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Jones v. Abla-Reyes

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

November 22, 2016

Christie E. Jones, Plaintiff,
Officer Armando F. Abla-Reyes and Officer Jean Barber, in their individual and official capacities; Defendants.

          Zorislav R. Leyderman, Esq., The Law Office of Zorislav R. Leyderman, counsel for Plaintiff.

          Adam M. Niblick, Esq., St. Paul City Attorney's Office, counsel for Defendants.


          DONOVAN W. FRANK United States District Judge.


         This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment brought by Defendants Officer Armando F. Abla-Reyes (“Officer Abla-Reyes”) and Officer Jean Barber (“Officer Barber”) (Doc. No. 17). For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part the motion.


         On October 9, 2013, Saint Paul Police Officers were dispatched on a report of an aggravated assault. (Doc. No. 20 (“Niblick Aff.”) ¶ 5, Ex. B (“Abla-Reyes Dep.”), Ex. 3 at STP0022; id. ¶ 6, Ex. C (“Barber Dep.”) at 16-17.) Officer Abla-Reyes was the first to respond, and while he was en route, dispatch advised that an individual on the scene was injured. (Abla-Reyes Dep. at 49; Barber Dep. at 14.) Specifically, dispatch advised that an individual had been stabbed by a female and was bleeding heavily and lying in the street. (Abla-Reyes Dep. at 49 & Ex. 3 at STP0022; Barber Dep. at 14.)

         When Officer Abla-Reyes arrived, he located the bleeding victim, later identified as Kenneth Jordan (“Jordan”), and also observed a female, later identified as Plaintiff Christie E. Jones (“Jones”), standing over the victim. (Niblick Aff. ¶ 4, Ex. A (“Jones Dep.”) at 29; Abla-Reyes Dep. at 49, 55.) At the time, Officer Abla-Reyes thought Jones was the complainant. (Abla-Reyes Dep. at 49, 55-56.) Jones testified that she came across Jordan standing in the middle of the road with a torn shirt and dripping with blood on her way home from work. (Jones Dep. at 13-14, 17-18, 20.) Jones, who has training as a paramedic, stopped to help Jordan. (Id. at 18, 21.)

         As Jones attempted to assist Jordan, Officer Abla-Reyes approached Jordan and Jones. (Abla-Reyes Dep. at 50-52.) The scene was not yet secure. (Id. at 70.) Officer Abla-Reyes testified that he did not know the extent of Jordan's injuries, where on his body Jordan was injured, or the identity or location of the person who injured Jordan. (Id. at 50, 70.) Jones testified that she informed Officer Abla-Reyes that she used to be a paramedic, that the scene was secure, and that Jordan was injured. (Jones Dep. at 23-29.) Officer Abla-Reyes testified that he attempted to ask Jordan questions to get necessary information. (Abla-Reyes Dep. at 50, 69.) Officer Abla-Reyes further testified that Jones interjected answers to the questions that were directed at Jordan. (Abla-Reyes Dep. at 51, 59.)

         Officer Abla-Reyes proceeded past Jones and bent over Jordan to investigate his injuries. (Jones Dep. at 26; Abla-Reyes Dep. at 51.) Officer Abla-Reyes noticed blood on Jordan's shirt but could not determine where the blood was coming from. (Abla-Reyes Dep. at 50.) Officer Abla-Reyes reached down to inspect Jordan, and Jones reached out her right arm and extended it in front of Officer Abla-Reyes, either grabbing his hand, pushing it away, or impeding his ability to contact Jordan. (Jones Dep. at 28, 32; Abla-Reyes Dep. at 51-52 (“[Jones] reached in and grabbed my hand and pulled it back and said “Don't touch him. He's bleeding.”; Barber Dep. at 18).) Jones testified that she intentionally stuck her arm out so that it would be in Officer Abla-Reyes's line of sight. (Jones Dep. at 33.) Jones claims that her intention was to alert Officer Abla-Reyes that Jordan had blood on him and to keep Officer Abla-Reyes from touching Jordan. (Jones Dep. at 33, 60.) Jones claims that Officer Abla-Reyes then “slammed” her in the chest, causing her to stumble backwards. (Id. at 28, 34, 35, 36.) Jones testified that she stated “watch out, he's covered in blood.” (Id. at 28, 32.) Officer Abla-Reyes asserts that he told Jones to step back and leave several times and that he eventually used his left arm to create space between himself and Jones and to guide Jones away from the scene. (Abla-Reyes Dep. at 52, 63; see also Barber Dep. at 17, 20.)

         At some point while Officer Abla-Reyes and Jones were interacting, Officer Barber and Officer Chad Dagenais arrived at the scene. (Jones Dep. at 33; Abla-Reyes Dep. at 52, 57, 62; Barber Dep. at 16.) Officers Abla-Reyes and Barber testified that Jones was uncooperative and hostile. (Abla-Reyes Dep. at 61-64; Barber Dep. at 20-24.) Eventually, Jones was moved away from the scene while the officers tended to Jordan. Jones asserts that she walked approximately two houses down the street and, using her cell phone, began to videotape the officers as they interacted with Jordan. (Jones Dep. at 39-41; see also Abla-Reyes Dep. at 67; Niblick Aff. ¶ 8, Ex. E.) Jones asked to see a sergeant. (Abla-Reyes Dep. at 66; Jones Dep. at 35-39.)

         Officer Abla-Reyes later approached Jones and asked for her name and birthdate. (Jones Dep. at 42, 43.) Officer Abla-Reyes intended to arrest Jones for obstructing legal process. (Abla-Reyes Dep. at 69-70.) Jones was detained, placed in handcuffs, and seated in the back seat of the squad car. (Id. at 75; Jones Dep. at 43-45.) Jones indicated that she could not sit in the back of the squad car because she had a medical boot on her leg. (Jones Dep. at 44.) Jones also told Officer Abla-Reyes that she was disabled, her insulin pump had been knocked loose, and she wanted an ambulance. (Id. at 44-45.) Office Abla-Reyes placed her in the back of the squad car in such a way that Jones' feet could remain outside of the vehicle. (Abla-Reyes Dep. at 78-79.)[1] Jones also asked Officer Abla-Reyes to remove the handcuffs, which were causing her discomfort. (Jones Dep. at 45.) Roughly fifteen minutes later, Officer Abla-Reyes removed the handcuffs, and released Jones with a citation for obstruction of legal process. (Id. at 47.) Prior to being released, medical personnel checked Jones' condition. (Abla-Reyes Dep. at 80.)

         Jones asserts four claims against Defendants: (1) First Amendment Retaliation against Officer Abla-Reyes (Count One); (2) Fourth Amendment excessive force against Officer Abla-Reyes (Count Two); (3) Fourth Amendment unreasonable seizure and false arrest against Officer Abla-Reyes (Count Three); and (4) Fourth Amendment unreasonable seizure, excessive force, and failure to protect against Officer Barber (Count Four).[2] (Doc. No. 1, Compl. ¶¶ 51-63.) Defendants move for summary judgment on all counts. The Court considers the motion below.


         I. ...

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