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Gravely v. Speranza

January 17, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Irenas, Senior District Judge


This lawsuit arises from injuries suffered by Plaintiff Dwuane Gravely ("Plaintiff") stemming from the events leading up to his arrest and eventual conviction for several federal offenses. Plaintiff alleges that the defendants subjected him to excessive force and deprived him of due process in violation of his constitutional rights. Presently before the Court are the Motions for Summary Judgment by two groups of the remaining defendants in this case.


Dwaune Gravley ("Plaintiff") alleges that on July 30, 2001, at approximately 7:30 p.m., five officers of the Bridgeton Police Department shot him numerous times, causing life-threatening injuries, a permanent loss of the use of his left hand and arm, as well as emotional and psychological trauma. Plaintiff also contends that officers and investigators participated in a conspiracy to cover up this incident and also fabricated accounts of the true events, which resulted in Plaintiff's incarceration.

Many of the facts regarding the events of July 30 are undisputed. At 7:17 p.m., Sergeant Anthony Crokus ("Crokus") received a report of an armed home invasion perpetrated by Plaintiff. Crokus dispatched police units to the home, and alerted responding officers that the perpetrator was armed with a machine gun. Patrolman Michael Speranza ("Speranza") responded to Crokus' dispatch and drove toward the home. Speranza intercepted Plaintiff's vehicle near the scene of the home invasion and attempted to pull Plaintiff over, activating the lights and sirens on his patrol car.

Plaintiff stopped his vehicle in the middle of the road, exited the car and began to run away with a loaded Uzi 9 millimeter semi-automatic rifle in his hand. Patrolman James Battavio ("Battavio") had also arrived at the scene and got out of his car with his gun drawn. Speranza ran after Plaintiff. Plaintiff turned, pointed his weapon at Speranza and fired.*fn1 Speranza shot twice at Plaintiff as he fled, hitting him once in the shoulder. Speranza then radioed that shots had been fired. Back-up units responded to Speranza's transmission; Detective Rick Pierce ("Pierce"), Crokus, Patrolman Gary Kehn ("Kehn"), and Patrolman Richard Johnson ("Johnson") were among the responding officers.

Plaintiff continued to evade police on foot.*fn2 He fired shots at Officer Johnson and a bystander. After running through several commercial parking lots in the area and past the State Building in Bridgeton, Plaintiff entered a car stopped at a traffic light at a nearby intersection and pointed his gun at the driver's head. Plaintiff then tried to crawl under the dashboard. The car was occupied by James and Grace Gayle and their twenty-month-old child, who was in the rear of the car. As Plaintiff was lying on the floor of the vehicle, Kehn, Battavio, Pierce, and Crokus shot at Plaintiff in the vehicle, "striking him multiple times in the left side." (Pl. Opp. Brief at 4).

Crokus pulled Plaintiff out of the vehicle and onto his back, and Pierce grabbed Plaintiff's weapon. Speranza then kicked Plaintiff. Plaintiff contends that Speranza kicked him until Speranza was stopped by Crokus. Speranza maintains that Plaintiff appeared to be reaching for a weapon concealed at his waist and disregarded orders to stop resisting and to remain still.

During this incident, the officers fired a total of seventeen rounds. Speranza fired his gun twice, Battavio four times, Crokus once and Ken eight times. It is unclear from the record how many times Plaintiff was shot. Plaintiff contends that as a result of being shot, he has permanently lost the use of his left hand and arm, and has suffered emotional distress.

Plaintiff was initially indicted by a Cumberland County grand jury for various crimes arising from the events of July 30, 2001. The state court indictment was dismissed and Plaintiff was indicted by a federal grand jury on August 22, 2002. On November 21, 2003, a jury found Plaintiff guilty of one count of possession with intent to distribute more than five grams of crack cocaine, two counts of discharging a firearm in conjunction with a violent or drug-related crime, one count of car-jacking, and one count of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon.

On November 20, 2002, Plaintiff filed a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Speranza, Kehn, Battavio, Crokus, Pierce, Johnson, Sergeant Michael Giamari ("Giamari"), Detective William Scull ("Scull"), Detective Thomas Bebee ("Bebee"), Assistant Prosecutors Arthur Marchand and Thomas DeSimmone,*fn3 and the City of Bridgeton, alleging that Defendants' actions violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights.

Specifically, Plaintiff has raised the following claims: (1) excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment against Speranza, Battavio, Kehn, Pierce and Crokus; (2) conspiracy to deprive Plaintiff of his constitutional rights by covering up the incident of excessive force against Speranza, Battavio, Kehn, Pierce, Crokus, Giamari and Johnson; (3) falsification of official reports against Johnson; (4) presentation of perjury before the Cumberland County grand jury against Scull; (5) failure to preserve evidence against Bebee; (6) failure to follow departmental policies against Giamari; (7) municipal liability for failure to train officers resulting in the violation of his constitutional rights; and (8) prosecutorial misconduct based on the failure of Marchard and DeSimmone to turn over exculpatory evidence as required by Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).

Bebee and Scull jointly filed a motion for summary judgment. The City of Bridgeton, Speranza, Battavio, Kehn, Pierce, Crokus, Johnson, and Giamari ...

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