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Martin v. Does

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

November 21, 2017

ERICH MARTIN, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN DOES, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER [RESOLVING ECF NOS. 37 & 47]

          BENITA Y. PEARSON JUDGE

         Pending before the Court are two motions for summary judgment: (1) Plaintiff Erich Martin's Partial Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 37), and (2) Defendants Officer Max Capito, Sergeant Robert Eckenrod, Officer Nicholas Massary, Officer Christopher Rowlands, Officer Tyler Wesolowski, Lieutenant Dan Lester, and Trumbull County Commissioners' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 47). The parties have responded to the motions. ECF Nos. 49 & 51. The parties have also filed replies. ECF Nos. 52 & 53. For the reasons that follow, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion and grants in part and denies in part Defendants' motion.

         I: Background

         On January 14, 2016, Ohio State Trooper Weiss pulled over Plaintiff Erich Martin on suspicion of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. ECF No. 41 at PageID 380-81. Plaintiff had multiple narcotics in his system, and was weaving between lanes while driving. Id. at PageID #: 382. Plaintiff was not an Ohio resident. Rather, he was driving from Bay City, Michigan back to his home outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Id. at PageID #: 32. After concluding that Plaintiff was, in fact, intoxicated, Trooper Weiss transported Plaintiff to the Trumbull County Jail. Id. at PageID #: 382-83.

         The practice at the Trumbull County Jail for an individual brought in on a DUI is that, in order for the individual to leave, they must call for a ride to have someone else pick them up; otherwise the jail will hold the person until they are sober enough to leave. ECF No. 43 at PageID #: 546-47. Plaintiff received a summons, and therefore, he was free to leave the jail, as long as he had a ride to pick him up from the jail. Id. at PageID #: 546.

         Plaintiff made the one phone call the jail permitted him, and once that call ended, Officer Rowlands ordered Plaintiff to go to a holding cell. Id. at PageID #: 550. Plaintiff refused. Officer Rowlands contends that he ordered Plaintiff to return to the holding cell two times, and both times Plaintiff responded by saying “No.” Id. Plaintiff disputes this claim, and instead asserts that he simply remained standing where he was. ECF No. 41 at PageID #: 398-99. Plaintiff admits, however, that Officer Rowlands asked him to return to the holding cell twice, though he claims that the two requests came within seconds of each other. Id. at PageID #: 399-400.

         Due to Plaintiff's failure to follow Officer Rowland's commands, multiple officers surrounded Plaintiff. ECF No. 43 at PageID #: 537. Officer Rowlands claims to have ordered Plaintiff to return to the holding cell again and that Plaintiff refused his command a third time. Id.

         Officer Rowlands testified that after the third refusal, he took Plaintiff by the right arm, and Officer Nicholas Massary took Plaintiff by the left arm to escort Plaintiff into the holding cell, which was about ten feet away from where Plaintiff was standing. Id. at PageID #: 538. Officer Rowlands testified that, as he and Officer Massary were escorting Plaintiff, Plaintiff was dragging and pushing his feet. Id. In addition to Officers Rowlands and Massary, Officer Max Capito also escorted Plaintiff to his cell, though he was not holding Plaintiff. ECF No. 46 at PageID #: 774-75. Officer Rowlands testified that once the officers got Plaintiff to the cell, he swept Plaintiff's legs out from underneath him, because Plaintiff continued to resist and he was unsure what Plaintiff was going to do next. ECF No. 43 at PageID #: 540.

         Once Plaintiff was on the ground, the officers attempted to handcuff him, but Plaintiff was holding his hands underneath himself. Id. at PageID #: 541. Because the cell door closed slowly-and, thus, would allow Plaintiff the opportunity to launch an attack on the officers while the door was closing-Officer Rowlands felt it necessary to handcuff Plaintiff. Id. at PageID #: 542. Officer Massary testified that after the handcuffs went on Plaintiff's right hand, Plaintiff attempted to bite Officer Massary. ECF No. 42 at PageID #: 470.

         After seeing the resistance that Plaintiff was showing toward Officers Rowlands and Massary, Sergeant Robert Eckenrod decided that the situation posed a risk of injury to the officers or Plaintiff, so he warned Plaintiff that he would deploy his taser, unless Plaintiff ceased resisting. ECF No. 48 at PageID #: 982-83. Sergeant Eckenrod then deployed the taser once. Id. at PageID #: 983. After the taser use, Officer Tyler Wesolowksi was able to secure the handcuffs on Plaintiff. ECF No. 43 at PageID #: 545. The officers then took the handcuffs off Plaintiff about thirty minutes later after Plaintiff had provided assurance of good behavior. Id.

         Plaintiff disputes much of Defendants' account of what happened. His recollection is as follows:

After I had called my wife ... I walked back up to the desk and I was told to get back in the holding cell. I said, you know, he said, get back in you cell or else something along those terms. Before I could say, can I make another phone call, the officers were already on their way over to me. At that point, I don't know what to do, to be quite honest with you, because I was frightened because I didn't know that was going to happen. When they approached me, they knocked me to ground, which ones and how many, I'm not sure. When I was on my face to the ground, my right arm was taken back. The other officer had my other arm. Due to the surgeries on my spine, my arm only goes back so far in such ways. The officer was pulling it back. I was trying to resist so I could get it to go back in a different way. When I did that, I turned around, I looked at him, I never said a word, he got my arm back, they handcuffed me, then they literally picked me up off the ground, took me into the cell, where they dropped me on my face on the cell floor. One officer had his knee in the back of my head, his hand on the back of my head, and the other officer then tase[re]d me twice.”

ECF No. 41 at PageID #: 387-88.

         Though Plaintiff disputes much of Defendants' testimony, he admits the following: (1) that he walked to the desk after he finished his phone call; (2) that he did not follow Officer Rowlands' command to go into the holding cell; and (3) that he resisted giving up his left arm to the officers. Id. at PageID #: 387-88. Plaintiff claims that he refused Officer Rowlands' order because he wanted to request another phone call, but he was unable to do so, claiming that the situation occurred too quickly for him to voice his request. Id. at PageID #: 387. Additionally, he claimed that he refused to give up his arm, because spinal surgeries limited his arm mobility. Id. Plaintiff contends that he did not raise the concern related to his arm mobility, because he “was approached in such an aggressive way that [he] was afraid to open [his] mouth or make any motions whatsoever.” Id. at PageID #: 389.

         Critically, Plaintiff also disputes the notion that the tasering occurred prior to the handcuffing, as Plaintiff claims that the officers only tasered him ...


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