Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Miller-Cunningham v. MacAllister

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 12, 2019

Garrett Miller-Cunningham, Plaintiff,
Michael MacAllister, Defendant.


          James A. Teilborg Senior United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Garrett Miller-Cunningham, who is represented by counsel, brought this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1.) Defendant Michael MacAllister, [1] moves for summary judgment, and Plaintiff opposes. (Docs. 37, 42.)

         I. Background

         In his Complaint, Plaintiff relevantly alleged as follows. On March 4, 2016, Plaintiff was approached and questioned by Defendant MacAllister (hereinafter Defendant), a former City of Maricopa police officer, while Plaintiff was at a Circle K convenience store. (Doc. 1 at 10-11.) When Defendant learned that Plaintiff was carrying a handgun, Defendant arrested Plaintiff for allegedly unlawfully carrying a firearm after having been convicted of a felony, even though Plaintiff has never been convicted of a felony. (Id. at 12-13.) Defendant transported Plaintiff to the Pinal County Jail where he was booked and incarcerated. (Id. at 15.) Plaintiff was incarcerated for approximately three months before the charge against him was dismissed. (Id. at 18-20.)

         Plaintiff asserted claims of false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. (Id. at 27). He requested declaratory and injunctive relief, damages, costs, and attorney fees. (Id. at 29.)

         Defendant previously sought to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint claiming entitlement to qualified immunity. The Court denied the Motion to Dismiss on the ground that “factual allegations in the Complaint are incomplete as to what information was known to Defendant at the time of arrest.” (Doc. 28 at 7.) Accordingly, the Court could not decide whether qualified immunity was appropriate at the motion-to-dismiss stage. (Id.)

         Defendant now seeks summary judgment on the ground that he is entitled to qualified immunity. (Doc. 37.)

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         A court must grant summary judgment “if the movant shows 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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The movant bears the initial responsibility of presenting the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record, together with affidavits, if any, that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

         If the movant fails to carry its initial burden of production, the nonmovant need not produce anything. Nissan Fire & Marine Ins. Co., Ltd. v. Fritz Co., Inc., 210 F.3d 1099, 1102-03 (9th Cir. 2000). But if the movant meets its initial responsibility, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to demonstrate the existence of a factual dispute and that the fact in contention is material, i.e., a fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, and that the dispute is genuine, i.e., the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 250 (1986); see Triton Energy Corp. v. Square D. Co., 68 F.3d 1216, 1221 (9th Cir. 1995). The nonmovant need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor, First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968); however, it must “come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (internal citation omitted); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).

         At summary judgment, the judge's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. In its analysis, the court must believe the nonmovant's evidence and draw all inferences in the nonmovant's favor. Id. at 255. The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider any other materials in the record. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

         III. Facts

         On March 4, 2016 at 10:45 p.m., while on patrol, former City of Maricopa police officer Defendant MacAllister was dispatched to a Circle K convenience store in the City of Maricopa on reports from Plaintiff that he was being followed by a “gang of Mexicans.” (Doc. 38 ¶ 3; Doc. 41 ¶ 3.) Plaintiff stated to dispatch that he had a “20-round clip” in “storage, ” and if he had his “AK pistol, ” he would have “enough for everybody.” (Id.) Plaintiff admitted to having a Glock 23 handgun in his possession and that the weapon was in his waistband. (Id.)

         Defendant and Officer Burnias arrived at the Circle K and approached Plaintiff, who raised his hands and showed the officers he had a firearm-a Glock 23 .40 caliber semiautomatic handgun. (Doc. 38 ¶ 4, Doc. 41 ¶ 4.) Defendant took possession of the firearm and conducted a stolen firearms check. (Doc. 38 ¶ 5, Doc. 41 ¶ 5.) Plaintiff told the officers that he was being followed and his cousin had “put a hit on him” from the drug cartels. (Doc. 38 ¶ 7, Doc. 41 ¶ 7.) Plaintiff pointed to a couple getting gasoline and stated that they had followed him from California. (Doc. 38 ¶ 8, Doc. 41 ¶ 8.) When the officers asked Plaintiff why he thought the couple were following him, he became agitated and told Officer Burnias to “just shoot” him and “get it over with.” (Doc. 38 ¶ 9, Doc. 41 ¶ 9.) Plaintiff identified his vehicle for the Officers and Defendant approached the vehicle and noted a broken rear window. (Doc. 38 ¶ 10, Doc. 41 ¶ 10.) When Defendant asked about the broken rear window, Plaintiff told him to stop asking “dumb-ass questions” and asked for his firearm back. (Doc. 38 ¶ 11, Doc. 41 ¶ 11.) Plaintiff stated he did not trust the Officers and called 9-1-1 dispatch, claiming the officers might “plant” something in his vehicle. (Doc. 38 ¶ 12, Doc. 41 ¶ 12.) Defendant disassembled the firearm and placed the disassembled pieces in the back of Plaintiff's vehicle. (Doc. 38 ¶ 13, Doc. 41 ¶ 13.) Defendant told Plaintiff he wished him a better day and the Officers left the scene. (Doc. 38 ¶ 14, Doc. 41 ¶ 14.)

