United States District Court, D. Hawaii
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS COUNTY OF HAWAII AND SAMUEL
JELSMA'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
C. KAY SR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case arises from a 2017 incident involving retired police
officer Plaintiff John Rodrigues, Jr.
(“Plaintiff”) and officers of the Hawai`i County
Police Department (“HCPD”) that ultimately led to
Plaintiff's arrest. Plaintiff brought this lawsuit
against the County of Hawai`i (the “County”) and
Major (formerly, Captain) Samuel Jelsma (“Defendant
Jelsma, ” together with the County, the “County
Defendants”), alleging constitutional and civil rights
violations related to his treatment and arrest.
County Defendants have moved for summary judgment, arguing
that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law and no
genuine issues of material fact remain. See ECF No. 109
(“Motion”). For the reasons detailed below, the
Court GRANTS the County Defendants' Motion for Summary
following facts are undisputed and are principally drawn from
parties' concise statements of facts (“CSFs”)
and the evidentiary exhibits attached thereto.
Plaintiff and Defendant Jelsma
is a retired police officer who retired in good standing from
the force in August 2016, after serving with the HCPD for
twenty-six years. See Pl.'s CSF, ECF No. 120,
¶¶ 21, 23. As a result of his service, Plaintiff is
considered a “qualified retired law enforcement
officer” as that term is defined under 18 U.S.C. §
926C (“LEOSA”). See Ex. 2 to Pl.'s CSF, ECF
No. 120-3 (LEOSA identification card); Ex. F to Defs.'
CSF, ECF No. 110-7 (same). Defendant Jelsma is a major in the
HCPD. At the time of the events at issue in this case, he was
and Defendant Jelsma have a long history as colleagues since
the 1990s. According to Plaintiff, Captain Jelsma has
harbored a personal grudge against Plaintiff stemming from
several incidents over the years. See Compl. ¶ 77.
The Events of January 26, 2017
January 26, 2017, at around 7:30 a.m., Plaintiff left his
home in Hakalau on the Big Island. Defs.' CSF, ECF No.
110, ¶ 1. He got into his truck and began driving
towards Puna, apparently with no destination in mind.
Defs.' CSF ¶¶ 2-4. When he set out that
morning, Plaintiff had two loaded firearms in his truck: (1)
a 9mm handgun in a worn leather holster underneath his
driver-side seat and (2) a 12-gauge shotgun in a soft case in
the cab of his truck. Defs.' CSF ¶¶ 5-6, 12.
hours into his drive, around 10:00 a.m., Plaintiff
encountered one of his son's coworkers, Nathan Figueroa
at the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision. Defs.' CSF
¶ 7. An altercation followed. Initially, Plaintiff asked
Figueroa if his first name was “Nathan”-which is
indeed Figueroa's first name-and Figueroa apparently did
not recognize Plaintiff. It is alleged that Plaintiff
displayed his firearms and said to Figueroa, “I going
put one bullet in your fucken head first.” Defs.'
CSF ¶ 7; see also Ex. C to Defs.' CSF, ECF No.
110-4, at 2 (Plaintiff's HCPD complaint testimony).
According to Figueroa, Plaintiff made several statements
directed toward Figueroa, including “you don't know
who you are fucking with, you fucking with the wrong people
and you better have an army because I do.” Ex. D to
Defs.' CSF, ECF No. 110-5, ¶ 5 (Figueroa
declaration). Figueroa also states that Plaintiff said he
would put a bullet in Figueroa's head and that, after
asking if Figueroa had kids and cared about his parents,
Plaintiff said “if anything happens to
[Plaintiff's] son, it would fall back on
[Figueroa].” Ex. D to Defs.' CSF ¶¶ 4-9.
Plaintiff left the scene without police having been notified,
but Figueroa later reported the incident to police, which
eventually resulted in Plaintiff's arrest later that day.
