United States District Court, D. Connecticut
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
Edward Ozga, Robin Ozga, Plaintiffs: Robert M. Berke, LEAD
ATTORNEY, Law Office of Robert M. Berke, Bridgeport, CT.
Stephan Elliot, Thomas Porter, Jeremy Busa, Michael Shanley,
Mark Beale, Defendants: Dennis M Durao, James Newhall
Tallberg, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Karsten & Tallberg, LLC, West
GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Alker Meyer, United States District Judge.
afternoon of September 27, 2011, young Joseph Ozga tragically
took his life with a gun at his home in Southington,
Connecticut. He took his life shortly after a dispute with
his father--plaintiff Edward Ozga. Convinced that Joseph had
been stealing from him, Ozga angrily called 9-1-1 to have
Joseph removed from the home. When the police arrived just a
few minutes later, they found Joseph on the floor, barely
alive and with a gunshot wound to the head.
clear now that Joseph's death was a suicide. But that was
far from clear when the police first arrived and when they
were met at the door by an angry Edward Ogza and then soon
discovered Joseph's body inside. The police promptly
detained Ozga in handcuffs in a police car outside the house
for about 20 minutes, while an ambulance came to rush Joseph
to the hospital. The police then removed Ogza from the police
car and removed his handcuffs. Ogza alleges that he was then
ordered by a senior police official to go with a police
detective to the police station to furnish a statement. Late
in the afternoon as Ozga was completing his statement to the
police and about to leave, the police advised him that they
had heard from the hospital that Joseph had died. Ozga was
devastated by this news and very upset that he had not been
at the hospital--rather than the police station--to be with
has now filed this lawsuit principally claiming that he was
subject to false arrest and false imprisonment by the police
that day. I conclude that all the police officer defendants
have qualified immunity from this lawsuit--that no reasonably
objective police officer would have known that the police
were violating Ogza's rights by initially detaining him
and then by conducting the later investigation at the police
station as they did. Accordingly, I will grant
defendants' motion for summary judgment.
purposes of my review of defendants' summary judgment
motion, I must consider the facts in the light most favorable
to plaintiffs as the non-moving parties. Plaintiffs Edward
and Robin Ozga lived in September 2011 with their son,
Joseph, in Southington, Connecticut. Joseph had a history of
drug addiction and had recently admitted to his parents that
he had stolen $8,000 or $9,000 and jewelry from them. Joseph
had also previously expressed thoughts of harming himself,
had been diagnosed with a major mental illness, and had been
of threats of suicide. See Doc. #23-2 at 2; Doc.
#29-2 at 3, 8; Doc. #30 at 4.
at the Ozga Home
September 27, 2011, Edward Ozga was at home with his son,
while Robin Ozga was at her job where she worked as a nurse.
A dispute arose between Ozga and Joseph after Ozga noticed
that his video recorder was missing and accused Joseph of
stealing it. Ozga was mad and aggravated. He called his son a
drug addict and a thief and told him that now he would go to
jail as he then called 9-1-1 to summon the police.
See Doc. #29-2 at 5, 20; Doc. #23-15 at 3.
response to Ozga's 9-1-1 call, Officer Thomas Porter of
the Southington Police Department--who is one of the four
named defendants in this action--promptly arrived at the
house at about 2:00 pm. Ozga met Officer Porter at the front
door, and Ozga was still angry; he told Officer Porter that
Joseph was " ripping [him] off," and told Porter to
" Get him the f**k out of here." Doc. #29-2 at 15,
29; see also Doc. #29-4 at 4 (" I met Porter
outside and said this f**king a**hole is stealing again and I
want him to leave." ). Porter asked if there were any
weapons in the house, and Ozga advised that he had a gun.
Doc. #29-4 at 4.
then directed Officer Porter inside to the lower level living
room of the home where Officer Porter saw a body lying on the
floor, unresponsive with blood on his shoulder and neck and
with a gun on the floor beside him. There is no indication
that anyone heard a gunshot. Officer Porter asked Ozga if the
body on the floor was Joseph, and Ozga came up behind Officer
Porter and confirmed that it was. Ozga then stooped down to
try to pick up the gun, but Officer Porter told him not to
touch it. Officer Porter immediately called dispatch
reporting that shots had been fired and summoning an
ambulance on a " Priority 1" urgent basis.
