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Thomas v. Attorney General of the State of New Jersey

February 8, 2010

DARYL K. THOMAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Joseph H. Rodriguez

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

This matter is before the Court on a motions for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 filed by Defendants Edward Fallon [54] and the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office, the Gloucester County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Gloucester County Sheriff's Department, and Detectives Barrett Johnson, William Perna, Gus Giovanazzi, Donald Gentile, Jay Loomis, and Thomas Atkinson [55]. The civil rights claim alleging excessive force, denial of timely medical treatment, and failure to train and supervise was originally filed by Plaintiff Daryl K. Thomas in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Cumberland County, but was timely removed to this Court. Oral argument on the motions was heard on the record January 28, 2010 and that record is incorporated here. For the reasons discussed that day, and those below, Defendant Fallon's motion will be granted and the Gloucester County Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

Background

The gravamen of the Complaint alleges that Plaintiff was subjected to excessive force in his home on or about February 2, 2006 in the course of his arrest by a fugitive task force on an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in Gloucester County.

According to Plaintiff, the Defendants knocked on his door at approximately 8:00 a.m., just after Plaintiff had let his dog into the house. (Pl. Dep., page 65.)*fn1 He did not answer the door because he was not dressed. (Id.) Rather, he "had to get [himself] together before [he] opened the door. So this was a while. It was like a standoff type thing. The cops kept knocking in the front and the back door." (Id.) At some point, Plaintiff barricaded the back kitchen door with the refrigerator. (Pl. Dep., pages 67-68, 102.) He "eventually" went upstairs, got dressed, and woke up his girlfriend, alerting her that the police were there for him. (Pl. Dep., pages 65-66.) Plaintiff heard the police advise him to "do something with the dog or we're going to shoot the dog," so he put the dog in an upstairs bedroom. (Pl. Dep., page 66.) Plaintiff's girlfriend went downstairs and reported that the police told her to open the door. (Id.) Plaintiff then descended the stairs with his hands raised, at which time the Defendants broke down the door. (Pl. Dep., page 66-67.)

Upon entry, a police officer called the "Zepper" punched Plaintiff in the mouth and knocked out Plaintiff's tooth when he had his hands up. (Pl. Dep., pages 99, 109.) Plaintiff stated that Defendants "about three or four or five of them proceeded to put the cuffs on me and then after that, they just proceeded to beat-they beat the daylights out of me while I was cuffed, while I was handcuffed." (Pl. Dep., page 111.)

Plaintiff was taken to a firehouse staging area prior to booking, where he "kept complaining about how [the police] beat [him] and [five or six officers] told [him] shut the F up or they [were] going to kill [him] quote-unquote." (Pl. Dep., page 122, 124.) They also instructed the paramedics present not to give Plaintiff medical treatment; the paramedics did give Plaintiff gauze to put in his mouth for the bleeding. (Pl. Dep., page 124.)

At about 3:30 p.m., Plaintiff was taken to Kennedy Memorial Hospital. (Pl. Dep., page 126, 138.) His Express Care Assessment Record from February 2, 2006 states that his teeth were broken during arrest and that he complained of acute and constant pain in his right thigh, teeth, and head. He has since developed back pain for which he has sought medical treatment.

In addition to his own deposition testimony, Plaintiff has submitted an affidavit in opposition to the motions which states:

[A]fter the officers had broken in, I was coming down the stairs, with my hands up ready to surrender. The officer who identified himself as the Zepper, punched me in my face which knocked out my gold tooth. I was then thrown to the floor from the steps and handcuffed.

At the time I was punched in the face, I had my hands up and offered absolutely no resistance and was making it obvious that I had surrendered.

The officer that punched me in the face did so deliberately to hurt me when I was offering no resistance. I can identify this officer at the time of trial or from pictures. Since I have been incarcerated since that time, I have been unable to attend any of the depositions to identify the people in person.

After I was on the ground and handcuffed, ALL of the officers who were in the house during the process of arresting me, then proceeded to punch and kick me. In fact, at one time, they were holding my leg and the other officers were taking turns kicking my right leg.

In fact, I am certain that the officers who also arrested Evangeline Davis, after subduing her, then also came over and participated in hitting and punching me.

We had to wait until Evangeline's father showed up to the house to take care of the kids, it seemed like there was approximately 10 or 15 minutes where I was laying on the floor waiting until Evangeline's dad arrived. During that time the officers would come by and put their knee in my face and back exerting a great deal of pressure on my head and back when I was handcuffed and on the ground.

It will be my testimony that, at the time I was punched in the face, I was offering no resistance. It will further be my testimony that the officers who came into the house assaulted me.

It is my testimony that all officers named in the Complaint all participated in the assault and hit me once while I was handcuffed and offering no resistance.

Additionally, it is my testimony that I was injured as a result of this incident. I initially went to the hospital where I was treated for the injury to my face and my right leg.

Attached to my certification are my hospital records. After I left the hospital, my leg blew up ...


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