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Elias v. Village of Spring Valley

United States District Court, S.D. New York

January 26, 2015

MARIE ELIAS, as Administrator of the Estate of Herve Jules a/k/a Herve Gilles and MARIE ELIAS, individually, Plaintiffs, -
v.
- VILLAGE OF SPRING VALLEY, THE SPRING VALLEY POLICE DEPARTMENT, and POLICE OFFICER JOHN ROPER, Defendants

Page 313

For Plaintiffs: Sanford Alan Rubenstein, Esq., Brian Zwaig, Esq., Rubenstein and Rynecki, Brooklyn, NY.

For Defendants: Brian S. Sokoloff, Esq., Susan H. Odessky, Esq., Kevin Levine, Esq., Sokoloff Stern LLP, Carle Place, NY.

Page 314

OPINION AND ORDER

Shira A. Scheindlin, United States District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

On December 14, 2011, at about three-thirty in the morning, Spring Valley Police Officer John Roper shot Herve Gillis twice, killing him.[1] Officer Roper is the only witness to the shooting.[2]

Marie Elias brings this suit against Officer Roper and the Village of Spring Valley[3] under section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code (" section 1983" ), alleging that Gilles's Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated by Officer Roper's use of deadly force.[4] Defendants now move for summary judgment on grounds that Officer Roper's use of deadly force in self-defense was objectively reasonable under the Fourth Amendment and that plaintiff has not presented evidence of municipal liability. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is GRANTED.

II. BACKGROUND[5]

A. Officer Roper's Prior Interactions with Herve Gilles

Herve Gilles came to the United States from Haiti in the early 1980s.[6] He was forty-eight years old when he was killed.[7] Officer Roper has been at the Spring Valley Police Department since 2000.[8]

Prior to December 14, 2011, Officer Roper was told by other officers that (1) Gilles had mental health issues, (2) Gilles was involved in incidents in which he used weapons and engaged in threatening behavior, and (3) Gilles threatened another officer with a knife.[9] Officer Roper also had at least three prior personal encounters with Gilles. [10] Based on these interactions, Officer Roper believed that Gilles was mentally ill.[11] He therefore responded to calls involving Gilles with a heightened perception of potential danger.[12]

On one occasion, Gilles collapsed on the floor at the police station and lay motionless " as if he had been shut off like a robot." [13] On another, Gilles was collected and lucid while Officer Roper interviewed him as a potential witness to a robbery.[14]

Page 315

Officer Roper was also one of several officers who responded to an incident in which Gilles was threatening people with a cane. Officer Roper and other police officers circled Gilles and told him to put down the cane. Gilles initially refused but later complied and was handcuffed.[15] Rather than arrest Gilles, the officers took him to Good Samaritan Hospital for treatment, " because they knew of Mr. ...


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