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Corona v. City of Clovis

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 12, 2019

JORGE RAY CORONA, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF CLOVIS, CLOVIS POLICE DEPARTMENT, OFFICER BRENT AGUILAR, and OFFICER TRAVIS LOOMIS, in their official capacities, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Judith C. Herrera United States District Court Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings (“Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings”) (ECF No. 43), filed August 3, 2018. The Court, having considered the motion, the briefs, the complaint, the record, and the relevant law, concludes that the motion should be granted.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         When considering a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a court should accept as true and construe in the light most favorable to the non-moving party all facts pleaded in the complaint. Aspenwood Investment Co. v. Martinez, 355 F.3d 1256, 1259 (10th Cir. 2004).

         On August 3, 2014, at around 2:00 a.m., in Clovis, New Mexico, Defendant Officer Brent Aguilar (“Defendant Aguilar”), a police officer with the Clovis Police Department, stopped a vehicle suspected of running a red light and exceeding the speed limit. First Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 6-8, ECF No. 1-1. Defendant Aguilar approached the driver's side window of the vehicle and asked the driver, Keisha Lujan, for her driver's license, insurance, and registration. Id. ¶¶ 8-9.[1] Plaintiff Jorge Corona was a passenger in the back-left passenger seat. Id. ¶ 9. Defendant Aguilar asked that the rear passenger window be rolled down. Id.

         While Ms. Lujan was looking for her paperwork, Plaintiff Corona asked Defendant Aguilar why he had pulled them over. Id. Defendant Aguilar responded that he was not the driver and he was not speaking to him. Id. ¶ 10. Plaintiff continued to ask Defendant Aguilar the reason he had pulled them over. Id. ¶ 11. Defendant Aguilar asked Plaintiff if he had “ID, ” to which Plaintiff responded, “Nah. Why are you stopping us?” Id. Despite having informed him that he did not have identification, Defendant Aguilar continued to ask for Plaintiff's “ID.” Id. ¶ 12. Each time, Plaintiff responded, “Why are you stopping us?” Id. ¶ 13. Finally, Defendant Aguilar told Plaintiff that if he did not produce his ID, he would be arrested for concealing Id. Id. ¶ 15.

         Defendant Aguilar then ordered Plaintiff out of the vehicle, arrested him for concealing his identification, and handcuffed him behind his back. Id. ¶ 16. Instead of turning him directly towards his patrol vehicle or informing Plaintiff where he was taking him, Defendant Aguilar pulled Plaintiff in the opposite direction, about 270 degrees around. Id. ¶¶ 16-19. Without warning, Defendant Aguilar slammed Plaintiff facedown into the asphalt, fracturing his cheekbone and causing other injuries. Id. ¶ 21.

         At some point, Defendant Travis Loomis, a certified peace officer with the Clovis Police Department, arrived on scene. See Id. ¶¶ 4, 38. Defendant Loomis said to Defendant Aguilar, “I don't know what the fuck happened. Man, I just heard a thud!” Id. ¶ 40. Defendant Loomis did nothing to stop Officer Aguilar from brutally assaulting Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 41.

         In drafting his police report on the incident and explaining his use of force, Defendant Aguilar fabricated aspects of his story, including falsely claiming Plaintiff used abusive language towards him, tried to pull away on numerous occasions, and thrust his left shoulder forward in an aggressive manner. See Id. ¶ 22. Despite not paying attention to exactly what happened in the matter, Defendant Loomis drafted a supplemental report that gave the impression he witnessed everything in an attempt to support Defendant Aguilar's conduct. Id. ¶ 38. Defendant Loomis participated in, helped, caused, or encouraged Defendant Aguilar to continue the prosecution of Plaintiff, an innocent person, by fabricating his police report and testimony to support a senior officer. Id. ¶ 41. At the criminal jury trial, Defendant Loomis testified he could see what had occurred from the corner of his eye enough to make his detailed police report. Id. ¶ 39.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed suit in state court, and subsequently filed a “First Amended Complaint for Assault, Battery, Wrongful Arrest, Prima Facie Tort, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Pain and Suffering, Negligence, Damages, Misuse of Process, Malicious Abuse of Process and Violation of 42 U.S.C. 1983” against the City of Clovis, Clovis Police Department, Officer Aguilar, and Officer Loomis in their personal and official capacities. First Am. Compl., ECF No. 1-1. In the section of the complaint entitled “Violations of 42 U.S.C. 1983, ” Plaintiff asserted claims under § 1983 against Defendants Aguilar and Loomis for seizing and arresting him without a warrant or probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Id. ¶ 57. He also alleged a claim under § 1983 against Defendants Aguilar and Loomis for “assaulting” him “under color of state law, without justification and due process of law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.” Id. ¶ 58. He asserted no other § 1983 claims in this section. See Id. ¶¶ 56-60.

         Elsewhere in the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserted a variety of state law claims against Defendant Aguilar: lack of reasonable suspicion or probable cause to demand his identification, id. ¶ 26; lack of probable cause to arrest him for a crime, id. ¶ 27, assault and battery, id. ¶ 28, “abuse of process and malicious abuse prosecution, ” id. ¶ 29, prima facie tort, id. ¶ 30, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, id. ¶ 31. He asserted that Defendant Aguilar misused the legal process by initiating a prosecution and actively prosecuting Plaintiff with no probable cause. Id. ¶ 23. He further asserted that Defendant Aguilar used an amount of force on a defenseless, handcuffed person likely to cause serious injury including great bodily harm. See Id. ¶¶ 24-25.

         As for state claims against Defendant Loomis, Plaintiff asserted that Defendant Loomis committed a prima facie tort, id. ¶ 42, and engaged in “a conspiracy amongst police officers to fabricate and support each other's version of events out of a misguided loyalty with another officer who has committed tortious conduct towards a defenseless individual, ” id. ¶ 43.

         Plaintiff also stated, “Defendant's negligent training of Defendant Aguilar and/or Defendant Loomis was the proximate cause of the injuries inflicted upon Mr. Jorge Corona.” Id. ¶ 44. Moreover, he alleged, “Defendant's pattern and practice of rewarding officers who violate the law by not taking appropriate measures to correct their inappropriate behavior is responsible and was the proximate cause of the injuries to Mr. Corona.” Id. ¶ 45. Plaintiff further asserted that Defendant Aguilar has a history of disciplinary actions for not following policies and procedures prior to the incident with Mr. Corona, id. ¬∂ 46, and ‚ÄúDefendant Department's failure to properly train their officers in proper arrest procedures, when they can arrest a person for concealing ID, and when they can exercise use of force against a defenseless handcuffed subject, all were [] proximate ...


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