United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
EDWARD A. CANIGLIA, Plaintiff,
ROBERT F. STROM as the Finance Director of THE CITY OF CRANSTON, THE CITY OF CRANSTON, COL. MICHAEL J. WINQUIST in his individual capacity and in his official capacity as Chief of the CRANSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, CAPT. RUSSELL HENRY, JR., in his individual capacity and in his official capacity as an officer of the CRANSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, MAJOR ROBERT QUIRK, in his individual capacity and in his official capacity as an officer of the CRANSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, SGT. BRANDON BARTH, in his individual capacity and in his official capacity as an officer of the CRANSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, OFFICER JOHN MASTRATI in his individual capacity and in his official capacity as an officer of the CRANSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, OFFICER WAYNE RUSSELL in his individual capacity and as an officer of the CRANSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, OFFICER AUSTIN SMITH in his individual capacity and in his official capacity as an officer of tho CRANSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, and JOHN and JANE DOES NOS 1-10, in their individual capacities and in their official capacities as officers of the CRANSTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER JOHN J. MCCONNELL, JR., United
States District Judge.
J. McConnell, Jr. United States District Judge.
case brings to the forefront the constitutionality of police
conduct when officers are not acting in their law enforcement
or investigatory capacity, but aiding individuals out in the
community. Edward Caniglia's wife called Cranston police
for assistance when she became concerned for her
husband's health and safety. Police arrived at the
Caniglia's home, spoke to both Mr. and Mrs. Caniglia, and
ultimately decided to send Mr. Caniglia in a Cranston rescue
for a well-being check at Kent Hospital and to remove from
the home the guns that he legally possessed.
Caniglia filed this lawsuit and both he and the City have
filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The City moves (ECF
No. 45) on these counts: Count I - Rhode Island Firearms Act;
Count II - Second Amendment/Article I, § 2 of the Rhode
Island Constitution; Count III - Fourth Amendment/Article 1,
§ 6 of the Rhode Island Constitution; Count V - Equal
Protection; Count VI - Rhode Island Mental Health Law; and
Count VII - Conversion, and claims for Declaratory and
Injunctive Relief. Mr. Caniglia has cross-moved (ECF No. 43)
on Counts III, VI, and VII and also on Count IV - Due
Process, and the City's immunity and community caretaking
August 20, 2015, Mr. Caniglia and his wife had an argument in
their home in Cranston, Rhode Island. ECF No. 55 at ¶ 1.
Mrs. Caniglia asked her husband what was wrong, and he
responded by going into their bedroom and returning with a
gun; he threw it on the table and said, "why don't
you just shoot me and get me out of my misery."
Id. at ¶ 3. Mrs. Caniglia was shocked by her
husband's behavior and threatened to call 911.
Id. at ¶¶ 5-6. Mr. Caniglia left the home.
Id. at ¶ 7. Mrs. Caniglia did not call 911.
Caniglia hid the gun between the mattress and box spring in
their bedroom. Id. at ¶ 8. She then realized
that the gun had not been loaded because she saw the magazine
under the mattress. Id. at ¶ 9- She moved the
magazine to a drawer. Id. She hid the gun and
magazine because she was worried about her husband's
state of mind. Id. at ¶ 11. When Mr. Caniglia
returned to their home, the couple continued to fight, and
Mrs. Caniglia left to spend the night at a hotel.
Id. at ¶14.
next morning, Mrs. Caniglia tried to reach Mr, Caniglia by
phone, but he did not answer. ECF No. 59 at ¶ 62. She
became worried; she was afraid that he would do something
with the gun. Id. at ¶ 63. She called Cranston
police and asked them to make a well call. ECF No. 55 at
¶16. She also asked for an escort back to her home to
check on Mr. Caniglia. ECF No. 59 at ¶¶ 63-64.
Officers John Mastrati, and Austin Smith, and Sargent Brandon
Barth arrived at the hotel to speak with Mrs. Caniglia. ECF
No. 55 at ¶ 19. She told them about the gun and what she
did with it and the magazine and about what Mr. Caniglia said
during their argument. Id. at ¶ 20. She told
them that she was concerned about her husband's safety
and about what she would find when she got home; she was
worried about him committing suicide. Id. at ¶
Mastrati called Mr. Caniglia and asked to speak with him at
his home. ECF No. 59 at ¶ 66. He told Mrs. Caniglia that
her husband sounded fine, but instructed her to follow them
to the home, and to stay in the car. Id. at ¶
67. The officers spoke with Mr. Caniglia on his back porch.
Id. at ¶ 69. Mr. Caniglia told Officer Mastrati
that he brought the gun out during an argument with his wife,
that he was sick of arguing with her, and that he told his
wife "just shoot me" because he "couldn't
take it anymore." ECF No. 55 at ¶¶ 26, 29. He
was calm for the most part and told Officer Mastrati that he
would never commit suicide. ECF No. 59 at ¶¶ 70-71.
