United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
F. Martinez United States Magistrate Judge.
Stephen Kanizaj, brings this civil rights complaint against
several Old Saybrook police officers pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 alleging that they violated his Fourth Amendment right
to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Pending
before the court is defendants' motion for summary
judgment. (Doc. #44.) For the reasons set forth below, the
motion is GRANTED.
following facts, drawn from the parties' Local Rule 56(a)
statements and exhibits, are undisputed.
April 15, 2014, at approximately 4:41 PM, the Old Saybrook
Police Department received a call from an individual who
identified himself as “James Brink.”
(Defendants' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement of Facts
(“Def. SOF”), Doc. #44-2, ¶¶ 1, 4;
Plaintiff's Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement (“Pl.
SOF”), Doc. #45-1, ¶¶ 1, 4.) The caller
stated, “I'm hearing gunshots from across the
street.” (Audio Recording, Def. Ex. A; Def. SOF ¶
2; Pl. SOF ¶ 2.) He explained, “I'm just down
the street, but the location of where the gunshots are . . .
coming from is 225 Springbrook Road.” (Audio Recording,
Def. Ex. A; Def. SOF ¶ 3; Pl. SOF ¶ 3.) Plaintiff
lives at 225 Springbrook Road. (Def. SOF ¶ 23; Pl. SOF
caller continued that “this happened about two minutes
ago. I just keep hearing gunshots and screaming, I'm just
scared right now.” (Audio Recording, Def. Ex. A; Def.
SOF ¶¶ 5, 11; Pl. SOF ¶¶ 5, 11.) He
stated that he was “looking through the window”
and could “see people with guns pointed to people's
heads.” (Audio Recording, Def. Ex. A; Def. SOF
¶¶ 6, 9; Pl. SOF ¶¶ 6, 9.) Police were
dispatched to the scene. (Audio Recording, Def. Ex. A.) The
caller reported that there were two armed individuals wearing
black ski masks and “a whole family on the
floor.” (Audio Recording, Def. Ex. A; Def. SOF ¶
14; Pl. SOF ¶ 14.) When asked if any shots had been
fired, the caller informed the dispatcher that about five
shots were fired. (Audio Recording, Def. Ex. A; Def. SOF
¶ 8; Pl. SOF ¶ 8.) He told the dispatcher, “I
think someone's been shot in the leg” and that
“there are only a couple alive.” (Audio
Recording, Def. Ex. A; Def. SOF ¶¶ 16, 17; Pl. SOF
¶¶ 16, 17.) When asked what the people were doing,
the caller answered, “they are just lying on the floor
with blood coming out.” (Audio Recording, Def. Ex. A;
Def. SOF ¶ 18; Pl. SOF ¶ 18.)
dispatcher informed the responding officers by radio that the
caller heard gunshots, that there were people in the house
with guns to their heads, and that the caller could hear
screaming. (Audio Recording, Def. Ex. A; Def. SOF
¶¶ 7, 10, 12; Pl. SOF ¶¶ 7, 10, 12.) She
relayed the caller's report that one to three people
possibly had been shot in the leg and that he saw blood.
(Audio Recording, Def. Ex. A; Def. SOF ¶ 19; Pl. SOF
arrived on Springbrook Road about 6 minutes and 20 seconds
after the start of the call. (Audio Recording, Def. Ex. A;
Def. SOF ¶ 13; Pl. SOF ¶ 13.) The officers were
wearing tactical gear. (Pl. Depo., Def. Ex. B, Doc. #44-4, p.
11; Def. SOF ¶ 33; Pl. SOF ¶ 33.) Plaintiff was
standing in his kitchen when his adult son alerted him that
there were police officers in their backyard. (Pl. Depo., Pl.
Ex. 1, Doc. #45-2, pp. 4-5.) Plaintiff went to the back
screen door and an officer told him to come out of the house.
(Id. at 5.) Plaintiff asked if he could put on
sneakers or take his socks off because it was wet
outside. (Id.) The officer responded that
he could take his socks off. (Id. at 7; Def. SOF
¶ 30; Pl. SOF ¶ 30.) Plaintiff did so and came
outside. (Pl. Depo., Pl. Ex. 1, Doc. #45-2, p. 5.)
the officers asked plaintiff questions that “didn't
make sense” to him. (Id.) One officer asked
plaintiff if he had heard a car backfiring, another asked if
he had heard shots being fired, and another asked if someone
had been shot in the front yard. (Id. at 8.)
Plaintiff “didn't know what was going on, ”
and responded that he had not heard a car backfire or any
shots being fired. (Id. at 5, 8.) When asked if
anyone else was in the house, plaintiff responded that his
son was inside. (Id. at 5.) An officer asked
plaintiff to tell his son to come outside. (Id.)
Plaintiff's son came outside and they stood on the porch
against the exterior wall of the house. (Id.)
officer asked plaintiff for permission to enter the house.
(Id.) Plaintiff refused, telling the officer,
“[y]ou have no right to go in my home.”
(Id.) The officer entered anyway. (Id.)
Another officer, defendant Small,  pointed his rifle at
plaintiff, keeping him “covered for the safety of the
other officers.” (Pl. Depo., Pl. Ex. 1, Doc. #45-2, pp.
5, 7; Def. SOF ¶ 29; Pl. SOF ¶ 29.) Plaintiff told
Officer Small that he wanted to accompany the officer.
(Id. at 6.) Officer Small told plaintiff that he had
to stay outside. (Id.) Some time later, a female
officer also entered the house. (Id.) These were the
only officers who entered plaintiff's house.
(Id.) Plaintiff estimates that the officers were
inside for “[p]robably 15 minutes.”
the search, the officers turned on every light and opened
every interior door--“closet doors, bedroom doors,
basement door.” (Pl. Depo., Pl. Ex. 1, Doc. #45-2, p.
9; Pl. SOF ¶ 25.) The officers did not open any drawers.
(Pl. Depo., Pl. Ex. 1, Doc. #45-2, p. 9.) The officers did
not cause any damage to plaintiff's house. (Pl. Depo.,
Pl. Ex. 1, Doc. #45-2, p. 9; Pl. SOF ¶ 25.) At no time
did the defendants handcuff plaintiff or otherwise physically
contact him. (Pl. Depo., Pl. Ex. 1, Doc. #45-2, p. 12; Def.
SOF ¶¶ 31, 32; Pl. SOF ¶¶ 31, 32.)
completion of the investigation, the defendants found nothing
that supported the allegations made by the caller. (Small
Aff., Def. Ex. C, Doc. #44-5, ¶ 8; Police Report, Def.
Ex. D, Doc. #44-6, pp. 5-6; Def. SOF ¶ 34; Pl. SOF
¶ 34.) It later was determined that plaintiff was the
victim of “swatting.” (Police Report, Def. Ex. D,
Doc. #44-6, p. 6.)
Summary Judgment Standard
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A “material” fact is a fact
that influences the case's outcome under governing law.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242,
247-48 (1986). A “genuine” dispute is one that a
reasonable jury could resolve in favor of the non-movant.
Id. The moving party bears the initial burden of
establishing that there are no genuine disputes as to any
material fact. Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d
33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000). Once such a showing is made, the
non-movant must show that there is a genuine issue for trial.
Id. The court may rely on admissible evidence only,
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