United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING MUNICIPAL DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO
S. Lasnik United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on “Defendants City of
Seattle, Seattle Police Department's Motion to Dismiss
Under Rule 12(b)(6) and 12(b)(1).” Dkt. #
In the context of a motion to dismiss, the Court's review
is generally limited to the contents of the complaint.
Campanelli v. Bockrath, 100 F.3d 1476, 1479 (9th
Cir. 1996). Nevertheless, Ninth Circuit authority allows the
Court to consider documents attached to or referenced
extensively in the complaint, documents that form the basis
of plaintiffs' claim, and matters of judicial notice when
determining whether the allegations state a claim upon which
relief can be granted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). U.S.
v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908-09 (9th Cir. 2003).
Because the documents attached to the complaint and the
surveillance videos provided by the City fall within one or
more of these categories, the allegations of the complaint
and these records have been considered in ruling on the
City's motion. The City has not, however, shown that the
General Offense Report regarding the incident or the
Declaration of Kathleen O'Toole are integral parts of
plaintiff's complaint or are matters which can be
judicially noticed for the truth of the matters stated
therein. The Court declines to convert the City's motion
into a motion for summary judgment and has therefore not
considered the report or declaration.
question for the Court on a motion to dismiss is whether the
facts alleged in the complaint sufficiently state a
“plausible” ground for relief. Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). All
well-pleaded allegations are presumed to be true, with all
reasonable inferences drawn in favor of the non-moving party.
In re Fitness Holdings Int'l, Inc., 714 F.3d
1141, 1144-45 (9th Cir. 2013). If the complaint fails to
state a cognizable legal theory or fails to provide
sufficient facts to support a claim, dismissal is
appropriate. Shroyer v. New Cingular Wireless Servs.,
Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2010).
reviewed the memoranda, declarations, and exhibits as set
forth above,  the Court finds as follows:
follows is a recitation of plaintiffs' allegations
modified as necessary to be consistent with the surveillance
videos. Both the allegations and the videos are construed in
favor of plaintiffs.
claims arise out of an incident occurring on April 4, 2015,
outside the Rhino Room bar in the Capitol Hill neighborhood
of Seattle. Plaintiff Sean Perryman (hereinafter,
“Perryman”) was out with two friends and was denied
reentry into the Rhino Room by a security guard.
Perryman's friend, Matthew Taylor, “became
uncontrollably angry, ” and Perryman attempted to
defuse the situation. Dkt. # 3-1 at 4. Taylor would not be
dissuaded, however. Even after Perryman physically removed
him from the scene, Taylor returned and began taking photos
of the security guards with his phone. A security guard came
up behind Taylor and either grabbed his phone or shoved him.
Perryman intervened, putting his shoulder into the security
guard's midriff and knocking him away from Taylor. The
guard stumbled backwards and Perryman ended up on the ground.
As Perryman was getting up, a bystander, Justin Ismael,
shoved him. Perryman rushed Ismael, driving him into a metal
railing: the two of them locked and ended up in the street.
At this point, Perryman is attacked by a number of people who
push him further out into the street. Plaintiffs allege that
Perryman was thrown to the ground, put into a choke hold,
tased, and handcuffed. His lips were split open, and he
chipped a tooth. Ismael can be seen falling back onto the
curb. When he attempts to get up, his leg will not hold him.
meanwhile, called 911 and reported that he had just been
assaulted, that security guards were on top of his friend,
that Perryman's face was pinned to the ground, and that
he was spitting out blood. A patrol car pulled up shortly
thereafter. The officer who emerges from the passenger side
door is met by an unidentified man and sees Ismael sitting on
the ground with a disfigured knee and Perryman lying
handcuffed on the sidewalk. The officer and his partner speak
with Taylor, who reported that he was attacked by one of the
security guards. An officer spoke with Ismael, who identified
Perryman as the person who injured his leg. Ismael told the
officer that he had gotten involved because Perryman had
thrown Taylor to the ground. Other witnesses at the scene are
questioned and reported that Perryman was the one who
attacked Ismael. Plaintiffs allege that Taylor told the
responding officers that he wanted to press charges against
the security guard who attacked him and asked them to
“watch the video.” Dkt. # 3-1 at 7. The officers
did not review the surveillance tapes or the videos taken by
numerous bystanders before arresting Perryman and charging
him with assault. The charge was dropped when additional
evidence, presumably the surveillance videos, threw doubt on
Ismael's version of events.
