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Leadholm v. City of Commerce City

United States District Court, D. Colorado

May 9, 2017

CARL LEADHOLM, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF COMMERCE CITY, COLORADO, TROY SMITH, in his individual and official capacities, CHRISTOPHER DICKEY, in his individual and official capacities, JJ ROUANZOIN, in his individual and official capacities, JEREMY JENKINS, in his individual and official capacities, MICHAEL DIENER, in his individual and official capacities, and KEVIN LORD, in his individual and official capacities, Defendants.

          ORDER ON CITY DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS

          Michael E. Hegarty, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants City of Commerce City and Troy Smith (“City Defendants”) [filed March 13, 2017; ECF No. 57]. The motion is fully briefed, and the Court finds that oral argument will not assist in the adjudication of the motion. For the following reasons and based on the entire record herein, the Court grants in part and denies in part the City Defendants' motion.[1]

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit on November 15, 2016, then filed the operative Amended Complaint as a matter of course on February 21, 2017, alleging excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment against the individual Defendants and deliberate indifference in hiring, training, supervision, and retention against the City Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         I. Facts

         The following are factual allegations (as opposed to legal conclusions, bare assertions, or merely conclusory allegations) made by the Plaintiff in his Amended Complaint, which are taken as true for analysis under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) pursuant to Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         On November 18, 2014, the Plaintiff, Carl Leadholm, was driving home after working a full day at a recycling company. At some point during his drive home, Plaintiff suffered from a medical condition due to low levels of glucose in his blood, which caused him dizziness and blurred vision. This condition caused Plaintiff to swerve his vehicle and drive erratically. Defendants Dickey and Rouanzoin first encountered Plaintiff on the road, saw the vehicle swerving, and pulled him over to the side of the road. Rather than ask Plaintiff whether he was alright, Dickey and Rouanzoin immediately started to shout at him. Dickey and Rouanzoin did not attempt to secure any information from Plaintiff regarding his identity, nor explain why they pulled him over. The officers did not ask any questions about Plaintiff's medical condition. Rather, they opened the car door, pulled Plaintiff out, and slammed him onto the pavement.

         Plaintiff, who had no previous interaction with law enforcement, curled into a fetal position on the pavement to protect himself. When Dickey and Rouanzoin pulled Plaintiff out of the vehicle, the truck was still in “drive” and it began to roll into oncoming traffic. Rouanzoin chased and entered the vehicle, stopped it, and shut the engine off.

         While Plaintiff was still on the ground, Dickey and Rouanzoin jammed Plaintiff's face into the pavement. At that point, Defendant Diener sprayed Plaintiff in the face with pepper spray, then Dickey, Rouanzoin, Jenkins, Diener, and Lord (the “Individual Defendants”) struck Plaintiff with batons in the legs. During this beating, Dickey accidently struck Rouanzoin with his baton. Dickey also applied multiple taser strikes to Plaintiff. Further, the Individual Defendants wrenched Plaintiff's right hand behind his back causing pain and damage to his hand, fingers, and rotator cuff. These injuries necessitated two surgeries. Plaintiff will require additional surgeries every ten years to replace the joint in his finger.

         Plaintiff did not resist the police officer's attempts to physically restrain him. Eventually, an ambulance was called to provide emergency care for Plaintiff. When the paramedics gave him a chance to speak, Plaintiff indicated that he was diabetic and did not feel well. The paramedics tested Plaintiff's blood glucose level and found his readings to be at a level of 35.

         According to information from the University of Michigan's Health System Department of Metabolism, Endocrinology and Diabetes pertaining to hypoglycemia-or low blood glucose-a blood glucose reading of 35 is defined as follows:

Severe hypoglycemia
The symptoms of severe low blood sugar develop when blood sugar falls below 35-40 mg/dL and may include:
* Seizures or convulsions
* Loss of consciousness, coma
* Low body temperature (hypothermia)

         The attending paramedics recognized the potential danger that existed for Plaintiff and promptly administered glycogen, which likely prevented him from slipping into a diabetic coma.

         In addition to the allegations raised by Plaintiff in this case, other individuals have lodged the following allegations against Commerce City and/or its police officers:

1. In 2003, Commerce City police officers chased a suspect's vehicle at nearly 100 miles an hour. The chase ended when the suspect, chased by six officers, smashed head-on into Julie Bailey's small truck, flipping it onto its roof and trapping and critically injuring Ms. Bailey and her son, Brandon Magnuson. Brandon died soon thereafter of injuries sustained in the crash. Bailey v. City of Commerce City, et al., 05-cv-02440-WYD-CBS.
2. In 2003, Sergio Perez was repeatedly struck with a heavy flashlight by Officer Juan Gomez. As a result of the attack, Plaintiff fell to the ground, bleeding from his head and mouth and was handcuffed and beaten further. Perez v. Gomez et al., 05-cv-02241-WDM-BNB.
3. In 2007, Adam Launer was arrested by a Commerce City Police Officer, Audie Vigil, without probable cause and without warrant. While Mr. Launer was handcuffed and laying face down on the ground, Officer Vigil held Mr. Launer in the prone position, sprayed his neck and back with mace or pepper spray, and punched him in the right shoulder. John Doe Officers kicked Mr. Launer in the ribs and used their boot to apply pressure from the handcuffs against his wrists. Mr. Launer suffered from a partial pneumothorax, rib injuries, bruises and contusions, and burns from the pepper spray or mace. Launer v. Vigil, et al., 08-cv-01384-MSK-MJW.
4. In 2012, while on duty, Commerce City Police officer Robert Price shot and killed a family's dog and was charged with animal cruelty. Commerce City paid the family $262, 000 for excessive force used against their dog. Branson v. Price, et al., 13-cv-03090-REB-NYW.

         Furthermore, Defendants Jenkins and Lord have been involved in the following incidents:

1. On May 6, 2010, Commerce City Police officers, including Defendant Jenkins, allegedly fired approximately nineteen gun shots in a densely populated residential area killing one, injuring another, and damaging private resident structures.
2. Defendant Lord resigned from the Commerce City Police Department November 18, 2015 after his arrest for tampering with evidence and false reporting. In that instance, Lord shot himself in his own bullet proof vest on purpose and knowingly blamed an innocent person. He ultimately pleaded guilty, has a criminal conviction, and is on probation.

         In 2011, Commerce City's police union presented Commerce City with a 23-page report urging a review of years of questionable conduct by police officers and alleged mismanagement by senior police officials. Commerce City attorney Karen Stevens was the first to review the report. Of the police union's twenty-three pages of allegations, she forwarded only eight incidences to the attention of Timothy Leary, a third-party investigator hired to look into the police union's claims, who also worked as a contractor for Commerce City's insurer, Colorado ...


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