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PERSON v. WILLINGBORO TOWNSHIP

August 25, 2005.

LARRY GLENN PERSON, SR. and BOBBIE ANN PERSON, Plaintiffs,
v.
WILLINGBORO TOWNSHIP, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT KUGLER, Magistrate Judge

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This case is unpublished as indicated by the issuing court.] OPINION

Following two altercations with the police at his Willingboro home on May 17, 2001 and February 2, 2002, plaintiff Larry Glenn Person, Sr.*fn1 brought various claims against Willingboro Township, the Willingboro Township Police Department, and Patrol Officers James Zarzaca, William Smith, and William Spanier. On December 10, 2004, this Court entered summary judgment in favor of all defendants as to all claims, except for Person's claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, and excessive force against defendants Zarzaca and Smith. Summary judgment was denied as to those claims because the defendants' motion papers failed to address them. Cf. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986) (observing that the burden of establishing the nonexistence of a genuine issue of material fact is on the party moving for summary judgment).

Defendants' motion for reargument was denied on January 31, 2005. However, in the interest of judicial economy, this Court invited Zarzaca and Smith to file a second motion for summary judgment as to the remaining claims against them. This matter now comes before the Court upon Defendants' motion for summary judgment*fn2 on all remaining claims. For the reasons expressed in this opinion, Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted.

  I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

  Person resided at 10 Country Club Road in Willingboro, New Jersey, for over twenty years. He lived there with his wife, Bobbie Ann Person, and had four adult children.

  On February 2, 2002, Officer Zarzaca went to Person's residence with a warrant to arrest Person's son Lee. As he pulled onto the street, Zarzaca saw Lee outside the residence. When Zarzaca reached the end of the driveway, Lee saw him and ran toward the back of the house. Zarzaca saw Lee enter Person's residence through a rear sliding glass door.*fn3

  Zarzaca went to the front door, where he was confronted by Person. Person, who was carrying a cane and was in poor health, asked Zarzaca who he was looking for. At this point in the story, the parties' version of the events changes.

  A. PERSON'S VERSION

  Zarzaca told Person that he was looking for Lee, and that he had seen Lee go into the house. (Person Dep. 78:23-24.) Person, who did not know that Lee was inside, told Zarzaca that Lee was not there and attempted to close the door. (Id. 79:202-2, 80:12-14.) Zarzaca pushed the door open, knocking Person — who was on the other side of the door — to the ground. (Id. 79:22-23, 83:2-9.) Though his body had been positioned behind the door, Person did not intend thereby to prevent the police from entering his house. (Id. 89:11-14.0

  Zarzaca entered the house and began to direct other police officers inside. (Person Dep. 81:9-15.) Person, who was wearing only underwear, asked Zarzaca if the police had a warrant. (Id. 82:7-8, 92:17-18.) Zarzaca, who did have a warrant, said only that the police didn't need one. (Zarzaca Dep. 49:21-23; Person Dep. 82:14-16.) At that point in time, but no other, Person "probably" used "foul and abusive" language toward the officers and told them to get out of his house. (Person Dep. 86:3-21.) At no point did Person put his hands on any officer. (Id. 87:10-12.)

  Zarzaca walked down the hall and began to search a closet. (Person Dep. 87:17-21.) Person followed Zarzaca, stood in front of a bedroom door near the closet, and asked Zarzaca what he was looking for. (Id. 88:5-9, 89:17-25.) In positioning his body in front of the door, Person did not intend to prevent Zarzaca from entering the bedroom. (Id. 89:6-14.) However, Zarzaca "jumped up crazily" and told Person that he was under arrest for obstruction. (Id. 89:25-90:1.) Zarzaca pulled Person down to the floor, put his knee across Person's body, and handcuffed him. (Id. 90:7-9.)

  Person, who had an injured foot, was unable to walk following his arrest. (Person Dep. 92:22-23.) Along with another officer, Zarzaca dragged Person out of the house and placed him in a police car. (Id. 93:11-22.) These events caused Person emotional distress, from which Person suffered severe hypertension. (Pl.'s Ex. B.)

  B. ZARZACA'S VERSION

  Zarzaca told Person that he had a warrant for Lee's arrest, and that he had seen Lee enter the house. (Zarzaca Dep. 62:16-18.) Person, who was "screaming" and "very irate," told Zarzaca to "[g]et the fuck out" and called Zarzaca a "white SOB." (Id. 62:19-20.) Zarzaca repeated several times that he had a warrant for Lee's arrest and that he had seen Lee enter the house. (Id. 62:21-23.) Person tried to slam the door in Zarzaca's face, but Zarzaca put his foot in the door and began to push it open. (Id. ...


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