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Bullman v. City of Detroit

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

February 28, 2018

Alonzo Bullman, et al., Plaintiffs,
City of Detroit, et al., Defendants.

          Elizabeth A. Stafford U.S. Magistrate Judge.



         Plaintiffs Alonzo Bullman, Joel Castro, and Nicole Motyka bring this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the City of Detroit and several Detroit police officers. This lawsuit arises from a series of events that occurred at Joel Castro's and Nicole Motyka's home on January 26 and 27, 2016. Plaintiffs claim that Defendants violated their civil rights when the police officers executed a forced entry into Joel Castro's and Nicole Motyka's home and killed two of their dogs, and when two of the officers conducted a warrantless search and seizure of Alonzo Bullman and his car without any justification.

         This Opinion and Order resolves several pending motions, all of which have been fully briefed. In February 2017, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Compel [27], seeking the disclosure of the identities of the anonymous complainant who first tipped off the police about narcotics activity at Joel Castro's home, and SOI[1]#3030, the confidential informant who attempted to purchase marijuana from Joel Castro. The Court referred the motion to the Magistrate Judge, who, in May 2017, denied the motion without prejudice [47]. Plaintiffs filed an Objection to the Magistrate Judge's Order [50] on May 16, 2017. The next day, Plaintiffs filed a Motion to Amend Scheduling Order to Extend Discovery Cutoff by 45 Days [51].

         Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [54] on June 16, 2017. Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint [59] on July 20, 2017. A hearing on the pending motions took place on January 23, 2018.

         For the reasons stated on the record, and as discussed in depth below, the Court GRANTS IN PART and DENIES IN PART Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment as follows:

• The Motion is DENIED as to Joel Castro's Fourth Amendment illegal seizure claim for the killing of his dog, Junior, against Sergeant Matthew Bray, and is otherwise GRANTED.
• The Motion is DENIED as to Nicole Motyka's Fourth Amendment illegal seizure claim for the killing of her dog, Blanca, against Sergeant Matthew Bray, and is otherwise GRANTED.
• The Motion is DENIED as to Alonzo Bullman's Fourth Amendment claim for the illegal search of his car and seizure of his person against Sergeant Matthew Bray and Officer Nico Hurd, and is otherwise GRANTED.
• The Motion is GRANTED as to Plaintiffs' federal and state law claims against the City of Detroit.
• The Motion is GRANTED as to Plaintiffs' claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress. . The Motion is GRANTED as to Plaintiffs' claims for conversion of the seized marijuana plants, the cash, and the dogs.

         The Court DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File Second Amended Complaint [59], OVERRULES Plaintiffs' Objection to the Magistrate Judge's Order on the Motion to Compel [50], and DENIES Plaintiffs' Motion to Amend/Correct Scheduling Order [51].

         Factual Background

         I. The anonymous tip, the confidential informant's attempted purchase, and Officer Fox's surveillance

         On January 26, 2016, someone called the Detroit Police Department to report that narcotics were being sold out of the two-unit residence located at 5437 and 5441 Springwells Street, [2] where Joel Castro and Nicole Motyka lived.

         Officers Johnny Fox and Nico Hurd attempted to use an undercover informant, SOI #3030, to engage in a controlled buy with the alleged seller at the Springwells residence. (Dkt. 7-2). Officer Hurd had worked with SOI #3030 “hundreds of times” over an approximately two-and-a-half year period. (Defs.' Ex. C at 9:9-16). The officers gave cash to the SOI, who then proceeded to 5437 Springwells and knocked on the front door. (Dkt. 63-1 at 42:12-15). Officer Fox saw the SOI “speaking with who [he] believed to be the seller, ” a 5'9”, 150 pound white man between the ages of 18 and 22 years old. Id. at 44-45. Although this person refused to sell anything to SOI #3030, the SOI allegedly told Fox that the person was carrying a large sandwich bag of marijuana when he opened the door. Hurd also “observed somebody at the door holding bags of marijuana.” (Defs.' Ex C at 20:13-16, 26:1-3). Both Fox and Hurd stated that drug dealers commonly answer the door carrying bags of narcotics. See Id. at 13:15-21; Dkt. 63-1 at 46:13-25. Fox also said that he was “aware through training and experience that narcotics sellers often will not sell to people they do not know in order to avoid detection by law enforcement.” (Dkt. 30-2, Page ID 440-41).

         Officer Fox continued surveilling the Springwells house. In the span of 45 minutes, Fox saw two white men arrive, separately and independent of each other, at the home. After bringing each individual inside 5437 Springwells, the alleged seller left, entered 5441 Springwells for several minutes, then walked back and reentered 5437 Springwells. The two men left approximately 30 seconds to one minute after the seller returned. Based on his experience and observations, Office Fox believed that he had witnessed narcotics trafficking.

         At the time of the investigation, Fox did not know that Joel Castro is licensed by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to serve as a licensed medical marijuana caregiver. Michigan law allows Joel Castro to possess up to 36 marijuana plants for the use of himself and registered qualifying patients. M.C.L. § 333.26424(b)(2). Joel Castro used the facility at 5441 Springwells to grow his medical marijuana plants.

         Fox and Hurd later determined that the seller was Chris Bullman, [3] who is Joel Castro's friend and Alonzo Bullman's cousin. (Dkt. 63-1 at 45:3-11; Defs.' Ex C at 21:3-7, 71-72). Joel Castro, however, maintains that Chris Bullman wasn't at his home on January 26, 2016. (Dkt. 63-3).[4] Joel Castro remembers that someone he didn't know knocked on his door that day. Joel Castro did not sell any drugs to that person because he was not his patient. (Dkt. 33-1, Pg. ID 453). Joel Castro adamantly denies that he was holding a bag of marijuana when he answered the door, as such behavior would be “foolish and highly dangerous.” Id. He said that the only marijuana on the first floor at the time was his personal supply, which could not be seen from the front door.

