United States District Court, District of Columbia
JOSE T. VASQUEZ, Plaintiff,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
P. Mehta United States District Judge.
case arises from the detention of Plaintiff Jose T. Vasquez
by the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department
(“MPD”) based on mistaken identity. Authorities
in Will County, Illinois, erroneously entered Plaintiff's
personal information into a warrant database accessible to
law enforcement nationwide. Pursuant to the erroneous entry,
MPD detained Plaintiff in October 2016 and again in March
2017 for a total of twelve nights-eleven nights the first
time, one night the second time. Plaintiff filed suit against
the District of Columbia on October 23, 2017, alleging
various common law tort and constitutional claims, which the
court dismissed without prejudice due to a fundamental error
in the Complaint confusing the United States Attorney's
Office for the District of Columbia. Plaintiff then filed a
Second Amended Complaint.
District of Columbia once again moves to dismiss all claims.
For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion to
Dismiss is denied in part and granted in part.
Second Amended Complaint alleges the following facts. In
1979, Will County, Illinois, issued a warrant of arrest,
identifying a murder suspect as having six aliases. Second
Am. Compl., ECF No. 40 [hereinafter Second Am. Compl.],
¶¶ 23-24. “Jose Vasquez” was one of the
aliases. Id. ¶ 24. The Will County Circuit
Court issued a failure-to-appear warrant in 1996, which
matched the 1979 warrant but did not include information
about the suspect's aliases. Id. ¶ 26.
After a 2005 warrant review, a court cancelled the 1996
warrant and issued a new one. Id. ¶ 27. The new
warrant contained the suspect's alleged name, date of
birth, and sex; it did not include a Social Security number,
driver's license number, or physical descriptors.
Id. When entering the new warrant in a statewide
database, instead of entering the new warrant as written, the
Will County Sheriff's Office searched for a person with
the name “Jose Vasquez” and an August 25, 1957
birthdate, which returned a profile for Plaintiff.
Id. ¶ 29. The Will County Sheriff's Office
then entered the new warrant into the state database using
Plaintiff's personal information. Id. The
Illinois database entry updated automatically to the National
Crime Information Center (“NCIC”) database,
making the warrant available to law enforcement nationwide.
Id. ¶ 30.
first arrested Plaintiff during a traffic stop on October 23,
2016 (“October detention”). Id. ¶
37. After pulling Plaintiff over, MPD Officer Terence Sutton
conducted an NCIC query that returned the 2005 NCIC entry.
Id. An MPD dispatcher contacted Will County, which
confirmed that it had an outstanding extradition warrant for
Plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff was arraigned on October 24
and jailed pending an extradition hearing. Id.
¶ 41. Throughout his detention-lasting from October 23
to November 3, 2016-Plaintiff proclaimed his innocence,
noting that previous arrests in Maryland had resulted in his
release once Maryland officials confirmed that Plaintiff was
not the suspect wanted by the warrant. Id.
¶¶ 40, 47-48. On October 28, 2016, Plaintiff's
counsel submitted a motion for a bond review hearing,
explaining that Plaintiff was held based on mistaken
identity. Id. ¶ 45.
same day, MPD Officer Augusto Ruben emailed a photo of
Plaintiff to the Will County Sheriff's Office.
Id. ¶ 42. At 11:48 a.m. Central Time, the Will
County Sheriff's Office sent a notice to the MPD Fugitive
Unit: “release any holds you have on him for county,
the person your [sic] holding is not the same person we are
looking for[.]” Id. ¶ 43 (internal
quotation marks removed). Despite this instruction, Plaintiff
remained detained. Id. ¶¶ 44, 47-48.
hearing on November 2, 2016, the court instructed Assistant
U.S. Attorney (“AUSA”) Robert Little to
“look into a photograph of the person wanted in the
demanding jurisdiction.” Id. ¶ 45
(internal quotations omitted). AUSA Little's assistant
contacted Illinois authorities, who confirmed that Plaintiff
was not the subject of the warrant. Id. ¶ 46.
On November 3, 2016, upon motion by the U.S. Attorney's
Office, the court dismissed charges against Plaintiff and
released him. Id. ¶¶ 47-48. The U.S.
Attorney's Office informed MPD of the dismissal and of
the fact that Plaintiff was not the person sought by the
Illinois warrant. Id. ¶ 49.
later, Plaintiff was arrested in Maryland on the same
erroneous warrant. Id. ¶¶ 51, 53. After
this arrest, Will County authorities replaced Plaintiff's
Social Security number with the true suspect's Social
Security number in its warrant entry, thereby updating the
NCIC database. Id. ¶ 51.
second MPD detention (“March detention”) occurred
on March 3, 2017-the result of a traffic stop by a U.S.
Secret Service officer. Id. ¶ 55. After the
arresting officer received an NCIC hit, the U.S. Secret
Service's Joint Operations Center contacted Will County,
which confirmed the warrant. Id. The officer
arrested Plaintiff, injuring him in the process. Id.
was treated for neck and shoulder injuries at a local
hospital, transported to MPD's Second District Station,
and detained overnight. Id. ¶ 57.
next day, Officer Leroy Rollins of the MPD Fugitive Unit
executed an affidavit stating that he had
“verified” Plaintiff as the person sought by the
2005 warrant. Id. ¶ 58 (quotation marks in
original). The U.S. Attorney's Office commenced a
fugitive action based on Officer Rollins's affidavit, and
Plaintiff was arraigned on March 4, 2017. Id.
¶¶ 60, 62. At the arraignment, the court dismissed
the charges against Plaintiff after his counsel explained
that he was not the subject of the warrant. Id.
November of 2018, this court dismissed Plaintiff's First
Amended Complaint without prejudice. See Vasquez v. Cty.
of Will, et al., No. 17-cv-02194 (APM), 2018 WL 5983386
(D.D.C. Nov. 14, 2018). Each of Plaintiff's
claims-unlawful arrest, malicious prosecution, negligence,
and constitutional violation pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983-required the District of Columbia, through the MPD, to
have known about the flawed NCIC entry. See id. at
*4. Plaintiff alleged the District knew of the entry's
errors because it directed and eventually dismissed fugitive
proceedings against Plaintiff in November 2016. But the
United States-not the District-directed those proceedings.
See Id. at *3. Absent allegations of District
knowledge, the court held, Plaintiff's claims could not
survive a motion to dismiss. See Id. at *4.
November 28, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended
Complaint. See Second Am. Compl. Defendant District
of Columbia moved to dismiss on December 21, 2018.
See Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 47
[hereinafter Def.'s Mot.].