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Harder v. County of Huron

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division

April 13, 2017

CHRISTOPHER HARDER, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF HURON, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          THOMAS L. LUDINGTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On January 29, 2016, Plaintiff Christopher Harder initiated the above-captioned matter by filing his complaint against Defendants City of Elkton, County of Huron, Officer Adam Csanyi, Deputy Randall Britt, and Deputy Todd Schember. See Compl., ECF No. 1. Alleging that Defendants falsely arrested and prosecuted him for assaulting a woman with a gun, Plaintiff Harder claims that Defendants violated his Fourth and Eighth Amendment rights pursuant to § 1983 and committed the torts of false arrest and malicious prosecution. Plaintiff also asserts claims pursuant to Monell v. Department of Social Services of New York, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) against Defendants County of Huron and City of Elkton. Id.

         On January 27, 2017 Defendants Csanyi and City of Elkton filed a motion for summary judgment. See Mot. Summ. J. I, ECF No. 26. On January 30, 2017 Defendants County of Huron, Deputy Britt and Deputy Schember filed a separate motion for summary judgment. See Mot. Summ. J. II., ECF No. 28. For the reasons stated below Defendants' motions will be granted.

         I.

         Plaintiff Christopher Harder is a resident of the City of Elkton, which is located in Huron County, Michigan. See Compl. ¶ 1. Harder was previously married to Maria Redmond, who also lives in the City of Elkton. Plaintiff does not dispute that he has felony convictions, and is therefore prohibited from possessing firearms.

         At the time of the relevant events, Defendants Randall Britt and Deputy Todd Schember were employed by the Huron County Sheriff's Department. Defendant Adam Csanyi was one of only two officers employed by the City of Elkton Police Department.

         A.

         The facts giving rise to Plaintiff Harder's lawsuit commenced on February 13, 2014. On that date, at around 2:49 pm, the Huron County Sheriff's Department received a 911 call from a woman named Erica Sprague, who was calling to report an incident that had just occurred at her apartment, located at 124 Maude Street in Elkton, Michigan. See Dispatch Audio Track 1, ECF No. 28-8. Ms. Sprague reported that Plaintiff Harder had just threatened her with a gun and had driven over her foot with a vehicle while exiting her driveway. Id. She further reported that she could not walk. Id. In response, the 911 dispatcher notified Ms. Sprague that he was sending an ambulance and a police officer to her location. Id.

         When asked by the dispatcher what had caused the incident, Ms. Sprague explained that she, Harder, and Ms. Redmond were in a “tussle” because she had been in the possession of some of Ms. Redmond's property, and that Harder and Ms. Redmond had driven to her apartment in an attempt to retrieve the property. After Ms. Sprague returned Ms. Redmond's property, she reported that Plaintiff Harder “got in [her] face” and told her to stay away from his family. Id. According to Ms. Sprague, Harder exited his vehicle holding a 9 mm pistol, snatched her phone from her hand, and threw the phone onto the driveway. Id. She reported that Harder held the gun to her face, and when she went to pick her phone up off of the driveway Harder drove over her foot. Id. Ms. Sprague initially identified Plaintiff Harder's vehicle as a blue Blazer, but later clarified that it was an Explorer. Ms. Sprague remained on the telephone line pending arrival of the ambulance and police officer. Id. After an ambulance arrived at her location the call was terminated. Ms. Sprague was taken to the Scheurer Hospital.

         i.

         While on hold with Ms. Sprague, the 911 dispatcher contacted Deputy Randall Britt to locate Christopher Harder. See Britt Dep. 24, ECF No. 26-2. Within three to four minutes Deputy Britt located a blue Explorer driving rapidly westbound on M-142, about one mile and a half from the Laker High School. See Britt Dep. 27-28. Britt ran the license plate and determined that the vehicle was owned by Maria Redmond. He therefore turned on his lights and pulled the vehicle over in the Laker High School parking lot. Id. at 32-33. Britt approached the vehicle and informed Harder, the sole occupant of the vehicle, that he was investigating a possible assault with a weapon and hit-and-run as reported by Ms. Sprague. Id. at 34-35; Harder. Dep. 165. Britt then searched the vehicle for a firearm pursuant to Harder's consent, but did not locate any weapon. Britt Dep. 35; Harder Dep. 150-51. After Britt finished searching the vehicle Officer Todd Schember arrived in response to a request for backup. Britt Dep. 38.

         When asked by Deputy Britt about the incident, Harder explained that he and Ms. Redmond had gone to Ms. Sprague's apartment in order to re-claim some of Ms. Redmond's personal property, and that the women had argued. Id. at 36. He maintained that he had remained in the vehicle and had not pointed a gun at anybody. Id. Harder also maintained that he had not driven over Ms. Sprague's foot, but acknowledged that she was in the vicinity of the vehicle when he left the driveway. Id. at 37. As Britt spoke with Harder, Officer Schember called Ms. Redmond to obtain her version of the incident. When Ms. Redmond's version of the events largely corroborated the version articulated by Harder, the officers informed Harder that he was free to leave. Id. at 39-41. However, according to Deputy Britt, they informed Harder that they were going to continue to look into the incident and would potentially be in contact with him again. Id. at 41.

         ii.

         After releasing Plaintiff Harder, Deputy Britt drove to the Scheurer Hospital in order to make contact with Ms. Sprague. See Britt Dep. 41-44. Shortly after arriving at the hospital, while waiting for Ms. Sprague to become available, Britt contacted Dispatch and was informed that there had been a witness to the events on Ms. Sprague's driveway. Britt was not given any specific information about the witness. However, Dispatch was referring to a 911 call placed by Gina Heilig around 45 minutes after the incident. In the call Ms. Heilig reported as follows:

Dispatch: Huron County 911.
Witness: Yes, I'm calling because - where I live there's an apartment complex next to me, and I just watched a guy pull a gun on a girl. And I don't want my name brought up at all. I'm down at my mom and dad's house because it like scares the shit out of me.
Dispatch: Wha-what was at the apartment complex?
Witness: A guy - there was two girls that were arguing in the parking lot and then they went inside of the house - inside of the apartment - and then the boyfriend pulled in, and he went inside, and then when they came out the guy got back in his pickup and the girl got back in her - on her side. And the other girl musta said something and the guy got out and pointed a gun at her. A hand gun.
Dispatch: Okay, where was this at?
Witness: It was on Maude Street. Umm, ah, I can't even think of the name of the apartments, they're right next door to me. But I can't think of the name of the apartments - they're all the way down to the end - but, I'm not there right now. I don't want any police pulling in my driveway or anything because I know that there's drugs related.
Dispatch: Okay.
Witness: And so I don't want any police pulling in my driveway to know that I'm, like, telling on them.
Dispatch: Okay, umm, let me get- what's your name ma'am?
Witness: Gina.
Dispatch: Gina, what's your last ...

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