Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Navarro v. State of New Mexico Department of Public Safety

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 30, 2018

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,
v.
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.

         MEMORANDUM 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

          JOEL M. CARSON III UNITED STATES CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         After 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.

         I. Procedural History

         On 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 judgment.

         Plaintiffs' 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.

         The 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.

         II. Facts

         On May 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.

         Mr. 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.[1] 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.

         Sheriff 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.[2] Id. 12:26:24-12:30:10.

         Mr. 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.[3]Alguire Dep. 92:22-93:3; Armijo Dep. 133:3-8.

         Sheriff 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.

         Upon 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.[4] 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.

         III. Applicable Law

         A. Summary Judgment

         Summary 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.

         B. Qualified Immunity

         Title 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).

         IV. Analysis

         A. Section 1983 Excessive Force Claim

         1. The Law Enforcement Officers Did Not Violate the Fourth Amendment

         Plaintiffs 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.