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Young v. Pena

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

August 6, 2019

DANIEL YOUNG, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
PATRICK E. PENA, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ADOPTING IN PART AND REJECTING IN PART REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          JAMES L. ROBART United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the court on the report and recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Michelle L. Peterson (R&R (Dkt. # 50)) and Defendants Patrick Pena, Nicolas Sturlaugson, Travis Hauri, David Johnson, and City of Bellingham's (collectively, “Defendants”) objections thereto (Obj. (Dkt. # 52)). Plaintiffs Daniel Young[1] and Richard Young (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) did not file objections or a response to Defendants' objections. (See Dkt.) Having carefully reviewed the foregoing, the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law, the court ADOPTS in part and REJECTS in part the report and recommendation.

         II. BACKGROUND

         In June 2016, Mr. Young, a 65-year-old First Nations man, was renting a two-bedroom apartment in Bellingham, Washington. (Young Decl. (Dkt. # 35) ¶¶ 2-3, 9.) Mr. Young had three roommates at the time, although only one of his roommates was identified on the lease. (Id. ¶¶ 10-19.) According to Mr. Young, each of his roommates went by numerous false names. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 15-16, 17.) Mr. Young's longtime acquaintance, Heather (who was identified by a false name on the lease), Heather's daughter, Ashley (who was going by the name “Isabella Petrova”), and Ashley's brother (or boyfriend), Andrew Albers, were all living in the apartment with Mr. Young. (Id.) On June 2, 2016, Mr. Young's daughter, Ms. Katzenjammer, visited Mr. Young at the apartment, but she did not live there. (Id. at ¶¶ 25, 30.)

         Defendants Patrick Pena and Nicolas Sturlaugson, who are both City of Bellingham Police Officers, were on patrol in the same vehicle when they responded to a 911 call around 9:15 p.m. that evening. (12/3/18 Sturlaugson Decl. (Dkt. # 12) ¶ 3; Pena Decl. (Dkt. # 13) ¶ 3.) A woman who identified herself to the 911 dispatcher and police officers as Isabella Petrova reported that “Daniel” (Ms. Katzenjammer) was drunk and starting fights at her apartment. (12/3/18 Sturlaugson Decl. ¶ 3, Ex. A (“CAD Report”).) She further reported that Ms. Katzenjammer was groping her and her friends, had broken a glass, and was laying on the ground screaming. (12/3/18 Sturlaugson Decl. ¶ 4.) Ms. Petrova waited outside with a friend for the officers to arrive. (Id. ¶¶ 4-5.)

         When Officers Pena and Sturlaugson arrived at the apartment complex, they contacted Ms. Petrova in the parking lot. (Id. ¶ 4.) She once again reported that Ms. Katzenjammer was inside the apartment with Mr. Young. (Id. ¶ 5.) Ms. Petrova identified Mr. Young to the officers as her uncle, although they are not related. (Id.) She again reported that Ms. Katzenjammer was intoxicated and had groped her and her friend. (Id.) Ms. Petrova reported that she lives at the apartment with her brother and Mr. Young, and asked the officers to remove Ms. Katzenjammer. (Id.; Pena Decl. ¶ 4.)

         Ms. Petrova then walked Officers Pena and Sturlaugson to the apartment and let them in. (4/26/19 Sturlaugson Decl. (Dkt. # 42) ¶ 8, Ex. A (“Video Recording”).) When they entered the apartment, Mr. Young was sitting upright on a couch in the living room. (Id.) Ms. Katzenjammer was kneeling on the living room floor to the right of the officers. (Id.) Officer Pena immediately stated, “[h]ey guys” and “[a]re you Daniel?” as he looked at Ms. Katzenjammer. (Id.) Officer Pena told Ms. Katzenjammer the reason the officers were there and explained, “if you are Daniel, we are just here to ask you to leave.” (Id.) He told Ms. Katzenjammer that “other people that live here” and that “apparently you've been causing a ruckus, you are too drunk they want you out.” (Id.) Officer Pena asked Ms. Katzenjammer to come outside to talk. (Id.)

         At this point, Mr. Young and Ms. Katzenjammer began questioning the officers as to who wanted Ms. Katzenjammer to leave the apartment. (Id.) Ms. Petrova responded, “[r]ight here.” (Id.) Officer Pena then asked if Ms. Katzenjammer wanted to speak outside, at which point Mr. Young stood up and walked quickly towards Officer Pena saying “[s]ure, I want to talk to this human being.” (Id.) When the officers informed Mr. Young that they did not need to talk to him and he could sit down, Mr. Young said, “you don't?” and then raised his arms and reached towards Officer Pena's chest or collar. (Id.) In the video, Mr. Young appears intoxicated and hostile. (Id.)

         Officer Pena then pushed Mr. Young away, forcing Mr. Young back a few feet, and issued verbal warnings to stop or Mr. Young could be tased. (Id.) After a short pause, Mr. Young again took several steps towards Officer Pena. (Id.) Officer Sturlaugson then deployed his taser in “dart mode.” (Id.) The taser prongs impacted Mr. Young in his thigh, causing him to fall backwards abruptly, close to where Ms. Katzenjammer was still kneeling on the floor. (Id.) Taser records reflect that the taser cycled one time for five seconds. (Starkovich Decl. (Dkt. # 15) ¶¶ 6-7, Ex. A.) Mr. Young remained on the ground after being tased, but continued to argue with the officers. (Video Recording.)

