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Webb v. Bazzy

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

November 16, 2017


          Honorable Stephen J. Murphy


          DAVID R. GRAND United States Magistrate Judge

         This is a civil rights action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in which Plaintiff Terry Webb (“Webb”) alleges that he was subjected to excessive force during the course of his arrest on July 28, 2014. At the time of the incident in question, Defendants Mohamad Bazzy, Andrew Shepherd, Patrick Cecile, and Brian Williams (collectively “Defendants”) were all Wayne State University (“WSU”) police officers.[1]

         On June 22, 2017, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. #23). Webb filed a response in opposition to this motion on July 12, 2017 (Doc. #24), and Defendants filed a reply on July 25, 2017 (Doc. #28). The Court held oral argument on Defendants' motion on September 8, 2017.[2]


         For the reasons set forth below, IT IS RECOMMENDED that Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. #23) be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         II. REPORT

         A. Factual Background

         On July 28, 2014, Webb attended a neighborhood picnic with friends on Peterboro Street in Detroit, Michigan. (Doc. #23 at Ex. A, pp. 25-26). At approximately 6:00 p.m., Webb and his friend, Lopiccolo Miles (“Miles”), left the picnic in a vehicle owned by Webb's girlfriend. (Id. at Ex. A, pp. 21, 23). Miles was driving, and Webb was riding in the front passenger seat. (Id. at Ex. A, pp. 21, 25).

         At some point, while driving down Fourth Street in Detroit, Webb and Miles noticed WSU police officer Mohamad Bazzy (“Bazzy”). (Id. at Ex. A, p. 26). According to Webb, Officer Bazzy was “harassing four young girls who were innocently riding their bikes through the neighborhood.” (Doc. #24 at 6). Miles continued driving down Fourth Street, stopping at a stop sign at the corner of Fourth and Grand River. (Doc. #23 at Ex. A, p. 27). At that point, Miles apparently noticed that Officer Bazzy was behind them. (Id.). Webb claims he then told Miles to turn right onto Grand River and pull the car over. (Id. at Ex. A, pp. 27-28).

         There is no dispute that after Miles pulled over, Webb immediately got out of the vehicle and asked Officer Bazzy, “Why are you harassing us, we haven't did nothing.” (Id. at Ex. A, p. 29). Officer Bazzy responded by telling Webb to “get back in the car.” (Id.). Webb admits that he disregarded Officer Bazzy's command and proceeded to sit on the trunk of the car.[3] (Id.). At that point, Officer Bazzy drew his gun and called for backup. (Id. at Ex. A, pp. 30, 63; Ex. B, p. 1). Webb then reached his hand into his pocket - he claims to take out his cell phone to record the encounter - but Officer Bazzy told him to “put it up.” (Id. at Ex. A, p. 30). Officer Bazzy then re-holstered his gun and attempted to detain Webb, but he claims that Webb “resisted detainment and arrest by pushing [and] pulling away” from him. (Doc. #23 at 11).

         At that point, Officer Rose arrived at the scene and “dove on” Webb, in an attempt to assist Officer Bazzy in detaining Webb. (Id. at Ex. A, p. 30). Webb testified at his deposition that, when Officer Rose dove on him, he fell on his arms and they were trapped underneath him as a result. (Id. at Ex. A, p. 33). During the course of the scuffle, Officers Bazzy and Rose both tried to pull Webb's arms out from under him. (Id.). At some point, the remaining defendants - Officers Shepherd, Cecile, and Williams - arrived on the scene and tried to assist in restraining Webb. (Id. at Ex. B, pp. 1-2). Defendant Bazzy then delivered a knee strike to Webb's right ribs and struck Webb in the ribs with a closed fist, which Webb alleges caused him to defecate on himself. (Id. at Ex. A, pp. 32, 35; Ex. B, p. 1). Subsequently, Webb was pepper sprayed, and his hands were finally placed behind his back. (Id. at Ex. A, pp. 34-35).

         Webb was placed in the back of Officer Shepherd's police vehicle, while the car he had been riding in was searched, and a bag of marijuana was found. (Id. at Ex. A, pp. 50-51; Ex. B, p. 2). Officer Shepherd then drove Webb to the WSU Police Department Headquarters for processing, where he was able to clean up and discard his soiled underwear. (Id. at Ex. A, p. 36). While at headquarters, Webb complained of rib pain, so he was transported to Detroit Receiving Hospital, where x-rays showed no broken or fractured ribs and he was discharged. (Id. at Ex. A, pp. 36-37; Doc. #24 at Ex. D, p. 4). Webb was then charged with two counts of assaulting, resisting, and obstructing a police officer and one count of possession of marijuana. (Id. at Ex. J, p. 5). Subsequently, Webb pled guilty to assaulting, resisting, and obstructing a police officer.

         On July 26, 2016, Webb filed the instant lawsuit, alleging that Defendants used excessive force during the course of his arrest, in violation of the Fourth Amendment.[4] (Doc. #1). Defendants now move for summary judgment, arguing that Webb's claim is barred by qualified immunity. (Doc. #23).

         B. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides: “The Court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows 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 Pittman v. Cuyahoga County Dep't of Children & Family Servs., 640 F.3d 716, 723 (6th Cir. 2011). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the case under governing law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court assumes the truth of the non-moving party's evidence and construes all reasonable inferences from that evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Ciminillo v. Streicher, 434 F.3d 461, 464 (6th Cir. 2006).

         In this case, Defendants assert that they are entitled to qualified immunity from Webb's § 1983 excessive force claim. (Doc. #23 at 15-24). The doctrine of qualified immunity insulates state actors from liability in close-call situations. See Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 206 (2001) (explaining that the defense is intended to protect state actors who must operate along the “hazy border” that divides acceptable from unreasonable conduct). Once the qualified immunity defense is raised, “the plaintiff must show that (1) the defendant violated a constitutional right and (2) that right was clearly established.” McDonald v. Flake, 814 F.3d 804, 812 (6th Cir. 2016). A plaintiff must satisfy both of these prongs, but the Court may take up the questions in either order. See Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, ...

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