United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Linda Lewis, individually, and as Trustee For the Next-Of-Kin of Jamie Joseph Lewis, Plaintiff,
City of Burnsville, a municipal corporation, and Steven Stoler, Brett Levin, Michelle Frascone, and John Smith, all in their official and individual capacities, Defendants.
Michael Kemp, Hansen, Dordell, Bradt, Odlaug & Bradt,
P.L.L.P., St. Paul, MN, for Plaintiff Linda Lewis.
M. Tabbert, Minnesota Attorney General's Office, Saint
Paul, MN, for Defendant Michelle Frascone.
OPINION AND ORDER
C. Tostrud United States District Judge
Linda Lewis is the mother of Jamie Lewis and is the appointed
Trustee for Jamie's next of kin. Compl. ¶ 3 [ECF No.
1]. She filed this action in April 2019, after police
officers employed by the City of Burnsville shot and killed
Jamie while he was in the midst of a mental-health crisis.
She brought various state-law negligence and federal
civil-rights claims against the City of Burnsville (the
“City”) and responding officers Steven Stoler and
Brett Levin (collectively the “Officers”),
as well as Defendant Michelle Frascone, who works for the
Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (“BCA”)
and was involved with the BCA's investigation of the
killing. The City and the Officers answered Linda's
Complaint, see ECF No. 6, but Frascone moved to
dismiss, see ECF No. 19, asserting sovereign
immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution, as well as a failure to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted. Linda brings only one of her
four claims against Frascone, a claim alleging a civil-rights
conspiracy pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985, and she sues
Frascone in both her official and individual capacities.
See Compl. ¶ 6, Count II. Frascone's motion
will be granted.
most of the facts alleged in the Complaint relate solely to
the acts by, or information about, other Defendants, they are
described briefly here, in only enough detail as is necessary
to explain the factual allegations and legal claims against
Frascone, the only Defendant who has moved to dismiss the
events giving rise to Linda's claims occurred mainly on
or shortly after the night of September 26, 2016. See
generally Compl. and ¶ 11. Jamie had been
struggling with depression for some time, and he was unable
to regularly take prescription medication due to its cost.
Id. ¶ 11. Earlier in the week of September 26,
Jamie had lost his job and his relationship with his
girlfriend had ended, and for several days he had been making
suicidal comments. Id. ¶¶ 11, 13. The
night of the 26th, Jamie went to his ex-girlfriend's
house and spoke with her for several hours about their
recently ended relationship. Id. ¶ 13. He
expressed that he had no options left. Id. ¶
14. He had been convicted of a felony years before and was
legally prohibited from possessing guns, but he referred to a
handgun he was carrying and stated that he was not going to
prison. Id. He then “opened up several beer
bottles” and left his ex-girlfriend's apartment,
bringing his handgun with him. Id. ¶ 15. (The
complaint does not say whether Jamie consumed beer in his
ex-girlfriend's apartment. It says only that Jamie was
“drinking a beer” when officers located him.
Id. ¶¶ 40, 42.) Jamie's ex-girlfriend
called 911 to report that Jamie had just left her apartment
and intended to kill himself. Id. ¶ 16. She
described the relevant parts of their conversation, including
that he had a gun and did not want to go back to prison.
than a dozen City police officers responded to that call,
including Stoler and Levin. Id. ¶ 17. The
Complaint describes in greater detail their search for Jamie,
which took more than an hour, and the fact that within 90
seconds after an infrared camera deployed by helicopter
located the heat signature of a person-Jamie-lying prone on
the ground, he had been shot multiple times. Id.
¶¶ 17-22. When Levin and Stoler approached Jamie,
he posed no threat to anyone other than himself, he did not
attempt to flee or actively resist, and he pointed nothing in
the direction of officers. Id. ¶¶ 34-41.
Jamie did not respond to their shouting; at one point, Stoler
mistook the beer Jamie was drinking as a weapon, and Stoler
responded by shooting Jamie multiple times through the back
side of his body, killing him. Id. ¶¶
alleges, by way of background, that City officers have a
history of responding excessively and unreasonably to
individuals who are experiencing mental health crises, and
cites a similar prior incident that occurred six months
before Jamie's death. See generally id.
¶¶ 23-30. But despite that demonstrated “need
to train officers not to automatically shoot anyone engaged
in a metal health crisis, ” neither Stoler nor Levin
received anything more than minimal and insufficient
training, resulting in Jamie's death. Id.
and thus Frascone, did not become involved until the
investigation shortly after the shooting. Id. ¶
47. She, along with a BCA colleague named Brent Peterson,
interviewed Levin as part of that investigation. Id.
During that interview, Levin relayed the information he had
received prior to the shooting, including that Jamie may have
intended to kill himself. Id. ¶ 48. The
Complaint then alleges as follows with respect to Frascone:
Hearing this statement that Mr. Lewis may have intended to
harm himself, Defendant Frascone suggested to Defendant
Officer Levin that Mr. Lewis's intent may have been not
merely to end his own life, but to murder other people as
well. No other information available to any police or
investigators at that time, including Defendants, suggested
Id. ¶ 49. Following Frascone's
“suggestion, ” Levin “adopted this revised
statement as his own, and made it part of his official report
on the incident, ” and his statement contributed to the
decision to “clear the officers of the shooting.”
Id. ¶¶ 49, 50, 52, 54. According to Linda,
Frascone's suggestion, and Levin's decision to revise
his statement accordingly, “was intended to obstruct
the proper course of the investigation, to clear officers of
wrongdoing, and to ensure that Defendants were not held
liable for the death of Mr. Lewis.” Id. ¶
addition to the various claims Linda brings against only the
City, Stoler, and Levin, she is suing all Defendants,
including Frascone, for conspiring to obstruct justice, in
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985, by “reporting in
the official statement unsupported or incorrect facts, which
would tend to increase the likelihood of a finding that the
shooting was justified and decrease the likelihood that
Defendants would be found liable for [Jamie's]
death.” Id. ¶ 63. The alleged conspiracy
was undertaken “to influence the verdict, presentment,
or indictment of any grand or petit juror who might consider
criminal or civil liability of ...