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Torres v. Hansen

United States District Court, N.D. California

August 30, 2019

MARIO TORRES, Plaintiff,
MIKE HANSEN, et al., Defendants.



         This is a pro se civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in which Mario Torres asserts claims for relief based on his 2012 arrest in Concord, California. Defendants now move for summary judgment on the merits of Torres' claims and on their defense of qualified immunity. Torres opposes the motion. For the reasons discussed below, defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted as to the false arrest, false imprisonment, and Monell claims, and denied as to all other claims. The case will be referred to the Pro Se Prisoner Mediation Program, and the court will set some discovery-related deadlines.


         A. Statement Of Facts

         The following facts are undisputed unless otherwise noted:

         The events and omissions giving rise to the complaint occurred on July 4, 2012, in Concord, California. The individual defendants are Concord police officers Daniel Smith and Mike Hansen, who arrested Torres that day. The municipal defendant, Concord Police Department, is sued on a Monell theory of liability.

         1. The Entry Into The Apartment

         On July 4, 2012, officers Smith and Hansen were dispatched to an apartment on Mohr Lane in Concord to respond to a report “of a fight or neighbors fighting.” Docket No. 76-2 at 6.[1] The parties present no further evidence about the particulars of the citizen's call to the police (such as whether the caller saw or heard anyone being hit) or the dispatcher's statements to the responding officers. The parties present no evidence about any efforts by officers Smith and Hansen to speak to the 911 caller or anyone other than Torres upon their arrival at the scene.

         When officers Smith and Hansen arrived at the apartment, they knocked on the door several times and no one answered for a “couple of minutes.” Docket No. 76-2 at 78. Eventually, Torres came to the door and “cracked open” the door about six inches, stuck his head out, and then immediately stepped outside the door so the door was “right at [his] back.” Docket No. 76-2 at 5, 79. To officer Smith, Torres “appeared agitated based on his tone and his demeanor.” Docket No. 76-2 at 6.

         One of the officers told Torres they had received a “domestic violence disturbance call” or a “domestic call” or a “domestic disturbance” call - Torres was unsure which it was -- and they needed to enter the apartment. Docket No. 76-2 at 31. Torres initially “said nothing is going on here, ” but then said, “‘You know what, there was a verbal argument with my girlfriend.'” Docket No. 76-2 at 31. The officer said they needed to come into the home to check, but Torres refused to allow entry without a warrant. Docket No. 76-2 at 31. One of the officers said: “‘We need to come in. Right now we got to check to see if she's okay.'” Docket No. 76-2 at 31. According to Torres, he let the officers follow him into the apartment because the officers were aggressive and stating that “it's the law” that he had to let them in even though they had no warrant. Docket No. 76-2 at 32.

         2. The Arrest And Uses Of Force

         The parties agree that there were three uses of force after the officers entered the home: (1) near the door of the apartment, (2) during handcuffing in the kitchen, and (3) during fingerprinting later at the police station. The parties disagree about the amount of force used and the circumstances surrounding the uses of force.

         According to Torres, as soon as officers Hansen and Smith entered the apartment following him, the two officers “beat” Torres with batons from behind him. Docket No. 18 at 10; Docket No. 76-2 at 35.[2]

         Torres provides this account of the force used during handcuffing in the kitchen: He landed on his stomach in the kitchen as a result of being beaten by the officers. Docket No. 76-2 at 36. Officer Hansen got on top of Torres and jabbed Torres in the back of the head with a baton. Id. at 37. Torres grabbed the baton from officer Hansen; Hansen then reclaimed the baton, handcuffed Torres, and turned him over. Id. at 38-46. Officer Smith was nearby, conversing with Betty Zierke (Torres' girlfriend), who had come down the stairs in the apartment. Id. at 48-49. Torres eventually was arrested and transported to the Concord Police Department without further incident.[3] See Id. at 61. Although he hurled insults and racial slurs at the officers, Torres denies that he resisted the police during the episode. Id. at 56-57, 63.

         Torres provides this account of the force used during fingerprinting: He was taken to the Concord police station, where a female officer tried to fingerprint him as officer Smith stood nearby. When the female officer grabbed Torres' hand to fingerprint it, he pulled it away quickly and said his hand might be broken. Docket No. 76-2 at 66-67. Officer Smith twisted Torres' other arm to get him to lean forward while the female officer slammed his injured hand on the fingerprinting machine. Id. at 67-68. Torres untwisted his arm from officer Smith's grip and pulled his left hand away from the female officer. Id. at 70-71. Suddenly, Torres ended up on his stomach on the floor, where he was beaten by officers. Id. at 71. Although he could not see who was beating him, he believes it was officer Smith who grabbed his arm from behind and twisted it until Torres submitted and stopped. Id. at 72. Torres states that he did not resist during the incident at the police station. Id. at 72.

