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Franklin v. City of Boston

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

August 30, 2016

OMAR FRANKLIN, SR., Plaintiff
v.
CITY OF BOSTON; DETECTIVE RYAN MASON; and DETECTIVE ERIC MERNER, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS

          F. Dennis Saylor IV United States District Judge

         This is a pro se civil rights action. Plaintiff Omar Franklin, Sr., has brought suit against the City of Boston and police officers Ryan Mason and Eric Merner.[1] The complaint alleges that Mason failed to protect Franklin and the public by not arresting and detaining a person suspected of firing gunshots at his home. The complaint also alleges that Merner destroyed property while executing a search warrant at Franklin's home. According to the complaint, the actions of Mason and Merner demonstrate a pattern of harassment, intimidation, and retaliation by the Boston Police Department in the African-American community in Boston.

         Although the complaint does not assert a specific cause of action, liberally construed, it appears to allege claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Mason and the City have moved to dismiss the claims against them under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.[2] Even under a liberal construction, the complaint's allegations against Mason and the City fail to state a claim. Accordingly, and for the reasons set forth below, the motions to dismiss will be granted.

         I. Background

         The following facts are accepted as true and stated as alleged in the pro se complaint, with clarification concerning certain allegations provided by plaintiff during the motion hearing.

         A. Factual Background

         At some unspecified date, an unidentified individual fired several gunshots into the home of Omar Franklin, Sr., in Boston. (Compl. ¶ 2). Apparently, Franklin reported the incident to the Boston Police Department, and Detective Ryan Mason began to investigate. After Mason texted Franklin a photo of a suspect, Franklin confirmed that the photographed individual was indeed the shooter. (Id.). The complaint alleges that Franklin “never heard back from [Mason] and when [he] did make inquiries, [he] was threat[ened] like [his] life and those around [him] did not matter.” (Id.). It is unclear who threatened him. The complaint alleges that Mason was “der[e]l[i]ct” and “failed to do his duty” by “allowing a dangerous individual to roam the community.” (Id.).

         In February 2015, the Boston Police Department obtained a warrant to search Franklin's home. (Id. ¶ 3). The complaint alleges that the warrant was in some way connected to a guest staying with him. (Id.). During the search, Detective Eric Merner, “a partner of [Mason], ” led a SWAT team in conducting a “military-type assault” on the home. (Id. ¶ 4). The complaint alleges that police arrested “a couple” individuals in the home during the search, including a young man who was carrying a weapon. (Id. ¶ 6). After the SWAT team left Franklin's home, Merner and his partners “ransacked” it, destroying Franklin's music and computer equipment. (Id. ¶ 7). Although it is not clear from the complaint, Franklin clarified during the motion hearing that Mason was not a part of the police team that conducted the search.

         The complaint alleges that, at some point, “the Boston Police or one of their [confidential informants] came and put a dead rat right by [Franklin's] car door, ” and that he “is afraid for [his] safety because of the Boston Police Department, [and] what [Mason] and [Merner] did.” (Id. ¶ 11). It also alleges that defendants violated Franklin's “civil right to equal protection under the law” and that they have a “policy” of harassment, intimidation, and retaliation in the African-American community in Boston. (Id. ¶ 1).

         B. Procedural Background

         Franklin filed the complaint on March 8, 2016. Mason and the City have each moved to dismiss the claims against them pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         II. Legal Standard

         On a motion to dismiss, the Court “must assume the truth of all well-plead[ed] facts and give . . . plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences therefrom.” Ruiz v. Bally Total Fitness Holding Corp., 496 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2007) (citing Rogan v. Menino, 175 F.3d 75, 77 (1st Cir. 1999)). To survive a motion to dismiss, the complaint must state a claim that is plausible on its face. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). That is, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. at 555 (citations omitted). “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Dismissal is appropriate if the complaint fails to set forth “factual allegations, either direct or inferential, respecting each material element necessary to sustain recovery under some actionable legal theory.” Gagliardi v. Sullivan, 513 F.3d 301, 305 (1st Cir. 2008) (quoting Centro Medico del Turabo, Inc. v. Feliciano de Melecio, 406 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 2005)).

         A document filed by a pro se party “is to be liberally construed, and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(e) (“Pleadings must be construed so as to do justice.”). However, while pro se complaints are accorded an “extra degree of solicitude”, Rodi v. Ventetuolo, 941 F.2d 22, 23 (1st Cir. 1991), they still must “set forth factual allegations, either direct or ...


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