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Castillo v. City of Fort Worth

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division

December 5, 2017

JESSICA CASTILLO, Individually, and as Next Friend of Ricky Bronx Brumley, ET AL., Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF FORT WORTH, TEXAS, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN MCBRYDE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Came on for consideration the motion of defendant Officer Christopher Jones ("Jones") for summary judgment. The court, having considered the motion, the response of plaintiffs, Jessica Castillo ("Castillo"), individually and as next friend of Ricky Bronx Brumley ("Ricky"); Tiffany Meza ("Meza"), individually and as next friend of Damien Brumley ("Damien"), Adrian Brumley ("Adrian"), and Jason Brumley ("Jason"); and Sonia Perez ("Perez"), as next friend of Sarah Perez ("Sarah"), the record, the summary judgment evidence, and applicable authorities, finds that the motion should be granted. In addition, the court finds that judgment should be rendered in favor of defendant City of Fort Worth.

         I.

         Plaintiffs' Claims

         Plaintiffs' operative pleading is their second amended complaint filed July 7, 2017. Doc.[1] 27. In it, they allege:

Castillo is the mother of Daniel Jon Brumley, Jr. ("Brumley") and the legal guardian of Brumley's minor son Ricky. Meza is the widow of Brumley and mother of Damien, Adrian, and Jason, minor children of Brumley, Perez is the mother of Sarah, another minor child of Brumley.

         Just after 4:00 a.m. on January 17, 2015, Brumley was pulled over for a traffic stop by Jones, a member of the Fort Worth Police Department. Jones was driving a K-9 unit, meaning that the back seat of the car was occupied by a police dog and cage. Jones spoke with Brumley, then returned to his police car to check on warrants for Brumley, a process that took more than five minutes. Brumley had an outstanding warrant and Jones decided to take him into custody before backup transport had arrived. Jones ordered Brumley out of his vehicle and escorted him to the rear of the police car. At some point a struggle ensued.[2] Jones shot Brumley twice in the back, then fired two additional shots, including one to the top of the head, which resulted in Brumley's death. Jones subsequently claimed that Brumley had a knife and had attempted to stab him.

         Plaintiffs sue Jones under 42 U.S.C, § 1983 for use of excessive force against Brumley. They sue City of Fort Worth for failure to train and for having a custom and policy of use of excessive force by its police department.

         II.

         Ground of the Motion

         Jones maintains that he is entitled to qualified immunity.

         III.

         Applicable Legal Principles

         A. Summary Judgment

         Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that the court shall grant summary judgment on a claim or defense if 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); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986) . The movant bears the initial burden of pointing out to the court that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett. 477 U.S. 317, 323, 325 (1986). The movant can discharge this burden by pointing out the absence of evidence supporting one or more essential elements of the nonmoving party's claim, "since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. at 323. Once the movant has carried its burden under Rule 56(a), the nonmoving party must identify evidence in the record that creates a genuine dispute as to each of the challenged elements of its case. Id. at 324; see also Fed, R. Civ. P. 56(c) ("A party asserting that a fact ... is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of materials in the record ...."). If the evidence identified could not lead a rational trier of fact to find in favor of the nonmoving party as to each essential element of the nonmoving party's case, there is no genuine dispute for trial and summary judgment is appropriate. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 597 (1986). In Mississippi Prot. & Advocacy Sys., Inc. v. Cotten, the Fifth Circuit explained:

Where the record, including affidavits, interrogatories, admissions, and depositions could not, as a whole, lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving ...

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