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William Allen Garrett, Cdcr #Am-6925 v. andres Ruiz; Brandon Jordan

April 3, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Irma E. Gonzalez United States District Judge


I. Procedural Background

Currently pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment or Partial Summary Judgment filed by Andres Ruiz, Brandon Jordan, Brett Burkett and the City of San Diego ("Defendants") pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 56.

Defendants seek judgment as a matter of law as to various claims made by William Allen Garrett ("Plaintiff"), a state prisoner currently incarcerated at Salinas Valley State Prison, who is proceeding in pro se with a Complaint filed against them pursuant to the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn1

Plaintiff claims Defendants Ruiz and Jordan, both San Diego Police Officers, violated his Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights on July 14, 2011, by using unreasonable and deadly force to effect his arrest during a commercial burglary. (Compl. at 2-3.) Plaintiff further claims Defendant Burkett, a San Diego Police Detective, violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment right to due process when he "interrogated" Plaintiff in the hospital afterward while he was under the influence of narcotic pain medications. (Id. at 4.) Finally, Plaintiff claims the City of San Diego, which he has erroneously sued as the "San Diego Police Department," violated his Eighth Amendment rights by "failing to stop" its officers and "fail[ing] to protect even [a] person committing a crime." (Id. at 5.) Plaintiff seeks $365,000 in general damages and $2 million in punitive damages. (Id. at 7.)

Having carefully considered the record as submitted, the Court now GRANTS Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 56(a) for the reasons set forth below.

II. Factual Background

Plaintiff was found guilty of burglary in violation of CAL. PENAL CODE § 459 and receiving stolen property in violation of CAL. PENAL CODE § 496(a) by a San Diego Superior Court jury in Case No. SCD235343 on March 5, 2012. See Defs.' Ex. C. The jury further found Plaintiff personally used a knife in the commission and attempted commission of the burglary, which provided for an enhanced sentence pursuant to CAL. PENAL CODE § 12022(b)(1) and § 1192.7(c)(23). Id.

On July 14, 2011 at approximately 10:30 p.m., San Diego Police Officers Ruiz and Jordan responded to a radio dispatch of a burglary in progress at a commercial office building located at 3330 3rd Avenue in the Bankers Hill area of San Diego. See Pl.'s Decl. in Opp'n to Summ. J. [ECF Doc. No. 78] (hereafter "Pl.'s Decl.") at 17 ¶ 2; Defs.' Ex. A, Decl. of Andres Ruiz in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. [ECF No. 65-3] (hereafter "Ruiz Decl.") at 3 ¶ 3. Plaintiff admits he "was burglarizing a dentist['s] office in the building." Pl.'s Decl. ¶¶ 2. Ruiz and his partner, Jordan, were working as patrol officers and were dressed in full police uniform with badges affixed at the time. Ruiz Decl. ¶ 2. Ruiz was aware that the person reporting the burglary was in an office on the third floor, and had reported hearing the sound of glass breaking in the second. Id. ¶ 3.

When they arrived at the scene, Ruiz and Jordan took an elevator from the street level to the second floor, while other officers took the stairs. Id. ¶ 4; Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 2 at 18. Plaintiff claims the second floor courtyard area outside the elevator was "very dark," and that "both officers had turned on their high-powered flashlights attached to the rails of their guns." Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 2 at 18; Pl.'s Ex. F [ECF Doc. No. 78-2] at 16-18. As the elevator doors opened, Officer Jordan testified that he "took a step out," and "scanned to [his] left" where he noticed a tree in a planter looked like it had been thrown throw a window. Id. at 17. Jordan testified Ruiz radioed to the other officers at the scene that they "had a valid window smash." Id.; see also Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 2 at 18; Pl.'s Ex. D [ECF Doc. No. 78-2] at 10, 12.

