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Garressa Smith As Administratrix and v. Officer Dean Grandsen

November 14, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Joseph E. Irenas

IRENAS , Senior District Judge:


This matter comes before the Court on Defendant City of Camden's Motion for Summary Judgment. *fn1 (Dkt. No. 62) For the following reasons the Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.


There are several witnesses to the events that gave rise to this lawsuit; however, there are two distinctly different accounts of those events. For the purposes of this Motion, the Court must resolve all factual discrepancies in favor of the Plaintiffs. *fn2

On the night of December 21, 2007, Officer Dean Grandsen was a Camden City Police Officer on patrol near the 200 block of Pfeiffer Street in Camden, New Jersey. (Pl.'s Br. Opp. Grandsen's Sum. J. Mot. 1, Dkt. No. 64 ) At around 10:30 PM, Grandsen observed Kashon Smith, and his cousin, Kaysha Mitchell, crossing the street towards the side yard of the home located at 200 Pfeiffer Street. ( Id. at 3) By cutting through the side yard, the two could arrive at a friend's house located at 2114 Jones Street. ( Id. at 11) Smith, aged sixteen, was carrying a grill fork, appeared heavily intoxicated and was visibly upset over what was later discovered to be romantic complications. ( Id. at 4)

Once Smith and Mitchell had reached the side yard, Grandsen exited his vehicle, drew his duty weapon and engaged Smith. ( Id. at 5) Grandsen ordered Smith to drop the grill fork several times. ( Id. ) Although Smith did not drop the fork as instructed, Smith was not abusive or aggressive. ( Id. ) Witnesses located on the porch of 200 Pfeiffer pleaded with Grandsen not to shoot Smith. ( Id. They evidently did not think Smith was a danger. ( Id. ) At this point, Grandsen was approximately nineteen feet from where Smith stood. ( Id. )

After repeating the order to drop the fork two to three times, Grandsen shot Smith on the right-hand side of his torso. ( Id. ) Upon impact, Smith grabbed his torso and dropped the fork. ( Id. at 7) Smith was still nineteen feet from Grandsen. Grandsen again shot Smith in the torso at which point Smith collapsed face-down in a mulch bed. ( Id. Grandsen approached the bleeding Smith, handcuffed him and left Smith face-down in the mulch bed. ( Id. at 8)

At approximately 10:35 PM and shortly after the shooting, supervising officer Defendant Jeffrey Frampton arrived on the scene. (Pl.'s Br. Opp. Frampton's Sum. J. Mot. 2, Dkt. No. 65) Frampton ordered Officer Wright, the only other officer present, to drive Grandsen to the hospital. ( Id. at 3) Although Frampton observed that Smith was handcuffed face-down and in need of medical attention, Frampton waited ten more minutes to call the paramedics and left Smith unattended. ( Id. ) Both handcuffing Smith face-down and leaving him unattended were violations of police protocol. ( Id .) Frampton did not examine Smith to determine the severity of the situation. ( Id. at 10) No officer administered first aid to Smith or repositioned Smith face-up. ( Id. at 4)
Kaysha and Coron Mitchell, cousins to Smith aged sixteen and nine respectively, witnessed the entire episode in horror. ( Id. at 28) They saw Grandsen shoot Smith and about twenty-five to thirty officers who eventually arrived at the scene do nothing while Smith laid handcuffed face-down in the mulch. ( Id. )
At 10:51 PM, approximately sixteen minutes after Grandsen shot Smith, the Basic Life Support Team ("BLST") arrived. ( Id. at 4)) BLST Marilyn Rodriguez noted that Smith was unconscious and mulch was "preventing [Smith] from having a clear or patent airway." ( Id. , Ex. 13 at 25) Despite requests from the paramedics, police officers at the scene refused to remove Smith's handcuffs to facilitate medical treatment.

On the way to the hospital, no police officer accompanied Smith in the ambulance pursuant to police protocol. ( Id. at 6) As a result, the paramedics could not remove Smith's handcuffs to administer IV fluids. ( Id. ) Had a police officer accompanied Smith in the ambulance, Smith could have been handcuffed to the railing of the stretcher without compromising security. ( Id. at 7) Smith could then have received potentially lifesaving IV fluids. ( Id .)

At 10:55 PM, Smith arrived at Cooper University Hospital. At this point, the trauma surgeon demanded that the handcuffs be removed, which took an additional twenty minutes. ( Id. , Ex. 20 at 2) Smith did not receive IV fluids until 11:20 PM. At 12:04 AM, Smith passed away. According to Dr. David Flash, Smith's chances of survival were "markedly reduced by his being face down with debris in his mouth thus drastically interfering with his respiratory efforts, and by the lack of any fluid resuscitation until he arrived at the hospital." ( Id. , Ex. 20 at 3) Dr. Flash further opined, "[h]ad Mr. Smith not had his airway obstructed and had been given earlier intravenous fluids, there was a possibility of survival." ( Id. )

After these events, the Camden City Police Department did not perform an internal investigation. *fn3

(Pl.'s Counter-Statement of Facts at ¶ 38, Dkt. No. 70)

Nevertheless, Frampton had amassed a total of thirty-five internal investigations as a result of civilian complaints over the course of his career. ( Id. at ¶ 42) Although only one such complaint was sustained, several reports recommended further training and counseling. ( Id. at ¶ 45) Despite these recommendations, Frampton never received ...

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