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Williams v. City of Waterbury

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 5, 2018

OCTAVIOUS WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF WATERBURY, et al., Defendants.

          RULING RE: MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC NOS. 22 & 23)

          JANET C. HALL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The plaintiff, Octavious Williams (“Williams”), currently incarcerated at Cheshire Correctional Institution in Cheshire, Connecticut, commenced this action by Complaint filed pro se in state court. See generally Compl. (Doc. No. 35-1).[1] Defendant Ryan Cubells (“Cubells”) removed the case to federal district court. See Notice of Removal (Doc. No. 1). The defendants are the City of Waterbury (“the City”), Cubells, Martin Scanlon (“Scanlon”), Robert Raad (“Raad”), Waterbury Police Officers Ocasio (“Ocasio”) and Marano (“Marano”), Waterbury Police Sergeants J. Knapp (“Knapp”) and Napiello (“Napiello”), Waterbury Police Lieutenant Cappozzi (“Cappozzi”), and Waterbury Police Detective Brownell (“Brownell”).

         Two Motions for Summary Judgment are currently pending before the court: one filed by defendant Cubells (Doc. No. 22), and the other filed by all other defendants (“group defendants”) (Doc. No. 23). Williams, proceeding pro se, opposes both pending Motions with a document styled “Pro se litigant opposing motion for summary judgment in requirement of Local Rule 56(b)” and referred to herein as “Plaintiff's Response.” See Plaintiff's Response (“Pl.'s Response”) (Doc. No. 28).

         For the reasons that follow, the defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment (Doc. Nos. 22 & 23) are granted as to Counts One through Eight and Thirteen. Counts Nine through Twelve will proceed against defendant Raad.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         On a motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the moving party to establish that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and that the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986); Wright v. N.Y. State Dep't of Corr., 831 F.3d 64, 71-72 (2d Cir. 2016). Once the moving party has met its burden, in order to defeat the motion, the nonmoving party “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, ” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256, and present “such proof as would allow a reasonable juror to return a verdict in [its] favor, ” Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir. 2000). “An issue of fact is genuine and material if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Cross Commerce Media, Inc. v. Collective, Inc., 841 F.3d 155, 162 (2d Cir. 2016).

         In assessing the record to determine whether there are disputed issues of material fact, the trial court must “resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought.” LaFond v. Gen. Physics Servs. Corp., 50 F.3d 165, 175 (2d Cir. 1995). “Where it is clear that no rational finder of fact ‘could find in favor of the nonmoving party because the evidence to support its case is so slight, ' summary judgment should be granted.” F.D.I.C. v. Great Am. Ins. Co., 607 F.3d 288, 292 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994)). On the other hand, where “reasonable minds could differ as to the import of the evidence, ” the question must be left to the finder of fact. Cortes v. MTA N.Y. City Transit, 802 F.3d 226, 230 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting R.B. Ventures, Ltd. v. Shane, 112 F.3d 54, 59 (2d Cir. 1997)).

         II. FACTS[2]

         At the time of the events in question, December 7, 2013, Williams was a resident of Waterbury, Connecticut. See Group Defendants' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement of Facts (“Group Statement of Facts”) (Doc. No. 23-2) at ¶ 1. Cubells, Scanlon, Raad, Marano, and Ocasio[3] were employed as Waterbury police officers; Knapp and Brownell as Waterbury police detectives; and Cappozzi and Napiello as Waterbury police sergeants. Id. at ¶¶ 2-10.

         On December 7, 2013, Ocasio and Marano were dispatched to investigate an armed home invasion on Coe Street in Waterbury. Id. at ¶¶ 11, 47. After interviewing three victims, they broadcast a description of three men who were wanted as suspects in connection with the home invasion. Id. at ¶¶ 11, 48-49. The broadcast indicated that two of the suspects were driving a BMW with out-of-state license plates and that the third had fled in a dark-colored Jeep Grand Cherokee with partial license plate number ZPS. Id. at ¶ 13.

         At approximately 7:45 p.m., Cubells and Scanlon were patrolling in the area of Ridgewood Street when they saw a black BMW with New York license plate GJB4242 and a black Jeep Grand Cherokee with Connecticut license plate 996ZPS parked on Ridgewood Street. Id. at ¶ 14. Both vehicles were unoccupied. Id. Cubells and Scanlon parked their police cruiser out of sight and moved to a position where they could see anyone entering the vehicles. Id. at ¶ 15. Knapp assigned several police units around the area to intercept the vehicles if they attempted to leave. Id. at ¶ 17. Ocasio and Marano were two of the officers assigned to establish the perimeter. Id. at ¶¶ 50-51.

