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Harris v. Maplewood Police Department

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 28, 2019

Anthony Harris, Plaintiff,
Maplewood Police Department, and John Doe, Arresting Officer, Defendants.

          Plaintiff, pro se.

          Joseph E. Flynn and Tal A. Bakke, Jardine, Logan & O'Brien, PLLP, Counsel for Defendants.


          Michael J. Davis United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Maplewood Police Department and John Doe, Arresting Officer's motion for summary judgment [Doc. No. 90]. Plaintiff has not responded to the motion.


         On February 16, 2015, Plaintiff was arrested at the Menards store in Maplewood, Minnesota on suspicion of passing fraudulent or suspicious checks at numerous Menards stores. That day, Plaintiff arrived at the Maplewood Menards store at approximately 6:46 p.m. in a white U-Haul truck. (Eppel Aff. Ex. 2; Sypniewski Aff. Ex. 1; Schoen Aff. Ex. 1.) He was wearing a black jacket and hat and white painter pants. (Eppel Aff. Ex. 3; Sypniewski Aff. Ex. 1 at 16; Henning Aff. Ex. 3.) A Menards employee, Jacob Kalin, assisted Plaintiff with writing up invoices for a washer and dryer. (Sypniewski Aff. Ex. 1 at 10; Kalin Aff. ¶ 2, Ex. 1.) Plaintiff then proceeded to check-out where he presented a check from the account of “DBA Dominque Davison Designs, Dominique Davison Sole Prop” in the amount of $2, 535.79 to pay for a washer, dryer and snow thrower. (Sypniewski Aff. Ex. 1 at 27; Eppel Aff. Ex. 5.) Plaintiff then left the store and drove the U-Haul to the loading docks to retrieve the appliances he had just purchased. (Eppel Aff. Exs. 6 - 12.)

         After assisting Plaintiff, Kalin went to his desk at which time he noticed his general manager, Rob Eppel, viewing a security email. (Kalin Aff, Ex. 1.) Kalin looked at the email and saw Plaintiff's name and address listed. (Id.) Kalin immediately told Eppel that he had just assisted the person listed on the security email. (Id.) Kalin typed in the product SKU number of one of the units sold to Plaintiff into the store's system and confirmed that the person listed in the security email had the same name and address as the Plaintiff. (Id.) Eppel then contacted the guard shack and the yard manager. (Id.) Eppel also instructed the front-end manager, Clinton Edminsten, to verify whether the check used by Plaintiff had sufficient funds. (Edminsten Aff. ¶¶2, 3, Ex. 1.) Edminsten contacted the bank, and confirmed the check used by Plaintiff was bad. (Id. ¶ 3.) Edminsten then contacted the Maplewood police. (Id. ¶ 4.)

         At approximately 7:46 p.m., Maplewood Police Officers William Sypniewski, Parker Olding, Zachary Schoen and Sergeant Brian Bierdeman responded to a report from the Maplewood Menards of a check fraud in progress. (Sypniewski Aff. ¶ 4, Ex. 1; Olding Aff. ¶ 2; Bierdeman Aff. ¶ 2; Schoen Aff. ¶ 2.) Dispatch had informed the officers that a male who had completed $70, 000 worth of transactions with bad checks at other Menards was at the Maplewood store trying to purchase appliances. (Id.) The officers were informed the suspect's name was Anthony Harris, and he was described as a black male, thin build, short black hair, wearing a black jacket and hat and white painter pants. (Sypniewski Aff. ¶ 6, Exs. 1 and 2; Olding Aff. ¶ 4; Bierdeman Aff. ¶ 4; Schoen Aff. ¶ 4.) Once at the store, Sypniewski went to speak with Eppel, and Bierdeman, Schoen and Olding proceeded to the loading docks to make contact with Plaintiff. (Sypniewski Aff. ¶ 8, Ex. 2; Olding Aff. ¶ 5; Bierdeman Aff. ¶ 5; Schoen Aff. ¶ 5; Eppel Aff. Exs. 12 and 13.)

         Eppel showed Sypniewski documentation concerning several returned checks to Wisconsin Menards stores in November 2014 under the accounts of “DBA Anthony M Harris” or “DBA Harris Designs, Anthony M Harris Sole Prop.” Eppel also informed Sypniewski that the check Plaintiff had presented that night was reported as “bad” by the bank. Sypniewski then advised Sgt. Bierdeman and Officers Schoen and Olding that Plaintiff should be taken into custody for check fraud. (Sypniewski Aff. Exs. 1 and 2; Olding Aff. ¶ 6; Bierdeman Aff. ¶ 6.)

         Olding and Bierdeman then entered the loading docks from the lumberyard and made contact with Plaintiff. (Olding Aff. ¶ 7; Bierdeman Aff. ¶ 7; Eppel Aff. Ex. 12 at 19:57:59.) A surveillance video of the loading docks shows that when Olding and Bierdeman approached Plaintiff, neither had drawn their service weapon. (See Eppel Aff. Ex. 12 at 19:57:59.) Olding directed Plaintiff to turn around and place his hands behind his back, and as shown in the video, Plaintiff immediately complied. (Id.; Olding Aff. ¶ 9; Bierdeman Aff. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff was then placed in handcuffs. (Olding Aff. ¶¶10-11; Bierdeman Aff. ¶¶ 9-12; Eppel Aff. Ex. 12 at 19:57:59.) Olding and Bierdeman then conducted a pat search while Plaintiff remained standing. (Id.) Plaintiff was then led outside through the lumberyard and placed in the back of Olding's squad car, along with his girlfriend, Francal Jackson. (Sypniewski Aff. Ex. 1; Olding Aff. ¶ 15.) Olding read Plaintiff his Miranda warning, and Plaintiff agreed to talk with the officer. (Olding Aff. Ex. 1 at 3.) Plaintiff claimed that he was performing construction work for Dominique Davis and that he had no idea that the check he used was bad. (Id.) Plaintiff was then transferred to the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center where he was booked and released pending further investigation. (Sypniewski Aff. Ex. 1 at 3-5, Ex. 4; Schoen Aff. ¶ 12; Bakke Aff. Ex. 2.)

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that after being released, he and Ms. Jackson rode a bus and train through the night because they did not know how to get back to their hotel. (Comp. ¶¶ 5-6.) When they finally made it back to the hotel, hotel staff informed them that they had disposed of their property because the time for them to have checked out had passed. (Id.)

         Plaintiff thereafter brought this action pursuant to Section 1983, claiming that he was arrested without probable cause, subjected to excessive force and that his arrest was based on racial profiling.

         II. Standard for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate if, viewing all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of showing that there is no disputed issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. “A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party; a fact is material if its resolution affects the outcome of the case.” Amini v. City of Minneapolis, 643 F.3d 1068, 1074 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 252 (1986)). The party ...

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