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Eblacas v. Agbulos

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

November 28, 2018

DAYSON JAMES EBLACAS, #A5021275, Plaintiff,
v.
GERALD AGBULOS, HPD, Defendants.

          ORDER DISMISSING COMPLAINT IN PART AND STAYING ACTION

          Derrick K. Watson United States District Judge.

         Before the court is pro se Plaintiff Dayson James Eblacas' first amended complaint (FAC). ECF No. 6. Eblacas is awaiting trial in the Circuit Court of the First Circuit, State of Hawaii (circuit court), for Terroristic Threatening in the First Degree (HRS 707-716(1)(e); Unauthorized Control of a Propelled Vehicle (HRS 708-836); and Criminal Property Damage (HRS 708-821(1)(b)). See State v. Eblacas, CR No. 16-1-001936 (Haw. 1st Cir. Dec. 1, 2016), avail. at: www.courts.state.hi.us. (last visited Nov. 28, 2018).

         Eblacas alleges that Defendants Honolulu Police Department (“HPD”) and HPD Officer Gerald Agbulos violated his civil rights and HPD policies or regulations when Agbulos allegedly used excessive force against him during his arrest. See FAC, ECF No. 5, PageID #31.

         Eblacas' claims against HPD and Officer Agbulos in his official capacity are DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(a). Eblacas' claim for excessive force against Agbulos individually states a claim. Because Eblacas is awaiting trial regarding the incidents alleged in this suit that resulted in his arrest, and the circumstances of that shooting will be at issue in that trial, the court STAYS this action pursuant to Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971).

         I. STATUTORY SCREENING

         The Court must conduct a pre-answer screening of the FAC pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A(a). Byrd v. Phoenix Police Dep't, 885 F.3d 639, 641 (9th Cir. 2018). Claims that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim for relief, or seek damages from defendants who are immune from suit must be dismissed. See Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126-27 (9th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (discussing § 1915(e)(2)); Rhodes v. Robinson, 621 F.3d 1002, 1004 (9th Cir. 2010) (discussing § 1915A(b)).

         A complaint must “contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires a complaint to contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Detailed factual allegations are not required, but a complaint must allege enough facts to provide both “fair notice” of the claim asserted and “the grounds upon which [that claim] rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 & n.3 (2007) (citation and quotation marks omitted); see also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (stating Rule 8 “demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation”).

         Pro se litigants' pleadings must be liberally construed, and all doubts should be resolved in their favor. Hebbe v. Pliler, 627 F.3d 338, 342 (9th Cir. 2010) (citations omitted). Leave to amend must be granted if it appears the plaintiff can correct the defects in the complaint to state a claim. Lopez, 203 F.3d at 1130.

         II. DISCUSSION

         To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that: (1) a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States was violated, and (2) the alleged violation was committed by a person acting under the color of state law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). A plaintiff must also allege that he suffered a specific injury as a result of the defendant's conduct and an affirmative link between the injury and the violation of his rights. See Monell v. Dep't of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 371-72, 377 (1976).

         A. Eblacas' Fourth Amendment Claims[1]

         On December 1, 2016, Eblacas was in the drive-in lane at the Mililani Burger King when he noticed someone, later identified as Officer Agbulos, approaching his truck from behind with a gun drawn. Because Agbulos and his partner were in plain clothes, Eblacas says that he did not recognize them as police officers. Fearing for his safety, Eblacas stepped on the gas to flee. Agbulos, who was allegedly located at the back, passenger side of Eblacas' truck, opened fire and struck Eblacas in the back, paralyzing him from the chest down. Agbulos ordered Eblacas to exit the truck. When Eblacas told Agbulos that he could not move, he says that Agbulos punched him in the face and dragged him through the truck's window to the ground.

         Eblacas claims that, because he posed no threat to Agbulos or others, Agbulos violated his constitutional rights and HPD policy when he opened fire without warning. Agbulos disputes this, however, and claims that he opened fire because Eblacas tried to run him over. See FAC, ECF #6, PageID #31. Trial is scheduled to begin in the circuit court on or about December 17, 2018.

         Claims alleging the use of excessive force during an arrest are “analyzed under the Fourth Amendment's ‘objective reasonableness standard.'” Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 204 (2001) (citing Graham v. Conner, 490 U.S. 386, 388 (1989)). The “reasonableness” of an officer's actions “must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” Graham, 490 U.S. at 396. “[T]he question is whether the officers' actions are ‘objectively reasonable' in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation.” Id. at 397. “[T]he most important factor under Grah ...


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