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Miranda-Rivera v. Toledo-Dávila

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

February 12, 2016

NORMA IRIS MIRANDA-RIVERA; THE ESTATE OF CHRISTOPHER ROJAS MIRANDA; NANCY I. TRINIDAD-TORRES, on behalf of her minor child C.Y.R.T., Plaintiffs, Appellants, GABRIEL ROJAS-PIRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
PEDRO TOLEDO-DÁVILA, Superintendent, Police of Puerto Rico; MIGUEL RODRÍGUEZ-CRESPI, Sergeant; WILLIAM PÉREZ-SOTO, Police Officer, Defendants, Appellees, ANIBAL ACEVEDO-VILA, Governor for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; ROBERTO SÁNCHEZ-RAMOS, Secretary of Justice, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico; ORLANDO RIVERA-LUGARDO; JUAN JOSÉ TOLEDOBAYOUTH; JOSÉ TOLEDO-BAYOUTH; FERNANDO TOLEDO-BAYOUTH; PEDRO J. TOLEDO-BAYOUTH; JOHN DOE, Police Officer, Toa Baja; INSURANCE COMPANY ABC, INC.; RICHARD ROE, Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO. Hon. Daniel E. Domínguez, U.S. District Judge.

Pedro R. Vázquez, III, with whom José F. Quetglas Jordan was on brief for appellant.

Susana I. Peñagarícano Brown, Assistant Solicitor General, with whom Margarita L. Mercado-Echegaray, Solicitor General, was on brief for appellees.

Before Barron, Hawkins,[*] and Lipez, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

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HAWKINS, Circuit Judge.

Christopher Rojas Miranda (" Rojas" ) was arrested by Puerto Rico Police Department (" PRPD" ) officers for driving under the influence. Shortly after they brought him to the police station, he died in a holding cell. His family members and estate brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the arresting officers used excessive force against Rojas and denied him needed medical care. The district court granted summary judgment on these claims on insufficient evidence and qualified immunity grounds. We affirm in part and reverse and remand in part.

I. Background

A. Facts

At around 8:20 p.m. on April 10, 2007, PRPD officers William Pérez Ortiz (" Pérez" ) and Orlando Rivera Lugardo (" Rivera" ) observed Rojas driving at a high speed, running stoplights, and swerving. They chased him in their patrol car until he stopped at the side of the road. At their direction, Rojas exited his car and put his hands on the trunk of the car. Pérez asked Rojas if he was all right and began explaining why they stopped him. At first, Rojas did not respond, but then, keeping his hands on the trunk and looking everywhere, he began screaming that a car was following him and that someone was trying to kill him. As Rojas continued to scream and began using foul language, Pérez reached for his handcuffs. Rojas

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turned around abruptly and knocked Rivera's portable radio out of his hands.

There was then a brief scuffle between Pérez, Rivera, and Rojas. All three fell to the ground. Rojas hit the ground with his chest or stomach. Pérez cuffed Rojas's hands behind his back as Rojas was prone on the ground. He then let Rojas sit up and Rojas sat calmly for a little while as Rivera radioed for assistance. As other officers came on the scene, Rojas again began screaming in foul language that someone wanted to kill him. Pérez, Rivera, and a third officer then put Rojas into Pérez's patrol car. Rojas tried to put his legs up against the doorframe so that they could not get him in the car, so they picked up his legs to get him into the car, secured his seatbelt, and closed the door. While inside the car, Rojas continued to scream the same things.

During this encounter, according to Officers Pérez and Rivera and a bystander named José Candelaria, Rojas looked nervous, sweaty, pale, wild-eyed, had veins bulging at his temple, a purplish tint to his forehead, temples, and cheeks, and blackish lips. He did not appear injured except that, according to Candelaria, he had a small cut on his lips.

When Sergeant Miguel Rodríguez Crespi (" Rodríguez" ) arrived on the scene, Rojas was already in the squad car, still screaming. After Pérez and Rivera explained the situation to him, Rodríguez said they should take him to a medical facility. Rivera suggested that they take him to the police station instead, since Rojas might injure people at the medical facility. Rodríguez agreed, so Pérez and Rivera took Rojas to the police station in their patrol car. ...


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