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Holdridge v. Blank

United States District Court, D. Colorado

June 1, 2017

BENJAMIN HOLDRIDGE, Plaintiff,
v.
ROSS BLANK, THE CITY OF STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, COLORADO Defendants.

          Judge R. Brooke Jackson

          ORDER

          R. Brooke Jackson United States District Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on three pending motions: (1) defendant Ross Blank's motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 78; (2) defendant City of Steamboat Springs, Colorado's motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 80; and (3) plaintiff Benjamin Holdridge's partial motion for summary judgment, ECF No. 82. For the reasons below, the Court GRANTS defendants' motions [ECF Nos. 78, 80] and DENIES plaintiff's motion [ECF No. 82].

         I. FACTS [1]

         Plaintiff Benjamin Holdridge, a resident of Steamboat Springs, alleges that several police officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights on the night of September 8, 2014. See generally Am. Compl., ECF No. 18. That night, plaintiff and his friend, Ms. Gina Robertson (not a party to this suit), biked into downtown Steamboat Springs from their nearby home to attend a surprise birthday party for one of their friends. Dep. of Benjamin Holdridge, ECF No. 78-1, at 30:17-20.

         Shortly after 11:00pm plaintiff and Ms. Robertson were walking their bikes home on the side of U.S. Highway 40 when Officer Ross Blank, a Steamboat Springs police officer on patrol at the time, pulled his vehicle over to talk with Ms. Robertson. Dep. of Ross Blank, ECF No. 78-2, at 8:4-10:2, 104:11-20. Officer Blank stopped to talk to Ms. Robertson after noticing that she was stumbling as she walked her bike along the road. Id. at 48:18-49:5, 104:15-18. At some point during the encounter, Officer Blank asked to see Ms. Robertson's driver's license. See id.

         As this was happening, Mr. Holdridge, who was walking his bike approximately 50 yards behind Ms. Robertson at the time, tried to catch up to where Officer Blank had stopped to talk to Ms. Robertson. ECF No. 78-1 at 60:1-61:22. As he approached, Mr. Holdridge apparently demanded in an agitated manner to know why Officer Blank stopped to talk with Ms. Robertson and why he was asking her certain questions. Id. Plaintiff also yelled out to Ms. Robertson as he approached that she did not have hand over her license to Officer Blank. ECF No. 78-2 at 48:20-49:2.

         Seeing this agitated, possibly intoxicated, and then-unknown man appear out of the darkness, Officer Blank ordered Mr. Holdridge to stop and stay put. See Id. at 49: 3-18; Police Report, ECF No. 78-5, at 2 (plaintiff “appeared angry and intoxicated”). Plaintiff refused, continuing to walk towards Officer Blank and Ms. Robertson. ECF No. 78-2 at 49:24-50:1. At that point, Officer Blank once again ordered plaintiff to stop and stay where he was, adding this time that if plaintiff refused to comply that he would be forced to break out his handcuffs and secure plaintiff in his car. See id. at 51:1-3; ECF No. 78-5, at 2. Mr. Holdridge, now within only a couple of feet of Officer Blank and Ms. Robertson, taunted Officer Blank. See Id. at 51:1-3. “You better do it, then, ” he said. Id. So Office Blank did. ECF No. 78-5 at 2.

         Gaining control of plaintiff's arms, Officer Blank handcuffed Mr. Holdridge and escorted him over to his police SUV parked nearby. Id. The parties dispute whether or not plaintiff resisted. Id.; ECF No. 78-1 at 76:4-12. In any event, State Trooper Brendan DiGeorge, who was driving by the scene and saw Officer Blank trying to put someone in a parked police vehicle, quickly stopped and helped Officer Blank secure plaintiff. Dep. of Brendan DiGeorge, ECF No. 78-3, at 11: 13-22. Officer Jeffrey Malchow and Sergeant Scott Middleton, responding to a call Officer Blank apparently put out over his radio at some point during the encounter with plaintiff, also showed up shortly thereafter. Dep. of Jeffrey Malchow, ECF No. 78-4, at 23:9-24. Once he arrived, Officer Malchow went over to speak with Ms. Robertson who remained standing on the side of the road as these events unfolded. Id. at 33: 8-21. After several officers determining that she had a safe means to get home, Ms. Robertson subsequently left the scene. See id.; ECF No. 78-5 at 2.

         Meanwhile, Mr. Holdridge, who was now handcuffed in the back of Officer Blank's vehicle, began to complain that his handcuffs had been put on too tight. See ECF No. 78-1 at 99:6-100:14. Hearing plaintiff's complaints, Sergeant Middleton subsequently loosened plaintiff's handcuffs before Officer Blank drove plaintiff to the Routt County jail. Dep. of Scott Middleton, ECF No. 78-8, at 103:2-8.

         At some point before he was charged with obstructing a peace officer and resisting arrest-charges that were ultimately dismissed under a diversion agreement, ECF No. 78-6- plaintiff claims that one of the officers on the scene hit him in the face with a flashlight or some other hard object, ECF No. 78-1 at 88:12-24. Initially accusing Trooper DiGeorge of hitting him in interviews immediately after these events took place, see, e.g., Memorandum by Chief Bob Del Valle, ECF No. 78-9, at 2, plaintiff later claimed that he could not recall which officer it was that allegedly struck him, Memorandum by Sergeant Scott Elliott, ECF No. 78-12, at 5; ECF No. 78-1 at 103:5-14. For their part, all officers on the scene deny that any one of them struck plaintiff in the face with a flashlight or otherwise. See ECF No. 78-2 at 56:7-15; ECF No. 78-3 at 36:14-37:24; ECF No. 78-4 at 50:7-10, 53:6-18, 65:6-16; ECF No. 78-8 at 78:12-19, 102:17-23.

         Procedural History

         Roughly a year after these events took place Mr. Holdridge filed suit against Officer Blank, Trooper DiGeorge, Sergeant Middleton, and Officer Malchow, as well as “John Does 1-10” and the City of Steamboat Springs, on October 24, 2015. Compl., ECF No. 2. Plaintiff subsequently amended his complaint a few months later on January 4, 2016. ECF No. 18. Plaintiff's amended complaint, which is the operative pleading in this action, asserts sixteen claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of the Fourth Amendment.[2] See Id. at ¶¶222-342. In order, they are as follows:

(1) a claim for unlawful seizure against Officer Blank, id. at ¶¶222-29;
(2) a claim for excessive force against Officer Blank, id. at ¶230-36;
(3) a claim for unlawful arrest against Officer Blank, id.at ¶¶237-244;
(4) a claim for unlawful seizure against Sergeant Middleton, id. at ¶¶245-52;
(5) a claim for unlawful arrest against Sergeant Middleton, id. at ¶¶253-60;
(6) a claim for unlawful seizure against Trooper DiGeorge, id.at ¶¶261-68;
(7) a claim for unlawful arrest against Trooper DiGeorge, id. at ¶¶269-76;
(8) a claim for excessive force against Trooper DiGeorge, id. at ¶¶277-83;
(9) a claim for failure to intercede against Sergeant Middleton, id.at ...

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