United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR
L. LUDINGTON United States District Judge.
Edward Ruemenapp filed a complaint on June 1, 2016, alleging
that Defendants Township of Oscoda, Officer Greg Alexander,
and Officer Gerald Sobolewski violated his constitutional
rights while arresting him. Compl., ECF No. 1. The Complaint
contains the following claims: excessive force, unreasonable
seizure, false arrest, malicious prosecution, and failure to
train. On March 28, 2017, the parties submitted a stipulated
dismissal of Counts II, III, IV, and V of the Complaint. ECF
No. 20. Accordingly, the only remaining claims are the
allegations that the officer Defendants used excessive force
and the allegation that the City of Oscoda failed to train
and/or supervise its officers so as to prevent violations of
constitutional rights. On April 6, 2017, Defendants filed a
motion for summary judgment on the remaining counts. ECF No.
21. For the following reasons, that motion will be granted.
following facts are undisputed. Ruemenapp is the owner and
operator of the Oscoda Resort and Motel. Ruemenapp Dep. at 6,
ECF No. 21, Ex. C. Residents at the Motel often stay for
extended periods of time. See Id. at 68-69;
Sobolewski Dep. at 13, ECF No. 21, Ex. B. Oscoda Township
Officers Greg Alexander and Gerald Sobolewski received a
report of a landlord/tenant dispute at the Motel during the
evening of February 2, 2015. Alexander Dep. at 29, ECF No.
21, Ex. A. When the officers arrived, they met Kristina Reker
and her grandfather. Id. at 30-31. Ms. Reker
explained that she was a current tenant of the Motel, but
that her landlord had changed the locks to her apartment and
was refusing to allow her access to her personal property
within the unit. Id. at 31-32. Ms. Reker told the
officers that she had paid rent through March 1st.
Id. at 32.
officers attempted to enter the apartment and found it
locked. Id. at 36. They then started looking for the
landlord, Mr. Ruemenapp. Id. at 34. They eventually
made contact with Ruemenapp outside his house. Id.
at 35. When the conversation began, Ruemenapp was calm and
collected. At this point, the stories begin to diverge.
to Alexander, he and his partner began questioning Ruemenapp
about the dispute with Ms. Reker. During the conversation,
Ruemenapp was standing several feet away from the two
officers. Id. at 43-44. But Ruemenapp “became
belligerent quickly, starts screaming obscenities that she
was not going back into that apartment.” Id.
at 38. Ruemenapp admitted to the officers that Ms.
Reker's rent was current. Id. at 41. However,
Ruemenapp asserted that, because Ms. Reker had been gone for
three days, she had abandoned the apartment. Id.
Alexander testified at his deposition to his belief that,
based on his training and experience, leaving your apartment
for three days does not constitute abandonment. Id.
at 41-42. When the officers indicated that Ruemenapp was
required to let Ms. Reker into her apartment, the
confrontation escalated further. Ruemenapp continued shouting
obscenities at the top of his lungs. Id. at 43. He
then took a step forward and pointed his finger (or fingers)
in Officer Sobolewski's face. Id. at 44. As
Alexander described it, Ruemenapp “extends his arm and
is extremely close to Officer Soboleski's [sic] face,
more or less pointing at him, jabbing towards his face as he
explains himself.” Id. At this point,
Ruemenapp's hand was approximately six inches from
Sobolewski's face. Id. at 45. Both officers
began instructing Ruemenapp to remove his hand from
Sobolewski's face. Id. at 46, 48-49. Instead of
complying, Ruemenapp pointed his fingers at Sobolewski
several more times. Id. at 47. At one point,
Ruemenapp's hand got close enough to Sobolowski that he
flinched. Id. at 46.
the second or third time that Ruemenapp pointed directly into
Sobolewski's face (and ignored orders to put his hands
down), Alexander believed that Ruemenapp was going to strike
Sobolewski. Id. at 49. To prevent that, Alexander
“grabbed his arm and pulled it behind his back and
informed him that he was being placed under arrest.”
