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Craig v. City of Fort Worth

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

May 17, 2018




         Before the court for consideration and decision is the motion of defendant William D. Martin ("Martin"), to dismiss the claims asserted against him by plaintiffs, Jacqueline Craig ("Craig"), Brea Hymond ("Hymond"), and J.H., K.H., and A.C, each a minor acting by and through Craig as his/her next friend. Having considered the motion, the response of plaintiffs, Martin's reply, plaintiffs' sur-reply, the record, and the applicable legal authorities, the court finds that the motion should be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Plaintiff's Complaint

         Plaintiffs initiated this action by the filing of a complaint on December 22, 2017, against City of Fort Worth, Texas ("City"), Martin, and Itamar Vardi ("Vardi"). An abbreviated version of its allegations as they pertain to Martin are set forth below:

On December 21, 2016, A.C., the minor son of Craig, suffered an injury as a result of Vardi having grabbed him by the back of the neck and pushing him to the ground because A.C. had dropped raisins near Vardi's home. L.C., who was with A.C, alerted her mother, Craig.

         Upon learning of her son's assault, Craig left her home to approach Vardi. Vardi admitted to assaulting A.C. after A.C. refused to pick up raisins he dropped on the walkway near Vardi's home. Id. Craig called law enforcement to report the assault, then waited, along with several members of her household, for the police to arrive. Id. At some point in time, Hymond began recording what was happening.

         Martin, an officer of City's police department, arrived to the location of the incident. He briefly spoke with Vardi, who admitted to grabbing A.C. He then spoke to Craig, whom he had learned before he arrived had outstanding misdemeanor warrants. Plaintiffs' precise descriptions of the conduct of Martin about which they complain are that:

20. Defendant Martin then turned his attention to Craig who explained that Vardi had assaulted her son. To that, Martin responded, "Why don't you teach your son not to litter?" Plaintiff Craig answered that even if he did litter that did not give a stranger the right to grab or choke her son. Martin responded "Why not?" Craig, upset by this response, stated, "Because it doesn't!" Defendant Martin informed Craig that if she continued to yell at him she would "piss [him] off and then [he would] take [her] to jail."
21. Following this statement, fifteen-year-old J.H. turned to her mother with her back to Martin and attempted to end the encounter. Without any explanation or justification, Defendant Martin grabbed J.H. from behind and shoved her to the side. Defendant Martin then grabbed Plaintiff Craig and threw her to the ground, drawing his Taser gun and shoving it into her back while she lay prostrate on the ground.
22. Defendant Martin then violently grabbed Plaintiff Craig's right arm and pulled it behind her back while pointing the Taser gun at K.H.[1] and instructing her to get down on the ground. As J.H. complied, Martin placed Craig in handcuffs while she lay face down in the street. He then approached J.H., who was lying on the ground as instructed, and straddled the top of her while grabbing the back of her neck and forcing her head to the concrete. Without any explanation or justification, Defendant Officer Martin placed J.H. in handcuffs and lifted her from the ground by yanking her arms.
23. Defendant Martin then walked Craig and J.H. to his squad car. Without any justification or explanation, Defendant Martin placed J.H. in the back of his car, where she had difficulty maneuvering into the vehicle with her hands cuffed behind her back. Defendant Martin grew impatient and shouted "Get in the car!" while kicking J.H.'s legs into the vehicle and slamming the door. Defendant Martin also placed Craig in the vehicle on the opposite side of J.H.
24. Plaintiff, K.H., witnessing the assault on her mother and sister, attempted to intervene by placing herself in the path of defendant, Martin in an attempt to block him from any further assault on members of her family. Defendant, Martin, in turn unlawfully struck then fourteen year-old plaintiff, K.H., in the throat.
26. Defendant Martin then, suddenly and without provocation, rushed Plaintiff Brea Hymond, who stood at a safe distance, recording the arrest. Martin handcuffed Hymond's arms behind her back and questioned her about her age. When she failed to respond suitably, Martin hyper-extended her handcuffed arms by flexing them above her head in a pain-compliance maneuver, which he later described as consistent with the training and procedures he learned at the Fort Worth Police Academy. When other officers arrived, Plaintiff Hymond was placed in the back of a police vehicle.
27. Plaintiffs Craig, Hymond and J.H. were taken into police custody. Plaintiff, Craig was charged with failure to ID - fugitive from justice (although she is heard providing proper ID in the recordings available) and resisting arrest (despite the lack of evidence that she resisted at any time). Plaintiff Hymond was unlawfully charged with interference with a peace officer and resisting arrest for her actions in recording the attack. K.H. was transferred to a juvenile detention center where she was later released without being charged with any crime.
33. Defendant, Martin, refused to provide Plaintiffs with any explanation for their unlawful detention, and although unlawfully detained, Plaintiff J.H. was never charged.
34. On information and belief, Defendant Martin, the City and its policymaker acted with deliberate indifference and/or reckless disregard toward Plaintiffs' rights, targeting them for unlawful search and seizure, unlawful assault, and unlawful detention without any reasonable factual basis to support that Plaintiffs had committed any crime in responding to an adult male attack on their minor family member. Moreover, Defendant Martin failed to adequately investigate the assault of minor plaintiff, A.C., by defendant, Vardi, disregarding Vardi's admission to the assault and battery of the minor.
35. On information and belief, Defendant Officer Martin participated in unlawful threats and abuse of authority against Plaintiffs under color of law.

Doc. 1 at 7-9, 10, ¶¶ 20-24, 26-27, 33-35.[2]

         Based on those alleged facts, plaintiffs brought claims against Martin for use of excessive force and unlawful seizure.[3]

         II. Grounds ...

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