         II. The execution of the search warrant

         Officer Fox obtained a search warrant on January 27, 2016. At mid-afternoon that day, Fox and the other officers went to the Springwells residence. At that time, Joel Castro and Chris Bullman were playing video games in the living room. One of Joel Castro's dogs, Yayo, was with them. The other two dogs, Junior and Blanca, were confined in the kitchen, which is separated from the living room by what appears to be an island, a book shelf, and an approximately four foot tall wood board. (Dkt. 7-1). Access to the kitchen is blocked.

         What happened next is contested by the parties. Joel Castro said that he heard police officers on his front porch. (Defs.' Ex. M, 27:25-28:1). The officers said “Detroit Police” and then “no more than 3 seconds later, [Castro's] door was being kicked in.” Id. at 28:3-4. “As [he] heard the first few slams against the door, [Castro] grabbed Yayo by his collar” and threw him inside the bedroom, which was about four feet away. Id. at 28:9-10. Joel Castro then “went to [his] front door and yelled at the police officer . . . that [he] was going to open it.” Id. at 28:11-13. He kicked the security board down from the front door, at which point the police entered the house. Joel Castro and Chris Bullman immediately complied with the officers' orders to get on the ground.

         Blanca and Junior, were confined to the kitchen when the police entered the home. Plaintiffs assert that the dogs were scared and “cowering in the corner.” (Compl. ¶30). The officers claim differently. Officer Hurd testified that the dogs were “barking, jumping up and down, [and] showing teeth.” (Defs.' Ex. C at 35:6). Officer Samuel Galloway described the dogs as “being aggressive.” (Defs.' Ex. X at 10:8).

         While on the ground, Joel Castro asked if he could put Junior and Blanca away. Sergeant Matthew Bray ignored this request and fired his shotgun six times, killing the two dogs. The officers subsequently seized Joel Castro's 26 marijuana plants and $4, 683.00 in cash.

         III. The police officers stop Alonzo Bullman

         Alonzo Bullman drove to Joel Castro's home shortly before 1 PM. When he arrived, he saw “a bunch of police officers . . . in the yard [and] on the porch.” (Defs.' Ex. AA at 14:10-19). He decided to circle the block a few times to call Chris Bullman[5] and try to figure out what was happening. Id. at 16:18-20. Sergeant Bray and Officer Hurd, both dressed in full SWAT gear, stopped Alonzo Bullman after the third drive-by. The officers ordered Alonzo Bullman “to get the F out the car” and told him that his car smelled of marijuana. Id. at 18:11-16. They searched the vehicle, but found no contraband or weapons. Id. at 29:9-10. After Alonzo Bullman asked why this was happening, one of the officers “got aggravated and told [him] if [Bullman] don't talk . . . [the officer's] going to take [Bullman] in the house and give [him] a Detroit ass whipping and send [him] on [his] way.” Id. at 21:11-13. Alonzo Bullman refused to speak to the officers and one of them threatened him a second time. Id. at 21:15-16. Ultimately, the officers released Alonzo Bullman and directed him to leave the premises. Id. at 29:11-12.

         The Parties' Motions

         I. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

         Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Defendants bear the burden of establishing that there are no genuine issues of material fact, which may be accomplished by demonstrating that Plaintiffs lack evidence to support an essential element of their case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Plaintiffs cannot rest on the pleadings and must show more than “some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd., 475 U.S. at 586-87. Plaintiffs must “go beyond the pleadings and by . . . affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, ' designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324 (quoting Rule 56(e)); see also United States v. WRW Corp., 986 F.2d 138, 143 (6th Cir. 1993).


         A. Federal Claims

         Plaintiffs purport to bring claims under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. However, because Plaintiffs have failed to brief or address the Fourteenth Amendment due process arguments, the Court deems these claims abandoned. See Conner v. Hardee's Food Sys., Inc., 65 Fed.Appx. 19, 24-25 (6th Cir. 2003); Anglers of the Au Sable v. United States Forest Svc., 565 F.Supp.2d 812, 839 (E.D. Mich. 2008) (“It is well settled that abandonment may occur where a party asserts a claim in its complaint, but then fails to address the issues in response to [a] motion for summary judgment.”).

         To prevail on a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiffs “must establish that a person acting under color of state law deprived [them] of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” Waters v. City of Morristown, TN, 242 F.3d 353, 358-59 (6th Cir. 2001). At the summary judgment stage, the police officer defendants are entitled to qualified immunity unless Plaintiffs present sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether (1) the defendants violated a constitutional right (2) that was clearly established such that a reasonable person in defendants' position would know that the conduct complained of was unlawful. Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 201-02 (2001). The officers are entitled to qualified immunity claim if Plaintiffs fail to meet either requirement. Pray v. City of Sandusky, 49 F.3d 1154, 1157 (6th Cir. 1995) (citing Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640 (1987)).

         1. Joel Castro and Nicole Motyka

         i. The search of 5437 Springwells

         Plaintiffs submit that the unlawful search of Joel Castro's home occurred because of intentional misrepresentations in the search warrant affidavit; either Officer Fox lied about what the SOI said, and/or SOI #3030 lied about seeing the seller holding marijuana in his hand when he answered the door.

         In his warrant affidavit, Officer Fox swore that after receiving a complaint that drugs were being sold at the Springwells residence, he and Officer Hurd met with SOI #3030, with whom they'd previously worked. The SOI unsuccessfully attempted to make a controlled buy. The SOI told the officers that the seller refused to sell to him because the seller didn't know him, and that the seller was holding a bag of marijuana when he opened the door. During Officer Fox's surveillance, he saw two white men, separate and independent ...

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