Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

RIDGEWAY v. CITY OF WOOLWICH TWP. POLICE DEPT.

April 24, 1996

KENNETH RIDGEWAY, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CITY OF WOOLWICH TWP. POLICE DEPT., THE CITY OF WOOLWICH, NEW JERSEY, and PAUL LADD, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: IRENAS

 IRENAS, District Judge:

 Plaintiff was shot in the back by Officer Paul Ladd while fleeing on foot after an extensive automobile pursuit. At the time of the shooting, Officer Ladd reasonably believed that the plaintiff had been involved in a robbery using a chemical spray, that he had fled the scene of the crime in a car, and that he had led two police cars on a high speed chase. Officer Ladd also was aware that plaintiff rammed his car into the police vehicles three times, and that after stopping his vehicle in a parking lot, plaintiff bent over in his car as if to pick something up and then fled the scene on foot. Plaintiff's back was to the officer at the time of the shooting, and it is disputed whether Officer Ladd issued any warning to plaintiff of his intention to shoot. Given these facts, which shaped Officer Ladd's perception of the incident, the Court finds that it was not feasible for Ladd to issue a warning before firing at Ridgeway, and that as a matter of law, Officer Ladd's use of deadly force was reasonable and not excessive. The Court will grant defendants' motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's claim against Ladd and on his claim against the city and police department for inadequate training.

 I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

 On November 15, 1994, plaintiff filed a complaint in federal court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violation of his constitutional rights at the time of his apprehension and arrest due to the defendant officer's use of excessive and deadly force and the police department's failure to properly train its officers in the use of deadly force. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages in the sum of two million dollars for mental and physical injuries, as well as exemplary and injunctive relief. Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on February 27, 1996, arguing that the actions of Officer Ladd in arresting plaintiff do not constitute excessive force, and that plaintiff has not set forth evidence sufficient to establish unconstitutional policies on the part of the police department. Plaintiff responded to the motion on March 13, 1996.

 II. STATEMENT OF FACTS1

 On December 29, 1992, Kenneth Ridgeway was driving in New Jersey with a friend, James Hall, on his way back to Chester, Pennsylvania. The two men stopped in a Thriftway parking lot. Plaintiff claims that while he moved to the passenger's seat of the car and slept for approximately twenty minutes, his friend went into the store and returned with a woman yelling at him because he had stolen her purse. The defendants claim that plaintiff himself robbed a woman in the parking lot by spraying a chemical substance in her face, grabbing her purse, and then dragging her 50 feet across the parking lot before the strap broke. According to plaintiff, Hall got into the driver's seat upon his return, drove away quickly, and nearly caused an accident before running the car into some bushes at the side of the road, at which time Mall jumped out of the car and ran away. Plaintiff then moved to the driver's side and fled the scene at high speed. Information about the incident was broadcast on the police radio.

 Approximately five minutes later, plaintiff noticed a marked police car preparing to pursue him. Logan Township Ptl. George McErlain, who had heard the radio broadcast, was driving the police car. Ridgeway took the first exit from the road. He alleges that he had difficulty controlling his car due to wet and slippery road conditions. Plaintiff did a u-turn and headed back up the highway ramp. He then collided head-on with the police car which had been pursuing him, disabling the police unit. Plaintiff continued to flee at a high rate of speed. McErlain broadcast these facts on the police radio.

 Plaintiff states that he drove off toward Chester instead of stopping because he was scared. After about ten minutes, he saw that another police car was following him. Woolwich Tp. P.O. Paul Ladd was driving this police car. He had heard the police broadcast about Ridgeway and he began pursuing the plaintiff with overhead red lights and siren activated. On Pedrickton Road, near the residence of Dale Hurff, and in his sight, plaintiff made a u-turn and hit Ladd's police car. Hurff Statement, Defendants' Exhibit C, at 3-4. According to Hurff, Ridgeway deliberately struck the police car in a head-on collision. Id. at 4. Steam and smoke were coming from Ladd's car after the collision. Id. at 5. Ladd continued to pursue Ridgeway, followed by Hurff in his pick-up truck. Hurff had decided on his own initiative to assist the police.

 Ridgeway proceeded through an intersection without stopping at the stop sign. Eventually he turned into a dead-end parking lot. In the lot, plaintiff did another u-turn and again directly aimed his car at Ladd's vehicle. Ladd tried to back up his car to avoid the collision. Plaintiff hit Ladd, causing plaintiff's car to be "more or less flipped sideways into the parking lot." Id. at 7. Hurff then pulled his truck between the police car and Ridgeway's car and trapped plaintiff in the parking lot.

 Hurff and Ladd state that they saw Ridgeway lean over in his car toward the floor of the passenger's side before getting out, in a manner consistent with an attempt to locate a weapon. Ladd states that he drew his service weapon and ordered plaintiff out of his car. Hurff states that plaintiff appeared to be trying to point something at the officer, and the officer told plaintiff to halt or he would shoot. Plaintiff claims that Officer Ladd did not give him any warning that he was about to shoot. Plaintiff exited his vehicle and began to run away from Officer Ladd. The time of this incident was approximately 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m.

 Ladd fired 10-20 rounds at Ridgeway as he fled. The first bullet hit plaintiff in the back and he began to scream. Ladd continued to fire and plaintiff states that this caused him to keep running to avoid the shots. Hurff states that he heard plaintiff's hollering loudly and clearly as he ran away. Plaintiff jumped over a fence and continued running. He was later found by other police officers unconscious in a garbage dumpster. Plaintiff was arrested and taken to Cooper Medical Center for treatment. After 6 hours of surgery and a 6-day stay in the hospital, plaintiff was taken into custody. A crack pipe was later found in plaintiff's car, leading defendants to believe that plaintiff was under the influence of crack at the time of the incident.

 Plaintiff was charged by the Logan Township Police Department with two counts of robbery, possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, three counts of aggravated assault, two counts of eluding police, and two counts of criminal mischief. Plaintiff pleaded guilty to complicity to commit robbery and eluding police.

 Ridgeway began receiving therapy for his injuries three months after the incident, and was still receiving therapy at the time he filed his complaint. A bullet from the incident is still lodged in his back. Plaintiff states that he has limited use of his left arm and shoulder, is in constant pain, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.