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Chalco v. Belair

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

June 1, 2017

RENE CHALCO, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTOPHER BELAIR, ROBERT MADORE, RYAN HOWLEY, and ANDREW KATKOCIN Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DKT. NOS. 63, 65]

          HON. VANESSA L. BRYANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff Rene Chalco brings this action against City of Danbury police officers Christopher Belair, Robert Madore, Ryan Howley, and Andrew Katkocin (collectively, “Defendants”). Chalco alleges, inter alia, that Belair used excessive force under color of law during a traffic stop, and that all of the Defendants were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs, in violation of the United States Constitution. [See Dkt. No. 24]. Defendants moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. [Dkt. Nos. 63, 65]. For the reasons that follow, the Defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment are DENIED.

         II. Background

         A. The Record on Summary Judgment

         “A party asserting that a fact . . . is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). A party may also support their assertion by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence . . . of a genuine dispute.” Id. Cited documents must consist of either “(1) the affidavit of a witness competent to testify as to the facts at trial and/or (2) evidence that would be admissible at trial.” Local R. Civ. P. 56(a)3; see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(4).

         The Court need not consider any materials that the parties have failed to cite in their Rule 56(a) Statements of Fact, but may in its discretion consider other materials in the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact, or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact, the Court may “consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion [and] grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials - including the facts considered undisputed - show that the movant is entitled to it.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see also Local R. 56(a)3 (“[F]ailure to provide specific citations to evidence in the record as required by this Local Rule may result in the Court deeming certain facts that are supported by the evidence admitted in accordance with [Local] Rule 56(a)1 or in the Court imposing sanctions, including . . . an order granting the motion if the undisputed facts show that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”). Because Plaintiff did not file a Rule 56(a) statement until after the deadline to do so had elapsed [See Dkt. Nos. 71, 78], the Court is not obligated to consider any of the facts Plaintiff asserts in his Rule 56(a) statement. However, the Court has nevertheless considered facts asserted in Plaintiff's Opposition where they are supported by timely-filed evidence elsewhere in the record.

         A. Factual Background

         On the evening of March 7, 2013 at approximately 11:00 p.m., Chalco drove to a Danbury bar, where he consumed three beers and three cocktails over the course of two hours. [Chalco Dep. at 21-22, 25]. Chalco left the bar at around 1:00 a.m. and proceeded to drive home. Id. at 27. At the time, Chalco did not have a driver's license, and had never been licensed to drive. Id. at 23. On his way home, he approached a stop sign, applied his brakes, but began to skid on the icy street and proceeded through the stop sign without stopping. Id. at 30. Officer Madore then initiated a motor vehicle stop. [Dkt. 63-5 (“Madore Aff.”) ¶ 6].

         Immediately prior to the stop, Officer Madore was operating his police cruiser alone, and was being followed in a second cruiser by Officers Katkocin and Howley. [Madore Aff. ¶ 5]. When Madore stopped Chalco, Katkocin pulled in behind Madore's cruiser. [Dkt. 63-6 (“Katkocin Aff.”) ¶ 6]. Officer Belair, who was nearby, heard on the radio that Madore was conducting a traffic stop, and arrived at the scene shortly thereafter. [Dkt. 65-4 (“Belair Aff.”) ¶¶ 5-6]. Belair approached Chalco and Madore while they were speaking outside of Chalco's car. Id. ¶ 8. Belair remained with Chalco while Madore returned to his police cruiser to write Chalco a ticket for failing to obey a stop sign and for driving without a license. [Madore Aff. ¶¶ 7-8; Belair Aff. ¶ 9].

         The parties have submitted audio and video recordings of the stop. Officer Howley made an iPhone audio-recording of the incident, which was synced to a cruiser dashboard camera (“ICOP”) video during an internal affairs investigation.

         In the recording, Belair states:

“You got here somehow. Then walk back home. Take a fucking bus. Take that car once you get it out. I don't care. But stop being in this country and almost fucking killing people because you're too fucking stupid to call a ride. Honestly if there wasn't four other cops here . . . if there wasn't four other cops I'd beat the shit out of you right now . . . . It's an asshole like you that killed my uncle because he was fucking drunk driving, right? Some douchebag like you that decided to drink too much and go out in the middle of a fucking snowstorm when you shouldn't even have been driving anyway. But that's alright. You don't even give a shit about other people's families do you? . . . . You're a piece of shit.”

[Dkt. 75, Exh. 2 (“ICOP Video”)]. An officer then stands in front of Chalco, blocking him from the camera's view, and Belair states, “Now you want to cry? Now you want to cry?” Id. Chalco then appears to hold his hand to his face. Id. During this exchange, Chalco repeatedly apologizes to Belair. Id.

         Chalco maintains that Belair punched him in the mouth, which caused extreme pain and bleeding to his mouth and lips. [Chalco Dep. at 50, 52, 57]. Chalco testified that he swallowed the blood while he was speaking with the officers, but once he began walking home, he could no longer do so and blood dripped out of his mouth onto his coat. Id. at 59. Photographs of Mr. Chalco's coat show stains that are visually consistent with dripping blood. [Dkt. 75, Exh. 4]. However, forensic testing of these stains did not detect blood. [Dkt. 65-7 (“Marcus Tr.”) at 151-54]. While the Defendants submitted affidavits swearing that they did not observe Belair punching Chalco and that they noticed no injury to Chalco's lip, Chalco's brother, two co-workers, and an acquaintance testified that they observed Chalco's swollen lip in March 2013. [Dkt. 75-5 (“J. Chalco Tr.”) at 63, 66; Dkt. 75-6 (“Gallagher ...


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