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Ford v. City of Detroit

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

November 15, 2019

EMANUEL FORD, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF DETROIT, CITY OF DETROIT POLICE DEPARTMENT, JOHN SVEC, and JOHN DOE, Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND

          TERRENCE G. BERG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Emanuel Ford, a Detroit property owner, brings this lawsuit claiming that he was roughed up by Detroit Police Officers and arrested without any probable cause. The City of Detroit and the accused Officers are asking for summary judgment in their favor, but there are questions of fact that must be determined by a jury. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint (ECF No. 34) and Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 35).[1]

         I. Background

         On August 18, 2017, Plaintiff Emanuel Ford initiated this action by filing the Complaint. ECF No. 1. The case was removed from state court to the Eastern District of Michigan on September 7, 2017. Id. The allegations of the Complaint arise out of Plaintiff's alleged unlawful arrest following a 2016 shooting at Plaintiff's Detroit rental property. Id. Plaintiff brought claims against all Defendants for false arrest and excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment; against all Defendants for violation of Plaintiff's due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment; against the City of Detroit for Monell violations; against Defendants Svec and John Doe for state law gross negligence and assault and battery; and two causes of action to recover Plaintiff's handguns, concealed carry permit, and cell phone, which were seized at the time of his arrest. Id.

         Over the course of this litigation, Defendants returned Plaintiff's handguns, concealed carry permit, and cell phone, rendering Plaintiff's causes of action to recover the seized items moot. ECF No. 39, PageID.1088. Also during discovery, Plaintiff identified the names of some of the other Officers who were involved in his arrest. He therefore asks leave to amend the Complaint to add their names. Plaintiff also concedes that the City of Detroit Police Department is not a separately suable entity, and Plaintiff consents to the dismissal of the City of Detroit Police Department from this action. Id. Additionally, Plaintiff consents to dismissal of his state constitutional claims, his gross negligence claim, and his Fourteenth Amendment claims. Id. at PageID.1092-93. Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment, Monell, and assault and battery claims remain before the Court.

         II. Facts

         On June 21, 2016, Emanuel Ford received somewhat frantic telephone calls from some of his tenants reporting that a dispute between the upstairs and downstairs tenants over placement of a trashcan at his rental property had escalated into a gun fight where shots were fired. Ford Dep., ECF No. 39-2, PageID.1114. Plaintiff and his wife drove to the property, located at 12798 Kentucky Street in Detroit (“rental property”), and arrived shortly after the shooting had ended and before any police officers had arrived. Id. at PageID.1115. As Plaintiff parked on Kentucky St., approximately three houses down from his rental property, a marked police car drove down the street. Id. Plaintiff flagged the officer down and informed him that he was the landlord of the property at 12798 Kentucky St., that a shooting had just occurred, that there were spent shell casings in the street, and that he was armed with a handgun for which he had a concealed carry permit. Id. at PageID.1116. The officer thanked Plaintiff and repositioned his scout car to block off the street. Id.

         Another officer arrived from the opposite direction. Id. Plaintiff repeated to the second officer what he told the first officer. Id. at PageID.1117. The second officer thanked Plaintiff and proceeded to Plaintiff's rental property. Id. Plaintiff, standing near his vehicle, observed an individual on a stretcher being transported from the rental property into an ambulance. Id. Sensing that there was no longer a need to be armed, Plaintiff removed his weapon from his person, placed it under a seat in his vehicle, and waited for police to provide him with more information about what had happened at his rental property. Id.

         Approximately forty-five minutes later, Plaintiff was approached at his vehicle by three police officers. Id. at PageID.1119. Two officers were in uniform and one, Brian Gibbings, was in plainclothes. Id. One of the uniformed officers, Timothy Sumpter, asked Plaintiff for permission to retrieve Plaintiff's handguns. Id. at PageID.1120. Plaintiff allowed Sumpter to retrieve the two handguns he had lodged under a seat in his vehicle and handed Sumpter his driver's license and concealed carry permit. Id. Gibbings then informed Plaintiff that the officers wanted Plaintiff “to talk to some detectives at the other end, you know, where the crime scene was” and escorted Plaintiff to a police car parked near his rental property. Id. at PageID.1121.

         Once the pair arrived at the police car, Plaintiff testified that Gibbings opened the door and told Plaintiff to get in. Id. Plaintiff asked why he was being told to get into the police car. Id. At that point, according to Plaintiff, Defendant John Svec, a captain in the Detroit Police Department, accused Plaintiff of lying to another officer and “grabbed [Plaintiff] by the back of the hand and slammed [Plaintiff] face forward into the police car.” Id. Svec then instructed Gibbings to “take care of him.” Id. Gibbings “started putting his fists, felt like his fists . . . into the middle of [Plaintiff's] back.” Id. at PageID.1122. As Gibbings forcefully handcuffed Plaintiff, Plaintiff began “screaming, hollering . . . [and] crying.” Id. at PageID.1121. Plaintiff, “partially laid across the [back] seat” of the police car, requested medical attention. Id. at PageID.1123. Another ambulance responded to the scene, Plaintiff received medical attention, and was transported to Sinai-Grace hospital. Id. at PageID.1129. Officers did not accompany Plaintiff to the hospital. Plaintiff has not been charged with an offense in connection with the shooting.

