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Harper v. Leahy

United States District Court, E.D. New York

May 31, 2017

JUNE HARPER, Plaintiff,
v.
DETECTIVE ARTHUR LEAHY; DETECTIVE DANIEL KIRK; DETECTIVE CHRISTOPHER TEHAN; DETECTIVE CHING NIEH; THE CITY OF NEW YORK; POLICE OFFICER JOHN DOE, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          BRIAN M. COGAN U.S.D.J.

         When police tried to enter the home of a suspect to execute an arrest warrant, the suspect's mother refused to let them in. She physically blocked the officers' entry into the home and the police had to pull her out of the way to get by her, at which time she tried to kick one of the officers. When the officers tried to handcuff her for interfering, she resisted arrest by screaming, kicking her legs, and flailing her arms.

         The arrest warrant gave the officers the right to enter the suspect's home to see if he was there, and any force the police used to get past and then subdue his mother was de minimis and thus reasonable under the circumstances. Accordingly, the officers are entitled to summary judgment on the mother's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for false arrest and excessive force.

         BACKGROUND

         The following facts are undisputed.

         Defendant Arthur Leahy (“Det. Leahy”), a detective with the Warrant Squad of the New York Police Department, was assigned to the investigation of a burglary suspect named Kedar Harper. His specific task was to follow up on an investigation card, known as an “I-card.” The I-card listed Harper as residing at 910 Caton Avenue, Apt. 52, Brooklyn (the “subject premises”). Leahy ran several computer searches in an effort to get information concerning Harper. Specifically, he did a general online search for information and found nothing. He also checked the New York City Department of Corrections database and found that Harper was not in custody. He further checked to see if he was on parole or probation; both checks came back negative. He also checked the database for the Narcotics Investigative Tracking of Recidivist Offenders (“NITRO”) and didn't find anything on Harper in that database either. Det. Leahy read all of the DD-5s (police reports) in connection with the investigation of Harper, but they did not disclose any additional information apart from the I-card.

         He also searched what is known as the ADW, a database that compiles an individual's I-card and warrant history. One of the sources from which ADW pulls information is another database called CRIMS, which is populated and maintained by the New York State Unified Court System.[1] The CRIMS database identifies outstanding warrants based on the name of a defendant or his case number.

         The ADW database disclosed an outstanding bench warrant for Harper's arrest that the New York City Criminal Court had issued about six months prior to Leahy's involvement in this matter. Like his I-card, the warrant showed Harper residing at the subject premises, although it did not list an apartment number. It also contained Harper's picture.

         Although not known to Det. Leahy with certainty at the time, Harper was indeed living at the subject premises. In fact, he had lived there with his mother his entire life, except the times during which he had been incarcerated.

         One morning at about 7:00 a.m., Det. Leahy went to the subject address with defendant detectives Kirk, Tehan, and Nieh to arrest Harper. They knocked on the door and plaintiff, who is Harper's mother, answered. Det. Leahy heard a male voice inside. He asked plaintiff if Harper was there and plaintiff said he was “not home.” She confirmed that Harper was her son and when shown the arrest warrant with his picture on it, she further confirmed that the warrant was for Harper. When Det. Leahy told plaintiff that they were going to enter the premises and look for him, plaintiff asked to review the warrant. Det. Leahy handed plaintiff the warrant and permitted her to close the apartment door to retrieve her glasses and, after returning, to review it.

         Plaintiff expressed the view that the arrest warrant did not give the police the right to enter the apartment and started to close the door. Det. Leahy inserted his foot or himself to stop the door from closing and he pulled plaintiff out of the apartment by her arm so he could get in. One of the other detectives took her arm behind her back to place handcuffs on her and plaintiff kicked at him. Plaintiff acknowledges that from that point on she fought vigorously to prevent the police from handcuffing her - yelling, screaming, kicking and flailing her arms - but ultimately, defendants overpowered her and placed her in handcuffs.

         Plaintiff went to trial on charges of resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration and was acquitted.

         DISCUSSION

         I. ...


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