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Shamair Dreher v. Syracuse Police Department

December 7, 2010

SHAMAIR DREHER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SYRACUSE POLICE DEPARTMENT, CITY OF SYRACUSE, DAVID PROUD, KARL VONKNOBLAUCH, RICHARD CURRAN, JEFFREY BALLAGH, AND FRED LAMBERTON, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Neal P. McCURN, Senior U.S. District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM - DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Shamair Dreher ("plaintiff") brings this action for monetary damages against the Syracuse Police Department ("SPD"), City of Syracuse ("City"), Syracuse Police Officers David Proud ("Proud"), Karl VonKnoblauch ("VonKnoblach"), Richard Curran ("Curran"), Jeffrey Ballagh ("Ballagh") and Fred Lamberton ("Lamberton") (collectively, "police officer defendants"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983. Plaintiff seeks redress for alleged violations of civil rights secured to him by the United States Constitution in the form of compensatorydamages in the amount of fifteen million dollars ($15,000,000.00), for alleged violations of civil rights secured to him by the New York State Constitution in the form of compensatorydamages in the amount of twenty-five million dollars ($25,000,000.00), together with attorneys' fees and costs and disbursements of this action. Specifically, the six-count amended complaint (Doc. No. 11) alleges the following federal and supplemental state law claims: deprivation of plaintiff's civil rights pursuant to § 1983, assault, gross negligence, failure to protect, failure to provide timely medical care and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C.A. §§ 1331 and 1343(a)(3). Currently before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 45) pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons stated below, the motion for summary judgment will be granted in its entirety.

I. Facts

The following facts are drawn from the record and are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Although the complaint is singularly lacking in detail, the court has gleaned facts from the plaintiff's deposition as well as depositions from the defendants, and from the police and hospital reports submitted with the parties' summary judgment briefing materials. In addition, plaintiff did not furnish a statement of material facts for purposes of the summary judgment motion as he was required to do pursuant to Local Rule 7.1(a)(3)of the Local Rules of Practice for this Court, which states in pertinent part that "[t]he Court shall deem admitted any facts set forth in the Statement of Material Facts that the opposing party does not specifically controvert." See N.D.N.Y. L.R.

7.1(A)(3). Accordingly, defendants' submitted statement of material facts is deemed true pursuant to the local rules and those facts that the court considers relevant are also incorporated herein.

On the evening of October 18, 2006, approximately between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., plaintiff was outside Zak's Market in Syracuse, N.Y., located at the corner of West Newell Street and Wieman Avenue. Doc. No. 24-24, ¶ 6. Zak's Market was identified by the SPD as the focal point of illegal neighborhood activity in the weeks prior to the incident resulting in plaintiff's arrest, including loud music, loitering, disturbances, drug dealing and other nefarious activity. Doc. No. 24-13. At approximately 8:00 P.M., plaintiff was allegedly observed by SPD officers Curran and Tackley standing outside Zak's Market with a group of black males and was issued a verbal warning by Tackley about loitering within 50 feet of the store. Id. Curran and Tackley, members of the Crime Reduction Team, met up with other members of the SPD, including Detective Ballagh, and relayed information about the loitering parties. A short time later, responding to this information from Curran and his partner, Ballagh attempted to arrest plaintiff for loitering and having an open container of alcohol outside the market. Doc. Nos. 24-5, p. 3; 24-8, p. 2. Ballagh grabbed plaintiff by his jacket and told him he was under arrest, whereupon plaintiff successfully struggled to get out of the jacket, and attempted to flee on foot. Doc. Nos. 24-5, p. 4; 24-8, p.5.

Plaintiff alleges that while running from the police officer, he slipped in mud and hit his face on the side of a house. Plaintiff asserts he then caught his balance and was running down Kenmore Street when a car driven by certain SPD defendants came straight at him and hit him. He states that the car first drove over his leg, and the last thing he remembers is the car tire going over his head. Doc. No. 24-5, pp. 4-5. Plaintiff also testified that all of his jeans are a little loose, and when they sometimes happen to fall down, he just picks them up. Id., p. 6.

Defendants allege that while running from Ballagh, plaintiff's pants began to fall and he was attempting to hold them up when, while looking back at Ballagh, plaintiff ran into the rear passenger side of the patrol car which was blocking his escape. After he fell, Ballagh and Curran attempted to put handcuffs on him, but plaintiff resisted. A laceration on plaintiff's head was treated at the scene by Officer Lamberton.

A hostile crowd began to form around the officers and police cars, and bottles were thrown at the vehicles. For the safety of all concerned, plaintiff was quickly transported to the police station. All officers involved testified that plaintiff was conscious and alert at all times after the arrest. When the officers attempted to pull plaintiff's pants up so he could exit the police vehicle at the police station, a loaded handgun was found in the pocket of plaintiff's pants. Accordingly, on the evening of October 18, 2006, plaintiff was charged with Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree in violation of Penal Law § 265-02(4); Loitering, Open Container and Resisting Arrest in violation of Penal Law 205.30. Doc. Nos. 24-3, 24-24, ¶ 7 .

Plaintiff washed his forehead laceration while at the police station, and was treated again by the booking nurse. Upon alleging that he was run over by a police car, plaintiff was transported to University Hospital, where extensive testing was performed, a left facial laceration was closed with 5 sutures, and plaintiff was diagnosed with a concussion. Doc. No. 24-4. Plaintiff was returned to the police station early the next morning. Doc. No. 24-5, p. 17.

On July 23, 2007, plaintiff plead guilty to Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Third Degree and to Resisting Arrest, and was adjudicated a youthful offender for the October 18, 2006 incident. Doc. No. 24-24, ¶ 8.

Plaintiff now alleges, inter alia, that on October 18, 2006, certain SPD officers maliciously assaulted him with a police car, car door and flashlight, causing him to suffer a concussion, hemorrhage to his sinus cavity, and abrasions and contusions to his forehead, back, stomach and legs. Doc. No. 11, ΒΆ 6. Plaintiff also complains that defendants failed to provide timely medical care for his injuries. Defendants, as stated above, argue that plaintiff's injuries were likely caused when he fell into the exterior of a police car that was parked in the road as he was running away from an arresting officer. Defendants also submit a qualified immunity defense, asserting that it was objectively reasonable ...


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