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Mejica v. Montgomery County

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 15, 2014

GLADDEN L. MEJICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, MARYLAND, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD D. BENNETT, District Judge.

Plaintiff Gladden Mejica has filed various federal and state claims which arise from his detention by Montgomery County police officers and an ensuing search of his person. Currently pending before the Court are (1) a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 32) filed by Defendants Montgomery County, Maryland, Officer Charles J. Welter, and Officer Curtis Jacobs; (2) Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 38); and (3) Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration of this Court's January 28, 2013 Order Dismissing Officer John Wigmore (ECF No. 39).[1] The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration (ECF No. 39) is GRANTED and Officer John Wigmore will be reinstated as a Defendant in this case. Plaintiff is deemed to have abandoned his false arrest, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, and those claims are DISMISSED as to all Defendants. The Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 32) is GRANTED with respect to Plaintiff's remaining claims against Defendants, and Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 38) is DENIED.

BACKGROUND

This Court reviews the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007); see also Hardwick ex rel. Hardwick v. Heyward, 711 F.3d 426, 433 (4th Cir. 2013).

On June 20, 2011, the Montgomery County 911 Emergency Communications Center received a 911 call reporting a robbery in a parking lot outside the H&M Store at the White Flint Mall, located at 11301 Rockville Pike, Rockville, Maryland. While the initial dispatches contained contradictory information about the suspects, [2] an updated dispatch down-graded the call to a felony theft and indicated the suspects were two Asian males, possibly Filipino; one suspect was described as an Asian male, around 5'8" tall and 160 lbs., with a black Mohawk, glasses, a white t-shirt, and blue jeans; the other suspect was described as 5'4", 140 lbs. Asian male with a buzz cut, glasses, a blue or black shirt, and blue jeans. Several uniformed county police officers responded to the call.

In addition, the Second District Special Assignment Team (the "Team"), which included six officers in plain clothes and separate unmarked cars, also responded to the call. Current Defendants Charles Welter and Curtis Jacobs were members of the Team, as were the three former Defendants John Wigmore, Ryan Mungra, and Phillip Chapin.[3]

Defendant Welter arrived at the mall, parked his vehicle, and began walking around the road ringing the mall looking for the suspects. Defendant Welter identified two individuals-Plaintiff and Canong-whom he deemed to have resembled the description given in the dispatch, [4] and he radioed the other members of the Team. He followed these individuals towards Route 355. At one point, Defendant Welter observed Plaintiff and Canong leave the road and enter the woods on the side of the road. According to Defendant Welter, this diversion occurred as a marked police car approached. Defendant Welter's deposition testimony indicated that the individuals emerged onto Route 355 after the marked police car exited the mall and then began walking in a northerly direction. Defendant Welter radioed his observations to the rest of the team while he remained concealed in the woods for several more moments before also exiting the woods onto Route 355 and following the individuals at a distance.

Meanwhile, Defendant Jacobs had also responded to the call and had been searching for the suspects. Upon receiving Defendant Welter's radio updates, he drove past the suspects and determined that they also matched the suspects' descriptions from the dispatch. Accordingly, Defendant Jacobs continued driving north on Route 355 past the suspects and parked his car. Defendant Jacobs then met up with Defendant Mungra, and the two of them walked south on Route 355 towards Plaintiff and Canong, who were still approximately 20-25 feet away.[5] As Defendants Jacobs and Mungra walked towards Plaintiff and Canong, Defendant Wigmore approached them from the rear.

As the three officers converged on Plaintiff and Canong, the two boys suddenly began running in opposite directions.[6] Defendant Jacobs pursued Plaintiff. Plaintiff ran northeast away from Route 355 before encountering a hedge. At that point, Plaintiff slowed and turned, and Defendant Jacobs tackled Plaintiff into the bushes. A significant struggle ensued. At some point, Defendant Jacobs instructed Plaintiff to stop struggling and identified himself as a police officer.[7] At that point, Plaintiff ceased resisting, and Officer Jacobs handcuffed Plaintiff.

Defendant Jacobs then questioned Plaintiff. In addition, Plaintiff asserts that a separate Officer searched his pockets and looked through his wallet. The officers conducted a show-up identification;[8] however, the show up identification was negative. At that point, the Officers removed the handcuffs and explained to Plaintiff and Canong that they were no longer suspects. As it turned out, Plaintiff and Canong had attended a movie at the mall, and Canong had produced ticket stubs to the Officers as proof.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a court "shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). A material fact is one that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A genuine issue over a material fact exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. In considering a motion for summary judgment, a judge's function is limited to determining whether sufficient evidence exists on a claimed factual dispute to warrant submission of the matter to a jury for resolution at trial. Id. at 249.

In undertaking this inquiry, this Court must consider the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007). However, this Court must also abide by its affirmative obligation to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from going to trial. Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993). If the evidence presented by the nonmoving party is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment must be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50. On the other hand, a party opposing summary judgment must "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); see also In re Apex Express Corp., 190 F.3d 624, 633 (4th Cir. 1999). This Court ...


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