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Elshazli v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 21, 2019

AHMED ELSHAZLI, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al ., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          TREVOR N. McFADDEN, U.S.D.J.

         Ahmed Elshazli has sued the D.C. Government and two of its police officers for alleged misconduct relating to his recent arrest. He brought claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1983 against Metropolitan Police Officers John Javelle and Matthew Konkol, alleging that they used excessive force in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Compl. 7-10. He also brought a negligence claim against the officers and the District of Columbia, alleging that the officers violated a national standard of care by improperly using a tactical “takedown” and applying handcuffs too tightly during his arrest. Compl. 10-11.

         The officers filed for summary judgment on the § 1983 claim based on qualified immunity, [1] and the District and officers moved to dismiss the negligence count for failure to state a claim. Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J. & Mot. to Dismiss (“Defs.' Mot.”) 1, ECF No. 10. In support of their Motion for Summary Judgment, the officers submitted bodycam footage for three officers on the scene during Elshazli's arrest, including videos from Officers Javelle, Konkol, and Joseph Quinlan. Defs.' Mot., Ex. 1-6.

         Based on the video record, no reasonable jury could find that the officers violated Elshazli's Fourth Amendment rights by using excessive force during his arrest. So the officers' Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted. More, because Elshazli fails to state a claim for negligence and because the Court may decline supplemental jurisdiction over the local common law claim, the Court will dismiss Count II of Elshazli's Complaint.

         I.

         According to Elshazli's Complaint, shortly after midnight one morning in early February 2018, he was driving his car when Officers Javelle and Konkol pulled him over. Compl. 4. Elshazli “stopped his vehicle without incident or delay.” Id. Elshazli alleges that the officers informed him that he had an outstanding arrest warrant in Virginia and then ordered him out of his car. Id. Elshazli complied, but “questioned the validity of the warrant and whether or not the Defendant officers had the correct person.” Id.

         “Immediately” after he questioned the warrant, the officers “aggressively tackled” Elshazli to the ground, injuring his left shoulder. Id. at 5. While Elshazli lay on the ground, he claims that the officers climbed on top of him and “unnecessarily twist[ed] his left arm . . . causing further injury and pain to his left shoulder.” Id. He contends he continually questioned why the officers tackled him. Id. After the officers handcuffed him, Elshazli alleges that he complained to the officers that the cuffs were too tight. Id. They ignored him. Id.

         Elshazli says he continued to complain about the tightness of the handcuffs and pain in his arm and shoulder after he was placed in the police cruiser. Id. After the police booked Elshazli, they took him to Howard University Hospital. Id. He was diagnosed with “severe soft tissue swelling of the elbow” and given painkillers and x-rays. Id. at 5-6. Once Elshazli was released from custody, he sought more treatment for his injuries. Id. at 6. His doctors recommended he undergo shoulder surgery. Id.

         But the bodycam video footage submitted by the officers tells a different story. Officers Javelle and Konkol stopped Elshazli's van after discovering that he had an outstanding, extraditable warrant from Virginia. Defs.' Mot., Ex. 1 at 2:03-2:15. The officers approached the van, and Elshazli asked why they stopped him. Id. at 2:36-2:37. Officer Javelle promised to “tell him in a second, ” and asked to see Elshazli's driver's license. Id. at 2:44. After confirming Elshazli's identity, Javelle asked Elshazli to step out of the car. Id. at 2:53. Elshazli did so, id. at 3:01, but, contrary to his Complaint, he did not question the validity of the arrest warrant since the officers had not yet told him that there was a warrant.

         The divergence in the stories grows from there. Once the officers and Elshazli reached the back of the van, the officers did not “immediately” or aggressively tackle Elshazli to the ground. Rather, while the officers were standing at the rear of the vehicle, the video shows Konkol taking hold of Elshazli's right wrist. Id. at 3:13. Javelle reached for Elshazli's left arm and started to tell him to put his hands behind his back, but Elshazli pulled his arm away. Id. at 3:17. At that point, Konkol told Elshazli, “Don't resist, ” and a moment later, “Stop resisting! Stop resisting!” Defs.' Mot., Ex. 2 at 2:46-2:49. The officers, apparently struggling, turned Elshazli around to face the van and Elshazli placed his right hand against the back windshield. Id. at 2:49-2:57. Officer Konkol reached for Elshazli's right hand and began pulling it back. Id. at 3:04. But Elshazli yelled, “No, wait a minute!” and pulled his hand away, placing it again on the van. Id. at 3:05-3:07. The video then shows a struggle between Elshazli and Konkol as Konkol tried to peel Elshazli's hand off the back windshield to secure his arm behind his back. Id. at 3:07-3:14.

         Next, Officer Quinlin pulled up and ran over to where Javelle and Konkol were struggling with Elshazli. Defs.' Mot., Ex. 3 at 2:13-2:20. Quinlin yelled “Put him down! Put him down!” and began moving the other officers' legs to clear a space on the ground. Id. at 2:28-2:35. Quinlin then grabbed Elshazli's legs, Javelle and Konkol held Elshazli's arms, and the officers put Elshazli face-down on the ground. Id. at 2:36-2:40; Ex. 2 at 3:19-3:22. While on the ground, Elshazli can be seen holding his right hand near his face, Ex. 1 at 4:14, and trying to pull his legs away from Quinlin's grasp, Ex. 3 at 2:49.

         Meanwhile, Officer Javelle, kneeling to Elshazli's right, told him to “give us your other arm” and reached for Elshazli's right arm. Ex. 1 at 4:10. Elshazli did not do so. Instead, he again pulled his arm away, trying to tuck it beneath his face or chest. Id. at 4:13-4:17. The videos show the officers collectively struggling to prop Elshazli up to pull his hand out from under him. Id. at 4:18-4:33; Ex. 2 at 3:58-4:07. The officers repeatedly told Elshazli to “give us your other arm” and to “stop resisting.” Ex. 1 at 4:10-4:25. About one and half minutes after initiating the arrest, the video shows one of the officers successfully pulling Elshazli's right arm behind his back and Officer Javelle securing the handcuffs. Id. at 4:39-4:55.

         II.

         A.

         To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, a movant must show 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); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A material fact is “genuine” if “a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In cases involving allegations of police officers' use of excessive force, “a defendant's motion for summary judgment is to be denied only when, viewing the facts in the record and all reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, a reasonable jury ...


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