United States District Court, D. New Mexico
FELIPE NAVARRO, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Angel Daniel Navarro, deceased, VANESSA SOLORZANO, as Guardian of ARIEL AMIA NAVARRO and ISABELLA SALEEN NAVARRO, Minors, MONICA NAVARRO, FELIPE MEZA NAVARRO, and FELIPE MIGUEL NAVARRO, Plaintiffs,
STATE OF NEW MEXICO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY, BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS FOR THE COUNTY OF SOCORRO, OFFICER FRANCIS ALGUIRE, Individually, OFFICER JOSE CARLOS, Individually, SHERIFF WILLIAM ARMIJO, Individually, JOHN DOES 1-10, JANE DOES 1-10, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING STATE DEFENDANTS' RENEWED
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND FOR QUALIFIED IMMUNITY ON
PLAINTIFFS' EXCESSIVE FORCE CLAIM; GRANTING STATE
DEFENDANTS' RENEWED MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON
PLAINTIFFS' STATE LAW AND DERIVATIVE CLAIMS; GRANTING
COUNTY DEFENDANTS' AMENDED MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY
JUDGMENT NO. I: DISMISSAL OF FOURTH AMENDMENT EXCESSIVE FORCE
CLAIM; AND GRANTING COUNTY DEFENDANTS' AMENDED MOTION FOR
PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT NO. II: DISMISSAL OF PLAINTIFFS'
STATE LAW CLAIMS
M. CARSON III UNITED STATES CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Angel Daniel Navarro stole a car at knife-point, he led
officers on a high-speed chase on Interstate 25 between
Albuquerque and Socorro, New Mexico. Francis Alguire, Jose
Carlos, and William Armijo, all law enforcement officers,
shot Mr. Navarro at the conclusion of the pursuit. Mr.
Navarro died at the scene. Plaintiffs now bring claims under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 and New Mexico state law against the
law enforcement officers and derivative claims against the
State of New Mexico Department of Public Safety and the Board
of Commissioners for the County of Socorro. Defendants move
for summary judgment based on qualified immunity and other
grounds. For the reasons stated below, this Court grants
Defendants' motions on the basis of qualified immunity.
October 17, 2017, Defendants State of New Mexico Department
of Public Safety, Officer Francis Alguire, and Officer Jose
Carlos (collectively, “the State Defendants”)
filed two separate motions for summary judgment. The first
addressed Plaintiffs' excessive force claim and the
second addressed Plaintiffs' state law claims. Similarly,
on November 12, 2017, Defendants Board of Commissioners for
the County of Socorro and Sheriff William Armijo
(collectively, “the County Defendants”) filed two
separate motions for summary judgment with one addressing the
excessive force claim and the other addressing the state law
claims. On May 31, 2018, the Clerk reassigned this civil
action to the undersigned judge. On June 8, 2018, this Court
entered an Order granting Plaintiffs' motion to amend
their complaint, which mooted the motions for summary
Second Amended Complaint alleged five counts against
Defendants: (1) excessive force by the individual defendants
in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) violations of the
New Mexico Tort Claims Act against the individual defendants
for excessive force (battery); (3) negligent hiring,
training, and supervision against the Department of Public
Safety and the Board of Commissioners for the County of
Socorro; (4) respondeat superior against the Department of
Public Safety and the Board of Commissioners for the County
of Socorro; and (5) loss of consortium for Plaintiffs Ariel
Amia Navarro, Isabella Saleen Navarro, Monica Navarro, Felipe
Meza Navarro, and Felipe Miguel Navarro. The County
Defendants again filed two separate summary judgment motions
on June 21, 2018. The State Defendants filed their two
separate summary judgment motions on June 22, 2018. In their
motions, the State Defendants contend the officers are
entitled to summary judgment and qualified immunity on
Plaintiffs' excessive force claim because their use of
force was not excessive under the circumstances. They posit
the officers are entitled to summary judgment on
Plaintiffs' battery claim because their use of force
against Mr. Navarro was necessary and lawful. Finally, they
argue the Department of Public Safety is entitled to summary
judgment on Plaintiffs' negligent hiring, training, and
supervision claim, respondeat superior claim, and loss of
consortium claim because those claims are derivative of the
excessive force and battery claims.
County Defendants argue Sheriff Armijo is entitled to
qualified immunity and that he used an objectively reasonable
amount of force, entitling him to dismissal of both the
excessive force and the battery claims. Like the State
Defendants, the County Defendants also urge this Court to
dismiss the negligent hiring, training, and supervision
claim, respondeat superior claim, and loss of consortium
claim because they are derivative of the excessive force and
battery claims. The Parties subsequently filed responses and
replies to the summary judgment motions. These motions are
now fully briefed and are ripe for disposition.
