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Cornelious v. Brubaker

June 25, 2003


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael J. Davis, United States District Court.

Memorandum Opinion & Order


This matter is before the Court upon summary judgment motions brought by the defendants as follows: Jason Brubaker ("Brubaker") and the City of St. Paul (collectively, "City Defendants"); Joseph Anaya ("Anaya"), Anthony Gardner ("Gardner") and Capital Investigations ("Capital")(collectively, "Capital Defendants"). For the reasons stated below, the defendants' motions for summary judgment are denied.


In his Complaint, Plaintiff Desmond Cornelious ("Cornelious") alleges multiple federal and state claims against the defendants. In his Consolidated Memorandum in Opposition to Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment, Cornelious argues that the only remaining claims he is asserting are: (1.) Count One of the Complaint asserting § 1983 claims against Officer Brubaker for the use of unreasonable force and false arrest; (2.) Count Five of the Complaint asserting a claim of respondeat superior against Capital Investigations; (3.) Count Seven of the Complaint asserting false imprisonment against Officer Brubaker, Anaya, and Gardner; and, (4.) Count Nine of the Complaint asserting a conspiracy claim against all defendants. (Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n to Summ. J. at 3).

At oral argument, the Court requested that the parties submit letters to the Court indicating their understanding of Cornelious' remaining claims. The parties' understandings reflect the above-listed counts set-forth in Cornelius' memorandum of law. As such, the Court will only consider those counts in its summary judgment analysis. The remaining claims are accordingly dismissed with prejudice.


For the purposes of summary judgment, the Court views the facts in the light most favorable to Cornelious as the non-moving party.

1. Cornelious' Background

Cornelious is a 26 year-old African American man. He graduated in 1994 from De LaSalle High School in Minneapolis. (Cornelious Dep. at 10). Following high school, Cornelious attended Grambling State University in Louisiana for five years. (Id.). He was three credits short of graduating with a double major in psychology and sociology when he had to postpone his studies to return to Minneapolis on an emergency basis to care for his mother, a college professor, who had suffered a debilitating stroke. (Id. at 11). Cornelious works with troubled families and children as a counselor at Impact International in Brooklyn Park. (Id. at 12). Prior to the incident at issue, Cornelious had never been arrested for a crime. (Id. at 18).

On the evening of July 23, 2000, Cornelious and his friend Lawrence Clardy ("Clardy") went to Club Cancun in St. Paul, Minnesota. (Id. at 29). After arriving, Cornelious ran into Katie Koelfgen, a woman with whom he was involved in an intermittent sexual relationship. (Id. at 21). Koelfgen was there with her roommate, Cheri Bovee, and Bovee's friend, Barbara Jensrud. (Id. at 24, 44-45). Later that evening, Koelfgen saw Cornelious talking with another woman in the upstairs bar and threw a drink in his face. (Id. at 50-52, Cornelious Dep. at 54). A Club Cancun bouncer immediately approached Koelfgen, asked her to leave, and escorted her out of the bar. (Id. at 52). Cornelius was not ejected from the club, but left the club voluntarily ten minutes after Koelfgen was ejected. (Id. at 62).

2. Relationship of the Parties

At the same time Koelfgen was seeing Cornelious, she was also involved in a relationship with Capital Investigations security officer Antwayn Hunter. (Koelfgen Dep. at 26). Hunter and Anaya had been friends for approximately three years, and Gardner also knew Hunter through work. (Anaya Dep. at 33, Gardner Dep. at 68). Anaya was acquainted with Koelfgen through her relationship with Hunter. (Anaya Dep. at 36, 44). Koelfgen testified that Anaya was "sort of seeing" her roommate, Cheri Bovee, when this incident occurred and that they had been on dates together, including watching movies at Koelfgen's apartment. (Koelfgen Dep. at 30).

3. Outside Club Cancun

After being escorted out of Club Cancun, Koelfgen walked to the front of the building and saw her friend Anaya, who was working security outside the bar. (Id. at 53). She told Anaya that she had thrown a drink in her ex-boyfriend's face and was ejected from the bar. (Id. at 54, 56). Koelfgen told Anaya that Cornelious was her ex-boyfriend because she was seeing Anaya's friend, Hunter, at the time. (Id. at 54).

Anaya testified that he knew Cornelious had not been ejected from the club. (Anaya Dep. at 57). Anaya asked Koelfgen twice if she wanted him to beat Cornelious up. (Koelfgen Dep. at 118). Koelfgen told him 'no'. (Id. at 119).

