United States District Court, D. Connecticut
INITIAL REVIEW ORDER
MICHAEL P. SHEA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
April 17, 2019, the plaintiff, Luis Angel Salaman, a state
prisoner currently confined at the Corrigan-Radgowski
Correctional Center in Uncasville, Connecticut, filed a civil
complaint pro se and in forma pauperis
against the City of New Haven, Connecticut, the New Haven
Police Department (“NHPD”), the State's
Attorney's Office for the judicial district of New Haven,
and nine NHPD officials in their individual and official
capacities: Chief Anthony Campbell, Officer James Murcko,
Officer Joseph Galvan, Officer Garry Monk, Detective Luis
Lopez, Sergeant Sean Maher, Sergeant Rose Dell, Sergeant
Carlos Maldonado, and Lieutenant Racheal Cain. ECF No. 1,
¶¶ 4-16. The plaintiff raises a number of
constitutional claims stemming from his arrest in New Haven
on April 22, 2016. Id. at ¶¶ 100-09. He
seeks monetary, injunctive, and declaratory relief.
Id. at ¶¶ 110-16. For the following
reasons, the complaint is dismissed in part.
Standard of Review
28 U.S.C. § 1915A, 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. 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.” Bell Atlantic, 550
U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the [C]ourt to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft, 556
U.S. at 678 (citing Bell Atlantic, 550 U.S. at 556).
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
America, 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).
April 22, 2016, at around 7:00 p.m., the plaintiff was
traveling west on Putnam Street in New Haven in his red Saab.
ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 17-18. When he stopped at a stop sign
at the intersection of Putnam Street and Howard Avenue, he
noticed a police cruiser operated by Officer Murcko parked on
a driveway on Howard Street. Id. at ¶ 17. When
the plaintiff proceeded onto Howard Street from the
intersection, he noticed Murcko following him in his cruiser.
Id. at ¶ 18. Murcko activated his lights and
siren, and the plaintiff pulled over on Liberty Street.
Id. at ¶ 19. He sat in his car for several
minutes, but Murcko did not exit his cruiser. Id.
The plaintiff then noticed another police cruiser driven by
Officers Monk and Galvan approaching him at an alarming
speed. Id. at ¶¶ 19-20. The plaintiff did
not feel safe and sped off in fear that the officers were
going to attack him. Id. at ¶ 21. The plaintiff
and the officers then engaged in a pursuit throughout the
streets of New Haven. Id. at ¶¶ 22-26. At
various times, the police cruisers crashed into the
plaintiff's Saab and caused him to drive into the
oncoming traffic lane. Id. at ¶¶ 23-25.
The plaintiff feared that the officers were trying to kill
him. Id. at ¶ 24. Eventually, Murcko crashed
his cruiser into the rear left side of the plaintiff's
Saab, causing it to spin out of control and come to a stop on
Long Wharf Drive. Id. at ¶¶ 26-27.
the Saab had come to a stop, the officers ordered the
plaintiff at gunpoint to exit his vehicle. ECF No. 1, ¶
27. The plaintiff complied by exiting his vehicle and lying
face down on the ground. Id. Galvan placed him in
handcuffs, searched his person, and then placed him in
Murcko's police cruiser. Id. At the time, the
plaintiff was in a lot of pain and had difficulty breathing.
Id. As he sat down in the cruiser, the plaintiff
complained to another officer that that he was in pain and
could not breathe. Id. at ¶ 28. He then heard
Murcko say, “I should mace you, you motherfucker,
” and Murcko slammed the cruiser door. Id.
Murcko then opened his driver door and closed all of the
windows in the cruiser, which caused the plaintiff to become
plaintiff again complained to an ambulance technician that he
was not feeling well and had difficulty breathing, and the
technician cracked open the windows in the cruiser. ECF No.
1, ¶ 29. A short time later, however, Murcko closed the
windows again. Id. at ¶ 30. When the technician
attempted to open the windows a second time, Murcko
instructed him not to touch the windows, but the technician
insisted that they take the plaintiff out of the car.
Id. Murcko then became upset, opened the back door,
and told the plaintiff to get out of the car. Id.
walked the plaintiff to a nearby intersection where Sergeant
Maher was present. ECF No. 1, ¶ 31. He then searched the
plaintiff a second time and, during the pat down, grabbed the
plaintiff's testicles and squeezed them so hard that it
caused the plaintiff to cry out loud in pain. Id.
