex. 1 at 15-18.
driver returned about five minutes after Muñoz
observed Cutchin board the bus. Id., Ex. 1 at
52:9-12. Muñoz asked the driver to open the rear door
of the bus, he then walked to the rear of the bus to approach
Cutchin, identified himself as an MTPD officer, and displayed
his badge. Id., Ex. 1 at 52:22-53:3.
and Cutchin got off the bus and they “walked . . . to
the bus bay where people usually sit at to wait for the
bus.” Id., Ex. 1 at 53:12-13; see
id., Ex. 1 at 104:24-105:16. Muñoz then informed
Cutchin that the officers stopped him because he had not paid
his fare. Id., Ex. 1 at 53:17-18; see
Defs.' Facts ¶ 9. Cutchin told the officers that he
had paid his fare with a SmarTrip card and produced a card.
Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 1 at 53:19-24. Santiago remained at
the bus bay with Cutchin while Muñoz boarded the bus,
id., Ex. 1at 53:25, and “rescanned the card to
see if it had been processed[, ]” id., Ex. 1
at 54:1; Defs.' Facts ¶ 10. “[I]t showed it
had not been processed.” Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 1 at
such circumstances, MTPD officers ordinarily ask the
individual for identification for the purpose of issuing a
citation, “a ticket for not paying the fare, ”
id., Ex. 1 at 55:20, which was done here,
id., Ex. 1 at 55:14-20. When Cutchin did not produce
any form of identification, Muñoz asked for his name,
address, date of birth and other information. Id.,
Ex. 1 at 55:21-24, 56:21-25. Muñoz had the impression
that Cutchin “wasn't being forthcoming, ”
id., Ex. 1 at 56:25, and the officers decided to
arrest him, id., Ex. 1 at 57:5-6. When Muñoz
directed Cutchin to turn around, id., Ex. 1 at
57:5-6, Cutchin complied. Cutchin then “put his hands
behind his back[, ] and [Muñoz] placed the handcuffs
on him and . . . sat him down on the bench” at the bus
bay. Id., Ex. 1 at 57:24-58:1. Meanwhile,
Cutchin's companion had gotten off the bus and was
speaking with Santiago. Id., Ex. 1 at 55:4-56:17,
Muñoz was “pulling out [a contact] card,
“which is a little paper card to collect a person's
information if [the person does not] have a hard ID, ”
id., Ex. 1 at 58:12-14, Cutchin “just got up
and just ran, ” id., Ex. 1 at 58:20-21, with
his hands still cuffed behind his back, id., Ex. 1
at 59:1; Defs.' Facts ¶ 14. Cutchin ran “as
fast as he could” with the impediment of having his
hands handcuffed behind his back. Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 1
at 101:22-23; Defs.' Facts ¶ 16. Muñoz
shouted to Santiago, “He's running.”
Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 1 at 59:15-16. Cutchin managed to
run “about a bus length, ” id., Ex. 1 at
59:3, before Santiago grabbed Cutchin's jacket,
id., Ex. 1 at 59:17-18; see id., Ex. 1 at
101:21-25; Defs.' Facts ¶ 15. Santiago
“grabbed onto [Cutchin], at which time he fell on
[Cutchin], ” Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 1 at 101:8-9, and
“[a]ll he could do [was to grab Cutchin] in a tackle
position and hold him on the ground” until Muñoz
reached them, id., Ex. 1 at 101:7-11; see
Defs.' Facts ¶¶ 16-17. Muñoz was about
two feet away when Cutchin and Santiago hit the ground.
Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 1 at 60:1. When Muñoz reached
them, because Cutchin was “still struggling on the
ground, ” id., Ex. 1 at 60:8, Santiago
attempted to restrain Cutchin's legs, id., Ex. 1
at 60:14-15, while Muñoz attempted to “make it
towards [Cutchin's] upper torso, ” id.,
Ex. 1 at 60:7.
continued to struggle and resist. Id., Ex. 1 at
60:8, 102:1-7; Defs.' Facts ¶ 17. While he remained
“facing down on the sidewalk, ” Pl.'s
Opp'n, Ex. 1 at 60:25, the officers “notice[d] that
he [kept] trying to bring his arms around to the front,
” id., Ex. 1at 61:3-4. In the officers'
experience, Cutchin's efforts “to bring his arms
forward” indicated that he was “trying to reach
for something.” Id., Ex. 1 at 61:12-14.
Cutchin “just kept fighting” the officers,
id., Ex. 1 at 62:13-14, as Muñoz “was
trying to see what he was reaching for, so [Muñoz]
flip[ped Cutchin] up, ” id., Ex. 1 at
62:17-18. Muñoz then observed “the handle of [a]
gun coming out of [Cutchin's] waistband, ”
id., Ex. 1 at 62:16-17; see id., Ex. 1 at
102:4-103:6, which prompted him to “yell ‘Gun,
gun, gun, gun, '” and uniformed officers responded,
id., Ex. 1 at 62:24-25. Muñoz
“grab[bed] the pistol grip on the weapon, ”
id., Ex. 1 at 63:1-2, and realized that the
drawstring of Cutchin's pants was “tied around the
trigger guard, ” id., Ex. 1 at 63:4-5; see
id., Ex. 1 at 92:14-25. Muñoz freed the weapon
and handed it to another officer. Id., Ex. 1 at
103:17-18. “[T]his struggle . . . on the ground,
” id., Ex. 1 at 120:4, lasted only “[a]
matter of seconds[, ]” id., Ex. 1 at 120:4.
testified that he remained outside of the bus near its rear
door while Muñoz approached Cutchin. Id., Ex.