26, 2016, Pascal Faurie reached for his wallet at a parking
lot pay station in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Faurie Dep.
22:15-23:1, April 14, 2017. Before he could pay, someone
said, “Give me your keys.” Id. Mr.
Faurie turned around to find Felipe Navarro standing beside
him. Id. Mr. Navarro pressed a knife against Mr.
Faurie's ribs and told him that he was “not fucking
kidding.” Faurie Dep. 31:5-21. As Mr. Faurie reached
for his keys, Mr. Navarro said if he did not get the keys, he
was “going to fucking stab [Mr. Faurie] in ten
seconds.” Id. Mr. Navarro then began a
ten-second countdown. Id. After fumbling to find his
keys for nine of those seconds, Mr. Faurie threw his keys at
Mr. Navarro, which hit Mr. Navarro's face. Faurie Dep.
34:8-35:19. Mr. Navarro lunged at Mr. Faurie, cut Mr.
Faurie's finger, leaned over, and scrambled to pick up
the keys. Id. Mr. Navarro ran to Mr. Faurie's
Toyota Sequoia and drove away. Id.
Faurie reported the incident to the Albuquerque Police
Department, which issued a “be on the lookout”
(BOLO) for the Sequoia. Alguire Dep. 38:8-21. New Mexico
State Police Officers Francis Alguire and Jose Carlos as well
as Socorro County Sheriff William Armijo responded to the
BOLO. These officers testified at their depositions that they
knew from the BOLO and further communication with dispatch
prior to the traffic stop that a suspect, possibly armed and
dangerous, fled from the scene of an armed robbery involving
a stabbing in a stolen Toyota Sequoia with damage to the left
rear taillight. Alguire Dep. 43:24-44:21, 45:21-46:3,
46:22-47:19; Carlos Dep. 57:21-25, 58:13-59:5, 70:2-18;
Armijo Dep. 89:21-90:2.
Armijo first spotted Mr. Navarro while he was transporting an
inmate northbound on Interstate 25. Def. Sheriff William
Armijo's Answers to Pl.'s First Set of Interrogs. to
Def. William Armijo, at 11. At approximately 12:17 p.m.,
Sheriff Armijo pulled into the median and made a U-turn to
proceed southbound on Interstate 25. Id. Sheriff
Armijo confirmed with dispatch that the vehicle he spotted
was the vehicle Mr. Navarro had stolen. Id. While
waiting for backup to arrive, Sheriff Armijo followed Mr.
Navarro at a distance of two to three car lengths without
engaging his siren or lights. Id. Detective Richard
Lopez of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology
joined the pursuit. Id. At approximately 12:22 p.m.,
Mr. Navarro passed Officer Alguire, who was parked in the
median. Alguire COBAN 12:22:34. Officer Aguire drove a
cruiser equipped with a COBAN/dashboard video camera, which
captured the entire incident at issue in this case. Officer
Alguire began following Mr. Navarro in the left-hand lane of
southbound Interstate 25. Id. at 12:22:24. Sheriff
Armijo requested over the radio that Officer Alguire take
over the lead position of the pursuit. Def. Sheriff William
Armijo's Answers to Pl.'s First Set of Interrogs. to
Def. William Armijo, at 12. Three minutes later, once Officer
Carlos joined the pursuit, Officer Alguire initiated his
emergency lights and siren. Alguire COBAN 12:26:24. Mr.
Navarro did not pull over. Instead, he led law enforcement on
an approximately four-minute highspeed chase. Id.
Navarro eventually stopped at approximately 12:30 p.m.
Id. But instead of pulling off the interstate, Mr.
Navarro stopped the Sequoia in the right-hand lane.
Id. Five seconds later, Officer Alguire commanded
Mr. Navarro to exit the vehicle-eventually doing so three
times. Id. at 12:30:15-12:30:29. Mr. Navarro did not
exit the vehicle. Less than ten seconds later, Sheriff Armijo
used his PA system to command Mr. Navarro to open the door,
keep his hands in the air, and face the front of the vehicle.
Id. at 12:30:36-12:30:49. Mr. Navarro still did not
exit the vehicle, but he opened the driver's side door
and looked back at the officers. Id. at 12:30:44.
Approximately forty seconds after Mr. Navarro stopped the
vehicle, Officer Alguire shouted, “He said he's got
a gun.” Id. at 12:30:50. Although Mr.
