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Torres v. Madrid

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 30, 2018

ROXANNE TORRES, Plaintiff,
v.
JANICE MADRID et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          LAURA FASHING UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on defendants Janice Madrid and Richard Williamson's Amended Motion for Summary Judgment on the Basis of Qualified Immunity and Other Grounds. Doc. 65. Plaintiff Roxanne Torres opposes the motion. Doc. 76. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS defendants' motion.

         I. Undisputed Material Facts

         On Tuesday morning, July 15, 2014, New Mexico State Police officers went to an apartment complex in Albuquerque to serve an arrest warrant on a person named Kayenta Jackson. The officers believed Ms. Jackson was a resident of apartment number 22. The arrest warrant for Ms. Jackson was for white collar crimes, but she also was suspected of having been involved in drug trafficking, murder, and other violent crimes. Defendants Janice Madrid and Richard Williamson were two of the police officers involved.

         Officer Madrid and Officer Williamson parked their unmarked patrol vehicle near a 2010 black and white Toyota FJ Cruiser. Plaintiff Roxanne Torres was in the Toyota FJ Cruiser with her motor running. She had backed into her parking spot, and there were cars on either side of her. Officers Madrid and Williamson were wearing tactical vests and dark clothing. Their clothing clearly identified them as police officers, but Ms. Torres testified that she is unable to read and write because of a learning disability.

         Officers Madrid and Williamson attempted to open the locked door of the Toyota FJ Cruiser in which Ms. Torres was sitting. Ms. Torres saw one person standing at her driver's side window, and another at the front tire of her car. Although the officers repeatedly shouted, “Open the door!, ” Ms. Torres claimed she could not hear them because her windows were rolled up. Ms. Torres thought she was the victim of an attempted car-jacking, so she drove forward. Both officers testified that they believed Ms. Torres was going to hit them with her car, and that they were in fear for their lives. Ms. Torres claims that neither officer was in harm's way. Both officers fired their duty weapons at Ms. Torres. Ms. Torres did not stop.

         Instead, Ms. Torres continued to drive forward, over a curb and landscaping, and she then left the area. She drove to a commercial area, lost control of her car, and stole a different car that had been left running in a parking lot. She then drove to Grants, New Mexico. Ms. Torres first noticed that she had been shot when she got to Grants, and she went to the hospital for treatment. She stayed in the hospital one day.

         The following day, on July 16, 2014, Ms. Torres was charged by criminal complaint with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon upon a peace officer, and one count of the unlawful taking of a motor vehicle. Doc. 65-5. She was taken into custody the same day. Doc. 65-6 at 3. She was indicted on these charges two weeks later, on July 30, 2014. Doc. 65-6. Count 1 of the indictment identified Officer Williamson as the victim, and count 2 of the indictment identified Officer Madrid as the victim. Id. On March 31, 2015, Ms. Torres pled no contest to aggravated fleeing from a law enforcement officer, in violation of N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-22-1.1, a lesser included offense of count 1 of the indictment. Doc. 65-7 at 1. She also pled no contest to assault upon a peace officer, in violation of N.M. Stat. Ann. § 30-22-21, a lesser included offense of count 2 of the indictment. Id. In addition, she pled no contest to count 3 of the indictment, which was the unlawful taking of a vehicle charge. Id.

         II. The Complaint

         In counts I and III of her complaint, Ms. Torres alleges that Officer Madrid and Officer Williamson, respectively, through the intentional discharge of their weapons, “exceeded the degree of force which a reasonable, prudent law enforcement officer would have applied under these same circumstances.” Doc. 1 ¶¶ 14, 21. In counts II and IV, [1] Ms. Torres alleges that Officers Madrid and Williamson conspired together to use excessive force against her. Id. ¶¶ 17, 24. In other words, all of Ms. Torres's claims are excessive force claims under the Fourth Amendment.

         III. Discussion

         The defendants argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity on all of Ms. Torres's excessive force claims not only because the officers' use of deadly force was reasonable under the circumstances, but also because Ms. Torres's claims are barred under the Heck[2] doctrine. Doc. 65 at 9-18. They further contend that her excessive force claims fail because she was never seized, and without a seizure, there can be no Fourth Amendment excessive force claim. Doc. 82 at 10- 11. Because I agree that the undisputed material facts show that Ms. Torres was never seized, she cannot prevail on her claims that the officers' used excessive force in effecting a seizure. I therefore grant defendants' motion.

         A. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment Motions

         Summary judgment will be granted “if the movant shows that 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). A genuine dispute exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party” on the issue. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “Only disputes over facts that ...


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