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Wilson v. City of San Diego

June 1, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Janis L. Sammartino United States District Judge


Melford Wilson ("Plaintiff") initiated this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on February 5, 2009. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff alleges nine causes of action in his Complaint. The first five are alleged against Defendant Ken Davis: (1) False Arrest; (2) Excessive Force; (3) Retaliation; (4) False Imprisonment; and (5) Malicious Prosecution. (Id.) The remaining four causes of action are against the City of San Diego, the Police Department, and Williams Lansdowne, the Chief of Police: (6) Failure to Properly Screen and Hire; (7) Failure to Properly Train; (8) Failure to Properly Supervise and Discipline; and (9) Monell violations. (Id.)

Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment of all causes of action. (Doc. No. 26.) Also before the Court is Plaintiff's opposition to the motion and Defendants' reply. (Doc. Nos. 37 & 38.) At oral argument on the motion for summary judgment, the Court granted Plaintiff's oral request to submit additional evidence and further permitted Defendant to file additional evidence in opposition. Such additional evidence was filed on April 19, 2010 (Doc. No. 40) and April 28, 2010 (Doc. No. 42), respectively. Further, at oral argument, Plaintiff informed the Court that it did not contest Defendant's motion for summary judgment of the second, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth cause of action, as confirmed by Plaintiff's motion to dismiss filed after oral argument on April 21, 2010. (Doc. No. 41.)

The Court HEREBY GRANTS Plaintiff's motion to dismiss the second, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth causes of action. (Doc. No. 41.) Accordingly, the only remaining Defendant in the action is Sergeant Ken Davis, and the remaining causes of action are for false arrest, retaliation, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. For the reasons stated below, the Court HEREBY GRANTS Defendants' motion for summary judgment as to all remaining causes of action.


Defendant Sergeant Ken Davis has been employed by the San Diego Police Department for twenty-one years. (Def. NOL Ex. B ("Davis Decl.") ¶ 1.) On February 16, 2009, Sergeant Davis was working as an Acting Sergeant in the uniformed Gang Suppression Team ("GST") and on that date had been assigned to the GST for four years. (Id.) At around 9:00 pm that evening, Sergeant Davis observed approximately twelve males outside the home located at 4917 Magnus Way. (Id. ¶ 2; Davis Depo. at 24-25) Sergeant Davis also observed an illegally parked car and what appeared to be marijuana smoking. (Davis Decl. ¶¶ 3, 4; Davis Depo. at 24-25.) Sergeant Davis requested other officers to approach the house with him in order to stop the marijuana activity, check the individuals for outstanding warrants, disperse the group, correct the illegal parking situation, and identify and document any gang members. (Davis Decl. ¶ 5; Davis Depo. at 26-27, 30.) This particular area of Magnus was well known for its gang presence. (Davis Decl. ¶ 2.) Sergeant Davis, however, did not observe any gang signs or distinctive colors at the property or by the individuals. (Davis Depo. at 32.)

After a brief meeting to discuss their approach of the scene, the officers approached the house with five or six patrol cars. (Davis Depo. at 26-30, 33.) As the officers approached, some of the individuals retreated into the garage and the home, shutting the doors. (Davis Decl. ¶¶ 6, 7.) None of the officer pursued these individuals. (Id. ¶ 7.) Sergeant Davis states that, as he approached the driveway, he could smell the odor of marijuana. (Id. ¶ 7.) Sergeant Davis also states that he could detect alcohol on Plaintiff as he spoke. (Id. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff maintains that he was not drinking or smoking marijuana, nor did he see or smell marijuana. (Wilson Depo. at 31.)

Once at the scene, the officers conducted pat-downs of the men remaining outside the home and garage and found no weapons. (Davis Depo. at 39-40.) The officers did find marijuana that had been tossed underneath a car on the driveway, but the officers did not know who threw it. (Id. at 41-42.)

Shortly after the officers arrived, Plaintiff began to protest the officers' presence. Sergeant Davis states that "Plaintiff was angry, belligerent, and screaming profanities at [his] fellow officers and [himself]. Plaintiff continually called [the officers], 'Mother fuckers.'" (Davis Decl. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff admits that he called the officers this derogatory term, but then says he immediately apologized. (Wilson Depo. at 62.) Plaintiff also states that he made comments about the City's budget, that the incident was a waste of his taxpayer's money, and that Sergeant Davis stated that he was "going to find some reason to take [him] to jail." (Id. at 62-64.) Sergeant Davis recalls Plaintiff stating that he was a taxpayer and could speak freely and that the officers were trespassing (though Plaintiff did not live at that address). (Davis Decl. ¶¶ 14, 16.)

Plaintiff also states in his deposition that after Sergeant Davis told Plaintiff he was going to find a reason to arrest him, Plaintiff told him "I don't know what for. I'm just standing there with my hands in my pocket minding my own business." (Wilson Depo. at 64.) Thereafter, Sergeant Davis told him to take his hands out of his pocket and to raise his hands, which Plaintiff did. (Id. at 65) Then, Sergeant Davis told him to put his hands down, which Plaintiff did. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, when he didn't follow Sergeant Davis's next order, Sergeant Davis placed him under arrest. (Id.)

Sergeant Davis declares that Plaintiff's actions were causing his companions to become more and more agitated and hostile. (Davis Decl. ¶ 14.) At one point, Plaintiff recalls one of his companions calling Sergeant Davis an "idiot." (Wilson Depo. at 64.) Sergeant Davis advised Plaintiff that once the officers completed their investigation, they would leave. (Davis. Decl. ¶ 13.) Plaintiff refused to calm down, and Sergeant Davis advised him that if he continued to create a disturbance and interfere with the officers' investigation, then he could be arrested. (Davis Decl. ¶¶ 15, 16; Davis Depo. at 73-74.) Sergeant Davis stated that Plaintiff's actions were making it "extremely difficult" for the officers to conduct their interviews, as they could not hear or focus on the interviews given their concerns for safety and the need to continually assess their surroundings. (Davis Decl. ¶¶ 17, 18.) This was especially so given the gang presence in the neighborhood. (Id. ¶ 23.)

Plaintiff cannot remember whether Sergeant Davis ever left the driveway area, but Sergeant Davis declares that he walked away from the driveway to see if Plaintiff would calm down, observed the situation for several minutes, and when Plaintiff continued to yell, curse, and berate the officers, re-approached Plaintiff and arrested him for violation of California Penal Code § 148(a)(1)--resisting, obstructing, or delaying a peace officer in the performance of his duties. (Davis Decl. ¶¶ 20-24; Wilson Depo. at 65.)

Sergeant Davis told Plaintiff to turn around, which he did, and Sergeant Davis placed handcuffs on him.*fn1 (Davis Depo. 77-78.) "After handcuffing the Plaintiff, he initially refused to walk down the driveway with [Sergeant Davis]." (Davis Decl. ¶ 25.) Plaintiff maintains that Sergeant Davis then put his arm around his neck and brought him to the police vehicle, which Sergeant Davis estimates to be about 20 feet from the place of arrest.*fn2 (Wilson Depo. at 70; Davis Decl. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff was transported to police headquarters and then taken to the San Diego jail. (Davis Decl. ¶ 30.) The City Attorney's Office filed charges against Plaintiff for violation of Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1), but the charge was later dismissed.


I. Summary Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 permits a court to grant summary judgment where (1) the moving party demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and (2) entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "Material," for purposes of Rule 56, means that the fact, under governing substantive law, could affect the outcome of the case. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Freeman v. Arpaio, 125 F.3d 732, 735 (9th Cir. 1997). For ...

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