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SCHALL v. VAZQUEZ

June 16, 2004.

ROLLIN SCOTT SCHALL, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH A. VAZQUEZ, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARVIN KATZ, Senior District Judge

FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

Plaintiff Rollin Scott Schall ("Schall") brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Corporal Joseph A. Vazquez ("Vazquez") of the Pennsylvania State Police for violations of his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, alleging that he was illegally seized and subject to excessive force by Vazquez. Schall is seeking compensatory and punitive damages from Vazquez. In addition, Schall seeks damages based on supplemental Pennsylvania law claims. After a bench trial, the court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:
I. FINDINGS OF FACT
  1. Schall is an individual employed as a civilian maintenance worker with Pennsylvania State Police Troop M Bethlehem Barracks in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Schall has been employed in that capacity since December 1991.

  2. Vazquez has been employed as an officer with the Pennsylvania State Police for approximately 24 years and was assigned to Troop M Bethlehem Barracks on September 1, 1983. 3. Schall and Vazquez worked together at the Bethlehem Barracks for approximately 12 years. They had developed a friendly relationship at work that included "horseplay" such as verbal taunts, throwing food at each other, and pushing or shoving each other.

  4. Schall and Vazquez both consented to this type of horseplay behavior prior to January 31, 2003. The horseplay prior to this date never involved a firearm.

  5. On Friday, January 31, 2003, Schall and Vazquez were both on duty at the Bethlehem barracks.

  6. Between 12 and 1 p.m. on January 31, 2003, Schall was sitting in the barracks lunchroom. Several other State Police employees were present, including Roger Andras, Tina Koren, Trooper Paul Iannace, and Trooper Christopher Sullivan.

  7. Vazquez entered the lunchroom sometime between 12 and 1 p.m. with a plate of cupcakes, which he set down on a table. Schall spoke to Vazquez, commenting on Vazquez's weight and telling him he should eat a cupcake.

  8. Vazquez responded with a similar comment about Schall and left the lunchroom to hang up his coat. Less than a minute later, he returned to the lunchroom and spoke with Schall again.

  9. After conversing with Schall for several minutes, Vazquez grabbed Schall near the top of his head using his left arm. With Schall's face pressed against Vazquez's chest in a headlock-type hold, Vazquez removed his service revolver with his right hand and held it against Schall's head. This event was not preceded by physical horseplay on this day.

  10. Schall could not see the exact position of Vazquez's service revolver because his face was turned towards Vazquez's chest.

  11. Vazquez pointed the loaded gun at Schall's head for a few seconds. 12. After a few seconds, Vazquez placed his weapon back in its holster and released Schall from the headlock hold.

  13. Schall did not resist Vazquez's physical force while being held in the headlock.

  14. Schall did not believe he was free to go until Vazquez reholstered his weapon and released him from the headlock hold.

  15. After Vazquez released him, Schall walked out of the lunchroom.

  16. On Monday, February 3, 2003, Vazquez's superiors told him that there would be an internal investigation into the January 31, 2003 incident.

  17. After the January 31, 2003 incident and the subsequent internal affairs investigation, Vazquez received a six-week suspension from the State Police without ...


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