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Carroll v. Board of County Commissioners of Rio Arriba County

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

January 22, 2018

CHARLENE CARROLL, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF RIO ARRIBA COUNTY, RANDY R. SANCHES, BRANDON ARCHULETA AND THOMAS R. RODELLA, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Qualified Immunity Raised) (Motion). (Doc. 21). Having reviewed the parties' briefing (Docs. 28, 30) and considered the applicable law, the Court GRANTS the Motion.

         I. Background

         A. Procedural Background

         In August 2016, Plaintiff brought this action in New Mexico's First Judicial District, asserting violations of the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (First Cause of Action) and constitutional violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Second through Fourth Causes of Action). (Doc. 1-1), Ex. A. In October 2016, Defendants removed the case to this Court. See (Doc. 1). On January 20, 2017, Defendants moved for summary judgment as to all of the causes of actions. (Doc. 21). On March 17, 2017, the parties voluntarily stipulated to the dismissal of the Third Cause of Action (Claims Against Defendant Rodella for Supervisory Liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983) and the Fourth Cause of Action (Claims Against the County Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983). (Doc. 27). Hence, only the First and Second Causes of Action remain. The Second Cause of Action alleges violations of the Fourth Amendment (unreasonable seizures and use of excessive force) and the Fourteenth Amendment (denial of procedural and substantive due process, and equal protection).

         The Court notes that Defendant Deputies do not argue in the instant motion that they are entitled to summary judgment on the Fourteenth Amendment claims, which are apparently premised on the alleged unlawful search of the home and Plaintiff's restraint in handcuffs as described below. Moreover, Defendant Deputies do not argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on the claims brought under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act in the First Cause of Action. Consequently, the Court does not address herein the Fourteenth Amendment claims or the claims brought against Defendant Deputies under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act.

         B. Undisputed Facts

         At approximately 10:00 p.m. on Monday, August 25, 2014, Charles Canada, who lives at 6 Chicoma Avenue in Abiquiu, New Mexico, noticed an unfamiliar motor vehicle drive by his house and proceed to a neighbors' home. See (Doc. 21-1), Declaration of Charles Canada at Exhibit 1, sub-exhibit A. Mr. Canada estimated the distance to the neighbor's home is about one quarter mile. See Id. Mr. Canada observed what he considered suspicious activity at the home for a period of time, so he called 911. Id.; see also (Doc. 21-2) 911/Dispatch recordings at Exhibit 2 with corresponding transcript, p. 2:1 - p. 5:17.

         Mr. Canada identified himself to the 911 operator and told the operator where he resided. (Doc. 21-2) at p. 2:2-16. He advised that he had observed a person or persons walking around a neighbor's home with flashlights. Id. at p. 2:4-11. He also explained that the people who owned the home lived in New York; they were not at home at the time; it was 10:00 p.m.; and no one should have been at that residence. Id. at p. 2:18 - p. 4:20. Mr. Canada also advised that the neighborhood was gated so whoever was at the residence must have the gate code. Id. at p. 3:22-p. 4:10. Mr. Canada concluded his call by providing the operator with his phone number and the gate code. Id.

         Mr. Canada then placed a second call to 911. He advised the operator this time that something “very wrong” was going on at the neighbor's residence. Id. at p. 5:19 - p.8:2. The operator dispatched Rio Arriba County Sheriff's office Lieutenant Randy Sanches, and Deputies Brandon Archuleta, J. War, and Pete Chavez to the call. See (Doc. 21-3) Declaration of Randy Sanches as Exhibit 3, ¶¶'s 1-6; see also (Doc. 21-4) Declaration of Brandon Archuleta at Exhibit 4, ¶¶'s 1-3. Lieutenant Sanches and the deputies were advised that a neighbor reported suspicious behavior at a neighbor's residence, a “possible breaking and entering in progress.” (Doc. 21-2 p. 8:3-14; (Doc. 21-3) ¶ 6; see also (Doc. 21-5) Espanola/Rio Arriba E-911 “10” codes.

         Mr. Canada placed a third call to 911 and inquired as to the whereabouts of the deputies. He advised the operator that he was still observing a person or persons walking back and forth at the neighbor's residence with flashlights. (Doc. 21-2) p. 11:1 - p.12:6.

         Mr. Canada called 911 a fourth time. He advised the operator that he saw the deputies arrive, but they were proceeding in the wrong direction. Id. at p. 14:17 - p. 19:25. Mr. Canada provided the operator with information to reroute the deputies to the correct location, and he stated that the person or persons he had been observing were still at the subject residence. Id. He explained that the subject residence was toward the end of the road on the left and illuminated with a blue light. Id. at p. 14:17 - p. 18:25. Dispatch relayed the updated information to Lieutenant Sanches and the deputies, who then proceeded to the correct location. Id. at p. 15:20 - p. 20:11; (Doc. 21-3) ¶ 8.

         Lieutenant Sanches and the deputies arrived at the residence and conducted a perimeter search. They noted several windows were open at the residence and that there were two large dogs inside. (Doc. 21-3) ¶¶ 8-11. Lieutenant Sanches and the deputies further observed that the lights were on. See (Doc. 28-1) ¶ 2; (Doc. 1-1), ¶ 21. Additionally, they did not find any persons moving around with flashlights. See (Doc. 28-1) ¶ 2; (Doc. 1-1), ¶ 21; see also (Doc. 21), ¶ 25; (Docs. 21-3, 21-4). Lieutenant Sanches and the deputies also did not find broken windows, busted screens or damaged doors. (Doc. 28-1) ¶ 2; (Doc. 1-1), ¶ 21.

         Lieutenant Sanches then proceeded to the back of the residence. (Doc. 21-3) ¶¶ 10-12; (Doc. 21-4) ¶ 7. While in the backyard, he heard voices at the front of the home. Id. He proceeded to the front of the home and observed Deputy Archuleta and Deputy Chavez speaking to an African American female, later identified as Plaintiff Charlene Carroll, who had come out to speak with the deputies. Id.

         Plaintiff did not have her identification when they initially made contact with her. The deputies spoke with Plaintiff, and radioed back to dispatch noting “Everything seems to be 10-4, (Doc. ...


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