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Westry v. Leon

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 21, 2019

ERIC WESTRY, Plaintiff,
v.
VICTOR LEON, Defendant.

          RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Eric Westry (“Plaintiff”) has sued Victor Leon (“Defendant”), an officer in the Waterbury Police Department, in his individual capacity under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Compl., ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 4, 8 (May 23, 2017).

         Officer Leon has moved for summary judgment, and Mr. Westry has objected.

         For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         As of April 5, 2016, Eric and Maria Westry were married and had a daughter, Amelia Westry, born on February 27, 2015. Pl.'s Local Rule 56 Statement, ECF No. 34-1 ¶¶ 1, 14 (July 5, 2019) (“Pl.'s SMF”). On that date, Victor Leon, a police officer with the Waterbury Police Department for the City of Waterbury, came to their home. Id. ¶ 10.

         A call to the Victim Services' Hotline from Mrs. Westry prompted Officer Leon's visit. Id. ¶ 13. In that call, Mrs. Westry described being under the kitchen table, while her husband was locked in the bedroom with their baby daughter, Amelia. Id. When Officer Leon and other police officers arrived, Mrs. Westry described having been assaulted by Mr. Westry and stated that he continued to be locked in the bedroom with their child. Id. ¶ 14. Mr. Westry allegedly had “slap[ped] her in the face numerous times and drag[ged] her out of the bedroom.” Id. ¶ 15. Officer Leon noticed red marks all over Mrs. Westry's face. Id. ¶ 16.

         Officer Leon and the other police officers knocked on the bedroom door, but Mr. Westry did not open the door. Id. ¶ 18. Officer Leon, who claimed he feared for the safety of the child, broke through the door and entered the room. Id. ¶ 24. He found Mr. Westry lying in bed and holding young Amelia. Id. ¶ 25.

         Mr. Westry recorded the interaction in the bedroom with the police officers. Ex. 1: Cell Phone Video, ECF No. 34-2 (July 11, 2019). The resulting videotape mainly shows the ceiling of the bedroom, but the accompanying audio captured the voices of both the police officers and Mr. Westry. Id.

         Upon entering the bedroom, an officer asked Mr. Westry, “Sir, do you want to get up?” to which he responded, “No, I don't.” Id. An officer continued to ask Mr. Westry to leave his bed, and Mr. Westry responded several times by stating, “Leave my house please.” Id. An officer then can be heard saying, “Listen, we're gonna [sic] do this one way: you're either gonna [sic] leave the bed, or we're gonna [sic] have to take you off the bed, ” and Mr. Westry responds, “you're going to have to kill me.” Id.

         An officer then said, “I'll take the kid.” Id. Another officer said, ‘Sir, we got a baby there, ” and Mr. Westry then said, “No. I will hand her to you.” Id. Amelia Westry can then be heard crying. Mr. Westry then said, “I am handing her to you.” Id. One of the police officers then said, “You're gonna [sic] hurt the baby.” Id. Mr. Westry then said, “Get off of me, ” while an officer responded, “Relax, no, relax.” Id.[1] An officer then used the TASER. Id. Mr. Westry then stated, “I have a heart condition.” Id. The officers then instructed Mr. Westry to “put [his] hands behind [his] back” and to “get on [his] stomach.” Id.

         After the police placed Mr. Westry in handcuffs, an officer said to him, “Why you gotta be like that man?” Id. Mr. Westry said, “I'm taking blood pressure medication, you coulda [sic] killed me.” Id. An officer then said, “You should've listened to us. You know what's easier? You just get out of bed when the police ask. It's ridiculous. There's no reason to do all of this. Swing your feet up.” Id. The officer further said that Mr. Westry “could've made it a little easier, could've just gotten up it would've been done. Gotta do it the hard way.” Id.

         The last voices heard on the recording are police officers. Id. One stated, “What's up buddy?, ” and another responded, “[inaudible] gotta tase somebody.” Id. The officer asked, “That was you?” and the other officer responded, “Yup.” Id.

         The officers arrested and charged Mr. Westry. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 35. All criminal charges brought against Mr. Westry by Officer Leon, however, ultimately were dismissed. Id. ¶ B6.

         B. Procedural History

         On May 23, 2017, Mr. Westry filed a Complaint against Officer Leon in his individual capacity under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Compl. ¶ 8. Mr. Westry seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys' fees, and costs. Id. at 2.

         On June 26, 2017, Leon timely filed his Answer with affirmative defenses and a request for a jury trial. Answer, ECF No. 11 (June 26, 2017).

         On June 17, 2019, Officer Leon moved for summary judgment. Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 33 (June 17, 2019) (“Def.'s Mot.”); Mem. of Law in Supp. of Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 33-1 (June 17, 2019) (“Def.'s Mem.”); Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, ECF No. 33-2 (June 17, 2019) (“Def.'s SMF”).

         On July 5, 2019, Plaintiff filed his opposition. Pl.'s Mem. in Opp. to Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 34 (July 5, 2019) (“Pl.'s Opp.”); Pl.'s SMF.

         On July 17, 2019, Officer Leon filed a reply to Plaintiff's response. Def.'s Reply to Pl.'s Opp., ECF No. 36 ...


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