Id. Ruemenapp immediately began struggling against
Alexander. Id. at 68. Because Ruemenapp refused to
go willingly into handcuffs, Sobolewski grabbed his other arm
and Alexander used a “transport wristlock, ”
which is a “joint lock of the wrist” used to
control unruly individuals. Id. at 50. Using the
leverage obtained by the wristlock, Alexander pushed
Ruemenapp's upper body against the exterior wall of the
apartment complex in order to handcuff him. Id. at
wall was made of a rough wood and, after he finished cuffing
Ruemenapp, Alexander noticed that Ruemenapp had sustained an
abrasion to his face. Alexander believes that the abrasion
was sustained because Ruemenapp was “moving his head
back and forth, attempting to negotiate with myself and
Officer Sobolewski [sic] about going to jail.”
Id. at 52.
point, Ruemenapp was placed in the patrol car. Id.
at 56. After being handcuffed, Ruemenapp was no longer
belligerent. Id. Before leaving the Motel, the
officers directed Ruemenapp's daughter to unlock Ms.
Reker's apartment. Id. at 58. Inside, Alexander
spotted “items on the floor, ” including
clothing. Id. The transport to the police station
and booking proceeded without incident. Ruemenapp was charged
with disorderly conduct and resisting and obstructing
deposition, Ruemenapp confirmed certain key details of the
officers' account. He admitted that Ms. Reker had paid
her rent through March 1st, that he had changed the locks,
and that he was refusing to allow her to enter the apartment.
Ruemenapp Dep. at 74, 81-82. He further confirmed that Ms.
Reker still had some personal belongings in the apartment.
Id. at 70- 72. Ruemenapp also acknowledged that he
refused to allow the officers to enter the apartment.
Id. at 81. Although, as discussed below, Ruemenapp
denied using certain obscenities, he did admit that he called
Ms. Reker by at least one obscenity. See Id. at 82
(“At one point I said, ‘that bitch has no
business even being here.'”).
deposition, Ruemenapp repeated his belief that Ms. Reker had
abandoned the apartment. Id. at 66-67, 80-81. He
explained that Ms. Reker had told Ruemenapp's daughter
that she was moving out of the apartment approximately a week
before the incident occurred. Id. at 66-67.
Ruemenapp also stated that, when he changed the locks, he
noted that the interior of the apartment had sustained
significant damage, including holes in the wall. Id.
denied several details of the officers' account. First,
he accused Alexander of blocking Ruemenapp from returning to
his home after Ruemenapp initially refused to allow the
officers to enter Ms. Reker's apartment. Id. at
84-85. After attempting to enter his home and being denied
access, Ruemenapp turned around, pointed at Ms. Reker's
apartment, and said that Ms. Reker had no business there.
Id. at 85. Alexander then told Ruemenapp:
“‘Don't put your finger in my partner's
face.'” Id. Ruemenapp replied:
“‘I didn't stick my finger in your
partner's face.'” Id. At this point,
Alexander moved closer to Ruemenapp and reached for his
hands. Id. at 85-86. Ruemenapp moved away from
Alexander. Id. at 86. Sobolewski then informed
Ruemenapp that he was under arrest and instructed him to put
his hands behind his back. Id. Ruemenapp attempted
to ask why he was being arrested, but only managed to say two
words: “‘What are'--.” Id. at
point, Ruemenapp blacked out. Id. at 87. When he
regained consciousness, he was “pinned against the
wall, with my cheek against the wall.” Id. The
officers told him to stop resisting, and Ruemenapp replied:
“‘I am not resisting.'” Id. at
only other account of the event comes via the written
declaration of James Merrit, a resident at the Motel. Merrit
Decl. at 2, ECF No. 25, Ex. D. Merrit was not deposed.
According to Mr. Merrit's declaration, he was in his
apartment when the incident occurred. Id. Mr. Merrit
did not “hear any yelling or talking coming from
outside.” Id. He saw Ruemenapp point in Ms.
Reker's direction, and then saw an officer grab Ruemenapp
and push him into a building. Id. In his
declaration, Mr. Merrit asserts that ...