United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Joshua R. Williams, Esq., and Timothy M. Phillips, Esq., Law Office of Joshua R. Williams, PLLC, counsel for Plaintiff.
Jon K. Iverson, Esq., and Stephanie A. Angolkar, Esq., Iverson Reuvers Condon, counsel for Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
DONOVAN W. FRANK, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment brought by Defendants David Velasquez ("Officer Velasquez"), Jamie Angerhofer ("Officer Angerhofer") (together, the "Officers"), and the City of Brooklyn Park (the "City") (collectively, "Defendants"). (Doc. No. 25.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion.
On February 21, 2010, Brooklyn Park police responded to a reported assault of a Metro Transit bus driver involving a group of males. (Doc. No. 28 ("Angolkar Aff.") ¶ 3, Ex. 2 ("Velasquez Dep.") at 9-16.) The responding officers were advised that one of the male suspects had threatened to kill the bus driver. ( Id. at 11-12.) Officers located a group of five males who matched the description of the suspects. ( Id. at 13; Angolkar Aff. ¶ 6, Ex. 5 ("Edwards Dep.") at 17; Angolkar Aff. ¶ 2, Ex. 1 ("Watkins Dep.") at 33-34.) Plaintiff Hakim Watkins ("Watkins") submits that after he got off the bus, he walked with four other boys, saw a police squad car, and stopped. (Watkins Dep. at 34.)
Officer Velasquez approached the group and told them to take their hands out of their pockets. (Watkins Dep. at 34-35; Velasquez Dep. at 18.) Officer Velasquez then told Watkins to put his hands on top of his head to make sure Watkins did not have a weapon. (Velasquez Dep. at 15; Watkins Dep. at 35; Angolkar Aff. ¶ 5, Ex. 4 ("Squad Video").) Watkins placed his hands on his head. (Velasquez Dep. at 18.) Officer Velasquez testified that he randomly picked Watkins to pat down first because Watkins was the first one in his line of sight. ( Id. at 15.)
Officer Velasquez testified that after Watkins initially complied, he became uncooperative. ( Id. at 18.) For example, Officer Velasquez claims that after asking Watkins what took place, Watkins became upset, claimed that he did not do anything wrong, tensed his body, and refused to stay still. (Watkins Dep. at 35-37; Velasquez Dep. at 16, 18-19; Squad Video.) Officer Velasquez told Watkins to relax and attempted to pat-search him. (Velasquez Dep. at 16, 20.) Officer Velasquez decided to remove Watkins from the group and Watkins continued to resist being moved. (Velasquez Dep. at 16-17; Squad Video.)
Officer Velasquez walked Watkins toward his squad car and attempted to lean Watkins over the car. (Velasquez Dep. at 17, 21.) Watkins claims that he was pulled toward the squad car, that his head was slammed onto the hood, and that he was choked and violently taken to the ground. (Watkins Dep. at 35, 41-43, 48, 74.) Defendants contend that Watkins continued to tense up and resist commands, and that Officer Velasquez had to forcefully "wrestle" with Watkins and hold him over the car. (Velasquez Dep. at 17, 21-22.) Officer Velasquez testified that Watkins was struggling and that he lost control of one of Watkins' arms. ( Id. at 17.) Officer Velasquez claims that he attempted to grab one of Watkins' arms and "bear hug" him in an attempt to control the other arm. (Velasquez Dep. at 21-22; Squad Video.) Watkins asserts that he was put in a choke hold, but acknowledges that Office Velasquez's arms were around Watkins' neck and shoulders and that Watkins was able to speak and may have said "let me go." (Watkins Dep. at 44-45, 48; Squad Video.) Watkins was moving around and his legs were kicking or "flailing around." (Velasquez Dep. at 17, 39-40; Angolkar Aff. ¶ 4, Ex. 3 ("Angerhofer Dep.") at 13; Edwards Dep. at 23-24; Squad Video.)
Officer Velasquez was able to secure Watkins' left arm behind his back, but continued to attempt to secure his right arm. (Velasquez Dep. at 22; Squad Video.) Officer Velasquez was assisted by a Community Service Officer and, eventually, Officer Angerhofer. (Velasquez Dep. at 17-18; Angerhofer Dep. at 11-12.) Officer Angerhofer testified that when he arrived on the scene, he witnessed Officer Velasquez struggling with Watkins and that Officer Velasquez was trying to get Watkins' hands behind his back. (Angerhofer Dep. at 11-12.) With help, Officer Velasquez attempted to place Watkins in handcuffs. (Velasquez Dep. at 22; Angerhofer Dep. at 12.) Defendants contend that Watkins, however, pulled his arm away. (Angerhofer Dep. at 12; Squad Video.) At some point, Officer Angerhofer suggested that Officer Velasquez take Watkins to the ground as the Officers attempted to handcuff Watkins. (Velasquez Dep. at 22.) Officers Velasquez and Angerhofer then took Watkins to the ground and placed him in handcuffs. (Watkins Dep. at 50; Velasquez Dep. at 25; Angerhofer Dep. at 12-13; Squad Video.) Watkins complained that the handcuffs were too tight. (Watkins Dep. at 52-53.) Officer Velasquez checked the handcuffs and confirmed they were placed appropriately. (Velasquez Dep. at 26, 41-42.) Watkins was placed in the back of the squad car. (Squad Video.)
Despite the above record evidence, Watkins asserts that he did not resist at any time during his encounter with the police. (Doc. No. 32 ("Watkins Decl.") ¶¶ 2-3.) Watkins claims that his face hit the hood of the car during the struggle. (Watkins Dep. at 41.) Watkins claims that his lip was lacerated and a prior back injury was aggravated. ( Id. at 53-54.) In addition, he asserts that he had marks on his wrists from the handcuffs. ( Id. at 53-54.) Watkins did not seek medical treatment. ( Id. )
In his First Amended Complaint, Watkins asserts a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments for excessive force (Count I); battery (Count II); and infliction of emotional distress ("IIED") (Count III). (Doc. No. 10, First Am. ...