Murcko said, “What's this?” and the plaintiff
responded, “Why [are] you doing this? You can't
touch me there at all.” Id. Murcko told him to
“shut the fuck up” and then instructed the
ambulance technician to take him away. Id.
plaintiff was taken to Yale New Haven Hospital, where he was
evaluated and given medical treatment, and then transported
to the New Haven police station. ECF No. 1, ¶ 33. He was
released on bail that same night. Id.
April 25, the plaintiff obtained a ten-page police report
written by Galvan and noticed several factual inaccuracies.
ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 34-37. Four days later, on April 29,
the plaintiff appeared in state court for a preliminary
hearing. Id. at ¶ 38. There, he filed a motion
for discovery of any video footage taken during the arrest,
including traffic camera footage, and the court ordered the
State to preserve any such footage. Id. at
¶¶ 39, 44. The plaintiff asked his attorney to
review the footage, which he believed would show that the
officers were untruthful in their account of the pursuit.
Id. at ¶¶ 41-44. The plaintiff later fired
his attorney, and the court appointed Special Public Defender
Beth A. Merkin to represent him. Id. at ¶ 46.
He briefed Merkin on the court's order for the
preservation of the videos and told her that he believed the
NHPD officers were targeting him. Id. at ¶ 47.
October 7, 2016, the plaintiff filed a civilian complaint
with the NHPD Internal Affairs Unit for police misconduct
during his arrest. ECF No. 1, ¶ 42. He received a letter
on October 19 from Lieutenant Cain stating that an
investigation into his allegations had been opened, and that
Sergeant Maldonado would be in contact with the plaintiff
regarding its status, but the plaintiff was never contacted
regarding his complaint. Id.
December 19, 2016, the plaintiff obtained from Merkin the
full police reports from Officers Galvan and Murcko and a
Uniform Police Crash Report filed by Sergeant Maher. ECF No.
1, ¶ 48. Again, the plaintiff noticed several untruthful
statements in the reports. See Id. at ¶¶
January 9, 2017, the plaintiff posted bail and was released
from custody. ECF No. 1, ¶ 61. A short time later, he
went to the NHPD to check on the status of his civilian
complaint because no one from the NHPD had ever contacted or
interviewed him. Id. A clerk there told him that
Lieutenant Cain would be contacting him, but that never
occurred. Id. The plaintiff tried to contact Cain
the following month but was unsuccessful. Id. at
¶ 62. When he went to the NHPD a second time to check on
the status of the complaint, the clerk there handed him a
letter written by Maldonado stating that the Internal Affairs
Unit was closing his complaint because the claims stated
therein were unfounded, and the Unit determined that no
policies were violated. Id.
plaintiff informed Attorney Merkin of the outcome of the
civilian complaint. ECF No. 1, ¶ 64. During their
discussions, the plaintiff told Merkin that he recalled
Officer Galvan waving something in his hand on the night of
his arrest and shouting, “Call Lopez. Tell him we got
him.” Id. at ¶ 67. Merkin also handed the
plaintiff another summary report written by Maldonado in
which he stated that he had reviewed the police radio
transmission logs from the night of the arrest. Id.
at ¶¶ 65, 68. In one of those logs, Sergeant Maher
asks why they were pursuing the plaintiff's car, and
someone responds that it was related to a drug investigation
and that Detective Lopez “wants him.”
Id. at ¶ 71. In his police report from April
22, 2016, Officer Galvan stated that the officers were
pursuing the plaintiff because his Saab “did not have a
proper illuminated marker plate, ” in violation of
Connecticut General Statutes § 14-18, but omitted any
reference to a drug investigation. Id. at
¶¶ 73-74. Maldonado also stated in his report that
Lopez had an interest in the plaintiff's vehicle as part
of a narcotics investigation. Id. at ¶ 76.
plaintiff believes that Lopez had targeted him for arrest on
April 22, 2016 because (1) at that time, he was awaiting
trial for an unrelated criminal case from 2014 in which Lopez
was the arresting officer, and (2) he had previously dated
Lopez's ex-girlfriend. ECF No. 1, ¶ 77. The
plaintiff believes that Lopez directed Murcko and Galvan to
attack him on April 22, 2016. Id. at ¶ 78.
plaintiff later learned from Sergeant Dell, who specializes
in accident reconstruction, that traffic camera footage is
only preserved for two weeks, and because the plaintiff did
not file his civilian complaint until October 2016, there was
no available footage of the arrest. ECF No. 1, ¶ 84.
However, the state ...