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Holloman v. Rawlings-Blake

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 12, 2014



CATHERINE C. BLAKE, District Judge.

Plaintiff Marcella Holloman, proceeding pro se and on behalf of her deceased son, Maurice Donald Johnson, filed this action against the Mayor of Baltimore City, [1] fifteen members of the Baltimore City Council, [2] the State's Attorney for Baltimore City, [3] the Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department, [4] and two Baltimore Police Department ("BPD") officers, [5] based on the tragic shooting death of her son by those two BPD officers. Holloman's amended complaint alleges claims under section 1983 for violations of the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. She also brings claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"); section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 ("section 504"); sections 1985(3) and 1986 of Title 42 of the United States Code ("sections 1985 and 1986"); and Maryland common law. All of the defendants except the two BPD officers have filed motions to dismiss. For the reasons stated below, these motions to dismiss will be granted.[6]


Holloman brings this lawsuit on behalf of the estate of her deceased son, Maurice Donald Johnson, who was shot and killed by BPD officers Markowski and Bragg at Holloman's home on May 19, 2012. Holloman's amended complaint alleges the following facts.

At the time of his death, Johnson, a 31-year-old, was living with Holloman at their shared home located at 3351 Elmora Avenue in Baltimore City. (Am. Compl. ("Compl.") 10, ECF No. 6.)[7] Johnson carried a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, for which he received disability benefits. (Compl. 9.) That Johnson was bipolar was "well known, " both because a record of his disorder existed in the Maryland state database of persons known to have mental disorders and because Officer Markowski had become aware of Johnson's disorder through prior interactions. ( Id. )

On May 19, 2012, at around 5:00 p.m., Johnson arrived at 3351 Elmora Avenue "visibly upset." (Compl. 10.) Holloman, not knowing what had made Johnson upset, attempted to take Johnson to the hospital for treatment, but he refused to go. ( Id. ) At around 5:05 p.m., Holloman called 911 seeking the assistance of both the BPD and the Baltimore Fire Department in transporting Johnson to the hospital. ( Id. ) Officers Markowski and Bragg, who were in uniform and on duty at the time, immediately responded to Holloman's call. ( Id. )

Officer Markowski was the first to arrive at 3351 Elmora Avenue, at 5:17 p.m. ( Id. ) Upon Officer Markowski's arrival, Holloman told him that Johnson was "o.k." or "fine" and that he was in the backyard, beyond the closed and locked rear door. (Compl. 11.) Holloman suggested that Officer Markowski wait for backup before approaching Johnson, as BPD policy apparently required. ( Id. ) Officer Markowski "paid no mind" to Holloman's suggestion and instead began looking around the home, eventually entering the kitchen area. ( Id. ) Holloman repeated her request for Officer Markowski to wait for backup and specifically asked him to wait in the front area of the home. ( Id. )

Shortly thereafter, Officer Bragg arrived and joined up with Officer Markowski in the rear area of the home. ( Id. ) Officer Markowski called Johnson's name, which prompted Johnson to knock on the rear door from the outside. ( Id. ) At this time, Officer Bragg undid the safety strap to his service weapon. ( Id. ) Holloman told Officer Bragg not to shoot Johnson. ( Id. ) Officer Bragg then unlocked and opened the rear door. ( Id. )

The officers grabbed Johnson by the arms even though they had no reasonable suspicion or probable cause that Johnson had committed a crime. (Compl. 12.) At no time did Johnson make any sudden movements or gestures that could be interpreted by the officers as aggressive or threatening. ( Id. ) Nor did Johnson say or do anything that would cause either officer to fear imminent bodily harm. ( Id. ) The officers could "clearly see" that Johnson was unarmed. ( Id. ) Without provocation or justification, Officer Markowski physically attacked Johnson, who "attempted to resist this unlawful force." ( Id. )

Johnson broke free from the officers' grip, and a struggle ensued. ( Id. ) During this struggle, both Officers Markowski and Johnson fell to the floor. ( Id. ) Johnson got on top of Officer Markowski, who then grabbed his service weapon and, at point blank range, shot Johnson twice in the chest. ( Id. ) Officer Bragg also shot Maurice once in the back. ( Id. ) Johnson fell forward and died. ( Id. ) The time between the officers' arrival and Johnson's death was about one minute or less. ( Id. )

Liberally construed, Holloman's amended complaint alleges defendants violated Johnson's rights in a variety of ways. The gist of her complaint is that Officer Markowski and Officer Bragg used excessive and deadly force in violation of the Fourth Amendment when they shot and killed Johnson. (Compl. 13.) Holloman seeks to hold the City of Baltimore ("City")[8] liable for the officers' acts. She alleges that the City's failure to supervise and train its police officers "constitute[d] gross negligence and/or deliberate and conscious indifference to people's rights[, ]" including Johnson's. (Compl. 15) Holloman also brings claims under Maryland common law against Mayor Rawlings-Blake, the City Council, and State's Attorney Bernstein for the negligent hiring, screening, training, supervising, and retention of Officers Markowski and Bragg. In Holloman's view, the defendants' acts constituted gross negligence.

Holloman seeks both injunctive and monetary relief. She seeks a permanent injunction requiring the City to (1) make publicly available autopsy reports in police shooting deaths, (2) establish a public independent review board with subpoena power, (3) make publicly available internal affairs reports in excessive force cases one year after any incident, and (4) remove from police complaint forms the requirement that citizens swear under oath to the facts in the complaint. Holloman seeks damages for Johnson's pain and mental anguish, as well as damages for her pecuniary loss, termination of her parent-child relationship, mental anguish, and loss of inheritance. Finally, she seeks punitive damages.

State's Attorney Bernstein moved to dismiss on July 22, 2014. Mayor Rawlings-Blake and the fifteen Baltimore City Council defendants moved to dismiss on July 25, 2014. BPD ...

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