         The parties have different versions of what happened next between Ms. Katzenjammer and the officers, and the video does not resolve the factual dispute because only Ms. Katzenjammer's torso and above are visible. (Id.) Officers Pena and Sturlaugson assert that Mr. Young was lying on the ground with the taser wires from Officer Sturlaugson's taser still extending from the probes attached to his leg. (12/3/18 Sturlaugson Decl. ¶ 9; Pena Decl. ¶ 8.) After Ms. Katzenjammer told the officers that Mr. Young had a serious medical condition, Officer Sturlaugson said, “we aren't trying to hurt him, but he can't hurt us.” (Video Recording.) By this point, Officer Pena drew his taser and told Ms. Katzenjammer to “sit down, get away.” (Id.) Defendants claim that, after the taser cycle was complete, Ms. Katzenjammer attempted to break the wires connecting Officer Sturlaugson's taser to the probes in Mr. Young's thigh. (12/3/18 Sturlaugson Decl. ¶ 9; Pena Decl. ¶ 8.) Officer Sturlaugson asserts that he was concerned that if the taser wires were broken, he would lose the ability to control Mr. Young if he became violent. (12/3/18 Sturlaugson Decl. ¶ 8.) In addition, Officer Pena asserts that his path to Ms. Katzenjammer was obstructed by Mr. Young's body, the taser wires from Officer Sturlaugson's taser, and a coffee table. (Pena Decl. ¶ 8.)

         In contrast, Ms. Katzenjammer claims that she did not touch the taser wires attached to Mr. Young, and remained kneeling on the floor. (Katzenjammer Decl. (Dkt. # 36) ¶ 81.) In the video recording, Officer Pena does not explicitly mention the taser wires in his instructions to Ms. Katzenjammer, but continues to warn her that if she does not sit back on the couch, she will get tased. (Video Recording.) Ms. Katzenjammer appears intoxicated and defiant, and is non-compliant with Officer Pena's directive. (Id.) The video, however, does not show Ms. Katzenjammer's hands, or whether she was attempting to remove the taser wires from her father's thigh. (Id.)

         After Ms. Katzenjammer failed to comply with Officer Pena's repeated orders, Officer Pena warned, “you're going to get tased, you're going to get tased.” (Video Recording.) Ms. Katzenjammer responded, “[y]ou can tase the fuck out of me and I will make weird things happen for your life.” (Id.; Pena Decl. ¶ 9.) Officer Pena then said, “you need to get back and sit on the couch, ” to which Ms. Katzenjammer responded, “no.” (Video Recording.) Officer Pena then deployed his taser in dart mode at Ms. Katzenjammer. (Pena Decl. ¶ 11.)

         According to the video, the taser did not appear to incapacitate Ms. Katzenjammer at first because she began wrapping the taser wires around her hand. (Video Recording.) Officer Pena deployed his taser a second time, which momentarily incapacitated Ms. Katzenjammer. (Pena Decl. ¶ 11.) Taser data shows that Officer Pena's first taser cycle lasted five seconds, and the second taser deployment occurred immediately thereafter for another five seconds. (Starkovich Decl. ¶ 8.) The officers then physically restrained Mr. Young and Ms. Katzenjammer. (Video Recording.)

         Before Plaintiffs were in handcuffs, Officer Travis Hauri arrived at the scene. (Hauri Decl. (Dkt. # 17) ¶ 5.) Officer Hauri began to subdue Ms. Katzenjammer, who was struggling and resisting the handcuffs. (Id.) Officers Sturlaugson and Pena then handcuffed Mr. Young as additional officers arrived on the scene. (Video Recording.) The entire incident in the apartment-from the officers' arrival to both Plaintiffs being in handcuffs-lasted about four minutes. (Id.)

         After Officer Sturlaugson walked Mr. Young out of the apartment to the patrol vehicle, Officer Pena asked Mr. Young to confirm the identity of “Daniel.” (Id.) During that conversation, Officer Pena explained that Mr. Young would have been able to stay in his apartment but “you rose up at me.” (Id.) Mr. Young was arrested for felony assault in the third degree for assaulting Officer Pena and transported to the Whatcom County Jail. (12/3/18 Sturlaugson Decl. ¶¶ 16-17; Pena Decl. ¶ 14.)

         Ms. Katzenjammer remained uncooperative, and eventually medics on the scene administered medication to sedate her. (Video Recording; Hauri Decl. ¶ 11.) Ms. Katzenjammer then fell asleep on the gurney and was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital for treatment. (Id.) Ms. Katzenjammer was never placed under arrest; nor was she transported to the Whatcom County Jail like Mr. Young. (Pena Decl. ¶ 19.)

         Officer Hauri then went to the Emergency Department at St. Joseph Hospital with his supervisor, Sgt. David Johnson, to speak with Ms. Katzenjammer about the incident. (Johnson Decl. (Dkt. # 18) ¶ 11.) However, Officer Hauri and Sgt. Johnson found Ms. Katzenjammer “unconscious and unable to answer any questions about the incident.” (Id.) According to Sgt. Johnson, “as part of the investigation, at the hospital Officer Hauri photographed the taser impact sites on Daniel Young's body.” (Id.) According to Sgt. Johnson's Longarm Case Report:

Investigator Hauri and I went to the Emergency Department at St Joseph Hospital and located DANIEL YOUNG (C1) who was unconscious in one of the rooms. A nurse advised that the taser probes had already been removed from DANIEL YOUNG (C1), but she had noted that three taser probes that contacted his abdomen and one had contacted his thigh. Investigator Hauri photographed the possible locations where the probes had contacted DANIEL YOUNG (C1). DANIEL YOUNG (C1) was unconscious during this entire process and we were unable to ask him any questions.

(Id. ¶ 12, Ex. A (“Johnson Report”) at 4.) Officer Hauri has a similar account of ...


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