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Fair v. Soliday

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

September 8, 2014

Elizabeth Fair, Trustee for the Estate of Edmond, Fair, deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
Ryan Soliday, individually and in his official capacity as a Brooklyn Center Police Officer, Defendant.

Elizabeth Fair, pro se.

Jon K. Iverson, Esq., Iverson, Reuvers and Condon, counsel for defendant.

ORDER

DAVID S. DOTY, District Judge.

This matter is before the court upon the motion for summary judgment by defendant Ryan Soliday, a Brooklyn Center police officer. Based on a review of the file, record and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court grants the motion.

BACKGROUND

This civil rights dispute arises out of the death of Edmond Fair, [1] who was shot by Soliday following a traffic stop. During the early morning hours of August 23, 2013, Soliday and his partner Katie Deering were patrolling a high crime area of Brooklyn Center in a marked squad car. Benner Aff. Ex. 1, at 2-4 (Soliday Statement). As they drove through a Motel 6 parking lot, a motel security guard approached them and asked them to help evict unruly motel guests. Id . at 4-5; Benner Aff. Ex. 2, at 5 (Deering Statement); see also Compl. ¶ 13. By the time the officers arrived at the motel room it was empty. Soliday Statement at 5; Deering Statement at 5.

As the officers returned to their squad car, they witnessed a minivan accelerate rapidly out of the motel parking lot. Soliday Statement at 5; Deering Statement at 6. The officers found it suspicious that the van left so quickly because in their experience it is common for evicted hotel guests to talk to the police and to try to get their money back. Soliday Statement at 5; Deering Statement at 5. The officers followed the minivan, believing that its occupants were the evicted hotel guests. Soliday Statement at 5. Given the eviction and hasty exit from the hotel property, the officers decided to pull the van over after the driver failed to properly signal a turn. Id . at 6. The driver almost stopped, but then proceeded forward at five to ten miles per hour. Id .; Deering Statement at 6.

When the van finally stopped, Soliday approached the driver's side and Deering - concerned that someone might jump out of the van - approached the passenger side. Soliday Statement at 6; Deering Statement at 6. The officers observed several people in the backseat and a passenger in the front seat. Soliday Statement at 6; Deering Statement at 7. Soliday explained to the driver - later identified as Fair - why he was pulled over. Soliday Statement at 6. Fair acknowledged that he and his passengers had been in a dispute at the motel. Id . Soliday observed that Fair appeared to be nervous because he was "obviously avoiding eye contact... [h]is voice was hesitant and... his hands and arms were nervously shaking." Id .; see also Benner Aff. Ex. 5, at 6 (Washington Statement) (stating that Fair "went crazy" and "started flipping out" after being pulled over). When asked for identification, Fair told Soliday that he did not have it with him. Soliday Statement at 6. Fair told Soliday that he was from Milwaukee and gave him a fake name. Id .; Washington Statement at 18; Brenner Aff. Ex. 6, at 10 (Tucker Statement).

Soliday next asked Fair to get out of the vehicle due to Fair's suspicious behavior. Soliday Statement at 6. Fair consented to a pat down, during which Soliday found an identification card identifying him as Edmond Fair. Id . at 7. Soliday then told Fair to sit on the curb in front of the squad car. Id . Soliday initially decided not to handcuff Fair because he feared that doing so would escalate the already tense situation. Id . Soliday asked Fair why he lied about his name and Fair told him that there were petty warrants out for his arrest and that he did not want to go back to jail. Id .; Brenner Aff. Ex. 4, at BC 279; Washington Statement at 7. Fair then became increasingly agitated, repeatedly stating that he did not want to go back to jail. Soliday Statement at 7; Tucker Statement at 11. Fair also began rocking back and forth and wringing his hands. Soliday Statement at 7. Soliday tried to diffuse the situation by telling Fair that he would not be arrested on a petty warrant. Id .; Brenner Aff. Ex. 4, at BC 278; Washington Statement at 10. Fair became more nervous and agitated, however, and Soliday concluded that he needed to handcuff Fair immediately. Soliday Statement at 7.

Expecting that Fair would resist arrest, Soliday silently indicated that Deering should draw her taser and she did so. Id .; Deering Statement at 7. Soliday then placed a handcuff on Fair's left wrist and took hold of his right wrist. Soliday Statement at 8; Deering Statement at 7. Fair resisted and a scuffle ensued. Soliday Statement at 8; Deering Statement at 8; Tucker Statement at 21; Washington Statement at 7, 19, 21-22; see also Benner Aff. Ex. 3[2]. Soliday was unable to place the handcuff on Fair's right wrist. Soliday Statement at 8; Deering Statement at 8. Deering pointed the taser at Fair and warned him that she would tase him if he did not calm down. Deering Statement at 8; Brenner Aff. Ex. 4, at BC 279; Washington Statement at 22. Fair tried to break free from the officers, and Deering tased him without effect. Soliday Statement at 8; Deering Statement at 8; Washington Statement at 22-24; Tucker Statement at 11; Benner Aff. Ex. 7, at 11-12 (Jordan Statement). Deering then attempted to take control of Fair's hands and the struggle continued, ultimately causing Fair and the officers to slide down the slope of an embankment. Soliday Statement at 8; Deering Statement at 9.

During the struggle, Fair took Deering's Taser and pulled the trigger, shocking both Deering and Soliday. Soliday Statement at 8; Deering Statement at 9. As Soliday continued to try to subdue Fair he saw that Fair had dropped the taser and was grabbing at Deering's duty belt. Soliday Statement at 8. Deering felt her duty belt being lifted on the left side, which was where her gun was located. Deering Statement at 10. Soliday asked Deering whether Fair was trying to grab her gun and she said yes. Id .; Soliday Statement at 8. Fearing for both of their lives, Soliday let go of Fair and drew his gun. Soliday Statement at 9. Fair continued to struggle with Deering and Soliday saw that Fair was "violently trying to rip an item from [her] belt, which [he] feared was her handgun." Id . Soliday then shot Fair on the left side of his torso. Id . Fair was immediately incapacitated and later died from his injuries. See Soliday Statement at 9; Deering Statement at 10. Plaintiff alleges that Fair was fully handcuffed when he was shot, Compl. ¶¶ 17, 18, 22, but the record does not support this allegation. See Soliday Statement at 8; Deering Statement at 8; Jordan Statement at 9, 25-26; Benner Aff. Ex. 8, at 9-11, 21 (Donnell Statement); Benner Aff. Ex. 16.

On January 7, 2014, plaintiff filed a complaint against Soliday, alleging excessive force under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and wrongful death under Minnesota law. Soliday moves for summary judgment. Plaintiff, who is now pro se, has not submitted an opposition to the motion.[3]

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of ...


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