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Tracey Miller, Sr v. Waterford Township

November 14, 2011


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


IRENAS, Senior District Judge

Plaintiff Tracey Miller initiated this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Waterford Township, the Borough of Chesilhurst, Evesham Township, and several of their police officers.*fn1 Plaintiff alleges violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights stemming from incidents of alleged harassment, unlawful arrest and excessive force. Pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) by Defendants Chief of Police John W. Knoll ("Defendant Knoll"), Detective Leonard F. Thackston ("Defendant Thackston"), and Officer Brent Staiger ("Defendant Staiger"). In addition, Defendants Borough of Chesilhurst ("Chesilhurst") and Officer Chris Francis ("Officer Francis") have filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c).


According to the Complaint, Plaintiff was involved in a highly contested divorce matter which also involved a domestic violence complaint. (Compl. ¶ 18.) Defendant Sergeant McNally ("Defendant McNally") of the Waterford Township Police Department was close friends with the father of Plaintiff's ex-wife, and the Complaint alleges that because of this "liberties were taken by various police officers in the Waterford Twp. Police Department against Plaintiff." (Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff was allegedly "under surveillance" and officers "would frequently pass by his house, slow down as they approached his house and would stay there for several minutes in an attempt to harass and/or intimidate him." (Id. ¶ 19.) The Complaint details specific incidents giving rise to the instant action.

On September 23, 2010, Defendant Thackston of the Waterford Police Department stopped Plaintiff for speeding and issued him a ticket for careless driving. (Id. ¶ 21.) After departing, Defendant Thackston allegedly "gestured to the Plaintiff by signaling to him the middle finger." (Id. ¶ 21.)

On October 14, 2010, Plaintiff was stopped by Defendant Officer Timothy Lyons ("Defendant Lyons") of the Waterford Police Department for failure to come to a complete stop at an intersection. (Id. ¶ 22.) Plaintiff was placed under arrest and issued summonses for various violations.*fn2 (Id. ¶ 23.)

On October 18, 2010, Plaintiff had an encounter with Defendant McNally which ultimately resulted in Plaintiff being charged with various motor vehicle and criminal offenses. (Id. ¶ 26.) On this date, Plaintiff left his home in his vehicle with his minor daughter and drove past the home of his ex-wife, who lives on the same street. (Id.) While doing so, he took a photograph of Defendant McNally's police cruiser parked in her driveway. (Id.) After realizing "that he had forgotten something at his home," he returned home. (Id. ¶ 27.) As he passed the home of his ex-wife again, Defendant McNally pulled out ahead of him, only to pull over and let Plaintiff pass him. (Id.) Plaintiff then pulled off the roadway and parked in an abandoned parking lot. (Id.)

The Complaint avers what happened next.

All of a sudden and without warning, the Defendant, Sergeant McNally, admitted that he made a u-turn after passing the Plaintiff and pulled his vehicle into the abandoned parking lot behind the Plaintiff's vehicle in an attempt to apparently have some sort of confrontation with Plaintiff. At that time, Defendant, Sergeant McNally exited his vehicle and ran up to the vehicle being operated by Plaintiff with his gun drawn. Plaintiff had his window down with the exception of approximately 3 inches. He was instructed by Defendant, Sergeant McNally, to place his hands on the wheel and also to exit the vehicle. The young SM telephoned her grandmother and indicated that she believed that Defendant, Sergeant McNally was going to kill the Plaintiff based upon the fact that he had a gun drawn and was yelling "I should have shot you when I had the fucking chance." Plaintiff was in fear of his life and was also concerned that he was going to be shot and killed by the Defendant, Sergeant McNally, right in front of his minor daughter.

Therefore, he jumped out of the vehicle and ran approximately 50 feet and fell to the ground. (Id. at 28.) Plaintiff was then "placed under arrest, handcuffed and then pummeled by Defendant, Sergeant McNally and Defendant, Officer Davis, an off duty Evesham Township Police Officer, as well as other police officers of the Defendant, Waterford Township." (Id. at 29.)

On April 9, 2011, Plaintiff was traveling to his home when a police cruiser pulled out behind him. (Id. at 31.) When Plaintiff arrived at his home, an altercation ensued during which Defendant Officer Lyons allegedly "violently slammed Plaintiff to the ground, jumped on his back and pounced his face into the ground." (Id. at 32.) Defendant McNally "smashed" Plaintiff's face into a pile of wood chips and continued to punch him.*fn3 (Id. at 33.)

According to the Complaint, "[v]arious criminal charges have been filed and the Officers involved herein, are also currently under criminal investigation by the Camden County Prosecutor's Office as a result of the incidents outlined herein." (Id. at 37.) The Complaint further alleges that Defendant Chief John Knoll "was aware that the Defendants had previously been charged for harassing and assaulting other individuals and failed to take corrective actions, punish and/or remove the Defendants from the official police duties." (Id. at 39.)

On June 13, 2011, Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this Court. On September 6, 2011, Defendants Knoll, Thackston, and Staiger filed a Motion to Dismiss. On September 26, 2011, Defendants Chesilhurst and Officer Francis filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.



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