1 at 127:15-21. After Cutchin had been handcuffed, Santiago
observed Cutchin's female companion get off of the bus,
and Santiago spoke with her while standing about five feet
away from Muñoz and Cutchin. Id., Ex. 1 at
128:7-17. While speaking with the companion, Santiago saw
Cutchin “attempt to flee” by running
“towards the back of the bus.” Id., Ex.
1 at 129:24-25, see id., Ex. 1 at 129:7-10. Santiago
“chased him, ” id., Ex. 1 at 129:12, and
he yelled, “Police. Stop, ” id., Ex. 1
at 129:23, yet Cutchin kept running, id., Ex. 1 at
129:24-25; see Defs.' Facts ¶¶ 16-17.
When Santiago neared Cutchin, he “yanked” Cutchin
by his jacket from behind, at which time both men fell to the
ground. Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 1 at 129:15-17; see
Defs.' Facts ¶ 17. Santiago hit the ground
“elbow first, ” Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 1 at
130:22, with Cutchin “slightly . . . on top of [him],
” id., Ex. 1 at 130:21-22, and Muñoz
then “was able to get ahold of [Cutchin who] continued
to resist, ” id., Ex. 1 at 130:23-24.
According to Santiago, Cutchin “kept shaking, ”
“was always moving trying to flee” and
“never stood still.” Id., Ex. 1 at
136:22-23. He estimated that “maybe . . . five
seconds” elapsed between the time Muñoz
“yelled ‘Gun'” and the time
Muñoz “was able to pull  the gun from . . .
the front of [Cutchin's] waistband.” Id.,
Ex. 1 at 131: 1-3. The gun was “a 40 caliber semi
automatic handgun, ” id., Ex. 1 at 131:18,
manufactured by Taurus, id., Ex. 1 at 131:21. The
handgun was loaded and later found to be operable. See
id., Ex. 1 at 65:6-66:11, 70:16-71:3.
Cutchin remained handcuffed, his “head and body hit the
ground when he fell.” Defs.' Facts ¶ 22.
“Santiago dropped his weight into [Cutchin's] lower
back as he squeezed the handcuffs tight around
[Cutchin's] wrists and raised [Cutchin's] arms toward
his head.” Id. ¶ 23. After the incident,
Cutchin “was taken to United Medical Center.”
Id. ¶ 24.
Ferguson, a uniformed MTPD officer, Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex.
1 at 113:7-19, testified that he was on patrol on January 29,
2013, at approximately 5:40 p.m. at the Anacostia Metro
Station entrance across from the bus bay, id., Ex.
1. at 113:7-22, 114:1-5. While standing approximately six
feet away, id., Ex. 1 at 114:10-14, he observed
Santiago and Muñoz chasing Cutchin, id., Ex.
1 at 114:8-9, who “was running from the bus stand
towards the street, ” id., Ex. 1 at 115:6-7.
Officer Ferguson searched Cutchin after the handgun had been
retrieved and found in Cutchin's pocket a plastic bag
containing ammunition. Id., Ex. 1 at 116:16-117:1.
ultimately was found guilty by a jury in the Superior Court
of the District of Columbia of carrying a pistol outside of
his home or business, unlawful possession of a firearm,
possession of an unregistered firearm, and unlawful
possession of ammunition; the Superior Court imposed a
48-month prison term. See Defs.' Facts ¶
25; Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of
Defendants Santiago's and Muñoz's Motion for
Summary Judgment (“Defs.' Mem.”), Ex. 2
(Sentence of the Court, United States v. Cutchin,
No. 2013 CF2 001496 (D.C. Super. Ct. Mar. 14, 2014)) (exhibit
number designated by the Court). Cutchin appealed, and among
other arguments, contended that the officers lacked probable
cause to stop him. See Am. Compl., Ex. 1 (Excerpt
from Reply Brief of the Appellant, Cutchin v. United
States, Nos. 13-CO-1318, 14-CO-25 and 14-CF-296 (D.C.
Ct. of App. Nov. 7, 2014)) at 12, 14. However, the District
of Columbia Court of Appeals affirmed the convictions.
See Cutchin v. United States, 111 A.3d 647 (D.C.
The Plaintiff's Asserted Facts
January 29, 2013, at approximately 3:40 p.m., Cutchin and a
female friend boarded a W4 bus on Division Avenue, N.E. Am.
