United States District Court, D. Arizona
HONORABLE STEVEN P. LOGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
action arises from law enforcement's execution of a
search warrant for Abram Ochoa at 116 West 10th Street in
Casa Grande, Arizona (hereinafter “the
Property”). Plaintiffs, the Property residents, allege
the use of excessive force upon the Property and assert
constitutional claims against Defendants pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 82). Pending before the Court are
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Second
Amended Complaint (Doc. 83) and Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. 91). The Court rules as follows.
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 83)
December 17, 2014, the Casa Grande Police Department
(“CGPD”) responded to a domestic disturbance call
down the street from the Property (Doc. 82 at ¶ 31).
Upon arrival, officers learned the incident involved Abram
Ochoa, who had outstanding warrants for his arrest (Doc. 82
at ¶ 34). After determining that Ochoa had entered the
Property, officers attempted to communicate with Ochoa via a
loud speaker PA system but received no response (Doc. 82 at
¶¶ 38-41, 43-45, 55-56). CGPD declined offers from
Ochoa's girlfriend and Plaintiff James Denby's son in
helping persuade Ochoa to leave the Property voluntarily
(Doc. 82 at ¶¶ 45, 57). Minutes after arriving,
CGPD requested assistance from Pinal County Regional SWAT
(“SWAT”) (Doc. 82 at ¶ 58). While
establishing a perimeter, CGPD Officer Engstrom reported
seeing movement under a tarp covering a car in the
Property's backyard, but no further investigation was
made (Doc. 82 at ¶¶ 64-70).
arrived on scene and decided to use an armored vehicle,
referred to as a “Bearcat, ” (Doc. 82 at ¶
74) as a battering ram to gain access to the Property (Doc.
82 at ¶¶ 76-77). SWAT drove the Bearcat over a
chain-linked fence and into the front of the Property,
breaking windows and the front door (Doc. 82 at ¶ 80).
Further attempts to communicate with Ochoa through the
Bearcat's PA system and a deployed tactical phone proved
unsuccessful (Doc. 82 at ¶¶ 81-84).
the execution of a search warrant (Doc. 82 at ¶¶
86-89), SWAT deployed a medium robot into the Property but
found no sign of Ochoa (Doc. 82 at ¶¶ 90-91). SWAT
used the PA system to announce that Ochoa had five minutes to
exit the building or further force would be used against him
(Doc. 82 at ¶ 93). After the time expired, SWAT fired a
total of 22 canisters of pepper spray and tear gas into the
Property (Doc. 82 at ¶¶ 94-102), searched the
Property with a second robot (Doc. 82 at ¶ 104), and
deployed a Noise Flash Diversionary Device (Doc. 82 at ¶
105). SWAT then developed a tactical plan to enter the
Property, which included the use of two additional Noise
Flash Diversionary Devices (Doc. 82 at ¶ 109-111).
During the search, SWAT team members destroyed furniture,
cushions, windows, bathroom mirrors, shower doors, toilets,
televisions, artwork, and antiques (Doc. 82 at ¶¶
116-121). Ochoa was not found inside the Property (Doc. 82 at
¶ 112). Once the Property was cleared, SWAT and CGPD
searched the backyard (Doc. 82 at ¶¶ 124-126).
Ochoa was found hiding underneath the tarp that Officer
Engstrom had reported seeing movement under five hours
earlier (Doc. 82 at ¶¶ 126-130).
have moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' Second Amended
Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). The motion argues that each individual
Defendant is entitled to qualified immunity, and the
complaint fails to state a municipal entity claim against
either the City of Casa Grande or Pinal County. The motion
further argues that Plaintiff Elizabeth Torres must be
dismissed for lack of standing.
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face;' that is,
plaintiff must ‘plead factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.'” Telesaurus
VPC, LLC v. Power, 623 F.3d 998, 1003 (9th Cir. 2010)
(quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009)). The Court may dismiss a complaint for failure to
state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
for two reasons: (1) lack of a cognizable legal theory, and
(2) insufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal
theory. Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901
F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1988), abrogated on other grounds
by Bell Atl. Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007).
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, which, if
accepted as true, states a claim to relief that is
“plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Facial
plausibility requires the plaintiff to plead “factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. Plausibility does not equal
“probability, ” but still requires more than a
sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully.
Id. “Where a complaint pleads facts that are
merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops
short of the line between possibility and plausibility of
entitlement to relief.” Id. (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted).
deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court must “accept as
true the well-pleaded allegations of material fact, ”
and construe those facts “in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party.” Daniels-Hall v. Nat'l
Educ. Ass'n, 629 F.3d 992, 998 (9th Cir. 2010).
“[A]llegations that are merely conclusory, unwarranted
deductions of fact, or unreasonable inferences, ”
however, are insufficient to defeat a 12(b)(6) motion.
Although a complaint “does not need detailed factual
allegations, ” a plaintiff must “raise a right to
relief above the speculative level.” Twombly,
550 U.S. at 555. This requires “more than labels and
conclusions, [or] a formulaic recitation of a cause of
action's elements.” Id.
argue that the individually named Defendants are entitled to
qualified immunity (Doc. 83 at 9-16). “The doctrine of
qualified immunity protects government officials ‘from
liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not
violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have
known.'” Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S.
223, 231 (2009) (citation omitted). In resolving qualified
immunity claims, the Court must consider: (1) whether the
facts alleged establish the violation of a constitutional
right, and (2) whether the right was “clearly
established” at the time of the incident. Id.
at 232. To be clearly established, “[t]he contours of
the right must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable
official would understand that what he is doing violates that
right.” Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635,
640 (1987); see also Dunn v. Castro, 621 F.3d 1196,
1201 (9th Cir. 2010) (“[T]he right allegedly violated
must be defined at the appropriate level of specificity
before a court can determine if it was clearly
established.” (quotation omitted)). Although a case on
point is not required, “existing precedent must have
placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond
debate.” Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731,
741 (2011). Clearly established law should not be defined at
a “high level of generality.” Id. at
the applicability of qualified immunity should be resolved at
the earliest possible stage in litigation, Hunter v.
Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 227 (1991), “a motion to
dismiss on qualified immunity grounds puts the Court in the
difficult position of deciding ‘far-reaching
constitutional questions on a non-existent factual record,
'” Hernandez v. Ryan, No. CV
09-2683-PHX-DGC, 2010 WL 4537975, at 2 (D. Ariz. 2010)
(quoting Kwai Fun Wong v. United States, 373 F.3d
952, 957 (9th Cir. 2004). In this Court's March 31, 2018
Order, the Court found that resolution of Defendants'
qualified immunity claims required ...