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Brown v. Ennenga

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

November 7, 2013

John Mitchell Brown, Sr., Plaintiff,
v.
FBI Fugitive Task Force Officers Donald L. Ennenga, Kenneth J. Grosinger, Daniel Otterson, and Minneapolis Police Officer Michael Hentges, each in their individual capacity, Defendants.

Stephen L. Smith, Esq., Law Firm of Stephen L. Smith, PLLC, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Plaintiff.

Lonnie F. Bryan, Esq., United States Attorney's Office, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ANN D. MONTGOMERY, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

On September 6, 2013, the undersigned United States District Judge heard oral argument on Defendants FBI Fugitive Task Force Officers Donald L. Ennenga, Kenneth J. Grosinger, Daniel Otterson, and Minneapolis Police Officer Michael Hentges' ("Defendants" or the "Task Force") Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 45].[1] Plaintiff John Mitchell Brown, Sr. ("Brown"), opposes the motion. For the reasons set forth below, the motion for summary judgment is granted.

II. BACKGROUND

Defendants are all members of the Minnesota Violent Crime Fugitive Task Force, a group of federal and state law enforcement officers, which tracks, locates, and arrests persons with outstanding arrest warrants for violent felonies. Defs.' Mem. Supp. Summ. J. [Docket No. 46] Ex. 3 ("Defs.' Exs.") 11.[2] On or about July 14, 2008, the Hennepin County Sheriff forwarded the arrest warrant for Curtis Ladon Walker ("Walker") to the Task Force, and requested assistance in locating and arresting Walker. See Defs.' Exs. at 22-28.

Defendant and FBI Special Agent Daniel T. Otterson led the investigation. Otterson obtained the address for Walker's mother, Felicia Beasley, and conducted an interview of her. Felicia Beasley fully cooperated with the investigation, and stated Walker had been living with his father, Donald Beasley. Id. at 29. Donald Beasley had been recently evicted, and both he and Walker went to live at another apartment complex, located at 15th Street and Portland Avenue in Minneapolis. According to Felicia Beasley, Walker and Donald Beasley lived between two different units in this complex. One unit belonged to Curtis Walker's brother Alex Walker, and Alex Walker's girlfriend, Joy Abkins. The other unit belonged to Plaintiff Brown. Id .; see also Smith Aff. [Docket No. 55] Ex. 2 ("Otterson Dep.") 17.

The Task Force obtained the address for Alex Walker, confirmed he lived with Joy Abkins, and confirmed the two lived in the building Felicia Beasley identified. Otterson Dep. 15. On August 12, 2008, Defendants went to this apartment complex looking to arrest Walker. Accompanied by the building caretaker, Defendants entered Alex Walker's apartment and found the unit vacant. Otterson Dep. 15, 19-20. Defendants then spoke with a neighbor who confirmed seeing Curtis Walker as recently as 36 or 48 hours prior to the agents' arrival. Smith Aff. Ex. 4 ("Hentges Dep.") 29; Otterson Dep. 15.

Next, Defendants returned to the building caretaker's office, where Otterson spoke by phone with apartment manager Karen Sorvaag. See Otterson Dep. 16. Otterson testified in his deposition that Sorvaag recognized Brown's name, and told the Task Force officers Brown had spent time in the same homeless shelter as Donald Beasley. Otterson Dep. 16. According to Otterson, Sorvaag also stated numerous people came and went from Brown's apartment, and that Sorvaag suspected drug activity. Id.

According to a more recent declaration submitted in opposition to summary judgment, Sorvaag does not recall parts of this conversation as recounted by Otterson. Sorvaag confirms she had previously spoken with Brown "about having a lot of visitors." Smith Aff. Ex. 7 ("Sorvaag Decl.") ¶ 2. However, Sorvaag does not recall Brown as being involved in drug activity, and states that if he had been, he would not have been allowed to continue living in the building. Id . ¶¶ 3-4. In addition, Sorvaag does not recall Donald Beasley, and states (presumably after checking her records) that no authorized tenant by that name lived in the building. Id . ¶ 5.

After the phone conversation with Sorvaag, Defendants proceeded to Brown's apartment. Officer Hentges knocked three times and announced the presence of law enforcement, but received no response. The Task Force heard voices or activity in the apartment, and decided to enter. Hentges Dep. 35-36; Otterson Dep. 24. Just as Hentges was about to unlock the door with the caretaker's key, John Brown Jr., Brown's son, opened the door from inside. Hentges Dep. 36. Agents Otterson and Grosinger, and Officer Hentges, entered the apartment with their firearms drawn, and ordered Brown, Jr. to lie face down on the floor. Otterson Dep. 25. Agent Ennenga remained outside to secure the hallway. Smith Aff. Ex. 3 ("Ennenga Dep.") 31-32. The agents inside the apartment announced their presence and moved to secure the premises. See Smith Aff. Ex. 1 ("Brown Dep.") 66. They located Brown and his cousin Ernest Brown, and ordered them to lie face down with their hands behind their heads. Id. at 59-60, 67-68. Brown moved slowly in lying down and placing his hands behind his head, and told the agents that he had recently had neck surgery. Id. at 60-61; Otterson Dep. 30. Unknown to Defendants at the time, Brown had an extensive history of pain and injury in his back and shoulders. See Defs.' Exs. at 55-129.

After the agents searched the apartment and did not find Walker, they began speaking with Brown. Hentges Dep. 41. Otterson asked Brown when his surgery had taken place. Brown told Otterson it had occurred six months prior, and that he had continued taking oxycodone, a prescription pain medication, since that time. Otterson Dep. 31. Because several months had elapsed, Otterson testified he became less concerned about causing Brown injury. Otterson Dep. 31-32. According to Brown, Otterson told Brown he should have completed his recovery by this time. Brown Dep. 72.

Next, Hentges requested Brown's identification. Brown Dep. 74. Based on information on Brown's identification card, the Hennepin County police dispatcher reported there was a felony warrant from Virginia for the arrest of a "John Brown." Hentges Dep. 41-42. Although Brown told the agents that he had never been to Virginia, Defendants nevertheless placed Brown under arrest. Brown Dep. 76. Hentges placed Brown in handcuffs by "grabbing" each hand and placing them behind Brown's back. See Brown Dep. 79; Otterson Dep. 33. Testimony is in conflict as to whether Hentges handcuffed Brown while he was still lying down, or after he stood up, but ...


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