This decision is on defendant’s motion to dismiss for summary judgment under Rule 12(b)(6). The motion is denied. The facts refer to a ninja-like mask worn by an FBI drug task force executing a search warrant.
GARY A. ADAMS, DENISE ADAMS, SHAQUEL ADAMS RILEY, TAILON ADAMS, GARY A. ADAMS, on behalf of BRYA ADAMS, a minor, and SHAQUEL ADAMS RILEY on behalf of her minor children, SAVON RILEY, SHANE ADAMS, SURRON ADAMS, STEFON ADAMS, TERREL JACKSON and SERENITY WEST, Plaintiffs,
KAREN SPRINGMEYER, JOHN DOE 1-11, Defendants.
Civil Action No. 11-790
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
Decided May 22, 2012 by U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer.
The Statement of Facts (citations to the record removed):
A drug task force supervised by Defendant Springmeyer forcibly entered Plaintiffs’ home to execute an arrest warrant for Sondra Hunter, a suspect who was entirely unrelated to Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs claim that Defendants knew or had reason to know that Hunter did not reside at the home, as she had moved out of the house several months before the Plaintiffs leased the same residence on June 5, 2010. Living in the home at the time of the incident were Gary A. Adams, his wife Denise Adams, and their minor daughter, Bryna Adams. Tailon Adams, Shaquel Adams Riley, and Ms. Riley’s minor children, Savon Riley, Shane Adams, Surron Adams, Stefon Adams, Terrel Jackson, and Serenity West, also resided in the home at that time. When the incident occurred, Plaintiffs ranged in ages from three to fifty-eight. [Footnote#6: According to the caption of the Amended Complaint, seven of the thirteen plaintiffs are minors.] The Amended Complaint also states that Plaintiffs are “law abiding citizens of the United States, who have no record of criminal activity.”
At approximately 5:30 a.m. on March 3, 2011, Plaintiff Gary Adams was awakened by screams from the first floor of his home. When he descended the stairs from the second floor to the first floor, he observed a battering ram “violently” knock down the front door, and Defendants “stormed into the house pointing assault rifles at [him] and plaintiff Denise Adams and Shane Adams[,] who were on the first floor” at the time. Defendants then aimed red laser targeting beams at Plaintiff Gary Adams’s head, which “plac[ed] [him] in immediate fear that he was about to be shot in the head.” Plaintiffs did not know that Defendants were law enforcement officers and instead believed that Defendants were “criminals breaking into their home in a ‘home invasion.'”
Plaintiffs claim that approximately eleven individuals, presumably John Does 1-11, entered the home through both the front and back doors. Defendants were “dressed in tactical ninja[-]like uniforms” [Footnote#8: At argument, Counsel for Plaintiffs further described these uniforms as having hoods that obscured the identities of the individuals participating in the raid.] and shouted profanities at Plaintiffs, including “get the fuck down on the ground” and “shut the fuck up.” While Defendants pointed assault rifles at Plaintiffs, Defendants gathered Plaintiffs on the first floor of the house but refused to answer any questions regarding why they had broken into their home. Defendants then escorted Plaintiffs outside to the sidewalk even though Plaintiffs were dressed only in their bedtime clothing or underwear. [Foonote#9: Only Plaintiff Shaquel Adams Riley, who was in her “her twenties . . . [or] [m]aybe early thirties” at the time of the home invasion, was forced to stand outside in her underwear.] It was “freezing cold” outside at the time of this incident. In the course of the home invasion, Defendants also searched all of the rooms in Plaintiffs’ home.
“At some point [during the raid],” Defendant Springmeyer identified herself as the supervising agent and explained that Defendants had entered Plaintiffs’ home to execute an arrest warrant on Hunter. Plaintiffs state that “[a]t all times relevant hereto, [D]efendant Springmeyer participated in[,] directed, approved, and/or with knowledge of its unconstitutionality acquiesced in the conduct and actions, of other law enforcement officials, including ones acting as federal agents and/or ones acting under color of state law.”
Plaintiff Gary Adams told Springmeyer that they were not associated with Hunter and that she lived in their home before they rented it. Furthermore, Plaintiffs claim that “[D]efendants knew or had reason to believe that [Plaintiffs] were the actual residents at the address appearing on any arrest warrant and likewise knew or had reason to believe that [P]laintiffs had no association whatsoever with the alleged suspect [Hunter].” Plaintiffs state that they “openly occupied and resided” in their home, which “was easily verifiable by anyone interested in determining who resided in such property.”
As a consequence of this incident, Plaintiffs plan to vacate their home, as “their continued presence therein serves as a constant reminder of the events” that occurred. [Footnote#10: As of the time of the hearing on Defendant Springmeyer’s Motion to Dismiss, which occurred on March 26, 2012, Plaintiffs had not yet vacated their home. Counsel for Plaintiffs stated that one Plaintiff “may have left and relocated for a period of time” and may or may not have returned to the residence.
In deciding that adequate facts had been alleged to state a claim the opinion again refers to:
“tactical ninja-like uniforms” that obscured their identities. Plaintiffs only learned of Springmeyer’s identity because she introduced herself and stated that she supervised the raid. Given the nature and circumstances of this incident, it would be difficult for Plaintiffs to plead the facts in their Amended Complaint with any more specificity. See Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir. 2005) (stating, “The Third Circuit has held that a civil rights complaint is adequate where it states the conduct, time, place, and persons responsible”) (citing Boykins v. Ambridge Area Sch. Dist., 621 F.2d 75, 80 (3d Cir. 1980)).
it is evident from Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint that Defendant Springmeyer, along with the eleven John Doe Defendants, was responsible for the excessive force that was allegedly used against Plaintiffs. Again, based on the nature and circumstances of the home invasion and the “tactical ninja[-]like uniforms” worn by Defendants during the raid that obscured their identities, it would be unreasonable to require Plaintiffs to plead these facts with further specificity at this time.