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Karels v. Storz

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 8, 2017

Brittany A. Karels, Plaintiff,
v.
Gabriel A. Storz and Samuel J. Norlin, acting in their individual capacities as officers of the Big Lake Police Department, Defendants.

          Kathryn H. Bennett, Esq., Paul C. Dworak, Esq. and Gaskins Bennett Birrell Schupp, LLP, counsel for plaintiff.

          Patrick S. Collins, Esq., Joseph E. Flynn, Esq. and Jardine, Logan & O'Brien, PLLP, Counsel for defendants.

          ORDER

          David S. Doty, Judge

         This matter is before the court upon the motion for summary judgment by defendants Gabriel A. Storz and Samuel J. Norlin, acting in their individual capacities as officers of the Big Lake Police Department. Based on a review of the file, record, and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court grants the motion in part.

         BACKGROUND

         This civil rights dispute arises out defendants' arrest of plaintiff Brittany A. Karels. Karels resides in Big Lake, Minnesota with her five-year old son and rents a room in the residence of Robert and Jennifer Owens. Karels Dep. at 7:9-16, 56:12-20. On the evening of March 27, 2015, Karels returned home from work and Karels drank a six-pack of beer. Karels Dep. at 81:1-82:4. At 1:23 a.m., Karels texted Jennifer Owens and asked her to watch her son while she went out to purchase cigarettes. Owens refused because Karels had been drinking. Collins Aff. Ex. D; id. Ex. B at 3. Karels persisted in her requested, however, and Owens ultimately agreed to watch Karels's son. Collins Aff. Ex. B at 4. After purchasing cigarettes, Karels went to Chatter Bar in Monticello instead of returning home. Karels Dep. at 77:1-78:21, 144:8-19. While at the bar, Karels had two shots of liquor and, after the bar closed, smoked marijuana in the parking lot. Id. at 69:4-70:19, 77:1-78:21, 144:11-145:14. Jennifer Owens became concerned when Karels did not return and did not respond to text messages or phone calls. Id. at 146:12-22, 148:11-15; Collins Aff. Ex. B at 4.

         Karels took a taxi home and, when she arrived, notified Owens that she had returned. Karels Dep. at 145:4-146:22; Collins Aff. Ex. B at 5. Owens and Karels then began loudly arguing outside the house. J. Owens Dep. at 37:1-18. The argument continued into the kitchen, where Robert Owens tried to get Karels to go to her room. Id. at 37:1-18, 38:9-25; Karels Dep. at 146:12-22. Karels refused, and Robert Owens called 9-1-1. Karels Dep. at 146:12-22; see Dworak Aff. Ex. D. Robert Owens later told police that he called 9-1-1 because he feared for his physical safety, but during the call he only mentioned that Karels was a “drunk that's being ignorant.” Dworak Aff. Ex. D.; Collins Aff. Ex. E at 6, 17; R. Owens Dep. at 34:21-35:2, 84:1-12.

         Defendants Norlin and Storz were dispatched to the scene. When they arrived, Karels and Jennifer Owens were still arguing. Karels Dep. at 152:11-153:4. Jennifer and Robert Owens told defendants that Karels had been drinking, was argumentative, and they wanted her to go to her room and leave them alone. R. Owens Dep. at 33:13-25; J. Owens Dep. at 48:9-13; Dworak Aff. Ex. E at 2. They told the officers that they did not feel threatened by Karels. Dworak Aff. Ex. E at 2.

         Storz asked to speak with Karels privately, and they went outside so she could smoke a cigarette. Karels Dep. at 153:21-156:6; Collins Aff. Ex. G at 2. Once outside, Karels began cursing loudly, and Storz told her to lower her voice so she would not disturb the neighbors. Karels Dep. at 157:1-158:8; Collins Aff. Ex. G at 2. Karels eventually calmed down enough so that she could tell Storz her side of the story, after which they went back inside the house. Karels Dep. at 157:1-158:8; Collins Aff. Ex. G at 2.

         Once inside, Storz asked Karels for her identification. Karels Dep. at 159:4-23; Collins Aff. Ex. G at 2; Dworak Aff. Ex. E at 2. Karels testified that she is unsure whether she complied with Storz's command the first time, but Jennifer Owens testified, and defendants' incident reports indicate, that Karels had to be asked several times for her identification. Karels Dep. at 159:4-23; J. Owens Dep. at 115:22-117:4; Collins Aff. Ex. G at 2; Dworak Aff. Ex. E at 2. Karels eventually provided her ID to Storz. Karels testified that she calmly gave her ID to Storz. Karels Dep. at 162:16-163:1. Storz testified, however, that Karels approached him aggressively, thrust her ID towards him, and squared off her body with his, which he perceived to be a fighting stance. Storz Dep. at 55:5-14. Storz also testified that when Karels approached him, he put out his right hand and pointed his index finger, which she ran into, and told her either to “back off.” Storz Dep. at 56:11-21. Karels claims that Storz poked her in the collarbone three to four times. Karels Dep. at 165:1-24, 172:18-25.

         After being allegedly poked by Storz, Karels demanded to speak to defendants' supervising officer, but defendants responded that there was no supervising officer on duty. Karels Dep. at 167:19-168:10; Collins Aff. Ex. G at 2. Karels then went to the garage to smoke another cigarette, and Norlin followed while Storz stayed in the kitchen. Karels Dep. at 179:13-20; J. Owens Dep. at 59:16-60:20; Dworak Aff. Ex. E. at 3.

         While in the garage, Karels twice called 9-1-1 to request a sergeant or Sherburne County Deputy. Karels Dep. at 175:24-178:12. According to the call transcripts, Karels told the dispatcher that Big Lake police would not leave her alone and had assaulted her. Id.; Collins Aff. Ex. H. at 1. The dispatcher told Karels that she could file a complaint in the morning. Collins Aff. Ex. H. at 1. It is undisputed that Karels was yelling and cursing at the dispatcher during the two calls. Karels Dep. at 177:6-178:3.

         During the second 9-1-1 call, dispatch radioed defendants, told them that Karels kept calling and making demands, and asked if they were going to arrest her. Norlin Dep. at 119:17-120:1; Dworak Aff. Ex. I. Storz informed Karels that she was under arrest, grasped her left wrist, and brought it behind her back.[1] Karels Dep. 183:18-185:23. At the same time, Karels tried to put out her lit cigarette, which was located in her right hand. Id. at 184:14-20. Karels testified that Norlin pulled her right arm towards an empty coffee can, and away from Storz, to put out the cigarette, but Norlin's incident report states that he took the lit cigarette from her hand and threw it on the floor. Id. at 184:14-20, 195:13-15; Dworak Aff. Ex. E at 4. In any case, Storz felt Karels pull away from him, and he commanded her to stop resisting arrest. Karels Dep. at 191:20-192:22.

         After Norlin extinguished the cigarette, he grasped Karels's right hand and put it behind her back to be handcuffed. Karels Dep. at 199:22-200:3; Dworak Aff. Ex. E at 4. At the same time, Storz moved Karels's hand to the midway point of her back ...


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