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Brown v. Lucas

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 14, 2018




         This is an action arising out of the use of a police dog during an arrest by Randolph police officers. Plaintiff Anthony Brown was arrested after committing burglary. During the arrest, Randolph K-9 unit officer Geoffrey Lucas commanded his police dog, Rony, to bite Brown. Brown was eventually taken into custody by other officers who arrived on the scene.

         Brown has brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, contending that Lucas and officer Craig Staffier used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. He is proceeding pro se. Defendants have moved for summary judgment, and plaintiff has moved to amend the complaint to add the City of Randolph as a defendant. For the following reasons, the motion for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part, and the motion to amend will be denied.

         I. Background

         Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are as set forth in the record and are undisputed.[1]

         A. Factual Background

         On April 23, 2013, police dispatchers in Randolph, Massachusetts, received a phone call from a homeowner on Vine Street stating that an unidentified male (later identified as Anthony Brown) had attempted to break into his home. (Def. Ex. A). The homeowner stated that the male fled on a bicycle toward Lafayette Street. (Id.). Detectives David Clark and Michael Tuitt of the Randolph Police Department viewed the homeowner's security video and noted that the suspect appeared to be an African-American male “around 5'11 with a[n] athletic buil[d].” (Id.). The suspect was also wearing a hooded sweatshirt, jeans, and white sneakers. (Id.).

         Detective Clark was then informed by dispatchers that a homeowner on Belcher Street had returned home with his son when he encountered a male (later identified as Brown) stealing his Apple iPad. (Id.). The homeowner stated that the male fled toward a wooded area behind his home. (Id.). The homeowner provided a physical description of the suspect that corroborated the video recording from Vine Street. (Id.).

         Officers set up a perimeter surrounding the wooded area between North Main Street and Belcher Street. (Id.). Sergeant Anthony Marag saw an individual who fit the suspect's description running through several backyards. (Id.). K-9 unit officer Geoffrey Lucas and his German Shepherd dog, Rony, then moved into the area.[2] Another officer, Craig Staffier, saw the suspect run into a yard at the corner of School Lane and Belcher Street, and radioed his location to other officers, including Lucas. (Id.).

         The parties dispute the circumstances surrounding Brown's arrest. Defendants contend that the dog tracked the suspect's scent and led Lucas eastward until they arrived in a lot containing a shed and various debris, including scrap metal and hardware. (Id.). According to defendants, the dog pulled Lucas toward a sheet of plywood on the ground, and attempted to crawl under it. (Id.). Lucas turned over the plywood, uncovering Brown, and ordered him to show his hands. (Id.). Brown then punched the dog in the head and attempted to kick him. (Id.). Lucas then ordered the dog to bite Brown, and it bit Brown's left calf. (Id.).

         By contrast, at his criminal trial, Brown testified that he was urinating on the side of a house when he saw Lucas and Rony approaching. (Trial Tr. at 96).[3] Although Lucas ordered him to get down, Brown refused until he saw the dog getting closer. (Id. at 97). Brown testified in substance that at that point, he surrendered, lay prostrate on the ground, and asked Lucas to not permit the dog to bite him. (Id.). According to Brown, although he was compliant with the officer's commands, Lucas “let the dog maul the back of [his left] leg.” (Id. at 98).

         After the bite occurred, Staffier arrived and rolled Brown onto his stomach to handcuff him. (Id. at 165). Within a few minutes, other officers arrived to help take Brown into custody and obtain medical treatment. (Def. Ex. A).

         Brown was prosecuted in Norfolk Superior Court for burglary and various related charges. On April 1, 2015, he was convicted of nighttime unarmed burglary, daytime breaking and entering, and possession of burglarious tools. (Verdict Tr. at 9-10).[4] He was acquitted of attempted daytime unarmed burglary, resisting arrest, and mistreating or interfering with a police dog. (Id.).

         B. Procedu ...

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