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Barrientez v. Jefferson County

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

July 2, 2014

MICHAEL BARRIENTEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFERSON COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

HENRY EDWARD AUTREY, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendants Waters and Harster, [Doc. No. 68], Jefferson County and Boyer, [Doc. No. 70] and Jefferson County, Wegge, Robertson, and Hollingsworth, [Doc. No. 72]. Plaintiff opposes the Motions. For the reasons set forth below, the Motions are granted in part and denied in part.

Facts and Background[1]

Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 and various state claims. The instant Complaint alleges the following facts: On December 25, 2010, Plaintiff was at his residence with his minor children awaiting the arrival of their mother, Amanda Hloben, for purposes of a routine custody exchange. Hloben arrived at Plaintiff's residence to pick up the minor children. Hloben brought Phillip Rogers with her, notwithstanding a prior agreement not to bring Rogers to Plaintiff's residence.

Without incident, Hloben retrieved the minor children. When Plaintiff observed Rogers, an argument ensued which resulted in a call to the police. Hloben placed the call from her parents' residence which is located in Jefferson County, Missouri.

Defendants Waters and Harster arrived at the residence; Defendants Griggs and Lehman responded to Plaintiff's residence as they were conducting routine patrol in the general area at the time.

Defendants Waters, Harster, Griggs and Lehman made contact with Plaintiff at his residence where he was immediately placed in handcuffs for an alleged weapons violation. Plaintiff was admittedly cooperative with Defendants. Defendant Waters then informed Plaintiff that he also under arrest for Domestic Assault 3rd Degree, and Unlawful Use of a Weapon. At that time, Plaintiff was not in possession of a weapon, acquiesced to the application of force to secure in hand-cuffs and informed Defendants Waters and Harster that he did have a rifle and directed them to his bedroom closet.

Post- arrest and prior to confirming the existence of a weapon, and absent confirmation of an actual assault, Defendant Lehman retrieved an unloaded.22 caliber rifle and seized same. No ammunition was located at Plaintiff's residence and there was no attempt to confirm whether the rifle was functional. Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint further alleges that the rifle was inoperable.

During the search, which was conducted by Griggs and Lehman, Defendant Harster placed Plaintiff on the kitchen floor of the residence in prone position, and handcuffed Plaintiff's hands behind his back. Defendants Griggs and Lehman were allegedly aware that Defendant Harster was with Plaintiff in the kitchen and observed him in that location as the apartment residence is small. Defendants Griggs and Lehman were further aware that Plaintiff was forced to remain in prone position on the kitchen floor although he presented no physical threat to Defendants as he was restrained and otherwise cooperative. Defendant Waters proceeded out of the residence with one of Plaintiff's two children to meet with Ms. Hloben who was waiting in the parking lot.

The Third Amended Complaint further alleges that at the time, Plaintiff was recovering from significant cancer treatment, to include multiple skin grafts, bone removal and prosthetic replacement of portions of his skull and facial structure. Plaintiff alleges that lying on his stomach on the floor of the kitchen caused significant pain and discomfort due to the pressure of his own body-weight on his head and other areas subject to prior surgery and cancer treatment. Plaintiff requested the opportunity to sit-up because of the immense pressure and pain being exerted on his face and skull. Despite repeated requests, Defendant Harster referenced Plaintiff's Latino heritage, and denied the requests. Due to the pain, Plaintiff attempted to shift his body, specifically and only his head, to the other side in order to alleviate the pain caused by the pressure of being on the floor without adequate bone support to address the pressure his body weight placed on the cancer-stricken areas. At that time, Defendant Harster, while in the presence of Defendants Griggs and Lehman, lifted Plaintiff off of the ground by his arms and hand-cuffs and then slammed his face into the kitchen floor causing injury to Plaintiff and the expiration of a notable amount of blood from his face and head area. Plaintiff screamed out and attempted to move his body at which time Defendant Harster slammed his face to the ground for a second time, and then escalated the beating by ramming Plaintiff's head through a kitchen wall causing additional injury, to include laceration(s), bruising, contusion(s) and exacerbation of existing cancer-related ailments, all requiring hospitalization and all evidenced by medical records. Defendants Griggs, Lehman and Waters disregarded the actions of Defendant Harster and failed to intervene at any time.

Plaintiff was transported in police custody by Defendant Waters to Jefferson Regional Hospital for treatment for those injuries. Plaintiff was later transported by Defendant Waters to the Jefferson County Jail where he was jailed for several hours, searched thoroughly, interrogated by Defendants Waters and Harster, and forced to issue a written statement. While in custody, Defendant Waters communicated discriminatory bases for Defendant Harster's actions, including additional references to Latino heritage and immigration status, and informed Plaintiff that he would need to make a statement.

Plaintiff alleges that the written statement he made was demanded by Defendants Waters and Harster. In the written statement Plaintiff admitted pointing the rifle at Rogers so as to intimidate Plaintiff. Defendants Waters and Harster informed Plaintiff that he would not be allowed to leave until he submitted the written statement.

Defendants Waters and Harster then allegedly prepared materially false and inconsistent Incident reports including false representations that Plaintiff (1) used a weapon in the commission of an assault; (2) failed to comply with officers' directives; (3) struck ...


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