         Shortly after the first incident, Defendant was dispatched to the same scene, this time stemming from a complaint that a subject was standing outside the Circle K convenience store entrance allegedly holding a gun in his hand and acting suspiciously. (Doc. 38 ¶ 15.) Plaintiff denies that he ever held or brandished his gun, but does not dispute with any evidence that Defendant received a report that Plaintiff was holding a gun in his hand. (Doc. 41 ¶ 15.) Defendant and Officer Burnias returned to the Circle K and approached the subject of the complaint, who turned out to be Plaintiff, and detained him for questioning. (Doc. 38 ¶ 16, Doc. 41 ¶ 16.) Defendant spoke with Plaintiff, who was in possession of his reassembled firearm. (Doc. 38 ¶ 17, Doc. 41 ¶ 17.) Plaintiff told the officers he had not pulled his gun out. (Doc. 38 ¶ 18, Doc. 41 ¶ 18.)

         Defendant spoke with a Circle K employee, who stated that Plaintiff had been outside the Circle K holding a gun in his hand, staring at passing vehicles, that customers had complained about Plaintiff, and that she wanted Plaintiff to leave the property. (Doc. 38 ¶¶ 19-20, Doc. 41 ¶ 20.)) Plaintiff denies that he held or brandished his gun during this time, but does not dispute that this is what the Circle K employee told Defendant. (Doc. 41 ¶ 19.)

         Defendant then conducted a “wants and warrants” check on Plaintiff that came back negative. (Doc. 38 ¶ 21, Doc. 41 ¶ 21.) Defendant then conducted a prior felony conviction check through the dispatch center and was advised that Plaintiff had multiple felony convictions, including a conviction for grand theft of an automobile. (Doc. 38 ¶ 22.)[2] From his personal experience, Defendant believed dispatch information on a suspect's prior felony record was reliable and trustworthy. (Id.) The dispatch center stated that it was forwarding the criminal history report to Maricopa Police Department Sergeant Paulsen, who was also on the scene. (Id. ¶ 23)[3] Prior to that evening, Defendant received information from the same dispatch center on suspects' warrants, license status, and prior convictions and had never before received incorrect information. (Doc. 38 ¶ 24; Doc. 41 ¶ 24.)

         As Defendant continued talking to Plaintiff, Sergeant Paulsen informed Defendant that Paulsen had confirmed that Plaintiff had prior felony convictions. (Doc. 38 ¶ 25.)[4]Defendant believed Sergeant Paulsen's information was based on a review of the criminal history report provided to Paulsen by the dispatch center. (Id. ¶ 26.)[5] Defendant and Sergeant Paulsen, Defendant's on-scene supervisor, have worked together before, and Defendant considers him a reliable Sergeant. (Id. ¶ 27.)[6] Sergeant Paulsen told Plaintiff that he had reviewed the prior felony convictions, [7] but Plaintiff denied that he had a felony and repeatedly insisted to the officers that he did not have a felony. (Doc. 38 ¶ 28.)[8]

         Plaintiff was then arrested on a criminal prohibited possessor charge pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes § 13-3102(A)(4).[9] (Doc. 38 ¶ 1; Doc. 41 ¶ 1.) Defendant asserts that Officer Burnias placed handcuffs on Plaintiff and that Defendant took Plaintiff into custody from there, but Plaintiff asserts that Defendant placed handcuffs on him. (Doc. 38 ¶ 29; Doc. 41 ¶ 29.) The Court will construe this dispute in favor of Plaintiff for the purpose of deciding the motion for summary judgment, and will assume Defendant placed handcuffs on Plaintiff. Shortly after the arrest, Defendant wrote a probable cause statement indicating Plaintiff had prior felony convictions, including a 2007 ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.