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Gonzalez v. City of Bakersfield

United States District Court, E.D. California

June 5, 2017

ARTURO GONZALEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF BAKERSFIELD, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. 43)

          JENNIFER L. THURSTON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Arturo Gonzalez asserts that Bakersfield police officers are liable for violations of his civil rights and California law. (Doc. 17) Specifically, Plaintiff contends he was subjected to an wrongful detention or arrest, as well as excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment. (Id. at 7-8) In addition, Plaintiff alleges the defendants are liable for false arrest/imprisonment, battery, negligence, and for violating California's Bane Act. (Id. at 16-19)

         Defendants seek summary adjudication pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as to the claims for wrongful detention or arrest under federal law and false arrest under state law. (Doc. 43 at 2) Further, Defendants seek summary adjudication of all claims remaining against Defendant Carruesco. (Id.) Plaintiff opposes the motion, asserting disputes of material facts preclude summary adjudication of his claims. (Doc. 45) For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED IN PART.

         I. Background and Undisputed Material Facts[1]

         “At approximately 1:15 a.m. on January 20, 2015, Bakersfield Police Officers Douglas Barrier, Kasey Knott, Juan Orozco, and Sergeant Gary Carruesco were dispatched to 4800 Chinta Drive in Bakersfield, California to ‘check the welfare' of an individual.” (DUF 1; Doc. 43-4 at 9-10, Barrier Depo. 29:24-30:5) Barrier explained this means “an individual … appears to need assistance due to some type of either mental disability or physical disability or rambling and so forth.” (PUF 1) The Bakersfield Police Department Communication Center notified the officers that the individual who called 9-1-1 was “rambling, not making much sense.” (PUF 2) Further, the offers were informed that the person “made 422 [a criminal threat] to ambush law enforcement past date.” (DUF 2; Doc. 43-4 at 13, Barrier Depo. 33:3-9) Officers were informed, “The subject should be identified as Arturo Gonzalez, 4-7-82.” (Id.)

         Barrier looked for information regarding “Arturo Gonzalez” in the system. (See DUF 4) “Prior to going to the residence, the four officers parked and met at the intersection of Ambrister Drive and Stine Road to form a tactical plan.” (DUF 3; Doc. 45-1 at 5) Barrier told the other officers that Arturo Gonzalez had a warrant for his arrest for a misdemeanor, as well as prior arrests for assault with a deadly weapon and criminal threats. (DUF 4; Doc. 43-4 at 128, Knott Depo. 41:3-8) The officers decided “to approach quietly, ” and that Orozco and Carruesco would be positioned on the south side of the street with Barrier and Knott positioned on the north side. (PUF 13; Doc. 45-11 at 3, Orozco Depo. 25:7-12)

         “The officers proceeded to 4800 Chinta Drive on foot, utilizing vehicles for cover.” (JUF 2) “Upon arrival, Officer Barrier attempted to call the cell phone number associated with the calls that had been made on January 18, 2015; however, no one answered.” (JUF 3) Over the radio, Barrier requested the Communication Center locate a phone number for the residence, contact “the reporting party, ” Arturo Gonzalez, and have him step outside the home. (Id.; PUF 19-20; Doc. 45-7 at 17, Barrier Depo. 42:14-24) The Communication Center reached Plaintiff, and the following conversation occurred:

Plaintiff: [Ringing] Hello.
Dispatcher: Hello, is Arturo there?
Plaintiff: Arturo who?
Dispatcher: Arturo Gonzales?
Plaintiff: Senior? Yes.
Dispatcher: I'm looking for Junior.
Plaintiff: No, he's not in right now.
Dispatcher: He's not in right now?
Plaintiff: No.
Dispatcher: Um, is this the address that called police recently, 4800 Chinta Drive?
Plaintiff: Well, this is Arturo's father. And this is, um, 4800 Chinta Drive.
Dispatcher: Mmk. Ok. Arturo called us.
Plaintiff: Yes.
Dispatcher: And he was stating that - Sir, there are officers outside, and they need somebody to come outside and talk to them.
Plaintiff: Ok.
Dispatcher: Can you go outside?
Plaintiff: I - I can, yes. It's going to be a little bit.
Dispatcher: All right. I'll let the officer know, ok?
Plaintiff: Ok, fine.
Dispatcher: Thank you sir. Bye-bye.
Plaintiff: Bye.