"Within seconds" of exiting the elevator, Ruiz claims he and Jordan "feeling there was a burglary in progress, ... both drew [their] handguns," and "saw ... Plaintiff inside a dimly lit dentist office" to their left. Ruiz Decl. ¶ 5. They also saw a wall with broken glass "less than 10 feet away." Id.

Plaintiff alleges he "assumed [Ruiz and Jordan] were security guards," and "sprinted from the dentist office towards the exit sign he notice[d] when he was burglarizing the dentist['s] office." Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 2 at 18. Ruiz, however, claims he and Jordan were "confronted by ... Plaintiff," who "quickly stepped from the dentist office moving toward [them]," "ducking down underneath some office blinds," and "through the broken glass wall" at a "fast pace." Ruiz Decl.¶¶ 6-7. "As he came through the broken glass wall," Ruiz claims he "saw ... Plaintiff holding a large knife in his right hand with the blade held upwards," and "some other unrecognizable object in his left hand." Id. ¶ 7. "The knife appeared to measure over twelve inches long." Id.; see also Defs.' Ex. A [ECF Doc. No. 65-3] at 7. Ruiz claims he yelled, "Stop, Stop, Stop!" but Plaintiff "ignored [his] orders and continued to quickly step toward [them] with the knife" held in a "threatening" and "upright" manner, until he was "within less than 5 feet" from them. Ruiz Decl. ¶ 8. Ruiz claims due to "the position [from which Plaintiff] was holding the knife," Plaintiff's "failure to obey [Ruiz's] command to stop," and because Plaintiff was "quickly stepping toward [them]," he "fear[ed] that [they] were about to be stabbed," "quickly tool a step backwards toward the closed elevator area," and "rapidly pulled [his] handgun's trigger three times." Id. ¶¶ 8-9.

Plaintiff, for his part, claims both Ruiz and Jordan were "shining high-powered flashlight[s] at ... [him], tracking him as he attempted to flee the scene." Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 2 at 18. Plaintiff claims "there was never an announcement that they were officers," id., and in support, points to Defendants' Exhibit D, an audio recording containing the sound of three rapid fire gunshots, which he alleges was recorded on a "radio mike" which was "click[ed] open to broadcast," at the time, but does not include any "announcement that [Ruiz and Jordan] were officers." Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 2 at 18; Defs.' Ex. D. Plaintiff also attaches portions of his trial transcript, however, in which Ruiz testified that he recalled announcing "San Diego Police Department" in a "loud" voice as he and Jordan stepped out of the elevator. See Pl.'s Ex. D [ECF Doc. No. 78-2] at 11. Plaintiff also admits that Jordan "started shouting to get down, get down," however, Ruiz was "firing his weapon, [and] tracking [him] in close proximity." Pl.'s Decl. at 18.

In what appears to be Officer's Jordan's witness statement to a reporting detective dated July 19, 2011, a portion of which Plaintiff attaches to his Opposition as Exhibit F, Jordan claimed that as he took a step off the elevator, Officer Ruiz was to his right and "slightly ahead of him." See Pl.'s Ex. F [ECF Doc. No. 78-2] at 16. As Ruiz was "putting out that [they] had a valid window smash, ... [Jordan] saw [Plaintiff] running out toward [them]" at "full speed" from a distance of "no more than ten feet from the broken window." Id. at 16, 21. Jordan testified he had his gun and light pointing directly at Plaintiff, but that he did not comply with a command to get down in the ground. Id. at 22, 23. Jordan then "broke [his] shooting grip," and "pull[ed] [his] firearm back," in order to "go hands on" because Plaintiff "was about to run over [them]" when Ruiz "fired three shots." Id. at 22. Jordan admitted to investigators that he could not see Plaintiff's hands, or any weapon in his hands, until after Ruiz fired his weapon, Plaintiff fell to the ground, and Ruiz kicked the knife out away from him. Id. at 16, 22.

