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Kapinski v. City of Albuquerque

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

June 24, 2019




         Plaintiff Anthony Kapinski shot and killed two people during a late-night altercation in a church parking lot. Two of the church's surveillance cameras recorded the entire incident. The lead detective investigating the case, Defendant Terra Juarez, viewed the surveillance footage but swore out an affidavit in support of an arrest warrant that only described eyewitness accounts and did not mention the videos. Defendant Juarez later testified before the grand jury, which issued a true bill charging Plaintiff with both murders. At trial, Plaintiff presented a self-defense argument and a jury acquitted him. Plaintiff then filed the current lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendant Juarez alleging that, in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, she failed to provide information that led to his false arrest and imprisonment (Count I) and malicious prosecution (Count II). In addition, Plaintiff asserts a claim against Defendant City of Albuquerque under the New Mexico Tort Claims act for failure to properly train and supervise Defendant Juarez (Count III). All of Plaintiff's claims are premised on his argument that the videos demonstrate that he acted in self-defense and, had Defendant Juarez accurately conveyed the information on these videos, the lack of probable cause would have been evident and Plaintiff never would have been arrested or charged.

         Defendant Juarez moves for qualified immunity on the basis that no reasonable officer would have known that she had to include the information about self-defense Plaintiff claims she deliberately and recklessly omitted from her search warrant affidavit and grand jury testimony. Doc. 17. Defendant City of Albuquerque also moves for summary judgment on the state tort claim against it. Id. Because probable cause existed to support at least one of the murder charges and because, even if it did not, Plaintiff has failed to cite clearly established law that would have put Defendant Juarez on notice that her alleged omissions were unlawful, qualified immunity shields her from civil liability. Therefore, the Court grants summary judgment on the federal claims. The Court also declines supplemental jurisdiction over the state claim.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed suit on July 26, 2018. Doc. 1. On August 25, 2018, he filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”). Doc. 5. The FAC brings causes of action under § 1983 against Defendants City of Albuquerque and Terra Juarez for False Arrest and Imprisonment (Count I) and Malicious Prosecution (Count II). FAC ¶¶ 36-45. It also brings a claim against the City of Albuquerque under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (“NMTCA”) for negligent training and supervision (Count III). FAC ¶¶ 46-52. Defendants filed their Answer on September 10, 2018. Doc. 6.

         At the Rule 16 scheduling conference, Plaintiff clarified that the federal claims are brought solely against Defendant Juarez, not against both Defendants collectively. Doc. 14 at 1 (Clerk's minutes).[1] After the conference, the Magistrate Judge entered a scheduling order requiring Defendants to file a dispositive motion in the next thirty days. Doc. 15. On November 28, 2018, Defendants filed the instant Motion For Summary Judgment On Qualified Immunity And Other Grounds. Doc. 17. While the parties were briefing that motion, they stipulated to a stay of discovery. Docs. 19, 20.

         The motion is fully briefed and ready for decision. Docs. 17, 21, 25, 26. Under 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), all parties consented to the undersigned to conduct any or all proceedings and to enter an order of judgment. Docs. 8, 9, 10.

         B. Factual Background

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) and Local Rule 56.1, a movant seeking summary judgment must “set out a concise statement of all of the material facts as to which the movant contends no genuine issue exists.” The party opposing summary judgment must “contain a concise statement of the material facts cited by the movant as to which the non-movant contends a genuine issue does exist.” D.N.M.LR-Civ. 56.1(b). “Each fact in dispute must be numbered, must refer with particularity to those portions of the record upon which the non-movant relies, and must state the No. of the movant's fact that is disputed.” Id. Most importantly, “[a]ll material facts set forth in the Memorandum will be deemed undisputed unless specifically controverted” in this fashion. Id. Plaintiff disputes only Defendants' fact 21, which alleges that the “videos from the surveillance cameras mirror Ms. Molt's statement set forth in the arrest warrant affidavit.” Doc. 17 at 6. Otherwise, Plaintiff does not specifically controvert any of Defendants' facts. Rather, Plaintiff argues that all of Defendants' facts are immaterial and offers his own additional material facts. Doc. 21 at 5. Because Plaintiff has not disputed Defendants' facts with reference to the record, the Court deems all but Defendants' fact 21 as undisputed.

         1. Defendant's Statement Of Undisputed Facts

         On Saturday, June 2, 2017, at approximately 11:12 p.m., Albuquerque Police Department (“APD”) Officer Emmett Fritz was on patrol when he heard multiple gunshots in the parking lot of the New Beginnings Church located at 3601 Montgomery Blvd NE in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Doc. 17 at 3 ¶ 1. Officer Fritz observed a green Honda Civic leave the parking lot at high speed. Id. ¶ 2. He tried to follow the green Honda, but lost sight of it. Id. ¶ 3. He returned to the parking lot and saw two young men on the ground who had been shot. Id. ¶ 4. One, Jordan Mucher, was already deceased from a gunshot wound to the head, and the other, Paul Francia, had a weak pulse and died shortly after the officer began administering aid. Id. ¶¶ 5-6. APD Detective Terra Juarez arrived at the scene to investigate the shooting. Id. ¶ 7. She conducted and recorded interviews of the eyewitnesses to the shooting. Id. ¶ 8.

         Eyewitness Manuel Castro reported:

he heard what sounded like a vehicle backfire; looked in the direction of the sound; noticed a male pointing a gun at another male; saw the male with the gun shoot twice; and then saw the male with the gun flee in a green Honda hatchback.