(PUF 23) The Communications Center sent an audio transmission to Barrier stating, “I made contact with the subject's father. He's advising he's not there; however, he will step out and speak with police.” (PUF 24) Barrier testified that by the time the Plaintiff exited the residence, he did not know whether the Communications Center had placed the call to the residence and did not know the results of any communications.[2] (Doc. 45-7 at 19, Barrier Depo. 44:14-25)

         Plaintiff was “wearing baggy clothing, a hooded sweatshirt and a beanie.” (JUF 4) “Barrier first observed Plaintiff around the threshold of the front door of his residence.” (PUF 26) Barrier testified that he was shining a flashlight on Plaintiff and, at that moment, “Plaintiff had one hand in a jacket pocket and a phone in the other hand.” (PUF 27; Doc. 45-7 at 21- 22, Barrier Depo. 48:6-11, 49:2-12)

         The parties present conflicting versions of what occurred after Plaintiff exited his home. Defendants assert the first communication with Plaintiff occurred when Barrier called out, “Bakersfield Police Department, Arturo Gonzalez, take your hands out of your pockets.'” (Doc. 43-4 at 39, Barrier Depo. 73:1-15) Defendants contend that Plaintiff “initially said ‘okay' in response to the orders by Officer Barrier but then failed to immediately remove his hands from his pockets.” (See Id. at 39, Barrier Depo. 73:16-74:1; Knott Depo. 68:2-6) Barrier then ordered Plaintiff “to put his hands in the air and walk back towards him.” (Id. at 43, Barrier Depo. 78:24-79:2) Defendants contend Plaintiff put his hands up and started walking backwards, but kept dropping his arms down and looking over his shoulder. (Id. at 44, Barrier Depo. 79:9-19, 80:15-20, 83:11-84:5) Barrier testified that when Plaintiff turned around, raised his hands, and started walking backwards, he was submitting to the officers' authority. (Doc. 43-4 at 47, Barrier Depo. 83:5-22) However, Barrier testified that Plaintiff “lowering his hands down and looking over his shoulder” caused “heightened concern… because it appeared that he was trying to pinpoint [the] location, ” and that Plaintiff “was preparing for a gunfight.” (Id.) Likewise, Officer Knott testified that he observed Plaintiff looking back over his right side and perceived the gesture as threatening, because Knott “believed at the time he was trying to pinpoint officer Barrier's location so that he could engage him in a gunfight.” (Knott Depo. 69:14-70:5) Officer Barrier reports he gave additional and repeated commands to Plaintiff to raise his arms and face forward. (Doc. 43-4 at 48, Barrier Depo. 84:11-12)

         According to Defendants, once Plaintiff reached a well-lit area, Barrier ordered him to stop, keep his hands in the air, and drop to his knees. (Doc. 43-4 at 50, Barrier Depo. 89:1-8) However, Barrier testified that Plaintiff dropped his right hand to his waist area, out of view. (Id. at 51, 91:3-92-21) Further, the officers assert Barrier yelled, “stop” and he and officer Knott ran toward Plaintiff, with Barrier arriving first. (Id., Barrier Depo. 99:5-15) Barrier testified that he used his momentum to push Plaintiff forward onto his stomach. (Id. at 59, Barrier Depo. 101:8-20) The officers assert Plaintiff failed to comply with commands to move his arms from underneath his body, and rolled. (See, e.g. Id. at 6, Barrier Depo. 19:24-21:16) During the encounter, Officers Barrier, Knott, and Orozco used force upon Plaintiff, which was witnessed by Carruesco. (See generally Doc. 43-4 at 69-70, Carruesco Depo. 13:4-7:25) Plaintiff was then placed in handcuffs. (DUF 19)

