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Hedgpeth v. Rahim

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

June 26, 2018

Jonathan Hedgpeth, Appellant
v.
Ammar Rahim, District of Columbia Police Officer, individually and in his official capacity and Matthew Rider, District of Columbia Police Officer, individually and in his official capacity, Appellees

          Argued November 7, 2017

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 1:15-cv-01228) Joseph A. Scrofano argued the cause and filed the briefs for appellant.

          Carl J. Schifferle, Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, argued the cause for appellees.

          With him on the brief were Karl A. Racine, Attorney General, Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Loren L. AliKhan, Deputy Solicitor General.

          Before: Kavanaugh, Srinivasan, and Pillard, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          SRINIVASAN CIRCUIT JUDGE

         Srinivasan, Circuit Judge: Jonathan Hedgpeth brought a civil suit against two police officers, alleging that they violated his Fourth Amendment rights by arresting him without probable cause and using excessive force to subdue him. The officers moved for summary judgment, arguing that they were protected by qualified immunity from Hedgpeth's claims. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the officers, and we affirm.

         I.

         For purposes of reviewing the court's grant of summary judgment against Hedgpeth, we view the facts giving rise to his arrest in the light most favorable to him. Johnson v. District of Columbia, 528 F.3d 969, 973 (D.C. Cir. 2008). As we explain below, however, we resolve one factual dispute against Hedgpeth (concerning whether one of the officers intended to injure Hedgpeth) based on the absence of evidentiary support for Hedgpeth's account. Hedgpeth does not himself recall the events surrounding his arrest, but introduced the testimony of Marcus Lee, a witness to the arrest.

         On the evening of March 2, 2015, two officers of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, Ammar Rahim and Matthew Rider, were coordinating medical assistance for a homeless man when a disturbance down the street caught their attention. The officers observed Hedgpeth push a tall, African-American man, who returned the push, as the pair walked towards the officers. According to the officers, the man pushed by Hedgpeth approached them and said he did not know Hedgpeth and asked whether they had seen Hedgpeth push him.

         Some time later, the officers approached Hedgpeth outside a bar. At the time, Hedgpeth was conversing with a former colleague, the aforementioned Marcus Lee. The officers explained that they had received reports of someone going up and down the street hitting others. Initially, Lee attempted to explain that he and Hedgpeth had greeted each other with a benign "buddy punch," but Lee quickly realized the officers were investigating something that had happened before his arrival. (Although there is a dispute between the parties on whether Lee was the tall, African-American man whom the officers had previously seen Hedgpeth push-Hedgpeth says yes, the officers say no-we have no need to resolve that dispute, as explained below.)

         The officers began to question Hedgpeth, with little success. Officer Rider asked Hedgpeth for his name and inquired whether he had been drinking, but Hedgpeth did not respond. When Hedgpeth did speak, he slurred his words and avoided answering any questions. Officer Rider then asked Hedgpeth for identification, which he reluctantly surrendered. When Officer Rider attempted to photograph the identification card, Hedgpeth continued to speak incoherently and swore at the officers. At some point, the officers asked Lee if he would be willing to take Hedgpeth home. Lee responded that Hedgpeth was "hard to handle." J.A. 69-70.

         After warning Hedgpeth several times to calm down, Officer Rahim told him he was under arrest. Hedgpeth began to scream, shouting that he had done nothing wrong and demanding to be let go. Officer Rahim ordered Hedgpeth to put his arms behind his back, but Hedgpeth did not comply. After Officer Rahim repeated his order multiple times, he reached for Hedgpeth's left arm. Officer Rahim also used his knee to push the back of Hedgpeth's leg and take him down to the ground. As Hedgpeth fell, his head struck the grid of the paned window of the bar.

         With Hedgpeth on the ground, Officer Rider grabbed his arm and the officers handcuffed him. As a result of his head hitting the window, Hedgpeth suffered a concussion, headaches, vertigo, and other ...


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