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Platt v. Afatasi

United States District Court, D. Utah

April 9, 2018

BRIAN PLATT, Plaintiff,
v.
ESEKIA AFATASI, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          TED STEWART UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff has failed to respond to the Motion and the time for doing so has expired. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This action arises out of Plaintiff's arrest on July 7, 2013. In early July 2013, the Metro Gang Unit of the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake began actively searching for Plaintiff. Plaintiff was a known gang member with several outstanding arrest warrants. He was also wanted for questioning for a kidnapping, burglary of a dwelling, and an assault on a police officer that occurred during the first week of July 2013.

         Officers were provided information on where Plaintiff might be located. Officers went to the location and a stop was conducted on a vehicle in which Plaintiff was a passenger. The vehicle stopped and officers approached the vehicle shouting commands at Plaintiff to show his hands and exit the vehicle. Plaintiff ignored the officers' commands and began to struggle with the driver of the vehicle. Plaintiff attempted to gain control of the vehicle, grabbing the steering wheel, and revving the engine. The tires of the truck were spinning and beginning to smoke. Officers were concerned that they would have been hit had the truck been in gear.

         An officer then shot out the driver's side tires, at which point one of the occupants of the vehicle jumped out. Plaintiff then reached over and shut the door of the vehicle, locking it. Officers continued to shout commands at Plaintiff, which he ignored. During this time, Plaintiff engaged in a series of furtive movements inside the vehicle.

         Detective Simonelli then broke one of the truck's windows. A K-9 unit was deployed in the vehicle by Sergeant Reyes to help apprehend Plaintiff. The dog latched on to Plaintiff's leg. Despite being bitten by the dog, Plaintiff refused to comply with the officers' commands. At that point, Officer Afatasi administered several “distraction strikes” to Plaintiff's upper shoulder and face, but Plaintiff continued to resist.

         Officers were finally able to remove Plaintiff from the truck. Once outside the truck, Plaintiff was placed on the ground. Officers were able to get one of Plaintiff's arms free to place handcuffs on him. However, Plaintiff kept his other arm under his body, continuing to resist efforts to handcuff him. Officer Van Emmerik then placed his knee into the side of Plaintiff's neck to gain compliance. A number of officers wrestled with Plaintiff until they were finally able to get him into custody.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”[1] In considering whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists, the Court determines whether a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party in the face of all the evidence presented.[2] The Court is required to construe all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[3]

If the nonmoving party fails to respond, the district court may not grant the motion without first examining the moving party's submission to determine if it has met its initial burden of demonstrating that no material issues of fact remain for trial and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. If it has not, summary judgment is not appropriate, for [n]o defense to an insufficient showing is required.[4]

         By failing to respond, Plaintiff “waives the right to respond or to controvert the facts asserted in the summary judgment motion.”[5] “The court should accept as true all material facts asserted and properly supported in the summary judgment motion. But only if those facts entitle the moving party to judgment as a matter of law should the court grant summary judgment.”[6]

         “When a defendant asserts qualified immunity at summary judgment, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to show that: (1) the defendant violated a constitutional right and (2) the constitutional right was clearly established.”[7] The Supreme Court has held that the Court has discretion to determine “which of the two prongs of the qualified immunity analysis should be addressed first in light of the circumstances in the particular case at hand.”[8] “In determining whether the plaintiff has met its burden of establishing a constitutional violation that was clearly established, we will construe the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff as the nonmoving party.”[9] However, “a plaintiff's version of the facts must find support in the record.”[10]

         “A clearly established right is one that is sufficiently clear that every reasonable official would have understood that what he is doing violates that right.”[11] The Supreme Court has “repeatedly told courts . . . not to define clearly established law at a high level of generality.”[12]“The dispositive question is whether the violative nature of particular conduct is clearly established. This inquiry must be undertaken in light of the specific context of the case, not as a broad general proposition.”[13] This is especially true “in the Fourth Amendment context, where the Court has recognized that [i]t is sometimes difficult for an officer to determine how the relevant legal doctrine, here excessive force, will apply to the factual situation the officer confronts.”[14]

         III. DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff brings two claims: unlawful restraint and excessive force. The Court considers both claims under the Fourth Amendment.

         A. UNLAWFUL RESTRAINT

         Plaintiff's first claim is for “unlawful restraint of anothers [sic] personal liberty.”[15] The Court ...


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