Navarro's voice is not audible on the COBAN video, both
Officer Alguire and Sheriff Armijo testified that Mr. Navarro
made the statement.Alguire Dep. 92:22-93:3; Armijo Dep.
Armijo continued to command Mr. Navarro over the PA to
“[F]ace the front of the vehicle; keep your hands in
the air, we don't want you to get hurt.” Alguire
COBAN 12:30:52- 12:31:01. At 12:31 p.m., fifty seconds after
stopping his vehicle and approximately twenty-six seconds
after Sheriff Armijo used the PA system, Mr. Navarro stepped
out of the Sequoia. Id. at 12:31:01. As he exited,
Sheriff Armijo commanded: “Just face the front of the
vehicle; put your hands in the air; put your hands in the
air.” Id. at 12:31:01-12:31:06. Rather than
obey the commands, the COBAN video shows that Mr. Navarro
kept his right hand under his shirt in his waistband.
Id. In response to Mr. Navarro's actions,
Sheriff Armijo told Mr. Navarro to “[k]eep your hands
off that weapon sir; put your hands in the air.”
Id. at 12:31:06-12:31:09. Mr. Navarro then turned
his body toward Officer Alguire so that his side faced
Officer Alguire. Id. At that point, Mr. Navarro
brought his left hand down together to join his right hand at
the waist. Id. Then, in split-second fashion, he
gripped his hands together, raised them upwards, and charged
the officers. Id.
being charged-approximately nine seconds after Mr. Navarro
exited the vehicle- Officers Alguire and Carlos fired
multiple shots at Mr. Navarro. Id. at 12:31:10. Mr.
Navarro collapsed to the ground. Id. As he lay on
the ground with his hands outstretched in front of him, Mr.
Navarro suddenly pushed his upper body off the ground six
seconds after the first round of shots and looked directly at
law enforcement. Id. at 12:31:16. He did this while
he moved his hands down near his waist. Id. Officers
Alguire and Carlos, along with Sheriff Armijo, fired another
round of shots, which killed Mr. Navarro. Id. In
total, law enforcement shot twenty-eight times at Mr. Navarro
with the majority of the shots occurring during the second
discharge. Detective Lopez did not fire any shots. Alguire
Dep. 125:17-22; Carlos Dep. 120:8-17; Armijo Dep. 152:14-19.
After the shooting, the officers learned that Mr. Navarro did
not have a firearm in his possession and that Mr. Navarro had
both methamphetamine and components of marijuana in his
blood. Office of the Medical Investigator: Report of
Findings, at 2.
judgment is appropriate “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). The party seeking summary judgment bears
the initial burden of showing the absence of any genuine
issues of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A dispute is genuine when
“the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party, ” and a fact
is material when it “might affect the outcome of the
suit under the governing [substantive] law.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). “If the movant meets this initial burden, the
burden then shifts to the nonmovant to set forth specific
facts from which a rational trier of fact could find for the
nonmovant.” Libertarian Party of NM v.
Herrera, 506 F.3d 1303, 1309 (10th Cir. 2007) (internal
quotation marks omitted). “[A] party opposing a
properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest
upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but . .
. must set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S.
at 256. The Court's role is not to “weigh the
evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to
determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Id. at 249. “The evidence of the non-movant is
to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be
drawn in his favor.” Id. at 255.
42 U.S.C. § 1983 “allows an injured person to seek
damages against an individual who has violated his or her
federal rights while acting under color of state law.”
Estate of Booker v. Gomez, 745 F.3d 405, 411 (10th
Cir. 2014). An individual defendant named in a § 1983
action may raise a defense of qualified immunity, which
“shields public officials . . . from damages actions
unless their conduct was unreasonable in light of clearly
established law.” Id. Once a defendant asserts
qualified immunity, the plaintiff bears the burden to show
that (1) a reasonable jury could find facts establishing that
the defendant violated a federal constitutional or statutory
right, and (2) the right was clearly established at the time
of the defendant's unlawful conduct. Id. The
Court may decide these prongs in either order. Pearson v.
Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236 (2009).
Section 1983 Excessive Force Claim
The Law Enforcement Officers Did Not Violate the Fourth
brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which
“allows an injured person to seek damages against an
individual who has violated his or her federal rights while
acting under color of state law.” Estate of
Booker, 745 F.3d at 411. A claim of excessive force by a
law enforcement officer implicates the constitutional rights
of an individual to be free from unreasonable search and
seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Graham v.
Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 394 (1989). To prevail on an
excessive force claim under the Fourth Amendment,
“plaintiffs must show both that a
‘seizure' occurred and that the seizure was
‘unreasonable.'” Thomas v.
Durastanti, 607 F.3d 655, 664 ...