See Defs.' CSF ¶¶ 7-9, 19; Ex. 6 to Pl.'s
CSF, ECF No. 120-15, at 19. After he reported the incident,
Figueroa told Detective Kelii that “at first, he felt
threatened by [Plaintiff]'s actions, ” but he
ultimately realized Plaintiff was not mad at him, but rather
at another individual, Wesley “Mana”
Brooks.Plaintiff ultimately left the scene without
incident or arrest.See Defs.' CSF ¶¶ 7-9.
time after the exchange with Figueroa, Plaintiff parked his
truck at 3rd Avenue near Maku`u Drive in Hawaiian Paradise
Park. Defs.' CSF ¶ 9; Pl.'s CSF § 9. There,
he called 9-1-1 and reported that gunshots had been fired.
Pl.'s CSF ¶¶ 32-33; Defs.' CSF ¶¶
9-10; see also Ex. B to Defs.' CSF, ECF No. 110-3, at 15.
Plaintiff's call was apparently made in connection with a
different confrontation than the earlier encounter with
Figueroa-this later one was with Brooks and another
individual (Lopez). Defs.' CSF ¶ 10; Pl.'s CSF
¶ 10; see also Pl.'s Opp. 17-18 (distinguishing the
Figueroa dispute from the encounter with Brooks). When police
officers arrived on the scene in response to Plaintiff's
call, the officers requested and Plaintiff allowed them to
search his truck. Defs.' CSF ¶ 11; Pl.'s CSF
¶ 11. In their search, the officers recovered the two
firearms. Defs.' CSF ¶ 12; Pl.'s CSF ¶ 12.
time after Plaintiff called 9-1-1, Defendant Jelsma arrived
at the scene. Pl.'s CSF ¶ 34. According to
Plaintiff, he presented to the officers (including Defendant
Jelsma) at the time of the search an HCPD identification
card, which had his picture identifying him as a retired law
enforcement officer on one side and stated the following on
the reverse side:
This card is for identification purposes only, pursuant to 18
United Stated [sic] code & 926C(d), Carrying of Concealed
Firearms by Qualified Retired Law Enforcement Officers. This
identification DOES NOT perm[i]t the holder to carry a
concealed firearm pursuant to 18 United States Code &
926C and in of itself is not inte[n]ded to comply with or be
applicable to State statutes and administrative rules
governing identification for the purpose of carrying a
concealed and/or unconcealed firearm.
Ex. F to Defs.' CSF, ECF No. 110-7 (the “ID
Card”); Ex. 2 to Pl.'s CSF (same); see also
Defs.' CSF ¶¶ 13-14; Pl.'s CSF ¶¶
13-14. Although Plaintiff now seems to dispute this fact, the
evidence shows that he did not present any other
certifications or identification, including a “Firearms
Qualification Card” qualifying him to carry and use the
specified firearms. See Pl.'s CSF ¶ 15.
of whether Plaintiff presented his Firearms Qualification
Card to Captain Jelsma or any other officers that day,
Plaintiff had a current certification (issued on February 19,
2016) qualifying him to use and carry a Remington 870
12-gauge shotgun bearing serial number RS01242Y. Defs.'
CSF ¶ 17; see also Ex. H to Defs.' CSF and Ex. 4 to
Pl.'s CSF. See Defs.' CSF ¶¶ 16-18; see
also Exs. G & H to Defs.' CSF, ECF Nos. 110-8 &
110-9, and Exs. 4 & 5 to Pl.'s CSF, ECF Nos. 120-5
& 120-6 (qualifications cards). Plaintiff also had an
expired certification issued on December 24, 2015, which
qualified Plaintiff to use and carry four
firearms. Defs.' CSF ¶ 16; see also Ex. G
to Defs.' CSF.
Jelsma, who had arrived at the scene, instructed Plaintiff to
drive himself to the police station to speak with Criminal
Investigation Division (“CID”) personal and allow
them to take Plaintiff's statement. See Pl.'s CSF
¶ 39; Ex. E to Defs.' CSF, ECF No. 110-6, ¶ 10.
Sometime after Plaintiff left the scene to drive to the
police station, Defendant Jelsma received a call advising him
of the earlier incident involving Plaintiff and Figueroa.
