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Jennifer Medina, An Individual v. County of San Diego

March 26, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Anthony J. Battaglia U.S. District Judge


Before the Court are three motions to dismiss submitted by Defendants County of San Diego, Officer Mark Ritchie, and Officer Karla Taft; Officer Defendant Leo Nava; and Defendants State of California (by and through California Highway Patrol) and Officer Tim Fenton (collectively "Defendants"). The Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint ("SAC") for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Defendants County of San Diego, Ritchie, and Taft's motion, [Doc. No. 45]; GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Defendant Nava's motion to dismiss, [Doc. No. 47]; DENIES Defendants Fenton's, [Doc. No. 46-2] and Nava's requests for judicial notice, [Doc. No. 47-3]; and GRANTS Defendants State of California and Fenton's motion to dismiss, [Doc. No. 46].


Factual Background

Plaintiff Jennifer Medina is the widow of Robert J. Medina ("the decedent"). This case involves the events that occurred on the evening of November 15, 2006, during which Decedent was shot and killed by Defendants following an extended slow speed police chase involving 18 officers and 13 patrol units. The following facts are taken from the SAC.

The decedent was a 22-year old active duty Marine, who had recently returned from a tour in Iraq. The decedent was suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome. His then undiagnosed mental illness was creating turmoil in his family relationships and adversely impacting his ability to perform at this command.

Less than a month before this incident, the decedent was arrested outside of his home in the City of Vista. He had been washing his truck and playing music when sheriff deputies allegedly responded to a call of a suspicious person in the area. The deputies arrested the decedent for possessing a baton that was issued to him by the Marine Corps for use in the performance of his guard duty assignment.

On the evening of November 15, 2006, a marital argument arose between the decedent and the Plaintiff that continued intermittently throughout the evening. Around 1:00 a.m, the decedent informed his wife Jennifer that he was going out despite her protests not to leave.

At approximately 1:30 a.m, on November 16, 2006, on Highway I-5 near the City of Oceanside, CHP officers attempted to conduct a traffic stop of the decedent, because officers observed decedent driving slowly and weaving within his own lane. The decedent's noncompliance with this traffic stop for suspected driving under the influence, was the initial violation. Although the decedent started to yield to the CHP's attempted traffic stop, he did not stop and continued driving slowly forward and eventually existed I-5 in the City of Oceanside where a slow speed pursuit ensued.

Officers attempted to forcibly stop the decedent using spike strips and pursuit immobilization technique (PIT) maneuvers which proved unsuccessful. The decedent returned to the freeway and headed south on I-5 traveling within the speed limit. As the pursuit left Oceanside, the CHP officers requested that an Oceanside canine unit remain in the pursuit. The decedent exited I-5 at Carlsbad and headed toward Highway 101 south. Several times during the pursuit, as it was nearing Leucadia, the decedent almost came to a complete stop. The officers also slowed several times and positioned themselves to effect an arrest, however, the decedent continued driving slowly forward. By the time the pursuit entered the community of Leucadia, within the City of Encinitas, there were at least five patrol cars pursuing the decedent.

Defendant, Deputy Sheriff RITCHIE,*fn1 deployed a spike strip near Leucadia Boulevard. It is unclear whether or not Deputy RITCHIE made radio contact with pursuing officers prior to attempting to deploy the spike strip. At the same time and location, CHP officers elected to perform another PIT maneuver. The decedent swerved to avoid the spike strip and although Deputy RITCHIE did not believe the decedent was swerving to hit him, pursuing officers allegedly did. Two officers radioed in an "assault with a deadly weapon" which heightened the threat alert to other law enforcement personnel monitoring, participating and joining in the pursuit. This radio call caused other law enforcement officers to believe the decedent was a dangerous threat.

Officers continued their pursuit south on Highway 101 toward Solana Beach. Deputy RITCHIE passed the slow speed pursuit without activating lights or sirens and when he reached Cardiff, he deployed another spike. It is unclear whether this was communicated by Deputy RITCHIE to the other officers involved in the pursuit. The deployed spike strip was not successful and resulted in another officer radioing in an "assault with a deadly weapon" call when the decedent swerved around the spike strip. The spike strip disable two CHP patrol vehicles.

Deputy RITCHIE once again entered the pursuit and sped passed it until he reached Lomas Santa Fe in Solana Beach. At that point, he observed CHP Officers FENTON and Martin attempt another PIT maneuver on the decedent's vehicle. Officer FENTON observed that the decedent's vehicle had spun out. Officers FENTON and Martin made a u-turn and were right next to the decedent's vehicle.

The decedent proceeded to drive past them and Officer FENTON yelled to Martin, "Let's end this. Let's end this." Officers FENTON and Martin executed another PIT maneuver, this time temporarily disabling the decedent's truck by forcing it into a dirt easement off the sidewalk.

Defendant Deputy RITCHIE immediately maneuvered to contain the decedent, ramming the front end of the decedent's truck with such force that Deputy RITCHIE's air bag deployed. Deupty RITCHIE told another deputy that he was attempting to "PIT" the decedent in order to end the pursuit. Other officers closed in immediately and pinned in decedent's truck from the south. CHP officers FENTON and Martin pinned decedent's ...

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