Plaintiff admits he was holding a knife, but claims he "attempted to toss the knife back into the dentist['s] office," when "a shot fired went through his wrist holding the knife." Plaintiff also admits his response was to "tr[y] to run faster." Pl.'s Decl. at 18. Plaintiff claims Ruiz's "next shot ... went through the dentist['s] office, but the third shot ... struck [him] behind the right ear ... travel[ed] down [the] right side of [his] neck and c[ame] to rest at the center of [his] chest next to his heart." Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 2 at 18.

Ruiz admits he fired three shots at Plaintiff in rapid succession within one to two seconds. Ruiz Decl. ¶ 11. Ruiz claims "after [he] shot ... Plaintiff[,] he fell to the ground and dropped the knife." Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff claims that once he was on the ground, Ruiz turned him over, and it was only then he "recognized that [Ruiz and Jordan] were not security guards." Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 2 at 19; see also Pl.'s Ex. C [ECF Doc. No. 78-2] at 5-6.

Plaintiff admits he was holding a knife when he was shot, but swears "there was no threat to [the] officers," that he "was running away," at the time Ruiz fired his weapon, and that therefore, "the use of deadly force was unreasonable." Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 2 at 18-19.

During his hospitalization after the shooting, Plaintiff alleges Detective Burkett "interrogated" him while he was "under morphine and percadates [sic]" in violation of his "5th and 14th Amendment right to due process." Compl. at 4. Plaintiff alleges Burkett "suggested [he] was suicidal," and "convinced" Plaintiff that he was. Id. Plaintiff does not describe any statements he made to Burkett, nor does he explain or point to any evidence in the record to show whether any statements he made were introduced against during his trial.

Defendants, however, ask the Court to take judicial notice of a "402 hearing" held on February 22, 2012, in Plaintiff's criminal proceedings before San Diego Superior Court Judge Gale Kaneshiro in San Diego Superior Court Case No. SCD235343. See Defs.' Ex. B [ECF No. 65-4]. At this pretrial hearing, during which Plaintiff was present and represented by his public defender, Detective Burkett testified that he questioned Plaintiff on July 18, 2011, for approximately 15 minutes, beginning at 8:45 a.m. in his hospital room at Scripps Mercy Hospital. Id. at 5. Burkett testified that while Plaintiff was in a hospital bed, and "had various items of medical intervention," like IV tubes in him, Plaintiff appeared to comprehend the questions he was asked, was able to identify some items of clothing, and "for the most part" "stayed on topic." Id. at 7. Burkett testified that he recited the Miranda warnings "from memory" and when he asked Plaintiff if he understood, Plaintiff replied "Yes, sir." Id. at 8. When Burkett further asked if Plaintiff wished to waive his rights and speak, Burkett testified Plaintiff replied, "Might as well. It doesn't matter." Id. at 8, 16-17.

Burkett testified that Plaintiff went on to answer his questions, and at no time seemed unable to understand, "asked for an attorney," or sought to end the interview. Id. at 7-8. Burkett remembered that he thought Plaintiff had a tube in his neck at the time, but never complained of pain. Id. at 11. Burkett also "assumed" Plaintiff was "under ... some type of medication," and "said that to him," but they "continued to talk," and Plaintiff made no further comments about medication. Id. at 11, 18.

After hearing this testimony, and argument from both the district attorney and Plaintiff's defense counsel, Judge Kaneshiro found that under the "totality of the circumstances," Plaintiff "understood his rights," and that while Plaintiff may have been taking pain medication at the time, his Miranda waiver was "unequivocal" and there was no showing that his "ability to comprehend or know what's going on," was so compromised as to render his statements involuntary. Id. at 21-22. Therefore, Plaintiff's statements to Burkett were ruled admissible. Id.

Finally, Plaintiff claims the San Diego Police Department "should have reasonably known" that "the officers [i]nvolved in this civil action engaged in ... numerous constitutional violations that caused [him] physical and life[-]altering emotional scars," and that its "failure to stop ...

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