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Cruce v. Stankus

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 17, 2019

DUSTIN CRUCE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN STANKUS, et al., Defendants.

          INITIAL REVIEW ORDER

          STEFAN R. UNDERHILL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On August 6, 2019, Dustin Cruce, an inmate currently confined at the Osborn Correctional Institution in Somers, Connecticut, brought a complaint pro se and in forma pauperis under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against five Waterbury law enforcement officers: John Stankus, David Andrzejewski, Fisnik Agolli, Officer Summa, and Officer Sullivan. Compl., Doc. No. 1. Cruce seeks damages against the defendants for subjecting him to excessive force during his arrest. See Id. at 4-5. I will permit the complaint to proceed against the defendants.

         I. Standard of Review

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, I 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. 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 plausible 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. Factual Allegations

         At approximately 1:20 a.m. on February 4, 2017, Officers Stankus and Andrzejewski spotted Cruce walking through a CVS parking lot. Compl. ¶ 1. Once Cruce saw the two officers, he turned and fled, and the two officers chased him. Id. at ¶ 2. Cruce ran alongside Exit 8 of I-84 toward the highway with Stankus and Andrzejewski in pursuit. Id. at ¶ 3.

         At some point during the pursuit, Officers Summa and Sullivan attempted to cut off Cruce's path in their police cruiser. Compl. ¶ 4. Stankus and Andrzejewski then caught up to Cruce, who placed his hands on his head. Id. at ¶ 5. Stankus and Andrzejewski pushed Cruce to the ground, and Andrzejewski punched him in the face. Id. All five defendants then began kicking and punching Cruce. Id. at ¶ 6.

         Cruce was taken to St. Mary's Hospital in Waterbury for treatment of chest pain, broken ribs, and a laceration. Compl. ¶ 7. Nurse Joy Benoit performed an x-ray. Id. at ¶ 8. During the x-ray examination, Cruce started having seizures as a result of difficulty breathing. Id. Cruce was given 800 mg of Motrin and later discharged. Id. at ¶ 9.

         III. Analysis

         Although he does not clearly state his claim, it appears Cruce is suing the five defendants for subjecting him to excessive force during his arrest, in violation of his Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. He seeks damages against the defendants in their individual capacities. Compl. at 5.

         “The Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable seizures prohibits the use of excessive force by [law enforcement] officers in arresting suspects.” Orr v. Waterbury Police Dep't, 2018 WL 780218, at *5 (D. Conn. Feb. 8, 2018) (citing Hemphill v. Scott, 141 F.3d 412, 416-17 (2d Cir. 1998)). To state a Fourth Amendment claim for excessive force, the arrestee must allege facts showing that the officer's use of force was “objectively unreasonable.” Id. (quoting Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 397 (1989)). The “reasonableness” of the use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene. Id. (citing Graham, 490 U.S. at 396). It “requires consideration of the severity of the crime at issue, whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or others, and whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.” Id. (quoting Hemphill, 141 F.3d at 417).

         Based on the allegations, Cruce has stated a plausible Fourth Amendment excessive force claim against the defendants. He alleges facts showing that the defendants pushed him to the ground, punched, and kicked him after he placed his hands on his head. I will, therefore, permit the Fourth Amendment excessive force claim to proceed against the defendants in their individual capacities for damages.

         ORDERS

         (1) The complaint may proceed against all five defendants in their ...


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