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McKinney v. New Haven Police Dep't

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

November 6, 2017

WILLIAM J. McKINNEY, Plaintiff,
v.
NEW HAVEN POLICE DEP'T, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          Janet C. Hall, United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The plaintiff, William J. McKinney (“McKinney”), currently incarcerated at Bridgeport Correctional Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut, has filed a Complaint (Doc. No. 1) pro se under section 1983 of title 42 of the United States Code. McKinney sought leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. No. 2). On October 6, 2017, the court granted McKinney's application. (Doc. No. 7). The Complaint names nine defendants: the New Haven Police Department, Chief Campbell, Officer N. Gotzer, Officer Evan M. Kelly, Officer J. Moore, EMT Jane Doe, EMT John Doe 1, John Doe 2, and the City of New Haven. McKinney seeks damages and an order that the City of New Haven use some of the damages awarded to install sufficient lighting on the New Haven upper and lower green and to install night vision cameras throughout the downtown area.

         Under section 1915A of title 28 of the United States Code, the court must review prisoner civil complaints and dismiss any portion of the complaint that is frivolous or malicious, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. In reviewing a pro se complaint, the court must assume the truth of the allegations, and interpret them liberally to “raise the strongest arguments [they] suggest[ ].” Abbas v. Dixon, 480 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 2007). Although detailed allegations are not required, the complaint must include sufficient facts to afford the defendants fair notice of the claims and the grounds upon which they are based and to demonstrate a right to relief. Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). Conclusory allegations are not sufficient. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plaintiff must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. Nevertheless, it is well-established that “[p]ro se complaints ‘must be construed liberally and interpreted to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.'” Sykes v. Bank of Am., 723 F.3d 399, 403 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006)); see also Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010) (discussing special rules of solicitude for pro se litigants).

         II. ALLEGATIONS[1]

         On July 13, 2017, at 11:07 p.m., McKinney was waiting for the bus on the corner of College and Chapel Streets in New Haven. John Doe 2 approached him and swung a rock in a sock, striking McKinney in the left side of his face and head. The rock was oval-shaped and about the size of a baseball. John Doe 2 said nothing.

         McKinney assumed a defensive stance and began backing away. John Doe 2 pursued McKinney on the Upper Green and struck him in the left temple with the rock at least twice more. McKinney began walking back toward College Street. John Doe 2 ran up behind McKinney to hit him in the back of the head. McKinney turned and fought with John Doe 2.

         McKinney lost consciousness. When he regained consciousness, he was on one knee and John Doe 2 was swinging the weapon toward McKinney's head. McKinney moved his head at the last moment and the rock missed him. He continued to make his way to the Lower Green in a defensive stance. John Doe 2 followed, hitting McKinney in the head three more times.

         McKinney ran toward the fountain. He heard John Doe 2 pursuing him and knew that he was close. McKinney was short of breath and disoriented. He stopped and turned around. John Doe 2 was swinging the weapon in a downward motion toward McKinney's head. McKinney panicked. He ran toward John Doe 2 causing the rock to hit his bicep rather than his head.

         McKinney collided with John Doe 2. Their feet became entangled, and McKinney fell backward, landing on his back. John Doe 2 fell forward, landing on his face. As John Doe 2 was getting back up to hit him again, McKinney got to his side and repelled the attack. McKinney got to his knees and saw John Doe 2's hand coming out of his back pocket. McKinney thought John Doe 2 had a knife.

         McKinney repelled the attack. A bystander told him to stop and McKinney did. McKinney walked away in shock. He headed back to College and Chapel Streets because, during the altercation, John Doe 2, had ripped McKinney's house keys from around his neck. McKinney wanted to call the police, but he was afraid to do so because he was on probation.

         McKinney assumed that John Doe 2 would be cared for because the bystander was wearing hospital scrubs and, as McKinney was walking away, he saw a glow from a cell phone. He assumed that bystander was summoning help.

         McKinney reached the corner of College and Chapel Streets. As he was putting his ripped shirt back on, Officer Moore approached McKinney and asked what had happened. McKinney stated that he had been attacked by an unknown male with a weapon. He described the weapon as a blackjack on a rope. At that time, McKinney only knew that the weapon had a two-to-three foot reach and something hard and solid at the end. Officer Moore handcuffed McKinney and told him that he was only being detained.

         An emergency response vehicle arrived. With Officer Moore standing by, McKinney told EMT Jane Doe and EMT John Doe 1 that he had been hit in the head with a hard object about six or seven times. The EMTs were about to take McKinney to the hospital when Officer Moore ordered them to just clean him up. The EMTs wiped McKinney's face and hands. McKinney told them he thought his knuckle was broken, but they ignored him.

         Officer Moore put McKinney in the police vehicle. When McKinney asked if he was under arrest, Officer Moore stated that John Doe 2 was in critical condition. McKinney was brought to the detective unit at the New Haven Police Department and questioned. He lost and regained consciousness several times during the questioning. The officers refused to take him to the hospital or provide medical attention. Finally, after five or six hours, McKinney was taken to the hospital by ambulance. He was given an emergency CT scan and diagnosed with a concussion.

         An EMT told McKinney that he was the third person that week that the EMT had taken to the hospital after being hit by someone wielding a rock in a sock. McKinney was later diagnosed as suffering from post-concussion syndrome. He suffers between four and five headaches per day and has short-term memory loss.

         Two months later, McKinney learned that defendant Evans had rolled John Doe 2 onto his back causing John Doe 2 to begin coughing up blood. Defendant Gotzer confirmed this in her police report. Rather than help John Doe 2, defendant Kelly began searching his pockets for identification and then moved key evidence in the case. Defendant Gotzer watched. McKinney contends that defendants Kelly and Gotzer contributed to John Doe 2's injuries. As a result of the seriousness of John Doe 2's injuries, McKinney was charged with assault. He contends that he used only reasonable force to repel John Doe 2's attack.

         III. ANALYSIS

         McKinney alleges that defendants Moore, EMT Jane Doe and EMT John Doe 1 denied him needed medical attention. He argues that the New Haven Police Department ignored the negligent actions of defendants Kelly and Gotzer toward John Doe 2. McKinney contends that the New Haven Police Department violated his right to due process because, in response to McKinney's attorney's request to preserve evidence, they stated that they have video surveillance footage only of the Lower Green. He contends that the New Haven Police Department failed to protect him from harm at the hands of the person assaulting citizens ...


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