Shortly thereafter, Cornelious exited Club Cancun and saw Koelfgen talking to Anaya. (Cornelious Dep. at 66). Koelfgen began talking to Cornelious and he responded by telling her, "you didn't have any business throwing a drink in my face." (Id. at 74). Koelfgen initiated the conversation with Cornelious. (Id.).

After the exchange with Koelfgen, a Capital Investigations security officer began yelling at Cornelious. (Id. at 75). Clardy testified that the guard moved aggressively into Cornelious' face. (Clardy Dep. at 86). Cornelious stated that he said something like, "wait, wait -- you don't even know the situationà this bitch just threw a drink in my face." (Id.). Upon hearing the word "bitch," Koelfgen slapped Cornelious on the face. (Cornelious Dep. at 75).

Cornelious said, "I'm done," or, "I'm leaving" and began to walk across the street toward his car. (Id. at 85).

4. Events in the Street

As Cornelious crossed Rice Street, he realized that his driver, Clardy, was still somewhere outside the club. (Cornelious Dep. at 86). When he turned back to locate Clardy, Brubaker and Anaya yelled at him, to "get the hell out of here." (Id.). Cornelious testified that when he looked back, he was across the street and only a couple of steps from the sidewalk. (Id. at 87). Cornelious said, "fuck you all," to Officer Brubaker and Anaya, who were across the street from him. (Id. at 88).

Brubaker immediately charged across the street at Cornelious, followed closely by both Gardner and Anaya. (Id. at 90). Brubaker immediately maced Cornelious and then took him to the ground, where Cornelious was hit and kicked repeatedly. (Id. at 92, 94-95). Brubaker was on top of Cornelious and was saying "don't fuck with police." (Id. at 97, 100). Cornelious was called a "nigger" while he was hit and kicked on the ground by Officer Brubaker, Gardner, and Anaya. (Id. at 96, 99).

Gardner and Anaya gave accounts that conflict with Cornelious' testimony. Gardner testified that Cornelious and Brubaker were "fighting" in the street alone, for between two and one-half to three minutes before Gardner decided to intervene. (Gardner Dep. at 123-24, 126).

Anaya testified that Cornelious and Brubaker were engaged in the street for only a few seconds before he assisted. (Anaya Dep. at 89). Anaya stated that he never touched Cornelious at any time. (Id. at 99-100). However, Anaya previously told Internal Affairs that he, "ran over to assist Brubaker and Gardner in trying to put some restraints on this guyàI would just kind of hold the guy, and I kind of helped pull his arm around while they cuffed him." (Transcript of STP 00363 Anaya of 1/25/01, 11).

Koelfgen testified that Anaya ran out with Brubaker immediately after Cornelious said, "fuck you." (Koelfgen Dep. at 99). She stated that Anaya hit Cornelious in the back with a fist. (Id. at 79).

5. In the Squad Car

After Cornelious was handcuffed, he was put in Officer Brubaker's squad car. (Brubaker Dep. at 85). Officer Brubaker drove away from Club Cancun at 1:10 a.m. (Id. at 25). Several blocks away from Club Cancun, Officer Brubaker stopped the squad car, got out, opened the back door, maced Cornelious, who was handcuffed, and started assaulting him again. (Cornelious Dep. at 119). During the beating, Officer Brubaker shouted, "never fuck with the police, motherfucker." (Id.) Officer Brubaker also said, "I should take you underneath the bridge and kick your ass." (Id.).

Cornelious heard a transmission on the police radio regarding an officerinvolved shooting. (Id. at 121). Officer Brubaker jumped off Cornelious and took him, at high-speed, to the shooting scene, less than four miles away. (Id.). At the scene, Cornelious heard Officer Brubaker talking to another police officer, chuckling that he had someone in his car. (Id. at 123). Officer Brubaker denies macing or striking Cornelious in the squad car and denies going to the scene of the shooting. (Brubaker Dep. at 57-58).

Cornelious claims that Officer Brubaker's testimony is false based on inconsistent testimony and police reports regarding the events at Club Cancun and thereafter:

(1.) The 911 tape summary indicates that at 1:10 a.m., Officer Brubaker made a transmission saying he was "en route to Regions Hospital with one." (Id. at 127).

(2.) Regions Hospital is approximately 3.0 miles from Club Cancun. (Id. at 24).

(3.) At 1:14 a.m., a transmission regarding a police officer-involved shooting was dispatched. (Id., Ex. 11).

(4.) The Regions Hospital Security logbook indicates that Brubaker arrived at the hospital with Cornelious at 1:30 a.m. (Id. at 23-24, Ex.13).

(5.) It is approximately 3.7 miles from Club Cancun to the location of the shooting incident and 2 miles from the shooting scene to ...

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