police4aqi

Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

McKeesport, PA dogcatcher case

with 3 comments

Case: MECHELLI v. Ferree, Dist. Court, WD Pennsylvania 2015

Facts:

Plaintiff considers herself an animal rights activist and a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (“PETA”). Plaintiff alleges that on multiple occasions, Defendant Ferree, acting as McKeesport’s dog catcher, threatened to shoot Plaintiff’s dogs. Plaintiff lobbied to the former McKeesport mayor, James Brewster, to terminate Defendant Ferree for animal cruelty. Defendant Ferree was terminated, but was subsequently reinstated by Brewster’s successor, Michael Cherpko. In June 2013, Plaintiff, along with others, protested the Ferree Kennels for alleged animal cruelty activity and on the basis that Defendant Ferree shoots dogs kept at the kennels. At the protest, Plaintiff and Defendant Ferree engaged in a verbal confrontation.

On or about August 1, 2013, Plaintiff returned a phone call from McKeesport Detective Kacznski regarding stolen cars and home burglaries in the area. That same day, Plaintiff alleges that two McKeesport officers came to her house and let her two dogs out of a secured area. While one of the dogs was not recovered, the next morning, Defendant Ferree contacted Plaintiff to inform her that he had caught her other dog and that she was to immediately come to the kennel to retrieve her dog or the dog would be shot. After this conversation, Plaintiff went to the home of the mayor of White Oak, a neighboring municipality, Ina Jean Marton and Marton advised Plaintiff to go to the kennel and retrieve her dog because she believed Defendant Ferree would kill it. Plaintiff immediately went to the kennels. While on the way, Plaintiff received a phone call from Marton who urged her to hurry to the kennel because she believed that Defendant Ferree was going to kill the dog. Plaintiff arrived at the kennel and met Defendant Ferree outside and remained on the phone with Marton. Defendant Ferree informed Plaintiff that her dog was inside and Plaintiff handed Defendant Ferree $140.00 to retrieve the dog. Defendant Ferree directed Plaintiff into a lobby area inside of the kennel. Plaintiff remained on the phone with Marton, and Marton asked to speak with Defendant Ferree but he refused. Defendant Ferree then guided Plaintiff to a set of stairs and pushed her in the back down the stairs. Plaintiff lost control of her phone and fell to the ground. Defendant Ferree then kicked Plaintiff in the head, the back of the arms and ribs approximately twenty times, pulled her hair and punched her in the face, lip and jaw. Defendant Ferree also cursed at Plaintiff and used words derogatory to her gender. Plaintiff claims that after Defendant Ferree beat her, he then handcuffed her and contacted the police.

McKeesport Police Officer Stitt, and Officer Houy and approximately five other unknown officers arrived at the kennel, and Defendant Ferree informed the officers that Plaintiff had resisted arrest. Plaintiff was transported to the McKeesport Police Department where she was then told there was a warrant out for her arrest for various theft by deception charges. Therefore, Plaintiff contends that Defendant Ferree was officially working with the McKeesport Police Department to apprehend Plaintiff for this warrant. When she was in custody at the police department, she lost control of her bladder and Defendant Ferree and other officers made fun of her. Plaintiff also had visible injuries to her face and requested medical attention, but it was not provided. A few hours later, Allegheny County detectives arrived at the McKeesport Police Station to take Plaintiff to Allegheny County Jail but determined that she needed medical attention and took her to Mercy Hospital for treatment.

At Mercy Hospital, Plaintiff was diagnosed with a concussion and trauma to her back, shoulder, face and legs. After she received medical attention, she was then taken to Allegheny County Jail and released the same day. The next day, she sought additional medical attention and was diagnosed with a chest contusion, concussion and post-concussion syndrome. She suffered dizziness, fatigue, pain in her ribs and swelling.

Plaintiff was charged with disorderly conduct for the occurrence with Defendant Ferree at the kennels, and a preliminary hearing on the matter was held on December 10, 2013. Defendant Ferree did not testify at or attend the preliminary hearing. At the hearing, Defendant Officer Stitt testified that he was summoned to the kennel because he was informed that there would be a warrant suspect there. At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, the disorderly conduct charges were dismissed.

Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant Ferree, Officer Stitt, the City of McKeesport and Unknown McKeesport Police Officers. Plaintiff asserts several claims against Defendant Ferree under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 including: First Amendment retaliation (Count I); excessive force under the Fourth Amendment (Count II); cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment (Count III); Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Count V); False Arrest (Count VI); Malicious Prosecution (Count VII); and False Imprisonment (Count VIII).

Decision: No qi for the dogcatcher because he shouldn’t be beating people up.

Written by Burgers Allday

May 16, 2015 at 7:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. What happened to the dog?

    Broylesjb

    May 17, 2015 at 7:05 am

  2. 1. The opinion does not say, but it is probably reasonable to assume that the dog recovered by the dogcatcher was not killed because if it was then there probably would have been a claim based on that. It does seem odd that there is no claim against the McKeesport police for the dog let out and not recovered. There may be a separate lawsuit for that. If so, it is also possible that the suits will be joined at some point. It is also possible that plaintiff came to a private settlement with the McKeesport pd regarding the lost dog and the $140 she had to pay to get her other dog out of dog jail.

    2. I apologize for not linking the full opinion — it is now linked.

    Burgers Allday

    May 18, 2015 at 3:59 am

    • Thanks. As a regular reader I’m thrilled to get a reply!

      Jason Broyles

      May 20, 2015 at 8:37 pm


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