         On the other hand, Plaintiff asserts he was asked to identify himself when he exited the residence and responded, “This is Arturo Gonzalez Montes, sir.” (Doc. 45-5 at 2, Gonzalez Decl. ¶ 3) Plaintiff asserts that when asked to take his hands out of his pockets, he did so and “statements that [he] delayed in taking [his] hands of [the] pockets are not true.” (Id., ¶ 4) Plaintiff reports the officers instructed him “to come out to the street, turn around, put [his] ands over [his] head, and start walking backwards; and he “promptly did everything the officers told [him] to do.” (Id., ¶ 5) He states that he “did not make any furtive, aggressive, or suspicious movements.” (Id.) Further, Plaintiff reports he did not drop his hands, and Officer Barrier did not repeatedly tell him to raise them. (Id.) Plaintiff acknowledges, “Since I was walking backwards, I may have turned slightly to see where I was going at one point.”[3] (Id.) Plaintiff asserts that when the officers instructed him to get down on his knees, he did so, and “did not make any suspicious or unusual movements, ” such as reaching for his waistband. (Id., ¶ 6) He reports that he was not told to keep his hands in the air, and “was simply told to go down on [his] knees.” (Id.) Plaintiff contends that he “briefly used [his] right hand to touch the ground for balance” as he went down. (Id.)

         According to Plaintiff, once he was on his knees, no warning was given and no one said “stop.” (Doc. 45-4 at 3, Gonzalez Decl. ¶ 7) He reports that the officers struck him in the face and torso, and compressed his back. (Id. at ¶ 8) Plaintiff reports he “was not trying to resist” and “[a]ny physical response… was reflexive and involuntary” because he thought he was going to lose consciousness, and was in terrible pain.” (Id.) He asserts that throughout the encounter, he “was cooperative and compliant.” (Id., ¶ 9)

         Plaintiff asserts that after the handcuffs were placed on his wrists, he “again told the officers” who he was, but the handcuffs were not removed. (Doc. 45-4 at 3, Gonzalez Decl. ¶ 3) For their part, the officers report that after Plaintiff was in handcuffs, they realized the person in custody was not Arturo Gonzalez, Jr. (See Doc. 43-4 at 40, Barrier Depo. 74:2-4) Sergeant Carruesco reported he realized Plaintiff was not the person for whom they were looking “[a]fter he was handcuffed and … whatever he had covering his head was removed” because he observed the grey hair. (Id. at 83, Carruesco Depo. 48:3-8) Likewise, Knott testified he realized Plaintiff was older than the person for whom they were looking after Plaintiff was handcuffed and the beanie was removed, and Knott “was able to see his face.” (Knott Depo. 38:5-15)

         At 1:52 a.m., “Sergeant Carruesco dispatched that the ‘subject' was in custody.” (PUF 100) Plaintiff asserts that after he was handcuffed, “he was put in the back of a patrol car with the handcuffs still on.” (PUF 99; Doc. 45-4, Gonzalez Decl. ¶ 10; see also Carruesco Depo. 83:3-5 [testifying that Plaintiff was “[a]t some point…placed in the back of a patrol car”]) Carruesco testified that Plaintiff was “detained because [they] didn't know who he was until after the incident was over, ” and they “needed to determine if he was the person that had made the phone calls and he was the person making the threats.” (Carruesco Depo. 66:12-18) Barrier testified he “thought [he] had an obligation to detain him and place him in handcuffs for safety purposes.” (Barrier Depo. 106:11-13)

         Plaintiff complained “he had pain in his shoulders, left side, and lower back.” (JUF 6) An ambulance was summoned at 2:02 a.m., and arrived at 2:09 a.m. (Id.) Plaintiff's hands remained in handcuffs until the paramedics arrived, at which point he was handcuffed to the gurney. (Doc. 45-4 at 4, Gonzalez Decl. ¶ 10) He remained handcuffed until he arrived at the hospital. (Id.)

         Officer Barrier testified he requested to permission to place Plaintiff under arrest, and Sergeant Carruesco denied the request on the scene, saying they “were just going to get him checked out through medical.” (Doc. 45-4 at 53, Barrier Depo. 107:12-22, 108:5-7) On the other hand, Sergeant Carruesco testified that neither Barrier nor any other officer made a request for permission to place Plaintiff under arrest. (Doc. 43-4 at 83, Carruesco Depo. 48:9-11, 16-18)

         II. Evidentiary Objections

         Plaintiff filed objections to evidence submitted by Defendants in support of their motion for summary adjudication. (Doc. 45-3) Specifically, Plaintiff objects to evidence regarding the officers' states of mind and to ...


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