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Van Raden v. Larsen

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 26, 2015

James Van Raden, Plaintiff,
v.
Steven Larsen, individually and in his capacity as a police officer for the City of Moorhead, MN; Matthew Wychor, individually and in his capacity as a police officer for the City of Moorhead, MN; Daniel Birmingham, individually and in his capacity as a police officer for the City of Moorhead, MN; Defendants.

Celeste E. Culberth, Esq., and Leslie L. Lienemann, Esq., Culberth & Lienemann, LLP, counsel for Plaintiff.

Jason M. Hiveley, Esq., Iverson Reuvers Condon, LLC, counsel for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

DONOVAN W. FRANK, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment brought by Plaintiff James Van Raden ("Van Raden") (Doc. No. 12) and a Motion for Summary Judgment brought by Defendants Officer Steven Larsen ("Officer Larsen"), Officer Matthew Wychor ("Officer Wychor"), and Officer Daniel Birmingham ("Officer Birmingham") (together, the "Officers" or "Defendants") (Doc. No. 26). For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Van Raden's motion and grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion.

BACKGROUND

At approximately 1:00 p.m. on August 23, 2011, Officers Larsen, Wychor, and Birmingham answered a dispatch to seventy-five-year-old Van Raden's home to conduct a welfare check on the report of a suicidal male. (Doc. No. 18 ("Wychor Aff.") ¶ 2, Ex. 2 ("Wychor Police Report") at ¶ 1; Doc. No. 20 ("Larsen Aff.") ¶ 2, Ex. 1 ("Larsen Police Report") at ¶ 1; Doc. No. 21 ("Birmingham Aff.") ¶ 2, Ex. 3 ("Birmingham Police Report") at ¶ 1.) The dispatch was made after Van Raden called the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center Hotline ("Crisis Hotline") and expressed that he had nothing to live for. (Wychor Police Report at ¶ 1; Larsen Police Report at ¶ 1; Birmingham Police Report at ¶ 1.)

Van Raden acknowledged that he called the Crisis Hotline (Doc. No. 17 ("Hiveley Aff.") ¶ 2, Ex. 6 ("Van Raden Dep.") at 8-9.) During the call, Van Raden asked something to the effect of: "What do you have to do to get relief? Do you have to kill yourself before you get relief from this crazy person that wants to kill me and from the police that don't make any report or help when this guy is harassing me?" (Id. at 21-22.) Van Raden testified that he called the Crisis Hotline to complain about a tenant who was harassing him and that the police were not responding. (Id. at 9, 22.) Van Raden maintains that there was a misunderstanding with the Crisis Hotline employee who told police he was suicidal. (Id. at 59.)

The record demonstrates that the responding Officers were familiar with Van Raden, knew Van Raden did not like law enforcement, and knew that Van Raden had recently been arrested for Second Degree Assault and Felony Terroristic Threats following a victim's report that Van Raden had threatened the victim with a firearm. (Wychor Police Report ¶ 1; Larsen Police Report ¶ 1; Birmingham Police Report ¶ 1.)

Officer Wychor was the first to arrive at Van Raden's house. (Doc. No. 15 ("Lienemann Decl.") ¶ 7, Ex. 6 ("Audio Recording");[1] Wychor Report ¶ 2.) Officer Wychor knocked on the door, and Van Raden answered. (Audio Recording.) Van Raden then walked into his office and sat in a chair. (Van Raden Dep. at 26.) Officer Wychor followed.[2]