Id. ¶ 9. Eye witness Tyler Schwebke reported:

he arrived at the parking lot with victims Jordan Mucher and Paul Francia; all three were upset with Plaintiff because he had stolen vehicle parts from them in the past; and Mr. Schwebke did not see the shooting but saw Plaintiff leave in a red Honda Civic. Mr. Schwebke also stated that he had known Plaintiff for years and identified him from a photograph provided by detectives.

Id. ¶ 10 (citations omitted). Eyewitness Mariah Molt reported:

she had been dating Paul Francia for about three months; heard Paul Francia mention that he wanted to talk to Plaintiff; saw Paul Francia and another male talking with Plaintiff on the driver's side of a green Honda Civic; heard Paul Francia say to Plaintiff “you know who the fuck I am”; saw Paul Francia punch Plaintiff; saw Plaintiff fall into the driver's seat of the car; saw the other male that was present begin fighting with Paul Francia; saw Jordan Mucher get involved in the fight; heard gunshots and muzzle flashes coming from the car Plaintiff was in; saw Paul Francia fall over grabbing his chest; and saw Plaintiff leave in a green Honda Civic.

Id. ¶ 11 (alteration omitted).

         Sometime between 3:00 a.m. and 3:57 a.m. on June 3, Defendant Juarez obtained and viewed the surveillance video footage of the parking lot from the church. Id. ¶ 12. She discovered that Plaintiff owned a 1991 green Honda Civic, and viewed his Facebook page, which had, as the profile picture, a photo of a green Honda Civic. Id. ¶¶ 14-15. Defendant Juarez submitted an arrest warrant for Plaintiff charging one count of homicide, and later amended it to two counts. Id. ¶ 16, 18. Assistant District Attorney D. Roberson approved the warrant, and Judge Nan Nash signed it. Id. The affidavits in support of the warrant described Defendant Juarez' interviews with the three eyewitnesses and the substance of their stories. Doc. 17-3 at 2-3. It did not mention any surveillance videos. See generally id.

         Police took Plaintiff into custody that same day. Id. ¶ 17. Two weeks later, on June 16, 2017, Defendant Juarez testified before a grand jury on a two count indictment charging Plaintiff with two open counts of murder. Id. ¶ 22. She discussed the surveillance videos in depth. Id. ¶ 23. The grand jury true billed both counts of first degree murder. Id. ¶ 24.

         2. The Surveillance Videos

         The two surveillance videos-one which depicts the events from a camera perched on the rooftop (Exhibit D to Defendant's Motion), and the other which depicts the events from the front door of the church (Exhibit E to Defendant's Motion)-have been submitted to the Court along with Defendants' motion for summary judgment. See Doc. 18. When no party disputes the authenticity of a video and the video is so clear that no reasonable jury could adopt the nonmoving party's interpretation of the video, the Supreme Court has instructed that lower courts should “view[] the facts in the light depicted by the videotape” rather than accepting the nonmoving party's interpretation of the facts. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378-81 (2007).

         The rooftop surveillance video depicts a church parking lot after dark. In the center left of the video, a small dark car[2] is parked at an angle, partially taking up a striped area reserved for a handicapped spot. A man in a light shirt (who Defendant Juarez identifies as Aiden, Doc. 17-4 at 11) exits a car parked two spaces away and walks over to the small dark car. The driver of the small dark car, a man in a dark shirt (who the parties agree is Plaintiff), gets out of the car. The two men talk for a while, as cars continue to exit the parking lot. Plaintiff and Aiden are soon approached by three other men, one wearing a light shirt and two wearing dark shirts. Defendant Juarez identifies the man in a light shirt as Paul Francia, one of the men in a dark shirt as Jordan Mucher, and the third man as Travis (Doc. 17-4 at 10-13). Other people also approach but stand several feet away from the parked car as they watch what appears to start out as a conversation between Paul and Plaintiff. During this time, Aiden stands just to the side of Paul while Jordan and Travis stand a few feet behind Aiden. The crucial events are the few seconds that then pass from the time Paul punches Plaintiff until the time Plaintiff shoots Paul and Jordan and then drives away. The door surveillance video depicts the same events, but from a different angle. Because the rooftop video is consistent with the door video, the Court sets forth the crucial events with time reference only to the door video.

Door Video

Event Depicted


- Paul punches Plaintiff in the face for no apparent reason and continues to throw several punches.


- Plaintiff sinks back into the driver's seat of the car out of view of the camera.

- Aiden moves toward Paul.


- Aiden begins punching Paul from behind Paul's back.

- Jordan jumps on Aiden's back and pulls him away from Paul. Both Jordan and Paul end up a few feet from the driver's side door of the car.


- Something light in color emerges from the driver side door (consistent with Plaintiff's assertion that this was Plaintiff's shoe).

- Paul turns and backs away from the car. (It is not clear that Paul has been shot at this point).


- Several people watching the altercation begin to run away.

- Jordan and Aiden continue to fight a few feet away from the driver's side door of the car.


- Plaintiff stands up with his arms extended (the video is not clear enough to tell whether Plaintiff is carrying a gun, but his posture is consistent with a person pointing a gun).

- Paul hunches over and begins to stumble backwards.

- Plaintiff's hands come down.


- Plaintiff's hands come back up.

- Plaintiff goes back into the car and cannot be seen from the video.


- There is a flash near the driver's side door of the car.

- Jordan falls to the ground and Aiden backs away.

- Plaintiff then stands up again.


- Plaintiff gets back into the car. Except for Jordan, who is lying in the street, no one else is in the immediate vicinity of the car.

- The headlights of the car come on.


- Paul begins to fall to the ground.

- A bright flash comes from the inside of the car.


- Plaintiff drives away.

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