United States District Court, D. Colorado
RAYMOND P. MOORE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case arises from an officer-related shooting of a passenger
in a vehicle. This matter is now before the Court on
Defendant Tritschler's motion for summary judgment (ECF
No. 53) as to Plaintiff's claim for excessive force in
violation of the Fourth Amendment. The motion is fully brief.
Upon consideration of the motion and related briefing, and
the applicable law, and being otherwise fully advised, the
Court finds and orders as follows.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
following is gleaned from the supporting papers submitted by
the parties, to which no party has objected. Accordingly, the
Court will rely on the papers submitted. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56(c).
November 20, 2014, sometime after about 10:30 p.m., Defendant
Tritschler and five other officers from the Denver Police
Department (collectively, “Denver Police”)
responded to Aurora Police requesting through police dispatch
immediate cover to stop a vehicle that was eluding them. The
five other officers are the other individually named
Defendants in this case. Defendant Tritschler and his
partner, Officer McConnell, were in one police vehicle.
Officers Sandoval and DiManna were in a second police
vehicle, while Officers Hassman and Kay were in a third
police vehicle. The eluding vehicle was a Ford F-150 driven
by Joel Jurado, Plaintiff's brother, in which Plaintiff
was the front seat passenger.
Denver Police followed the F-150 into an industrial tractor
trailer parking lot in Commerce City. The driver drove the
F-150 between two parked tractor trailers and stopped. The
F-150 was blocked from going forward by the parking lot
fence, while Officers Sandoval and DiManna's vehicle
(“Vehicle 2”) was parked about 10 feet behind the
F-150, also between the two parked tractor trailers. Officers
Kay and Hassman parked their vehicle behind Vehicle 2.
Defendant Tritschler and his partner, along with Officers
DiManna and Sandoval, exited their vehicles and immediately
started to yell to Plaintiff and the driver to “put it
in park, ” “stop the vehicle, ” “stop
moving, ” and “show us your hands.” All
officers had their weapons drawn when they approached the
F-150 giving commands. Neither Plaintiff nor the driver,
however, were complying with the commands so Defendant
Tritschler used a trailer adjacent to the F-150 as cover.
is lighting in the parking lot but not in the area where the
F-150 had stopped. Nonetheless, the F-150 was lit due to
headlights from Defendant Tritschler's vehicle and lights
from one or more of the other Denver Police vehicles.
Defendant Tritschler and Officer Kay approached the passenger
side of the F-150; the passenger door was locked so Officer
Kay broke out the passenger window with a baton, with
Defendant Tritschler providing cover. Plaintiff screamed when
the window was broken. With the window broken, Defendant
Tritschler could see better into the F-150 but not entirely
because there was no ambient light there; he had no idea if
the driver and Plaintiff were armed. The officers continued
to yell commands and Officer Tritschler moved back to the
cover of the trailer.
the driver looked around, put the car in drive, tried to move
it, and ultimately gunned the F-150 in reverse towards
Vehicle 2. At that time, Officers Sandoval and Hassman were
standing between the rear of the F-150 and Vehicle 2, and
Officer DiManna was standing at the front-left side of
Vehicle 2. When the F-150 went into reverse, Officer DiManna
dove out of the way and Offices Sandoval and Hassman ran out
of the way. The officers could hear gunshots. The rear of the
F-150 hit and moved Vehicle 2.
gunshots came from Defendant Tritschler. During this time,
Defendant Tritschler was aware there were other officers
behind the F-150 when the driver gunned it in reverse.
Because of the F-150's movement, sometimes Plaintiff was
in Defendant Tritschler's field of vision and sometimes
he was not. When the F-150 gunned in reverse, Defendant
Tritschler got a clearer view of the driver and fired three
shots at the driver. When the F-150 stopped, some officers
pulled Plaintiff from the F-150 and handcuffed him, taking
him into custody. Other officers took the driver into
and the driver were wounded from Defendant Tritschler's
gunshots. Plaintiff thereafter filed this 42 U.S.C. §
1983 action alleging Defendants used excessive force in
violation of the Fourth Amendment. Defendants filed a Motion
to Dismiss which the Court granted in part and denied in
part. The Court granted the Motion to Dismiss as to all
Defendants except Defendant Tritschler. As to him, the Court
converted the Motion to Dismiss to a motion for summary
judgment (“MSJ”) and directed briefing. Plaintiff
filed a response and Defendant Tritschler filed a reply. The
matter is ripe for resolution.
judgment is appropriate only if there is no genuine dispute
of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Gutteridge v.
Oklahoma, 878 F.3d 1233, 1238 (10th Cir. 2018). Applying
this standard requires viewing the facts in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party and resolving all factual
disputes and reasonable inferences in his favor. Cillo v.
City of Greenwood Vill., 739 F.3d 451, 461 (10th Cir.
2013). However, “[t]he mere existence of some alleged
factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an
otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material
fact.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380
(2007). Whether there is a genuine dispute as to a material
fact depends upon whether the evidence presents a sufficient
disagreement to require submission to a jury or is so
one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
251-52 (1986); Stone v. Autoliv ASP, Inc., 210 F.3d
1132, 1136 (10th Cir. 2000). A fact is “material”
if it pertains to an element of a claim or defense; a factual
dispute is “genuine” if the evidence is so
contradictory that if the matter went to trial, a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for either party.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
immunity shields individual defendants named in § 1983
actions unless their conduct was unreasonable in light of
clearly established law. Estate of Booker v. Gomez,
745 F.3d 405, 411 (10th Cir. 2014). “[W]hen a defendant
asserts qualified immunity, the plaintiff carries a two-part
burden to show: (1) that the defendant's actions violated
a federal constitutional or statutory right, and, if so, (2)
that the right was clearly established at the time of the
defendant's unlawful conduct.” Id.
(quotation omitted). The district court may address the steps
in either order. Carabajal v. City of Cheyenne, Wy.,
847 F.3d 1203, 1208 (10th Cir. 2017) (citing Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236 (2009)). If the plaintiff
fails to satisfy either part of his burden, the court must
grant qualified immunity. Id.