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Calhoun v. Schweinsburg

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 12, 2015



DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.

Presently pending and ready for resolution in this civil rights case are a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants Paul Schweinsburg, Jason Avery, and Sean Burroughs (ECF No. 51), and a motion to withdraw admissions filed by Plaintiff Martin Calhoun, (ECF No. 53). The issues have been fully briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part, and Plaintiff's motion to withdraw admissions will be granted.

I. Background[1]

A. Factual Background

On May 21, 2009, Plaintiff was driving his vehicle in Clinton, Maryland, when he observed that he was being followed by a police cruiser. As soon as Plaintiff noticed that the police cruiser had activated its sirens, he pulled his vehicle over into the parking lot of a gas station. Plaintiff watched as Officer James Lacombe approached his vehicle, and noticed that he had raised his baton. Plaintiff, who had been beaten by police before, panicked when he saw the raised baton and drove away. Officer Lacombe got back in his police cruiser and continued pursuing Plaintiff with his sirens activated. During the pursuit, Officer Lacombe radioed for back-up and requested a stolen vehicle check. (ECF No. 51, at 2). The dispatcher informed him that the vehicle driven by Calhoun was not stolen. (Id. ). Plaintiff drove for a short while and then subsequently returned to the same gas station, parked his vehicle, got out, put his hands up and yelled "don't shoot." (ECF No. 51-11, at 11). At this point, Officers Schweinsburg and Burroughs, and Lieutenant Avery, had arrived on the scene. (ECF No. 51-2, at 2). Plaintiff saw multiple police officers arrive, again started panicking, and began to flee from the officers on foot. (ECF No. 51-11, at 11). Officers Schweinsburg and Lacombe chased Plaintiff on foot while Lt. Avery and Officer Burroughs secured Plaintiff's vehicle. (ECF No. 51-2, at 2). At this point, Plaintiff's and Defendants' version of the events diverge.

1. Plaintiff's Version of the Events

During the on-foot pursuit, Plaintiff yelled out to the officers that he was unarmed and asked them not to shoot him. (ECF No. 45 ¶ 21). Plaintiff heard the officers yelling "shoot him" and "tase him." (ECF Nos. 54-1, at 2 and 51-11, at 11). Plaintiff was tased by one of the officers, lost control of his muscles, and fell to the ground into a hole. (Id. ). While Plaintiff was on the ground, he was punched and kicked by the Officers for approximately five minutes. (ECF Nos. 45 ¶¶ 24-25, 28 and 51-11, at 11, 20-21). Plaintiff curled up in a ball to protect his face and his previously injured hip. (ECF Nos. 45 ¶ 27 and 51-11, at 11). Eventually one of the officers said "let him up" and the officers proceeded to handcuff Plaintiff. (ECF No. 54-1, at 2).

Following this incident, Plaintiff was taken by ambulance to Southern Maryland Hospital, where he was treated. (Id. ¶ 36). Upon release, Plaintiff was taken to the Department of Corrections in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Plaintiff states that he suffered painful injuries as a result of Defendants' conduct, including bruises, lacerations, and contusions, suffered severe physical and mental pain and suffering, and incurred expenses for legal services as well as for hospital and physician care[.]" (ECF No. 45 ¶ 37).

2. Defendants' Version of the Events

During the on-foot pursuit, Officers Schweinsburg and Lacombe chased Plaintiff, and Officer Schweinsburg repeatedly called out to him to "stop, show his hands, and that he was under arrest." (ECF No. 51-2, at 2). Plaintiff did not obey Officer Schweinsburg's commands. Instead, at some point during the pursuit Plaintiff turned toward Officer Schweinsburg and with one fist clenched started to approach the officer in an aggressive manner. Officer Schweinsburg, who could only see one of Plaintiff's hands, deployed his taser because he could not tell if Plaintiff was holding a weapon in his other hand. After being tased, Plaintiff fell into a hole. Plaintiff continued to resist Officer Lacombe and Schweinsburg's attempts to arrest him by struggling and crawling further into the hole. The Officers were finally able to handcuff Plaintiff and pull him from the hole. During the struggle, neither of the officers tackled Plaintiff, nor did they hit, beat, kick, or punch him. (ECF No. 51-2, at 3-4). Plaintiff was taken to Southern Maryland Hospital where he was treated for the removal of the taser prongs and then released and taken to the Department of Corrections.

B. Procedural Background

On May 18, 2012, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland.[2] (ECF No. 2). Defendants removed the case to this court on July 6, 2012, based on federal question jurisdiction. (ECF No. 1). Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on September 25, 2013, asserting two counts: (1) false arrest without probable cause under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and (2) excessive force under § 1983 in violation of Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights and his rights under the Maryland Declaration of Rights, Articles 24 and 25. (ECF No. 45).

On May 2, 2014, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 51). Defendants requested in their motion that their requests for admissions that were sent to Plaintiff on February 6, 2014 and March 26, 2014, to which Plaintiff failed to respond, be deemed admitted. (ECF No. 51-2, at 5). On June 14, 2014, Plaintiff opposed the motion and moved for leave to withdraw admissions. (ECF Nos. 53 and 54). Defendants ...

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