Compl. ¶ 9. Cutchin paid the bus fare using a SmarTrip
card. Id. At approximately 5:20 p.m., Cutchin and
his friend transferred to a 90 bus at the Anacostia Metro
Station. Id. ¶ 10; “Opposition” to
Defendants['] Statement of Material Facts Not In
Dis[pute]; Plantiff['s] Statement of Material Facts Not
In Dispute Reply” (“Pl.'s Facts”)
¶ 2. He contended that he used the same SmarTrip card
“to pay [his] fare, which was (FREE) before (2) hours
under (WMATA) rules.” Am. Compl. ¶ 10. Roughly
five to ten minutes after Cutchin and his friend took seats
in the back of the bus, “Hispanic men in sweathoods,
” later identified as Santiago and Muñoz,
“[boarded] the bus through the back door and told
[Cutchin] to get up and get off the bus with them.”
Id. ¶ 11; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 3.
Santiago and Muñoz escorted Cutchin off the bus. Am.
Compl. ¶ 11; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 3. “Once off
the bus, ” the officers “said in a mysterious way
that [Cutchin] did not pay [his] fare[.]” Am. Compl.
¶ 12. They then “place[d Cutchin] in handcuffs[
and] said [he] was under arrest.” Id.;
Pl.'s Facts ¶ 12. While the officers searched
Cutchin and his backpack, Am. Compl. ¶ 13; Pl.'s
Facts ¶ 5, Cutchin “ask[ed] them to stop because
[he] paid [his] fare [and stated] that yall [sic] is wrong,
” Am. Compl. ¶ 13; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 7.
Cutchin either “presented” a SmarTrip card for
the officers to examine, Pl.'s Facts ¶ 10, or
Santiago removed a SmarTrip card from Cutchin's pocket,
Am. Compl. ¶ 14, presumably to verify whether the card
had been used to pay the fare when Cutchin boarded the 90
bus, see id.; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 10. Cutchin
maintained that he was transferring from one bus to another
and that he “touch[ed the fare] machine with [his
SmarTrip] card.” Pl.'s Facts ¶ 9. Santiago
presumably went to see if the SmarTrip card had been used to
pay Cutchin's fare, Am. Compl. ¶ 14, but when he
returned, he did not state whether Cutchin paid the fare;
instead, “he kept trying to search [Cutchin] and [his]
backpack, ” id. ¶ 15.
Cutchin apparently identified himself by giving the officers
his name, id. ¶ 16; see Pl.'s
Opp'n, Ex. 2 (Police Report), he contends that he then
“stepped out into the open area at the metro station
(street) in front of the 90 bus stop, ” Am. Compl.
¶ 17; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 15 (“Plaintiff
step[ped] out in the open about a bus length as oppos[ed] to
running a bus length claim by defendants.” (emphasis
removed)). It is then when, according to Cutchin,
“Santiago had to be using all of his might because he
slammed [Cutchin] very hard to the cement ground on [his]
head, ” causing “the side of [his] face” to
hit the ground “very hard.” Am. Compl. ¶ 18;
Pl.'s Facts ¶¶ 16-17. Cutchin further contends
that Santiago and Muñoz picked him up, only to have
Santiago “slam[ him] back to the cement ground very
hard again, ” causing Cutchin to “hit [his] head
[and become] dazed[.]” Am. Compl. ¶ 20. Cutchin
also represents that “Santiago then dropped his knee
and body weight into [Cutchin's] lower back real hard,
raised [Cutchin's] arms toward [his] head while squeezing
the handcuffs around [his] wrist past tight and he made
[Cutchin's] face drag the cement[.]” Id.
¶ 21. According to Cutchin, the officers “left
[him] on the cement cold ground handcuff[ed] until the
ambulance came.” Id. ¶ 22. Cutchin
contends that his head was bleeding; his wrist was swollen;
and his “back felt broke.” Id. He was
subsequently taken to the emergency room at the United
Medical Center, id. ¶ 23, for injuries
sustained during this encounter, see id., Ex. 2
(Medical records and requests for treatment), particularly
“an abrasion to the right side of his face, ”
Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 3 (MTPD Digital Video Recording
Request (“DVR Request”)) (emphasis removed);
see id., Ex. 4 (photo of Cutchin's face).
Cutchin was then taken to the Metropolitan Police
Department's Seventh District police station house for
processing. Am. Compl. ¶ 26.
the amended complaint does not mention the handgun and his
criminal convictions related to the seizure of the a gun and
ammunition from his person, Cutchin does not dispute the
defendants' assertions that he has been convicted of four
firearms-related offenses. Pl.'s Facts ¶ 25. He
notes, however, that he was “never charged or convicted
for fare evasion.” Id.
STANDARDS OF REVIEW
may grant summary judgment if there is “no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
Rule 56 further provides:
A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely
disputed must support the assertion by . . . citing to
particular parts of materials in the record, including
depositions, documents . . . affidavits or declarations,
stipulations . . ., admissions, [or] interrogatory answers[,
or by] showing that the materials cited do not establish the
absence or presence of a ...