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Colonna v. Township of Pennsville

May 19, 2010

STEVEN COLONNA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF PENNSVILLE, PENNSVILLE TOWNSHIP POLICE DEPARTMENT, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Salem County, Docket No. L-23-07.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted April 28, 2010

Before Judges Graves and J. N. Harris.

Plaintiff appeals from the dismissal of his complaint against defendants that alleged the negligent deprivation of his liberty, property, and firearms purchaser identification card by local government.*fn1 We find no basis to disturb the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants and therefore we affirm.

I.

We recite the facts most indulgently in favor of plaintiff because summary judgment was granted against him in the Law Division. Brill v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 142 N.J. 520, 523 (1995); Pote v. City of Atlantic City, 411 N.J. Super. 354, 356 (App. Div. 2010).

On January 3, 2005, a representative of defendant Pennsville Township Police Department (Department) received information from plaintiff's girlfriend, Tracy Neciles,*fn2 that plaintiff had told her that he was going to kill himself and that he also had waved a wooden-handled handgun in the air in her presence. At least six police officers were dispatched to plaintiff's residence in response to this information. At the scene, plaintiff calmly exited his dwelling--empty-handed--at the request of a police officer, and thereafter fully cooperated with law enforcement officials.

In his deposition, plaintiff denied waving a firearm, but conceded that he and Neciles had argued, and that he uttered words indicating that he was going to kill himself,*fn3 or at least gave that impression to Neciles:

Q: Do you ever recall threatening that you were going to kill yourself during the course of that argument?

A: Yeah. I think my words were to the effect that she was so vehement. I said I've had it, I'm getting out of here, words to that effect, I've had it I'm getting out and I meant it. I was tired of fighting with her all the time over everything and I was the only guy there trying to help her out. I was at my saturation point with her at that moment and I said I'm out of here, leave me alone, I'm leaving, which never materialized.

Q: And in addition to what you've told me about what you said, do you recall saying anything about harming Tracy, harming yourself, or harming anyone else?

A: I probably--I'm sure--I probably did use my poor grammatical example of, you know, I'm going to jump out the window, so to speak, leave me alone. Words to that effect. I think that's why she went to the police. She actually thought I was going to do something stupid.

After plaintiff surrendered to police officers at his home, he was not arrested, handcuffed, or charged with an offense. Instead, plaintiff was transported by police officers directly to Memorial Hospital of Salem County for what plaintiff described as "some kind of a psychological evaluation." Several hours later, after a mental health screening assessment had been administered to plaintiff, he was released. Although ultimately diagnosed with a major depressive disorder and referred for counseling, plaintiff was not found to be a danger to himself or to others. He called his girlfriend, who obligingly picked him up from the facility ...


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