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Lucas v. Cabezas

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

August 7, 2019

GARY LUCAS, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER CABEZAS and OFFICER ARCHER, Defendants.

          FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

          BETH BLOOM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS CAUSE is before the Court following a bench trial that took place on May 28, 2019. The parties submitted their closing arguments and proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law following the filing of the trial transcript. See ECF No. [102] (Plaintiff's Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law); ECF No. [103] (Defendants' Closing Argument and Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law). The Court has carefully considered the testimony and other evidence presented at trial, the applicable law, and the parties' submissions. Set forth below are the Court's relevant findings of fact and conclusions of law.

         I.INTRODUCTION

         This case arises as a result of an encounter between Plaintiff Gary Lucas (“Lucas”) and Defendants, City of Hollywood Police Officers Archer (“Archer”), Cabezas (“Cabezas”), and Sinnes (“Sinnes”) in 2017. Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on June 28, 2017, alleging that Defendants used excessive force against him during the course of his arrest, specifically after he was handcuffed. As a result, he sustained physical injuries and pain and suffering. Lucas asserts a claim against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.

         II. FINDINGS OF FACT

         A. The parties involved

         Gary Lucas was born and raised in Hollywood, Florida. He suffers from schizophrenia and depression. He has at least one prior felony conviction within the last ten years. Lucas was married in 2002. He has been a widower since 2014, after his wife died of congenital heart failure. Before becoming disabled in 2008, he worked in various industries, including construction and fast food, and he had his own business at one time.

         Officer Andrew Archer was hired as a police officer in the Hollywood Police Department in July of 2013. He is assigned to the Neighborhood Team Unit and tasked with being a liaison between the community and police department.

         Officer Rolando Cabezas is a member of a Community Oriented Policing Unit, in which he also acts as a liaison between the community and police department. He is specifically tasked with integrating himself within the community, addressing complaints from the community, and identifying and devising responses to specific problems. Cabezas has been a police officer for just over five years.

         Officer Michael Sinnes has been a Hollywood police officer for seven years and is currently in the Neighborhood Services Division. His duties include dealing with chronic and specific problems of the residents of the east side of Hollywood, and he too acts as a liaison between the community and the police department.

         On the day of Lucas's arrest, Archer, Cabezas, and Sinnes were members of the same unit.

         B. Events leading to Lucas's arrest

         On May 19, 2017, Lucas was living with his sister, Carmella Gardner (“Gardner”), at 2239 Forrest Street. At the time, Lucas was aware that there could be an active warrant for his arrest because he had missed a previous court hearing on March 2, 2017. Archer knew that Lucas had outstanding warrants, as Archer and Lucas had had previous encounters. Archer had ticketed Lucas multiple times for parking his car in an alleyway behind his previous residence. During their previous encounters, Lucas would come out of his residence and video record Archer ticketing his vehicle.

         On the morning of May 19, 2017, Lucas testified that he was outside his sister's house cleaning his bicycle. Officers Cabezas and Archer testified that Lucas was walking his bicycle on Forrest Street. The Officers were riding together that day in a Tahoe police vehicle to patrol their assigned area, which included Forrest Street. As they approached 2239 Forrest Street, Archer, who was driving, pointed out Lucas and told Cabezas that he had outstanding active warrants. Cabezas decided to exit the vehicle with the intention of apprehending Lucas. When Lucas realized that the Tahoe was approaching and saw Cabezas exiting, he turned and ran through the front gate and into his sister's house. Cabezas followed Lucas to the front door of the house, which had not closed behind him. Upon seeing three black males inside the house and a large aggressive dog, Cabezas decided not to follow Lucas in the house. Cabezas shut the door to the house and ...


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