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Raguindin v. Yates

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 31, 2016

JOEL RAGUINDIN, and JENNA FOX, Plaintiffs,
v.
MICHAEL YATES, individually, JASON PHIPPS, individually, MIKE PARKOS, individually, PATRICK HAUGSE, individually, CHIEF OF POLICE RICK BRANDT, in his official capacity, WELD COUNTY SHERIFF STEVEN REAMS, individually and in his official capacity, and PAUL WOOD, individually, Defendants.

ORDER ADOPTING AND AFFIRMING IN PART FEBRUARY 29, 2016 RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

CHRISTINE M. ARGUELLO United States District Judge

This case was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Fed.R.Civ.P. 72. (Doc. # 10.) This matter is before the Court on the February 29, 2016 Recommendation issued by Judge Mix regarding two Motions to Dismiss (Doc. ## 32, 44) filed by Defendants in this matter. (Doc. # 74.)

I. BACKGROUND

The full factual background of this case was provided in Magistrate Judge Mix’s thorough Recommendation, which is incorporated herein by reference; accordingly, this background will not be reiterated in full here. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). However, the Court will provide some factual background as necessary to analyze Judge Mix’s Recommendation and Defendants’ Objections thereto.

On January 1, 2012, at her home in Evans, Colorado, Ashley Fallis died of a gunshot wound to the head. Her death was pronounced a suicide by the Weld County Coroners’ office on January 6, 2012. (Doc. # 22, ¶¶ 2, 5.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendants, employees of the Evans Police Department and Weld County Sheriff’s Department, destroyed, covered up, and falsified evidence indicating that she was murdered by her husband, Tom Fallis, who was a Weld County Corrections Officer. Specifically, they allege that:

Defendant Paul Wood, acting, on information and belief, at the instruction of Sheriff Reams who was supervising, gave multiple orders at the scene to Weld County deputies, including justice-obstructing orders not to write reports regarding what they saw, heard or learned and when to leave the residence.
A neighbor and witness, Nick Glover, was interviewed by Officer Yates and told [Officer Yates] that he overheard Tom Fallis confess to his parents that he murdered his wife . . . Nick Glover reportedly told Defendant Yates that he distinctly heard him say, “I shot her.” More specifically, during his interview with Officer Yates, shared, on information and belief, with the other individual defendants, Mr. Glover reported that he heard the following incriminating exchange immediately after the shooting between Mr. Fallis and his parents that Officer Yates is believed to have written down:
• Mr. Fallis: “Oh my God, I can’t believe I did it. Oh my God, what have I done. What have I done.”
• Mr. Fallis’ parents: “What. What are you saying.”
• Mr. Fallis: “I shot her.” Outrageously, Officer Yates and/or other involved Defendants or Evans police officers consciously decided to not include this highly incriminating confession witnessed by Mr. Glover or that a confession by Tom Fallis was also heard by other officers in their official reports.
Officer Yates, on information and belief, supported and/or supervised by the other individual defendants, additionally altered/destroyed another witness’s original reporting of the shooting, changing her report from a highly incriminating account into a manufactured suicide account. Mr. Glover’s mother, Kathy Glover, reported to Officer Yates that she received a phone call from neighbor Chelsea Arrigo immediately after the shooting. She reported that Ms. Arrigo told her: “Call police, your neighbor just shot his wife.” (Emphasis supplied). Officer Yates, on information and belief, with the knowledge or support of the other individual defendants, however, deliberately altered and/ or destroyed this phone conversation in his official report, falsely characterizing Ms. Arrigo’s original statement to Ms. Glover as: “[P]lease tell me you called the cops . . . your neighbor just shot herself.” (Emphasis added.)[1]
Upon learning that their accounts had been altered, Nick Glover and Kathy Glover reportedly prepared sworn affidavits describing their original accounts to the police, and have also stated that they were shocked to learn of the omissions and misstatements in the police reports that were prepared. When confronted about his conduct as described by these witnesses, Defendant Yates reportedly did not deny the claims and referred the reporter to Chief Brandt.
Weld County Deputy Sheriff, Chris Graves, was “instructed” by Evans police to watch Tom Fallis at the scene. While doing so, Deputy Graves heard Tom Fallis confess to killing his wife. Several law enforcement officers were also then present in a position to hear Tom Fallis so state and confess.
On information and belief, the Evans Police Department related Defendants or some of them and/or other Evans police officers also heard and/or were otherwise aware of this confession by Tom Fallis but, as afore alleged, did not include it in any of their reports or arrest and charge Tom Fallis.
Defendant Commander Wood, acting, on information and belief, at the instruction of Defendant Sheriff Reams, told multiple deputies responding to the scene, including Chris Graves and Andrea Rusch directly and/or in response to inquiries, ...

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