At the outset, Officer Wychor indicated that Van Raden was not under arrest and that Officer Wychor was there on a "welfare check." (Audio Recording.) Officer Wychor asked Van Raden about his current condition, and Van Raden responded that he was "not doing too good" and stated that the police wanted to "kill him off." (Audio Recording; Van Raden Dep. at 26.) Officer Wychor denied that the police wanted to kill him and indicated that it was important that Van Raden talk to someone. (Audio Recording.) Van Raden cursed and expressed his fear and distrust of the police throughout the encounter. (Id. ) During his conversation with Officer Wychor, Van Raden told the Officers that a tenant was harassing him.[3] (Id. ) Van Raden also stated that, due to his current circumstances, life was not worth living; "what is there to live for?"; and "I don't [want to live] I would rather do myself in by taking a whole bunch of fucking drugs, where I would just die, rather than getting shot at." (Id. ) Van Raden repeatedly complained about prior incidents with the police. (Id. ) Officer Wychor explained that because of the way Van Raden was talking, he would have to go talk to a doctor. (Id. ) Van Raden became increasingly agitated and stated that he did not want to leave with the officers. (Id. )

Officer Wychor reiterated that Van Raden had to go to the hospital and tried to persuade Van Raden to walk out to the ambulance waiting outside.[4] (Id. ) Van Raden refused and stated that it was because he was scared that he was going to be arrested and injured. (Id. ) Officer Wychor reassured Van Raden that Van Raden was not under arrest. (Id. ) In the meantime, Officers Larsen and Birmingham arrived and joined Officer Wychor and Van Raden in the office.[5]

Following Van Raden's continued refusal to seek medical treatment, Officer Larsen explained to Van Raden that he would need to go to the hospital and that he did not have a choice in the matter. (Id. ) Specifically, he said: "You don't have a choice in the matter. You are going to the hospital; either you cooperate and walk with us or we will forcefully take you." (Id.; Larsen Police Report ¶ 4.) Van Raden said "no" and told the Officers to "get the fuck out of my house" and "you are gonna have to fight me and knock me out." (Audio Recording.) Officer Wychor stated that they did not want to fight Van Raden, but that Van Raden would need to leave his house to be medically cleared. (Id. ) Office Wychor said "let's walk outside" and Van Raden said "no." (Id. ) Van Raden asked for his lawyer. (Id. )

Officer Larsen drew his Electronic Control Weapon ("taser") and stated: "I don't want to have to tase you right now, but I will do it." (Id. ) Van Raden responded: "If you tase me, I'll probably die." (Id. )[6] Van Raden claims he made the Officers aware of various medical ailments including the need for insulin, arthritis pain, and heart problems, including the fact that he had stents in his heart and high blood pressure. Van Raden repeated on numerous occasions that he would likely die if he was tasered, and Van Raden became more agitated and cursed when the taser was pointed at him. (Video Recording.) Initially Officer Wychor reassured Van Raden that the taser was just being used to record the incident and that the Officers were not planning on using it. (Id. )

The Officers continued their requests for Van Raden to accompany them to the ambulance and Van Raden continued to refuse. (Id. ) Van Raden remained seated in his office chair. (Id. ) Officers Wychor and Birmingham grabbed Van Raden's arms and legs to try to physically lift him out of the chair, but Van Raden would not cooperate. (Id. ) Officer Larsen told Van Raden to let go of the chair or else he would use the taser. (Id. ) Officer Larsen then deployed his taser in "drive-stun" mode to Van Raden's right shoulder area. (Id.; Hiveley Supp. Aff. ¶ 2, Ex. 1 ("Larsen Dep.") at 41-43.) Van Raden screamed and released his grip on the chair. (Id. ) However, Van Raden remained seated and Officers Wychor and Birmingham again attempted to lift him out of the chair. (Id. ) Van Raden repeated that he wanted to be left alone. (Id. ) As Officers Wychor and Birmingham attempted to lift Van Raden out of the chair, Officer Larsen testified that Van Raden kicked at him. (Larsen Dep. at 57-58.) The Officers stated in their police reports that Van Raden kicked at Officer Larsen. (Wychor Police Report at ¶ 4; Larsen Police Report at ¶ 5; Birmingham Police Report at ¶ 9.) Van Raden testified that he did not kick the Officers and that the Officers lifted his leg while attempting to remove him from the chair. (Van Raden Dep. at 27, 52.) Then, Officer Larsen aimed the laser of the taser device on Van Raden's chest and deployed his Taser device in "probe" mode. (Video Recording; ...


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