         The parties dispute whether Defendant Svec and the other officers had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff on June 21, 2016. Defendant Svec testified that after arriving on the scene, he received a radio call from another officer, Jason Lord, who had responded to Sinai-Grace hospital after an individual injured in the shooting had been transported there. Svec Dep., ECF No. 35-2, PageID.1052. Svec testified that in the radio transmission, Lord stated that he learned from an individual at the hospital that “the landlord was involved in the shooting.” Id. Based on Lord's radio transmission and Plaintiff's possession of a weapon with a spent shell casing, [2] Svec ordered Plaintiff's arrest because “[i]n my mind we had enough to arrest him. He was being arrested for the shooting.” Id.

         The record includes a number of official police reports that contain time stamps that appear to record the exact time when each entry in the report took place. For example, the police report entered by Sumpter on June 22, 2016 states that he recovered Plaintiff's two firearms at 6:50:50 and 6:50:54 P.M. Ex. J, ECF No. 34-11, PageID.994-95. This style of report is clearly a computerized form and is printed. Neither counsel could explain, at oral argument, how exactly the time-referents in the report were generated. Another kind of report in the record was a handwritten report called an “activity log.” That report was kept to record the runs conducted by the scout car, operated by Officers Jason Lord and Margie Everett, which responded to Sinai-Grace on the night of the shooting. According to that report, the pair arrived at Sinai-Grace at “19:03”, or 7:03 P.M. Ex. H, ECF No. 39-9, PageID.1174. Lord testified that he made the radio call in question after arriving at the hospital and speaking with an individual involved in the shooting. Lord Dep., ECF No. 39-7, PageID.1164. At his deposition, Lord could not recall who told him that Plaintiff was involved in the shooting. Id. at PageID.1168. Everett did not recall anyone telling her that Plaintiff was involved in the shooting. Everett Dep., ECF No. 39-8, PageID.1171.

         III. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

         a. Contentions

         Defendants contend that they are entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment false arrest claim because Svec had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff at the scene on June 21, 2016. ECF No. 35, PageID.1011. Defendants argue that Lord's radio transmission that “the landlord was involved in the shooting”, coupled with the officers' knowledge that semiautomatic handgun shell casings were found at the scene, that Plaintiff possessed a semiautomatic handgun, and that Plaintiff's handgun contained a spent shell casing, provided sufficient probable cause for Plaintiff's arrest. Id. at PageID.1012. Defendants further assert that even if Svec was given erroneous information about Plaintiff's involvement in the shooting by Lord, Svec is entitled to qualified immunity for his reasonable reliance on information provided to him by another police officer-even if it later turned out to be erroneous. Id. at PageID.1018.

         Plaintiff attacks the sufficiency of probable cause based on the inconsistency in the timeline between Svec's testimony and the recorded time-stamps contained in the computerized reports and the hand-written time-entries on the activity log of Lord and Everett. According to Svec, he had Plaintiff arrested only after the call came over the radio from officers at the hospital reporting that the landlord may have been involved in the shooting. This call would have occurred, according to the time entries on the police activity log of the officers at the hospital, at some point after 7:03 p.m. But according to the computerized reports, the seizure of Plaintiff's firearms-which supposedly took place at approximately the same time as his arrest-had occurred at 6:50:50 and 6:50:54 P.M. Pointing to this inconsistency, Plaintiff maintains that because the radio transmission from Lord that Svec purportedly relied on either occurred after Plaintiff had already been arrested, or perhaps did not occur at all, there was no probable cause to support his arrest. ECF No. 39, PageID.1104. Plaintiff asserts that without the radio transmission, “[o]ther than having a gun, the officers had no reason to believe Plaintiff had been involved.” Id.

         With respect to Plaintiff's other claims, Svec contends that he did not use excessive force in “slamming” Plaintiff face-forward into the police cruiser, and that he is entitled to state qualified immunity for Plaintiff's assault and battery claims. ECF No. 35, PageID.1020-26. Defendant City of Detroit contends that Plaintiff “has not produced a single shred of evidence in the process of discovery that would sustain a Monell claim.” Id. at PageID.1026.

         Plaintiff contends that force applied by Svec was excessive, and that Svec is responsible for the force applied by his inferior officers. ECF No. 39, PageID.1102. With respect to qualified immunity for Plaintiff's assault and battery claims under Michigan's governmental tort immunity statute, Plaintiff contends that Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity because Svec did not have probable cause to arrest Plaintiff. ECF No. 39, PageID.1103. Plaintiff asserts that because Svec lacked probable cause, the arrest cannot be said to have been undertaken in good faith-a requirement to establish qualified immunity under state law. Id. at PageID.1103. Finally, with respect to Plaintiff's Monell claim, Plaintiff asserts that the allegations in the Complaint are sufficient, and were the Court to disagree, the additional details included in the proposed amended complaint suffice to establish Plaintiff's Monell claim. Id. at PageID.1105.

         b. ...


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