He seemed normal during that encounter, Id. at
¶ 80. When officers asked about his mental health, he
told them it was none of their business. Id. at
Caniglia arrived at the house and the officers told her she
could come in. ECF No. 55 at ¶ 31. Mr. Caniglia asked
her why she called the police and she told him that she was
worried about him. Id. at ¶ 33. Based on his
conversations with Mrs. Caniglia, Officer Mastrati was
concerned about Mr. Caniglia's suicidal thoughts and that
he was a danger to himself. Id. at ¶¶
36-37. Sargent Barth, who was in charge at the scene, also
considered Mr. Caniglia's statement that his wife should
shoot him as a suicidal statement. Id. at ¶ 38.
rescue from Cranston Fire Department responded to the scene.
Richard Greene, a rescue lieutenant, remembers little about
the call but that police told him that they recovered a gun
from the scene and that Mr. Caniglia asked his wife to shoot
him. ECF No. 59 at ¶ 103. Officer Greene told Mr.
Caniglia that he was taking him to Kent Hospital, and he
went. Id. at ¶¶ 105-106. Mr. Caniglia
disputes the officers' characterization that he went
voluntarily because he says he only went so that the officers
would not take his guns, but there is no evidence that Mr.
Caniglia's submission to Cranston rescue was involuntary.
ECF No. 65 at ¶ 70. A physician and a nurse examined
him, and he was evaluated by a social worker. ECF No. 59 at
¶ 121. The hospital discharged him the same day.
Barth made the decision to seize Mr. Caniglia's guns,
which Captain Henry approved based on the assertion from the
officers at the scene who felt it was reasonable to do so
based on Mr. Caniglia's state of mind. ECF No. 55 at
¶ 41; ECF No. 59 at ¶ 87. Captain Henry was
concerned that if the guns remained in the home, Mr. Caniglia
and others could be in danger. ECF No. 55 at ¶ 42. After
Mr. Caniglia left the home, Mrs. Caniglia showed the police
where the guns and magazines were kept in the bedroom and
garage and the officers removed them from the premises.
Id. at ¶ 40. The parties dispute the assertion
that Mrs. Caniglia wanted the guns removed, but it is
undisputed that she pointed out where the guns were and
allowed the officers to remove them. ECF No. 59 at
days later, Mrs. Caniglia went to the Cranston Police
Department to retrieve her husband's guns. Id.
at ¶ 122. After being informed that she needed a copy of
the police report and such a request required a captain's
approval, she complied and waited only to be told a few days
later that her request was denied, and she needed to get a
court order. Id. at ¶¶ 122-123. A month
later, Mr. Caniglia tried to get his guns back from Cranston
Police and they told him that they were not going to release
them. Id. at ¶ 125. Mr. Caniglia's attorney
sent a letter to Chief Michael Winquist requesting that the
police return the guns to no avail. Id. at ¶
126. After filing this lawsuit, the police gave Mr. Caniglia
his guns back without a court order. Id. at
¶¶ 133-134. Cranston Police did not prevent Mr.
Caniglia from buying or possessing any new guns during this
time period. ECF No. 55 at ¶ 46.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must look
to the record and view all the facts and inferences therefrom
in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Continental Cas. Co. v. Canadian Univ. Ins. Co., 924
F.2d 370, 373 (1st Cir. 1991). Once this is done, Rule 56(c)
requires that summary judgment be granted if there is no
issue as to any material fact and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A material fact is
one affecting the lawsuit's outcome. URI Cogeneration
Partners, L.P. v. Board of Governors for Higher
Education, 915 F.Supp. 1267, 1279 (D.R.I. 1996).
analysis required for cross-motions for summary judgment is
the same. Scottsdale Ins, Co. v. Torres, 561 F.3d
74, 77 (1st Cir. 2009) ("The presence of cross-motions
neither dilutes nor distorts this standard of review").
In evaluating cross' motions, the court must determine
whether either party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law based on the undisputed facts. Id.
Court will begin by discussing the motions on Mr.
