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Parker v. City of Detroit

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

June 5, 2018

DEMAR PARKER, Plaintiff,
CITY OF DETROIT, et al., Defendants.



         I. Introduction

         On May 31, 2017, Plaintiff Demar Parker filed a Second Amended Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendants Christopher Townson, Marcus Ways, Jerold Blanding and the City of Detroit violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as state law claims of assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress during an encounter on August 14, 2015.

         Presently before the Court is the Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, filed on August 16, 2017. In their present motion, Defendants, who are all employed as police officers for the City, argue that they were not acting under color of state law during the incident on August 14, 2015; therefore none of the Defendants can be liable under section 1983. They further assert that there are no genuine issues of material fact as to whether Defendants Townson and Ways committed assault and battery or intentional inflectional of emotional distress, thus these Defendants are entitled to judgment in their favor on all of Plaintiff's claims.

         Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition on March 5, 2018, and Defendants filed a Reply Brief on March 20, 2018. A hearing on this matter was held on April 2, 2018. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny the Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment.

         II. Factual Background

         On August 14, 2015, Plaintiff arrived at the home of his four-year old daughter and his ex-girlfriend, Jasmine Sanchez. As Plaintiff approached the house, he observed his daughter and her half-brother “spooning” while watching television. The boy was Sanchez's and Defendant Townson's son. Plaintiff became upset by what he had just witnessed, particularly when he realized that Sanchez was sleeping rather than supervising the children. He pleaded with her to separate the children and to let him into the home, but Sanchez denied Plaintiff entry.

         Plaintiff was very concerned for his daughter's well-being. He requested entry into the home and to take his daughter with him to his home. Sanchez would not allow him to enter nor would she allow him to take their daughter home with him. Plaintiff and Sanchez engaged in a lengthy and sometimes heated discussion through the door. Plaintiff accused Sanchez of neglect. Eventually Plaintiff contacted his mother and Sanchez's father, Thomas Sanchez, with the hope that they could intermediate. Sanchez's father arrived at his daughter's home and she allowed him to enter.

         Meanwhile, Sanchez called 911. Both Sanchez and her father told Plaintiff that the police had been called. Sanchez also called Defendant Townson. It is not clear if Townson spoke to his son during this phone call or if his son placed a second call to Townson. In any event, Townson's son asked his father to come and get him as soon as possible because someone, later identified as Plaintiff, was attempting to break the front door and attack him. Townson could hear Plaintiff yelling and banging on the door.

         Townson knew that 911 had been called, but the situation had not been resolved. He determined he should go over to the home and remove his son from the situation. He called Defendants Ways and Blanding, officers he considers to be among his closest friends, to inform them of the situation and where he was headed. Townson denies telling Ways and Blanding to meet him at Sanchez's home, while both Blanding and Ways claim that Townson asked them to meet him there. In fact, Defendant Blanding claims the three off-duty officers met before they went to the Sanchez residence to develop a plan for the encounter.

         The events that unfolded once the Defendants arrived at the Sanchez home is in dispute. Plaintiff maintains that two vehicles arrived at the same time and parked near the house. Plaintiff thought they were possibly police vehicles, but he was not certain because it was dark outside. When he approached the cars, he noticed they were unmarked. Plaintiff maintains that as Townson approached the house, Plaintiff could see a magazine clip sticking out from his pocket. He asked Townson, who he knew was a police officer, why he came armed and with two other individuals. While Townson and Ways were dressed in civilian attire, Blanding was wearing police attire, including pants, shirt and a duty belt. Plaintiff believed that the Defendants intended to corner him in the dark area of the street and jump him.

         Plaintiff was fearful and decided to step out into the middle of the street where a street light shone so that neighbors could see that he was not armed. He also removed his shirt and tried to stop an oncoming bus so that neighbors and other travelers on the street could see that he was unarmed in case he was shot by the Defendants. He urged Townson to disarm himself. He told Townson that if he wanted to fight over the children that he should handle the situation without weapons. Plaintiff saw Townson walk over towards Blanding and it appeared Townson gave his weapon to Blanding. Next, Plaintiff claims that Townson approached, roughed him up and ripped Plaintiff's shirt collar. Blanding and Ways assert that Plaintiff was the aggressor; that he punched Townson in the head. However, Townson denies that Plaintiff tried to hit him.

         Ways told Plaintiff to ignore him and Blanding and only focus on Townson. Meanwhile, the Defendants continued to try to surround the Plaintiff. Fearing for his safety, Plaintiff fled on foot. Ways ran after him, but realizing he was unfamiliar with the area and that Plaintiff had not committed a crime he ceased his pursuit. Meanwhile, Townson entered the Sanchez home. Plaintiff reached his vehicle and left the area, however he decided to return in order to obtain the license plate numbers from the vehicles so that he could report the Defendants' conduct to supervision.

         As Plaintiff approached the vehicles, Ways suddenly appeared in the middle of the street. Plaintiff saw that Ways was holding his firearm near his groin and Plaintiff believed that Ways was brandishing his firearm so that Plaintiff would stop his vehicle and that he would use it if Plaintiff did not obey him and stop the vehicle. Blanding was on the other side of the street and Plaintiff could see him out of the corner of his eye. He saw that Blanding was aiming his firearm at Plaintiff's vehicle and began shooting. Plaintiff maneuvered his vehicle around Ways and fled the ...

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