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Lopez v. Harteau

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 23, 2019

Anastacio Lemus Lopez, Plaintiff,
Minneapolis Chief of Police Janeé Harteau; City of Minneapolis; Minneapolis Police Officers Russell Cragin, Anthony Rodin, Michael Grahn, Michael Fossum, Stephen McCarty, and Gerald Moore, Defendants.


          Paul A. Magnuson United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgement (Docket No. 242) and Defendants' Motions to Exclude Expert Testimony (Docket Nos. 245, 250, 256). For the following reasons, the Motion for Summary Judgment is granted and the Motions to Exclude Expert Testimony are denied.


         Lopez is a longtime Minnesota Vikings fan from Midland, Texas. He traveled to Minnesota to attend a Vikings game at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 1, 2016. Lopez had at least two drinks before the game, and at least two or three beers at the game. (Robertson Decl. (Docket No. 244) Ex. A (Lopez Dep.) at 40-41, 51-52; Ex. B (Herrera Dep.) at 36.) At around 9:30 pm, fans signaled to a security guard on the field that there was a disturbance in their section. The security guard, Andrew Hodynsky, testified that Lopez was pushing and shoving past other fans. (Robertson Decl. Ex. D (Hodynsky Dep.) at 23.) A stadium employee told Hodynsky that he thought Lopez was going to fight someone because Lopez was drunk and unruly. (Id. at 23.)

         Hodynsky approached Lopez and asked him to step into the aisle. Lopez refused to go with him, so Hodynsky radioed Minneapolis police to request that they eject Lopez from the stadium. (Id. at 54.) Minneapolis police officers Anthony Rodin and Russell Cragin arrived and began leading Lopez to a holding cell, followed closely by Hodynsky.

         Because Lopez has no memory of the events following his removal from the stands (Lopez Dep. at 55), the majority of the remaining facts come from the individual Defendants' testimony and security video of the events. The officers told Lopez that they would walk him to a holding cell and then escort him out of the stadium. (Robertson Decl. Ex. F (Trial Tr.) at 69; Ex. G (Rodin Dep.) at 51-52.) Throughout the walk to the holding cell, Lopez repeatedly stopped to talk to members of the public. (Rodin Dep. at 53.) Each time he stopped, the officers took hold of his elbow and guided him forward. (Id.)

         The trio passed through double doors and entered a hallway. Lopez began turning, so Rodin again took his elbow to lead him forward. (Id. at 53-54.) Rodin testified that as he did this, Lopez said, “If you touch me again, I will put your face into the concrete.” (Id. at 54.) A hallway security camera captured the rest of the interaction. Lopez rolled his shoulder away from Rodin, and Rodin tried to regain control of Lopez. (Robertson Decl. Ex. H (Security Video) at 0:58.) Lopez turned to face Rodin, the two struggled slightly, and then Lopez reached for Rodin's chest. (Id. at 0:59-1:00.) Rodin decided to take Lopez to the ground to handcuff him. (Rodin Dep. at 55.) Rodin attempted to tackle Lopez, and they ran into a nearby wall before falling onto the floor. (Security Video 1:01-1:03). Seeing Rodin struggling to control Lopez, Cragin got onto the floor and used his body weight to control Lopez's upper half. (Trial Tr. at 86.) Lopez then began wrestling with Cragin and reaching for Cragin's belt. Hodynsky and the officers testified that at different stages of the struggle, Lopez attempted to grab Cragin's flashlight, taser, and firearm. (Hodynsky Dep. at 58-59; Robertson Decl. Ex. E (Cragin Dep.) at 36; Trial Tr. at 89; Rodin Dep. at 57-58.)

         While Lopez struggled with Cragin, Rodin struck Lopez in the abdomen four times with his knee and punched him in the shoulder twice, trying to remove Lopez's arm from Cragin's belt area. (Security Video at 1:06-1:14.) Lopez then used his free arm to grab the firearm on the right side of Cragin's toolbelt. (Id. at 1:19.) Hodynsky stepped in and pulled Lopez's hand away from the gun. (Id. at 1:20). Hodynsky testified that Lopez had his hand on the handle of Cragin's firearm. (Hodynsky Dep. at 58-59.) At some point during the altercation, Lopez also grabbed Cragin's flashlight with such force that he broke one of the leather straps holding the flashlight in place. (Trial Tr. 126-27.) Lopez continued struggling, and Rodin delivered two blows to Lopez's face. (Security Video at 1:20.) Cragin then told Rodin he was going to use his taser. (Cragin Dep. at 37.)

         Cragin fired his taser at Lopez's abdomen, but the probes were ineffective. (Id. at 38.) He fired a second round and the probes lodged in Lopez's hand, but Lopez continued to struggle. (Id. at 38-39.) Cragin then used the “touch stun” feature of the gun, which incapacitated Lopez. (Id. at 39.) After the stun took effect, Lopez raised his hands upward in a “surrender” position and the officers handcuffed him. (Security Video at 1:32.) The officers then activated their body cameras and led Lopez to the holding cell, where paramedics removed the probes from his hand and checked him for additional injuries. (Robertson Decl. Ex. J (Rodin Body Cam Video) at 7:35-8:28.) Although Lopez claims that he suffered broken bones, medical reports indicate that he only suffered fairly minor head and hand injuries. (See generally Robertson Decl. Ex. M (Medical Records).)

         Lopez's Amended Complaint contains 14 counts: (1) § 1983 claim for excessive use of force; (2) § 1983 Monell claim for improper training and supervision; (3) § 1985 claim for conspiracy to deprive Lopez of constitutional rights; (4) assault; (5) battery; (6) negligence; (7) negligent supervision and training; (8) intentional infliction of emotional distress; (9) negligent infliction of emotional distress; (10) false arrest; (11) false imprisonment; (12) malicious prosecution; and (13 and 14) respondeat superior in negligence against other Defendants for Rodin and Cragin's conduct. (Docket No. 93). In Lopez's Opposition Memorandum, Lopez concedes that summary judgment on his excessive force claim is proper as to four of the named officers (Grahn, Fossum, McCarty, and Moore), and that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to his Monell, conspiracy, negligent training/supervision, and malicious prosecution claims. (Docket No. 267 at 35, 39, 40).

         The remaining Defendants are the City of Minneapolis, the former Minneapolis Chief of Police Janeé Harteau, and six Minneapolis police officers. They now move for summary judgment, arguing that qualified immunity defeats Lopez's claims.


         A. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is proper if there are no disputed issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court must view the evidence and inferences that “may be reasonably drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Enter. Bank v. Magna Bank of Mo., 92 F.3d 743, 747 (8th Cir. 1996). The moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest on mere ...

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