See Doc. #23-2 at 3; Doc. #29-2 at 7-8; Doc. #29-4
in the Police Car
two minutes later, Officer Stephen Elliot--another named
defendant in this case--entered the house. Officer Porter
told Officer Elliot to secure Ozga in his squad car outside
the house. According to Ozga, Officer Elliot was aggravated
and angry; he grabbed Ozga by the arm, "
horse-collared" him by grabbing his shirt collar at the
front of his neck, and led him into the driveway. There, he
patted Ozga down for weapons, handcuffed him, and secured him
in the back of the police squad car. Ozga told Officer Elliot
that he needed to call his wife Robin, and Officer Elliot
said the police would do so. According to Ozga, Officer
Elliot twice advised him that he was under arrest and did so
despite Ozga's protest that he had not done anything
wrong. See Doc. #23-2 at 4; Doc. #29-2 at 10-14, 18;
Doc. #29-4 at 5; Doc. #30 at 4-5.
officer--Officer Jeremy Busa, who is also another named
defendant in this action--was assigned to supervise Ozga
while he sat in the police car. When Ozga asked Officer Busa
about calling his wife, Officer Busa allegedly replied,
" Why don't you just shut up and sit there."
Doc. #29-2 at 15; Doc. #30 at 5.
remained detained in the car for about 20 minutes. During
that time he saw paramedics arrive and then remove Joseph
(who appeared to be still breathing) on a stretcher from the
home. Doc. #23-2 at 4; Doc. #29-2 at 18-19; Doc. #30 at 5.
Mark Beal--the last of the four defendants sued by Ozga in
this action--arrived on the scene and asked the other
officers to take Ozga out of the car. The officers let Ozga
out and removed the
handcuffs. See Doc. #29-2 at 22. At no time was Ozga
subject again to any physical restraint by the police.
Beal then told Ozga that he was going to do a gunshot residue
(GSR) test on Ozga's hands, to which Ozga consented. Doc.
#23-2 at 5; Doc. #29-2 at 22-23. Detective Beal swabbed
Ozga's fingers, and Lieutenant Michael Shanley came over
and asked Ozga what had happened. Doc. #29-2 at 23-24. After
Ozga told Lieutenant Shanley the sequence of events, Shanley
allegedly told him, " You have to go to the police
station and give a statement." Doc. #29-2 at 24.
According to Ozga, Lieutenant Shanley " [i]nsisted I go
give a statement." Ibid.; see also Doc. #29-4
at 5 (" I was told by Shanley I must go with Beal to
give a statement at the police station." ). Lieutenant
Shanley said that Detective Beal would drive Ozga to the
station and take his statement.
En Route to and at the Southington Police Station
rode in the front seat of Detective Beal's police car to
the Southington police station. He remained without handcuffs
or any physical restraint throughout the car ride. Doc. #23-2
at 5; Doc. #29-2 at 25. During the drive to the station,
Detective Beal allegedly said to Ozga that he knew that Ozga
had not shot the gun because the GSR test came back negative.
Id. at 26. When Ozga asked what Beal thought had
happened, Detective Beal responded, " Your son got
caught stealing, he got pissed off, went downstairs and shot
arriving at the police station, Ozga remained without any
kind of physical restraint, and he walked alongside Detective
Beal without any physical contact to an interview room. Doc.
#29-2 at 25. Detective Beal showed Ozga into an interview
room, which was video-equipped to record all the subsequent
events that took place that afternoon in the room. A DVD of
the video-recording is a part of the summary judgment record
that I have reviewed. Doc. #23-25.
after Ozga arrived with Detective Beal at the interview room,
Detective Beal left the room and returned with a consent form
for the GSR test that had been administered at Ozga's
home. Detective Beal stated, " I took it, you consented
to it, you allowed me to take it. This is just the form that
we use. I didn't have one of these forms out in the
field." Exh. M (2:20). Detective Beal read the consent
form aloud to Ozga, and Ozga agreed and signed the form as
reflected on the video. See also Doc. #23-24 at 2
Beal then interviewed Ozga for about an hour-and-a-half from
approximately 3:25 p.m. to 4:55 p.m. Doc. #29-2 at 28-29;
Exh. M (2:25-3:55). Throughout the video, the door of the
interview room remained closed except as one or more officers
or Ozga himself went in and out. Ozga was not in handcuffs,
and there were no actions taken by any police officers to
restrain his movements in the room. Ozga was not told that he
was under arrest or read any Miranda rights.
shown in the video, Ozga was seated next to Detective Beal at
a computer terminal for the purpose of generating a written
statement, and the computer monitor was turned so that Ozga
could simultaneously see what Detective Beal was typing. The
resulting written statement is part of the summary judgment
record. Doc. #23-15.
Detective Beal began typing the first paragraph of Ozga's
statement, Ozga silently read what was on the screen and
added additional information for purposes of composing his
statement. For example, Detective Beal typed the following:
" My name is Edward . . ." and Ozga confirmed the
spelling of his last name, " O-Z-G-A." See
Exh. M (2:23).
Beal proceeded to interview Ozga in this manner and
simultaneously type his statement on the computer. Ozga
recounted the day's events to Beal who wrote down his
words and read them back to him to ensure that they were
accurate. When Ozga finished telling what happened, Detective
Beal asked him to review the full written statement so he
could correct any errors or omissions. Detective Beal then
read the entire statement aloud to Ozga. Exh. M (3:08). This
included an out-loud reading ...