         At approximately 8:35 p.m., two men entered the vehicles and prepared to drive away. Affidavit of Ryan Cubells (Doc. No. 22-4) at ¶ 10. Edward Blancaneauex (“Blancaneauex”) was in the BMW which fled toward Hillside Avenue. Williams was in the Jeep which fled toward Central Avenue. Group Defendants' Statement of Facts at ¶ 16. Cubells and Scanlon ordered Blancaneauex to stop and get out of the vehicle. Id. at ¶ 18. He did not comply with the order. Id. at ¶ 19. Instead, Blancaneauex drove the BMW toward Cubells and Scanlon, grazing Cubells and causing him to suffer an injury to his left leg. Id. at ¶ 20-21. Scanlon discharged three rounds at the BMW, hitting the car but not the driver. Id. at ¶ 23-24. Scanlon did not fire at the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Id. Cubells notified the police of the direction taken by the fleeing vehicles. Id. at ¶ 28. Scanlon advised dispatch that Cubells had been injured by the BMW. Id. at ¶ 29. A use of force investigation following this incident confirmed that Scanlon had discharged three rounds from his revolver into the BMW and that Cubells had not fired his service weapon on December 7, 2013. Id. at ¶¶ 44-45.

         Upon hearing that shots had been fired, Knapp went to Ridgewood Street to secure the scene. Id. at ¶ 30. Knapp then drove Cubells from the scene to St. Mary's Hospital. Id. at ¶ 31.

         Police officers, including Ocasio, Marano, and Raad, pursued Williams as he drove away from the Ridgewood Street location until he crashed into a parked and unoccupied car and two police cruisers on Central Avenue in Waterbury. Id. at ¶¶ 32, 52. At that point, Ocasio and Marano left their police cruiser to determine whether there were any passengers in the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Id. at ¶¶ 52-53. They determined that there were no passengers. Id. at ¶ 52. By this time there were many other officers on the scene.

         Raad approached the driver's side of the Jeep Grand Cherokee as Williams exited the vehicle. Id. at ¶ 74. Raad ordered Williams to get on the ground but Williams refused. Id. at ¶ 75. After several refusals, Raad brought Williams to the ground by kicking him in the shin and sweeping his legs. Id. Once Williams was on the ground, Raad repeatedly ordered him to show his hands. Id. at ¶ 76. Williams refused, and began tucking his hands under his waist while he was lying on the ground. Id. Raad struck Williams on the left side of his face and the side of his body. Id. Eventually, Williams moved his hands so that they were visible. Id. at 78. Raad then placed Williams under arrest, and Williams was taken to St. Mary's Hospital for his injuries. Id. Following the incident, Raad completed a Case Supplement Report and Response to Resistance Form. Id. at ¶ 80.

         Cubells, Knapp, Scanlon, Napiello, Cappozzi, and Brownell were not present on Central Avenue when Williams was apprehended.[4] Id. at ¶ 34. Brownell was assigned to assist in the investigation of, and obtain witness statements regarding, the incidents in which Williams and Blancaneauex were suspects. Id. at ¶ 62. He did not receive this assignment until after Blancaneauex and Williams had been arrested. Id. at ¶ 63.

         Ocasio prepared a report of the incident, after which the investigation was transferred to Napiello who completed a supplementary report which includes reports of Raad, Ocasio and Officer Tiso. Id. at ¶ 66. After the report was completed, Cappozzi, Napiello's supervisor, reviewed and approved the report. Id. at ¶ 67. Cappozzi was present at Central Avenue but did not arrive there until after Williams had been arrested, handcuffed, and placed in the back of a police cruiser. Id. at ¶ 69.

         Whenever a police officer uses force, the circumstances regarding the use of force are reviewed by the officer's supervisors through the chain of command up to the Chief of Police. Id. at ¶¶ 83-85. In addition, the Internal Affairs Division investigates citizen complaints against police officers. Id. at ¶ 86. Officers receive in-service and roll call training. Id. at ¶ 107. All police officers are subject to supervision to ensure policies and procedures are followed. Id. at ¶ 105. All incidents are reviewed by supervisors or the Internal Affairs Division. Id. at ¶¶ 91-93. Discipline is imposed when required. Id. at ¶ 103-04, 108-12.

         All defendants have received training in the use of force, search and seizure, and probable cause for arrest at the Police Academy and as part of their recertification process after graduating from the Police Academy. Id. at ¶ 120. Prior to December 7, 2013, the Waterbury Police Department was not aware that any defendant had a propensity to use excessive force in exercising his official duties or to violate departmental rules and policies or the constitutional rights of any person. Id. at ¶¶ 133- 34.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Williams's Complaint alleges thirteen counts against one or more of the defendants. See generally Compl. (Doc. No. 35-1). Counts Ones through Four, against all defendants, are based on Williams's assertions that he was falsely arrested and imprisoned. See Compl. at 4-5. Specifically, Count One alleges false imprisonment pursuant to the Fourth Amendment; Count Two alleges common law false arrest; Count Three alleges common law false imprisonment; and Count Four alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) resulting from Williams's false arrest and / or imprisonment. Id.

         Counts Five through Eight are alleged against Scanlon and Cubells, and arise from Williams's allegations that Cubells fired shots at Williams's vehicle. Id. at 5-6. Count Five alleges Fourth Amendment excessive force; Count Six alleges common law assault; Count Seven alleges common law battery; and ...


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