         3. Torres' Conviction

         Torres was charged with several crimes based on the events of July 4, 2012, including battery on a spouse or cohabitant (Cal. Penal Code §§ 242/243(e)(1)), obstructing/resisting an executive officer with force or violence (id. at § 69), battery upon an officer and emergency personnel (id. at §§ 242/243(b)), and resisting, delaying or obstructing a peace officer (id. at § 148(a)(1)). Docket No. 76-3 at 3-4. He also was charged with several other crimes against other people that occurred on different dates. Docket No. 76-3 at 1-7. Eventually, a plea deal was reached to dispose of several criminal charges pending against Torres. Id. at 20-23. As to the events on July 4, 2012, Torres pled guilty to a violation of California Penal Code section 69. Id. at 25. The following occurred at the negotiated disposition hearing:

THE COURT: And then Count Seven is a felony violation of Penal Code section 69, resisting an executive officer, alleging that on or about July 4th, 2012, at Concord, in Contra Costa County, that you, Mario Torres, did willfully and unlawfully attempt, by means of threats and violence, to deter and prevent Officer Daniel Smith, who was an executive officer, from performing a duty imposed upon the officer by law and knowingly resisted by the use of force and violence and by means of threats of violence the executive officer in the performance of duty. What is your plea?

Docket No. 76-3 at 16-17. Torres received a prison term for his Penal Code section 69 conviction. See Docket No. 76-3 at 25 (abstract of judgment); Docket No. 99-1 at 2-5 (2nd amended abstract of judgment).

         4. Concord Police Department Monell Evidence

         Defendants present more than 40 pages of training logs from the Concord Police Department showing substantial individual training activity for officers Smith and Hansen. Docket No. 76-4 at 2-45. The training logs show that officers Smith and Hansen both received training before July 4, 2012, that included training in domestic violence situations and uses of force.

         Defendants present the Concord Police Department's “use of force policy.” Docket No. 76-4 at 47-52. That policy states that “[i]t is the policy of the Concord Police Department to use force only as reasonable.” Id. at 47. The policy elaborates on the use of force and includes a section providing that all uses of force will be reviewed by the Department. Id. at 49.

         Defendants present the Concord Police Department's “Use of Force Review Board” report that concluded that the uses of force by officers Smith and Hansen appear to have been within guidelines. Docket No. 76-4 at 54-69. The force reviewed consisted of a “distraction strike” and “impact weapon” used by officer Smith, id. at 55, and an “impact weapon” used by officer Hansen, id. at 56.

         B. The Claims To Be Adjudicated

         The court earlier determined that the third amended complaint stated the following claims: (1) a claim against officers Hansen and Smith for an unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment based on the warrantless entry of the residence; (2) a claim against officers Hansen and Smith for the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment based on three uses of force (i.e., beating Torres upon entry into the residence, after he was handcuffed, and when he was at the police station); (3) a claim against officers Hansen and Smith for false arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment; (4) a claim against officers Hansen and Smith for false imprisonment based on Torres' detention after his arrest; and (5) a Monell claim against the Concord Police Department based on the alleged failure to train and supervise officers and failure to properly investigate police misconduct. See Docket No. 21.

         Defendants now move for summary judgment against Torres. Defendants attack Torres' Fourth Amendment claims with a Heck argument, urging that his Fourth Amendment claims must be rejected because success on any of those claims would undermine the validity of Torres' conviction for obstructing/resisting an executive officer with force or violence. Next, defendants argue that the two officers are entitled to qualified immunity against those same Fourth Amendment claims. Finally, defendants argue that the Concord Police Department is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the Monell claim because Torres has no proof to support his allegations.


         Summary judgment is proper where the pleadings, discovery, and affidavits show that there is “no genuine dispute as to any material fact and [that] the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A court will grant summary judgment “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial . . . since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law, and a dispute about a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         Generally, the moving party bears the initial burden of identifying those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party to “go beyond the pleadings and by [his or her] own affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate ‘specific ...

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