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Londell Austin v. J. Bauer

July 23, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morrison C. England, Jr. United States District Judge


Plaintiff Londell Austin ("Plaintiff") initiated this action against Defendants J. Bauer and J. Huff ("Defendants"), officers of the City of Vallejo Police Department, for injuries sustained when, during an investigation arising out of a response to a 911 call, Plaintiff was tasered. Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Motion"). For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED.*fn1


On July 11, 2009, Defendants responded to a 911 call in which a woman, Barbara Austin, had reported that her estranged husband was breaking into her residence. Ms. Austin had advised the dispatcher that her husband "was trying to break inside, break the sliding door, and that he wasn't living there and so [she] didn't want him there." Deposition of Barbara Austin ("Austin Depo."), 40:20-24. Defendants arrived at the residence at 1:57 a.m. and found Plaintiff, who is six feet two inches tall, and who weighed approximately 260 pounds at the time, in the backyard attempting to pry open the sliding glass door with either a screw driver or a metal bar. Defendants thus treated the situation as falling "between a possible burglary and some type of domestic dispute." Deposition of Jeremy Huff ("Huff Depo."), 37:18-21.

Defendants asked Plaintiff to come to the front of the house, where they knocked on the door to contact Ms. Austin.

Ms. Austin inquired as to Plaintiff's location and informed Defendants she was concerned Plaintiff would get into the house, where her ten-year old grandson was located.

By this time, Plaintiff had left the backyard and joined Defendants in the driveway. Plaintiff indicated he needed to get some uniforms out of the house.

Defendants then began to conduct an investigation into whether Plaintiff was a resident in Ms. Austin's home.

Ms. Austin told Defendant Huff that Plaintiff did not keep any clothing in the house. Defendant Huff thereafter entered the house, and indeed found no clothing or toiletries where Plaintiff had indicated they would be. Plaintiff then informed Defendant Huff that Ms. Austin may have hidden his clothing in the garage, after which Defendant Huff continued his search there.*fn3

During the time Defendant Huff searched the residence, Defendant Bauer remained on the porch with Plaintiff. The officer asked Plaintiff about the truck he had driven to Ms. Austin's residence, and Plaintiff indicated the truck belonged to him. In fact, the truck was registered to a third party, Betty Augustina. Plaintiff, however, refused to respond to inquiries regarding the identity of Ms. Augustina, stating only that "[t]his doesn't concern Betty." Deposition of Londell Austin ("Plaintiff Depo."), 58:17-59:1.

After hearing that the license plate check had come back indicating Defendant was not the vehicle's registered owner, Defendant Huff then heard Defendant Bauer yelling or saying on the radio something to the effect, "He's coming in behind you, Huff," at which time Defendant Huff heard a commotion inside the house. Huff Depo., 47:6-8. Plaintiff entered the house and went straight up to the bedroom with Defendant Bauer following him.

When he reached the bedroom, Plaintiff advised Defendant Bauer he was going to go to bed, and he took off his clothes, down to his shorts. Plaintiff then attempted to show Defendant Bauer check stubs on his night stand. Defendant Bauer said "I don't need to see all that." Austin Depo., 76:12-15.

In the meantime, Defendant Huff, who had been trained and had learned through experience that "people often keep weapons, guns and the like in bedrooms, under beds, in dressers, and things like that," ran into the bedroom and tasered Plaintiff. According to Defendant Huff, it was a concern to him "that [Plaintiff] not only want[ed] to get into the house, but he want[ed] to rush up the stairs into the bedroom." Huff Depo., 60:1-5.

Ms. Austin further testified that, during the above events, she had temporarily left the bedroom to check on her grandson. She returned and twice asked the officers if they could make [Plaintiff] "get out of here." Austin Depo., 81:15-21. It was after her second request that Defendant Huff deployed the taser. Upon being tasered, Plaintiff fell onto his bed. He was then taken to a hospital for examination, and he was subsequently charged with violating ...

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