Caniglia's federal claims. The Court will first discuss
Count III, which alleges that the City unlawfully seized him
and his guns in violation of the Fourth Amendment, then Count
II, which alleges that the City violated Mr. Caniglia's
rights under the Second Amendment by taking his guns, and
then Count IV which is a claim that the City violated due
process by failing to afford him any process for the return
of his guns. The Court will also address the City's
asserted immunity and defenses. Finally, the Court will turn
to Mr. Caniglia's claims under Rhode Island common and
statutory law, Counts I, VI, and VII.
Count III - Fourth Amendment
Mr. Caniglia and the City have moved for summary judgment on
his Fourth Amendment search and seizure claim. In this claim,
Mr. Caniglia alleges that the City violated his Fourth
Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and
seizures by taking his guns from his home without a warrant
and requiring him to submit to a mental health evaluation.
ECF No, 51 at ¶ 78. The City argues that it is entitled
to summary judgment because the officers' behavior was
reasonable and consistent with its duty to protect the
public. The Court will first look at the relevant Fourth
Amendment law as well as the parameters of the community
caretaking function and qualified immunity defenses that the
Fourth Amendment Law
Fourth Amendment jurisprudence talks about searches and
sei7Aires in terms of arrests, investigatory stops, or
inventory searches. Morelli v. Webster, 552 F.3d 12,
19 (1st Cir. 2009) ("A detention at the hands of a
police officer constitutes a seizure of the detainee's
person and, thus, must be adequately justified under the
Fourth Amendment."); United States v. Coccia,
446 F.3d 233, 237"38 (1st Cir. 2006) ("[A] law
enforcement officer may only seize property pursuant to a
warrant based on probable cause describing the place to be
searched and the property to be seized."). But here, the
City argues that its police officers did not violate Mr.
Caniglia's constitutional rights because they neither
stopped nor arrested him for law enforcement purposes, but
detained him and seized his guns in furtherance of their
duties under the community caretaking function. The City
moves for summary judgment on this defense and also on
qualified immunity. Mr. Caniglia argues that he is entitled
to summary judgment because it is undisputed that his Fourth
Amendment rights were violated and that this exception does
not apply here because it has only been sanctioned as an
exception in cases involving" seizures and searches of
vehicles, not homes.
Community Caretaking Function
Supreme Court recognized several decades ago that
'[l]ocal police officers, unlike federal officers,
frequently ... engage in what, for want of a better term, may
be described as community caretaking functions.'"
United States v. Gemma, 818 F.3cl 23, 32 (1st Cir.
2016) (quoting Cady v. Dombrowski, 413 U.S. 433, 441
(1973)). "Apart from investigating crime, police are
'expected to aid those in distress, combat actual
hazards, prevent potential hazards from materializing and
provide an infinite variety of services to preserve and
protect public safety.'" Gemma, 818 F.3d at
32 (quoting United States v. Rodriguez-Morales, 929
F.2d 780, 784-85 (1st Cir. 1991)); Cady, 413 U.S. at
441 (The community caretaking function is "totally
divorced from the detection, investigation, or acquisition of
evidence relating to the violation of a criminal
community caretaking doctrine gives officers a great deal of
flexibility in how they carry out their community caretaking
function." Lockhart-Bembery v. Sauro, 498 F.3d
69, 75 (1st Cir. 2007) (citing Rodriguez-Morales,
929 F.2cl at 785). As long as police are not investigating a
crime, the Fourth Amendment imperatives stay intact, "so
long as the procedure involved and its implementation are
reasonable." Id. "Reasonableness does not
depend on any particular factor; the court must take into
account the various facts of the case at hand."
Lockhart-Bembery, 498 F.3d at 75. Courts "must
balance 'its intrusion' on [an individual's]
substantial liberty interests in remaining in [his] home,
against the defendants 'legitimate governmental
interests' in minimizing the risk of harm to [an
individual], the family members, and themselves" while
performing their community functions. Estate of Bennett
v. Wainwright, 548 F.3d 155, 172 (1st Cir. 2008) (citing
Skinner v. By. Labor Executives' Ass'n, 489
U.S. 602, 619 (1989)).
Court will first address whether there was a seizure of a
person. Mr. Caniglia argues that it was unreasonable for the
City to require him to go to the hospital for a mental health
check. But "not all personal intercourse between
policemen and citizens involves 'seizures' of
persons. Only when the officer, by means of physical force or
show of authority, has in some way restrained the liberty of
a citizen may we conclude that a 'seizure' has
occurred." Terry v. Ohio,392 U.S. 1, 19 n. 16
(1968); see also United States v. Smith, 423 F.3d
25, 28 (1st Cir. 2005) ("In order to find a seizure, ...
we must be able to conclude that coercion, not voluntary
compliance, most accurately describes the encounter.");