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Milner v. City of Bristol

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 21, 2019

SHAWN MILNER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF BRISTOL et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Shawn Milner is a prisoner of the Connecticut Department of Correction. He has filed this federal action principally alleging that he was subject to the use of excessive force by numerous police officers in Bristol, Connecticut. In accordance with the initial review requirements of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I have reviewed his complaint and will allow it to proceed in part as to some of the named defendants.

         BACKGROUND

         The complaint names the following defendants: the City of Bristol, the Bristol Police Department, and numerous Bristol police officials including Lieutenant Geoffrey Lund, Sergeant Rodney Gotowala, Officers Mark Kichar, Podlesney, Dustin DeMonte, Marino, and Jason Kasparian. See Doc. #1 at 10-11 (¶¶ 4-7) & at 14 (¶ 16).[1]

         The following facts are assumed to be true solely for purposes of my initial evaluation of the adequacy of the allegations in the complaint. On April 11, 2018, Milner was traveling in the passenger seat of his fiancée's car when Officer Kichar pulled up behind the vehicle and without probable cause signaled Milner's fiancée to pull the car to the side of the road. Id. at 12 (¶ 10). After the vehicle stopped, Officer Kichar approached the passenger side of the vehicle and ordered Milner to get out. Id. (¶ 10). Officer Kichar attempted to grab Milner “in an extremely aggressive manner.” Id. (¶ 11). Milner feared for his safety and attempted to “create some distance between himself” and Officer Kichar. Id.

         At that point, another police vehicle driven by Officer Podlesney hit Milner and knocked him to the ground. Id. As he lay face down on the ground, Officers Kichar and Podlesney climbed on Milner's back and pinned his hands underneath him. Id. (¶ 12). Both officers began to strike Milner over the head repeatedly. Id. Officer DeMonte struck Milner on the back, and Officer Marino struck Milner on his legs multiple times before applying handcuffs to his wrists. Id. at 12-13 (¶ 12). After he was handcuffed, the four officers hit him several more times in the head. Id. at 13 (¶ 13). During the incident, Officers Kichar and Podlesney injured their hands. Id. at 16 (¶ 24).

         Milner began to feel light headed and dizzy, and his vision became blurry. Id. at 13 (¶ 13). He recognized these symptoms as a sign that he was going to have a seizure. Id. He attempted to inform the officers at the scene about the possibility that he might have a seizure, but they told him to be quiet and put him in the back of a police car. Id. A short time later, Milner lost consciousness and suffered a “violent tonic clonic seizure.” Id. (¶ 14). An ambulance transported Milner to Bristol Hospital for treatment of injuries that he had sustained to his chin, face, back, head and right arm. Id.

         Milner alleges that he did not attempt to resist arrest and did not strike or fight the officers at the scene of his arrest. Id. (¶ 15). He claims that Officer Kasparian tried to justify the officers' brutal attack on him by writing an incident report falsely stating that Milner had fought with Officers Kichar and Podlesney. Id. at 13-14 (¶ 15).

         After reviewing falsified reports written by Officers Kichar, Podlesney, DeMonte, and Kasparian, Sergeant Gotowala and Lieutenant Lund failed to reprimand them or otherwise remedy the situation; instead, they conspired to cover up their subordinates' misdeeds rather than redress them. Id. at 14 (¶¶ 16-17).

         The City of Bristol did not attempt to prosecute the officers who used excessive force against Milner. Id. at 15 (¶ 20). The Mayor of Bristol made a statement to the media indicating that she would investigate the force used by the Bristol police officers against Milner, but never engaged in an investigation. Id. (¶ 21).

         DISCUSSION

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court must review a prisoner's civil complaint against a governmental entity or governmental actors and “identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.” If the prisoner is proceeding pro se, the allegations of the complaint must be read liberally to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest. See Tracy v. Freshwater, 623 F.3d 90, 101-02 (2d Cir. 2010).[2]

         Excessive force

         The Fourth Amendment protects the rights of the people “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” U.S. Const., amend. IV. Because the Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable seizures, it has long been recognized that the Fourth Amendment is violated when the police use excessive force against a free person for the purpose ...


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