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Allen v. Bamford

United States District Court, D. Oregon

May 25, 2017

BLAKE ALLEN, Plaintiff,
v.
RODNEY BAMFORD, Defendant.

          OPINION & ORDER

          MICHAEL J. MCSHANE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Blake Allen filed this action on 6/2/2016 against Keizer police officer Rodney Bamford. In his Complaint, Mr. Allen alleges that Officer Bamford violated Allen's 4th Amendment rights by arresting him without probable cause for the crime of Interfering with a Police Officer (ORS 162.247(1)) during a domestic violence investigation at Allen's home on 9/19/2015. (ECF No. 1).

         Allen filed a Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 32) on 3/27/2017. Bamford filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 39) on 3/31/2017. Oral arguments were heard in court on 4/14/2017 (ECF No. 65), and these matters are now before this Court.

         Because Officer Bamford had probable cause to arrest Mr. Allen and is entitled to qualified immunity, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 39) is GRANTED and this matter is DISMISSED with prejudice, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Plaintiffs Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 32) is DENIED as moot.

         BACKGROUND

         On 9/15/2015, Mr. Allen and his girlfriend Kristin May attended Oktoberfest in Mt. Angel, Oregon. They returned to their home located on Winter Leaf Court North in Keizer, Oregon at approximately 11pm. (ECF No. 42-1 at p.3). Allen and May had consumed alcohol at Oktoberfest[1] and they were arguing upon their return home. (Id. at pp.4-5). At approximately 11:20pm, a neighbor called 911 to report a potential domestic violence situation. The neighbor reported that she heard a man yelling and screaming profanities and twice heard a woman crying and saying, "Ouch, ouch" and "Get away from me" (ECF No. 40 at pp. 1-2; 41 at pp. 1-2; 42-2 at p.3; and 55-2 at p.2).

         In response to the 911 call, Keizer Police dispatched Officer Bamford, Officer Perez, and Officer Harrison to the area. (ECF No. 42-2 at p.4). When the officers were standing in the front yard of the neighbor's house, they could hear a woman (later identified as Ms. May) crying from somewhere inside Allen's house. (ECF No. 41 at p.2; 42-2 at p.7; 42-1 at p.5). Officers Bamford and Perez walked to the front door of Allen's house and knocked on the front door while Officer Harrison stayed behind. (ECF No. 42-2 at p.8). Mr. Allen answered the door, stepped out of the house, and closed the door behind him. (ECF No. 42-1 at p.6; 42-2 at p. 12; and 41 at p.2). Bamford and Perez explained to Allen that they were responding to a possible domestic disturbance and asked him what had happened. (Id.). Mr. Allen admitted that he and Ms. May had been in an argument, but that it was just verbal. (ECF No. 42-1 at p.8; 42-2 at p. 12; and 41 at p.2).

         The officers then asked Mr. Allen if they could either step inside to speak with Ms. May or if he could ask her to come outside so they could talk to her and verify that the dispute had not been physical (ECF No. 42-2 at pp. 13-15, 21, 27; 42-1 at p.9; and 41 at pp.2-3). Mr. Allen was warned that if he did not comply and tried to prevent the officers from contacting Ms. May, he could be arrested for interfering. (Id. and ECF No. 40 at p.3). During his deposition, Mr. Allen recalled that the officers made these requests and explained his options "more than once... maybe about three times." (ECF No. 42-1 at p. 10). Mr. Allen refused both options, telling the officers that they "needed a warrant" and that he did "not have to help them." (ECF No. 42-2 at p.l3;4l at pp.2-3; and 42-1 at p.9).

         Mr. Allen then took a step backwards towards the closed door, blocking the officers' access to it, at which point Officer Bamford told Allen he was under arrest for the crime of Interfering. Officer Bamford placed Allen in handcuffs. (ECF No. 40 at p. 4; 41 at p.3; 42-2 at pp.15-16, 23-24). After being arrested, Mr. Allen was transported to Marion County Jail. (ECF No. 1 at p.2; 32 at p.6). On 9/25/2015, the Marion County District Attorney filed an Information charging Allen with Interfering (the same crime he was arrested for), but the charge was never prosecuted. (ECF No. 55-1).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The court must grant summary judgment if there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue of fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonably jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Villiarimo v. Aloha Island Air., Inc., 281 F.3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Allen v. City of Los Angeles, 66 F.3d 1052, 1056 (9th Cir. 1995) (citing Jesinger v. Nevada Federal Credit Union, 24 F.3d 1127, 1130 (9th Cir. 1994)). On a motion for summary judgment, "the moving party bears the initial burden to show the absence of a material and triable issue of fact; the burden then moves to the opposing party, who must present significant probative evidence tending to support its claim or defense." Richards v. Neilsen Freight Lines, 810 F.2d 898, 902 (9th Cir. 1987).

         "Probable cause for a warrantless arrest arises when the facts and circumstances within the officer's knowledge are sufficient to warrant a prudent person to believe 'that the suspect has committed, is committing, or is about to commit an offense.'" Devenpeck v. Afford, 543 U.S. 146, 152 (2004); Barry v. Fowler, 902 F.2d 770, 773 (9th Cir. 1990); Lacey v. Maricopa County, 693 F.3d 896, 918 (9th Cir. 2012). The determination of probable cause requires only a "fair probability" or a "substantial chance" of criminal activity, not an actual showing that such activity occurred. US v. Brooks, 367 F.3d 1128, 1 l34(9th Cir. 2004). Whether probable cause exists depends upon the reasonable conclusion to be drawn from the facts known to the arresting officer at the time of the arrest. Devenpeck v. Afford, 543 U.S. 146, 152 (2004) (citing Maryland v. Pringle, 540 U.S. 366, 371 (2003)). If an officer has probable cause to believe that an individual has committed even a very minor criminal offense in his presence, he may arrest the individual without violating the Fourth Amendment. Atwater v. City of Logo Vista, 532 U.S. 318, 354, 121 S.Ct. 1536, 1557, 149 L.Ed.2d 549 (2001).

         ORS 162.247(1) provides that:

"A person commits the crime of interfering with a peace officer... if the person, knowing that another person is a ...

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