United States District Court, D. Minnesota
E. Nelson III, for Plaintiff.
Margaret E. Jacot, St. Paul City Attorney for Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RICHARD NELSON, United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 18]. For the reasons stated
herein, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied
lawsuit arises from an unfortunate case of mistaken identity.
Late in the evening of June 6, 2012, officers of the St. Paul
Police Department (“SPPD”) received a dispatch
report that a witness had seen a man retrieve a firearm from
a black, four-door sedan parked outside of Born's Bar on
Rice Street. (See DeTomaso Aff. [Doc. No. 21], Ex. A
at 3.) The suspect was described as a black male in his
forties, of heavier build, and wearing a baseball cap and red
and white shirt. (See id.) Born's Bar is located
in a rough area of town and SPPD officers are frequently
called to the area generally-and to the bar specifically-to
address criminal activity. (See Tschida Aff. [Doc.
No. 22] ¶ 2.)
receipt of the dispatch report, several SPPD officers
proceeded to the scene, where squad car video recorded much
of the subsequent events. (See generally DeTomasso
Aff., Ex. B.; Tschida Aff., Ex. B.; Ficcadenti Aff. [Doc. No.
24], Ex. C.) Officer (now Sergeant) Michael DeTomaso was one
of the first officers to arrive at the scene. (DeTomaso Aff.
¶ 5.) He spotted a black, four-door sedan parked outside
of Born's Bar, with multiple black males inside it.
Officer DeTomaso exited his squad car, drew his pistol, and
ordered the driver of the sedan to exit with his hands up.
(Id., Ex. B at 23:22:28.) The driver-who was wearing
a blue shirt and ball cap-complied with these instructions
and was taken into custody without incident. (Id. at
time, several other officers had arrived at the scene,
including Defendant Officer Daniel Ficcadenti. (Ficcadenti
Aff. ¶ 5.) Shortly after the driver was placed in
custody, officers directed the two remaining passengers to
exit the sedan. (DeTomaso Aff., Ex. B at 23:23:20.) Both
men exited the vehicle at approximately the same time.
Plaintiff Robin Neal was seated in the front passenger seat,
and emerged wearing a black shirt and dark shorts.
(Ficcadenti Aff. ¶ 6.) The other passenger, Anthony Lee,
was wearing a blue shirt. (Id.) Neal, Lee, and the
driver were all in their early fifties.
officers yelled to the passengers to come forward one at a
time, and started directing Neal (who they generally
identified as “black shirt”) to walk towards
them. (DeTomaso Aff., Ex. B. at 23:23:41.) Review of the
squad car footage shows that Neal remained standing behind
the sedan for several seconds before walking around to the
front of the car. (See Id. at 23:23:53-23:24:06.)
Although his hands remain generally over his head, at times
he appears to drop them toward his sides. (See id.)
At one point, Neal turns completely so that his back is
facing the officers, and lowers his hands. (See Id.
at 23:24:16.) The scene is one of some confusion-at least two
officers, located in different positions on the street,
appear to be shouting instructions to Neal, the sedan is
floodlit by a bright police spotlight, squad car lights are
flashing, and a police K-9 dog can be heard barking
repeatedly in the background. (See id.)
Neal began to walk towards Officer Ficcadenti with his hands
raised and without any apparent resistance. (Id. at
23:24:22.) Once he arrived, instead of handcuffing him,
Officer Ficcadenti used an arm-bar takedown
technique to throw Neal to the ground and on to his
stomach, where Ficcadenti then proceeded to handcuff him.
(See Id. at 23:24:27.) At that point, Ficcadenti
noticed that Neal had suffered cuts to his forehead, and an
ambulance was called to assess his injuries. (See
Ficcadenti Aff., Ex. C at 23:27:36.)
after Officer Ficcadenti took Neal into custody, Officer
DeTomaso detained the other passenger without incident.
(DeTomaso Aff., Ex. B at 23:24:38.) At approximately the same
time, officers received an updated dispatch report indicating
that the suspect they were searching for had just exited
Born's Bar. (Tschida Aff., Ex. B at 23:24:20.) Officers
Michael Tschida and Jordan Walker subsequently detained the
individual and discovered a hammer in his waistband.
(See Tschida Aff. ¶ 7.) No weapons were found
on any of the occupants of the sedan.
evidence indicates that Officer Ficcadenti had been trained
in use of force techniques, and that he had knowledge of the
St. Paul Police Department Manual (“SPPD
Manual”). (Nelson Aff., Ex. D (“Ficcadenti
Dep.”) at 15:24-17:10.) Officer Ficcadenti testified
that the SPPD Manual provides that “physical force may
not be resorted to unless other reasonable alternatives have
been exhausted or would be clearly ineffective under the
particular circumstances, ” and that he had been
trained to follow that principle. (Id. at 25:3-16.)
The SPPD Manual further requires that officers only resort to
physical force “when other options have failed or are
unreasonable to resort to under the circumstances. Any
physical force used by the officer must be necessary and
reasonable under the circumstances.” (Id. at
26:6-12.) Physical force is “reasonably
necessary” when “no reasonably effective
alternative appears to exist and the amount of force used is
reasonable to effect the lawful purpose intended.”
(Nelson Aff., Ex. G (“SPPD Manual”) §
deposition, Officer Ficcadenti testified that he never
attempted to use other, non-physical options to arrest Neal,
such as ordering Neal to turn around so that he could be
handcuffed, or having him get on his knees with his hands
behind his head. (See Ficcadenti Aff. at 45:13-23;
46:11-16.) Officer Ficcadenti testified, however, that his
arrest of Neal was in compliance with the policies set forth
in the SPPD Manual, because his actions were not intended to
cause Neal injury, and did not in fact cause significant
injury. (See Id. at 49:10-18.) Likewise, Officer
DeTomaso testified that Ficcadenti's use of an arm-bar
was necessary because of the fluidity of the situation
confronting the officers, the need to quickly restrain an
individual who may have been armed, and because of the need
to remove a distraction that was preventing focus on the
remaining, un-detained passenger. (DeTomaso Aff. ¶¶
7, 2015, Neal filed suit against Officer Ficcadenti in his
individual capacity, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He
alleges that Officer Ficcadenti violated the Fourth
Amendment's prohibition against excessive force when he
used the arm-bar takedown technique on June 6, 2012.
(See Compl. [Doc. No. 1] ¶¶ 24-30.) Neal
also brings a claim under Monell v. New York City
Dep't of Social Servs., 438 U.S. 658 (1979) against
the City of St. Paul, alleging that the City should be held
liable for Officer Ficcadenti's conduct because the City
allegedly has failed to train its ...