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Nelson v. Donovan

United States District Court, D. Colorado

June 25, 2019

KELSEY RAY NELSON, Plaintiff,
v.
PHILIP A. DONOVAN, CARLOS CASTILLO, JOHN and JANE DOES 1-10, and JOHN DOE ENTITIES 1-10, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Michael E. Hegarty, United States Magistrate Judge

         Before the Court is Defendants Donovan and Castillo's Motion to Dismiss First Amended Complaint. ECF No. 25. Defendants move to dismiss the Plaintiff's first claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights against “wrongful stop and detention, false arrest, and false imprisonment.” For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motion as to these Defendants.

         BACKGROUND

         I. Statement of Facts

         The following are factual allegations (as opposed to legal conclusions, bare assertions, or merely conclusory allegations) made by Plaintiff in the First Amended Complaint (“FAC”), 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).

         Defendants Donovan and Castillo are officers in the Denver Police Department. ECF No. 16 ¶¶ 4-5. On May 13, 2016, the department received a report of a domestic violence incident at the Star Motel, 3850 N. Peoria St., and dispatched Donovan to the location. Id. ¶¶ 9-13. At the motel, Donovan located the reported victim, G.R., [1] who had fled the room where the alleged incident occurred. Id. ¶¶ 13, 18. She told Donovan that she had been in a room with the perpetrator when she attempted to call her fiancé. Id. ¶ 15. The perpetrator became very angry and took the phone and hit her in the face with it. Id. He also punched her in the jaw four times and threw a table at her. Id. ¶¶ 15-17. G.R. was then able to flee the room. Id. ¶ 18. She told Donovan the assailant was African-American and had a teardrop tattoo near one of his eyes. Id. ¶¶ 21-22.

         Donovan proceeded to room 229, where G.R. said the incident occurred. Id. ¶ 23. While standing outside the room, he observed Plaintiff “in the distance” and “ordered” unnamed “officers” to “contact” Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 24. He also “observed” a black male named Aaron Smith in room 229 and asked Mr. Smith if he knew Plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 26-27.

         “Denver Police Department officers” took Plaintiff into custody, and Donovan took a photo of him. Id. ¶¶ 28-29. The photo showed Plaintiff in the rear of a vehicle with his hands behind his back, suggesting he was handcuffed. Id. ¶¶ 29, 38. Donovan did not photograph anyone else at that time. Id. ¶¶ 30-31. He then went to Denver Health Medical Center and showed the photo to G.R. Id. ¶¶ 32, 40. Donovan had observed G.R. to be intoxicated at the motel and did not ask if she had been medicated at the hospital. Id. ¶¶ 34-35. He also knew that G.R. had attempted to escape from the health center. Id. ¶¶ 35-36. While she was being carried into the hospital by medical personnel, Donovan showed her the photo of Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 37. G.R. nodded in the affirmative. Id. ¶ 40. Donovan asked her if the man in the photo was the one who hit her with the table, and G.R. said “yes.” Id. ¶ 41.

         The next day, Castillo was assigned to continue the investigation. Id. ¶ 48. Castillo “was provided” the “other officers' investigation reports” and reviewed a video statement in which G.R. said the attacker had a teardrop tattoo near his eye. Id. ¶¶ 49, 51, 53. Additionally, Donovan told Castillo that G.R. was intoxicated and stumbling when she arrived at the hospital. Id. ¶ 50.

         Plaintiff voluntarily spoke with Castillo and told him that Plaintiff first encountered G.R. that night at an AutoZone, and she was already injured at that time. Id. ¶¶ 57-60. He also said G.R. was with an unidentified black male. Id. ¶ 58. The unknown male told Plaintiff that G.R. “was trouble” and had just been “beaten up by her boyfriend.” Id. ¶ 61. Plaintiff told Castillo that he was not responsible for any of G.R.'s injuries. Id. ¶ 62. Castillo was also aware that Plaintiff did not have a teardrop tattoo on his face. Id. ¶ 65.

         Castillo received several extensions from the Denver District Attorney to continue his investigation. Id. ¶ 66. He eventually submitted the case to the District Attorney, who declined to file charges. Id. ¶ 70. During the investigation, Plaintiff was incarcerated for “several days.” Id. ¶¶ 71-72. While in custody, Plaintiff suffered emotional damages and was assaulted by a cellmate. Id. ¶¶ 73-74.

         II. Procedural History

         Plaintiff initiated this suit on May 12, 2018, ECF NO. 1, and filed the operative FAC on October 10, 2018, ECF No. 16. The FAC asserts two claims for relief, both under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: (1) violation of Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights against “wrongful stop and detention, false arrest, and false imprisonment, ” and (2) a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights against malicious prosecution. Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the second claim for relief on January 11, 2019. See ECF Nos. 43, 44. Here, Defendants seek to dismiss the remaining claim arguing that Plaintiff fails to allege his constitutional rights were clearly established at the time of the incident, to plausibly state Donovan and Castillo personally participated in the alleged violations, and to demonstrate reasonable suspicion for the stop and probable cause for the unlawful seizure. Because Defendants fail to persuade this Court by binding or persuasive legal authority that it is proper in a Rule 12(b)(6) analysis to make determinations of reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause, the Court will not engage in such analysis, but will consider the Defendants' other arguments.[2]

         LEGAL ...


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