Sean Perryman and his father, the Reverend Wayne Perryman,
filed this lawsuit pro se on January 24, 2017. It is not
entirely clear what causes of action are being asserted
against the City, but the gravamen of the complaint seems to
be that Perryman's arrest was a reflection of racist
police policies and practices which presume African Americans
are guilty and that other races are not. Plaintiffs do not
deny that Perryman fought with Ismael or that Ismael was
injured. Rather, they allege that, had the police not been so
quick to assume that the only African American at the scene
must be the guilty one, they would have done a more thorough
investigation and discovered that Ismael lied when he said
that Perryman had attacked Taylor and that Ismael was the
aggressor in the conflict. The Court will assume, for
purposes of this motion, that plaintiffs are asserting that
Perryman was falsely arrested and/or that his equal
protection rights were violated.
False Arrest and/or Unreasonable Seizure
Washington law, “[a] false arrest occurs when a person
with actual or pretended legal authority to arrest unlawfully
restrains or imprisons another person.” Youker v.
Douglas County, 162 Wn.App. 448, 465 (2011). Under
federal law, the Fourth Amendment protects individuals
against unreasonable seizure. Seizures are neither unlawful
nor unreasonable if the arresting officer has probable cause
to believe that the individual has committed a crime.
Manuel v. City of Joliet, Ill., __ U.S. __, 137
S.Ct. 911, 917 (2017). Probable cause that will defeat a
claim for false arrest or unreasonable seizure must be based
on reasonably trustworthy information. Bishop v. City of
Spokane, 142 Wn.App. 165, 170 (2007); Allen v. City
of Portland, 73 F.3d 232, 237 (9th Cir. 1995). An
officer may not rely solely on the claim of a witness that he
or she was the victim of a crime “but must
independently investigate the basis of the witness'
knowledge or interview other witnesses.” Arpin v.
Santa Clara Valley Transp. Agency, 261 F.3d 912, 925
(9th Cir. 2001).
Sean Perryman was arrested for assaulting Ismael. The
allegations of the complaint and the two surveillance videos
reveal that the arresting officers did not simply rely on
Ismael's account of what happened. They contacted a
number of witnesses at the scene, all of whom stated that
Perryman had injured Ismael. Even if all of the witnesses
“deliberately and intentionally fabricated their story
to have Sean arrested” (Dkt. # 3-1 at 6), there is no
indication that the officers had any reason to doubt the
version of events they heard from a number of individuals.
Plaintiffs do not allege that Perryman or Taylor told the
officers that Perryman was acting in self-defense or was
otherwise not responsible - factually or legally - for
Ismael's injury. In fact, for purposes of this motion,
there is no indication that Perryman told the officers
anything. Taylor, for his part, was allegedly focused on the
security guard's attack on himself, indicating that he
wished to bring charges against the guard. Whatever happened
between Taylor and the security guard has no bearing,
however, on whether the officers had probable cause to
believe that Perryman had assaulted Ismael.
false arrest and unreasonable seizure claims are based on the
assertion that the officers ignored exculpatory evidence,
namely the surveillance videos, when investigating the melee
in front of the Rhino Room. But the officers spoke with a
number of witnesses at the scene and were told the same
thing: Perryman was the aggressor and had injured Ismael.
Given what they knew, the investigation was reasonable.
Plaintiffs have not plead any facts from which one could
plausibly conclude that the officers should have realized at
the time that further inquiry was necessary before
determining that there was probable cause to arrest Perryman
plaintiffs have not properly alleged a false arrest or
unreasonable seizure claim against an individual officer, the
City can have no liability as ...