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Heathershaw v. Phoenix Police Department

United States District Court, D. Arizona

April 11, 2016

Richard William Heathershaw, Plaintiff,
Phoenix Police Department, et al., Defendants.


Douglas L. Rayes United States District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment.[1] (Doc. 55.) The motion is fully briefed. For the following reasons, Defendants’ motion is granted.


On January 23, 2014, Defendants Phoenix Police Officers Daniel Rogers and George Fulton were dispatched to assist with two detained shoplifting suspects at a JC Penney store in Phoenix, Arizona. (Doc. 56, ¶¶ 1-2.) The suspects, Plaintiff Richard Heathershaw and a female accomplice, were detained in the JC Penney loss prevention office. (Id., ¶¶ 3-4.) Officer Fulton reviewed security footage and spoke with various JC Penney employees, including loss prevention staff. (Id., ¶¶ 6, 19, 21, 27, 30, 31.) His investigation revealed that Plaintiff and his accomplice first attempted to purchase several items with a check and identification card that JC Penney employees suspected were fraudulent. (Id., ¶¶ 10-11, 19-21.) After the purchase was denied, Plaintiff concealed two shirts in a bag that his accomplice was carrying. (Id., ¶¶ 11, 22.) JC Penney loss prevention staff stopped Plaintiff and his accomplice as they attempted to leave the store. (Id., ¶¶ 12, 13, 23, 29.) During the encounter, Plaintiff became violent. He punched one loss prevention employee and attempted to pull a knife on another. (Id., ¶¶ 15-16, 24-25, 29.) Eventually, loss prevention employees were able to handcuff Plaintiff and detain him in the loss prevention office. (Id., ¶¶ 17-18, 26, 35.)

Incident to the arrest, Officers Rogers and Fulton searched a backpack that Plaintiff was carrying. (Id., ¶ 36.) Inside, they found two debit cards that did not appear to belong to Plaintiff, along with numerous receipts for merchandise returned to various stores. (Id.) The backpack also contained a pawnshop receipt marked with the name “Daniel Bergin, ” and a glass pipe with what appeared to be white methamphetamine residue on it. (Id., ¶ 37.) When asked for his name, Plaintiff gave the name and date of birth for Daniel Bergin. (Id., ¶ 40.) However, MVD records revealed that Plaintiff did not resemble him. (Id.)

During the detention, Plaintiff complained that he was severely hurt and had breathing problems. (Id., ¶ 38.) Officers Rogers and Fulton called the Phoenix Fire Department to administer medical care, but the fire department determined there was nothing medically wrong with Plaintiff. (Id., ¶ 39.) Accordingly, the officers transported Plaintiff to the Mountain View Precinct for booking. (Id., ¶ 41.)

At the precinct, Officer Fulton removed Plaintiff’s handcuffs and attempted to obtain Plaintiff’s fingerprints on a fingerprint card. (Id.) Plaintiff refused to cooperate, clenched his hands into fists, placed his fists under his chest, and curled his body into a ball. (Id., ¶¶ 41-44.) Officers booked Plaintiff as a “John Doe” after determining that he was not going to cooperate. (Id., ¶ 46.) When officers attempted to place Plaintiff back in handcuffs, Plaintiff fell to the floor, began struggling, and kept his hands under his body. (Id., ¶ 47.) After Plaintiff refused officers’ commands to remove his hands from under his body, Officer Fulton used his knee to apply pressure to Plaintiff’s thigh in order to force compliance. (Id., ¶ 49.) Eventually, officers were able to handcuff him. (Id.)

Plaintiff against complained of injuries. He claimed that he had been assaulted at JC Penney and needed medical attention because he could not breathe. (Id., ¶ 52.) Officer Fulton once again contained the fire department to provide medical assistance, and the fire department once again found nothing medically wrong with Plaintiff. (Id., ¶ 53.) Officers Fulton and Rogers transported Plaintiff to Baptist Hospital for a medical examination. (Id., ¶ 54.) The hospital examined Plaintiff and took x-rays, but could find nothing medically wrong with him. (Id., ¶¶ 55-56.)

As he was escorted back to the patrol car, Plaintiff’s identification card fell out of his underwear. Officers conducted a records check and learned that there was a felony warrant for Plaintiff’s arrest and that he was considered a flight risk. (Id., ¶ 60.) Ultimately, Plaintiff was jailed on various charges related to his felony warrants and the shoplifting incident. (Id., ¶ 61.)


Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrates “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

Substantive law determines which facts are material and “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “A fact issue is genuine ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.’” Villiarimo v. Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Thus, the nonmoving party must show that the genuine factual issues “‘can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.’” Cal. Architectural Bldg. Prods., Inc. v. Franciscan Ceramics, Inc., 818 F.2d 1466, 1468 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250). Furthermore, the party opposing summary judgment “may not rest upon mere allegations of denials of pleadings, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Brinson v. Linda Rose Joint Venture, 53 F.3d 1044, 1049 (9th Cir. 1995); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). If the nonmoving party’s opposition fails to specifically cite to materials either in the court’s record or not in the record, the court is not required to either search the entire record for evidence establishing a genuine issue of material fact or obtain the missing materials. See Carmen v. S.F. Unified Sch. Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1028-29 (9th Cir. 2001); Forsberg v. Pac. N.W. Bell Tel. Co., 840 F.2d 1409, 1417-18 (9th Cir. 1988).


Plaintiff brings this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Officers Fulton, Rogers, and Michael Sales alleging that they violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by using excessive force during the booking process. (Doc. 1.) To succeed on a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must show “(1) that a right secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States was violated, and (2) that the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under color of State law.” Long v. Cty. of L.A., 442 F.3d 1178, 1185 (9th Cir. 2006). ‚ÄúLiability ...

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