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WILLOWBY v. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA

November 15, 1996

TYRONE WILLOWBY, and ROBERT MC KOY, a minor, by his guardian, BERNICE MC KOY, Plaintiffs
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, and MARVIN YOUNG, POLICE OFFICER, BADGE NO. 3033, individually and in his official capacity as a Police Officer for the City of Philadelphia, and WILLIAM JEITNER, POLICE OFFICER, BADGE NO. 2636, individually and in his official capacity as a Police Officer for the City of Philadelphia, and MICHAEL MANDER, SERGEANT, BADGE NO. 276, individually and in his official capacity as a Police Officer for the City of Philadelphia, and POLICE OFFICER RICHARD DOMINICK, BADGE NO. 2685, individually and in his official capacity as a Police Officer for the City of Philadelphia, and POLICE OFFICER CHARLES SHELTON, BADGE NO. 7444, individually and in his official capacity as a Police Officer for the City of Philadelphia, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SMITH

 CHARLES B. SMITH

 UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

 I. INTRODUCTION

 Plaintiffs sue defendants, the City of Philadelphia and five Philadelphia police officers, alleging that the defendant police officers illegally detained and searched plaintiffs with weapons drawn while plaintiffs congregated at a vacant property adjacent to a home where police were serving a lawful search warrant. Plaintiffs seek money damages from the City of Philadelphia and the individual defendant police officers for violations of their constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C.A. sec. 1983 (" § 1983"), Rev. Stat. § 1979, derived from § 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 17 Stat. 13.

 On May 21, 1996, this court denied a motion for summary judgment by the plaintiffs and granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment in part. I dismissed the plaintiffs' state law claims against all defendants, but preserved plaintiffs' § 1983 claims against the individual defendants and the City of Philadelphia for allegedly violating the plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. After holding a bench trial, I make the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.

 II. FINDINGS OF FACT

 1. On August 4, 1993, Philadelphia police officers executed a valid search warrant for drugs, drug manufacturing equipment and drug sales proceeds at a home located at 5174 Viola Street (5174), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

 2. Included in the team of officers who executed the warrant and raid were defendant officers William Jeitner (Jeitner), Richard Dominick (Dominick), Charles Shelton (Shelton), Marvin Young (Young), and their commanding officer Sergeant Michael Mander (Mander).

 3. On August 4, 1993, late in the afternoon before the team of officers arrived at 5174, the plaintiffs Tyrone Willowby (Willowby) and Robert McKoy (McKoy) had congregated on the porch and steps of 5176 Viola Street (5176) an abandoned row home which shared a common wall with 5174 and were sitting with a group of three to five other individuals (bystanders) playing cards when the police arrived.

 4. The porch of 5176 is located on the front of the house facing Viola Street. It is a raised porch set approximately three feet above street level, bordered in the front by the sidewalk and enclosed on the left and right sides by the walls of the adjacent homes which reach from floor to ceiling of the porch. The front of the 5176 porch is without a wall and is set back three to five feet from the front of 5174.

 5. At approximately 6:15 p.m., the defendant officers along with a team of other police officers converged on 5174 to execute the search warrant.

 6. On the day of the drug raid, the raiding team of police officers had two tactical meetings to discuss the execution of the search warrant, one in the morning and one directly before the raid. It was at the latter of the two meetings that Mander instructed Jeitner, Dominick and Shelton to "secure" the area around 5174 Viola Street.

 7. Those three defendant officers interpreted Mander's statement to include the area around the house, including the highway in front of 5174 and the individuals located upon the porch of the adjacent property, 5176.

 8. These three officers arrived at the suspect house with a raiding party of officers in marked and unmarked police cars and carried out these instructions. All of the officers were wearing some form of demarcation, either shirts, vests or hats, indicating they were members of the Philadelphia police department.

 9. Jeitner, Dominick and Shelton got out of their vehicles, identified themselves as police officers, drew their guns and walked towards 5176 Viola, along with several other officers, instructing the plaintiffs and the other bystanders on the porch of 5176 to get down on the ground.

 10. The plaintiffs were on the ground ten to fifteen minutes, during which time the police were telling them to keep their heads down. At the same time a group of officers including Young and Mander had gone into 5174 to execute the search warrant.

 11. While the bystanders were on the ground, police officers searched McKoy by pulling off and searching his sneakers.

 12. Police officers, including Jeitner, Dominick and Shelton, then had the bystanders stand up and face a wall of the row home and commenced a pat down search. Officers also requested that both McKoy and Willowby empty their pockets so that the police could examine the contents. The plaintiffs were then released. The entire duration of the confinement was twenty to twenty-five minutes.

 III. CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

 A. Application of Fourth Amendment Principles

 Title 42 U.S.C. § 1983 provides:

 
"Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress."

 This case explores the legal nuances addressing how police officers may treat persons who find themselves in the middle of a drug raid, and the responsibility and liability of those officers, their superiors ...


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