Id. ¶ 11. When Defendant Jelsma arrived at the
police station, he spoke with the responding officer who
advised that Plaintiff had threatened to shoot and kill
Figueroa during that prior incident. Id.
after Plaintiff had returned to the police station around
11:00 a.m., Plaintiff was told that the CID had taken over
the investigation of Plaintiff. Pl.'s CSF ¶ 43. A
few hours later, around 3:05 p.m., Plaintiff was arrested and
charged with six firearms violations, as well as three counts
of terroristic threatening related to the initial
confrontation with Figueroa. Defs.' CSF ¶ 19;
Pl.'s CSF ¶¶ 49-51; see also Ex. B to
Defs.' CSF at 65:1-4; Ex. E to Defs.' CSF § 12.
was ultimately indicted on February 21, 2019, for charges
based on firearms violations and terroristic threatening in
connection with the incident involving Figueroa. Pl.'s
CSF ¶ 61.
Subsequent Media Statements
Plaintiff's arrest, the County Defendants issued two
media releases about Plaintiff's arrest and charges. Ex.
L to Defs.' CSF, ECF No. 110-13. The first, issued on
same day as the incident, read in relevant part as follows:
HPD Investigating ‘Shots Fired' Report in Puna
Hawai`i Island police are investigating a firearms incident
initially reported as “gunshots fired” in the
Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision in lower Puna. Responding
officers contacted a group of individuals near the area where
the shots were reported, although the preliminary
investigation has thus far indicated that no shots were
fired. Detectives assigned to the Criminal Investigations
Section are continuing the investigation.
Ex. L to Defs.' CSF. The second, which the Defendants
issued the next day, stated the following:
Hakalau Man Arrested for Firearms, Terroristic Threatening
East Hawai`i detectives arrested a 50-year-old Hakalau man
late Thursday afternoon, Jan. 26, as part of their
investigation into a firearms incident earlier in the day in
John Rodrigues Jr. was arrested on suspicion of three counts
of first-degree terroristic threatening and six firearms
violations. After conferring with prosecutors, police
released Rodrigues pending further investigation.
The incident was initially reported as “gunshots
fired” in the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision in
lower Puna at approximately 10 a.m. Responding officers
contacted a group of individuals near where the shots were
reported and were able to determine that no shots had been
fired, although firearms were involved in a confrontation.
Detectives assigned to the Criminal Investigations Section
are continuing the investigation[.]
Ex. L to Defs.' CSF.
has an explicit policy that requires its officers to
“strictly observe all laws, policies and procedures
prescribed by the . . . United States Constitution, Hawai`i
Revised Statutes and judicial rulings.” Defs.' CSF
respect to LEOSA, the evidence does not show any HCPD
training policy specifically concerning the statute or its
application by state law enforcement officers. Pl.'s CSF
¶ 62. However, the Department of the Attorney General
(the “AG”) and the County have a memorandum of
understanding (“MOU”) concerning LEOSA, the
purpose of which is to “clarify and agree to the role
of the AG regarding implementing the statewide standards for
the federal Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act as codified
at 18 U.S.C. § 926C (LEOSA), pertaining only to the
section which allows retired law enforcement officers to
carry a concealed firearm provided certain qualifications are
met.” Ex. 12 to Pl.'s CSF, ECF No. 120-20. The MOU
gives the AG the statutory authority to regulate firearms in
Hawai`i and provides that the firearm certification program
under LEOSA is under the final authority of the AG.
year after the January 26, 2017 events took place, Plaintiff
filed an eight-count complaint in state court against the
County Defendants and against Doe Persons 1-10, Doe
Corporations 1-10, Roe “Non-Profit” Corporations
1-10, and Roe Governmental Entities 1-10. ECF No. 1-2. The
County Defendants removed the case, ECF No. 1, to federal
court shortly thereafter and then moved to dismiss, ECF No.
5, which the Court granted, ECF No. 14. After Plaintiff filed
the First Amended Complaint, ECF No. 16, the County
Defendants again moved to dismiss, ECF No. 17, and the Court
again dismissed all of Plaintiff's claims without
prejudice, ECF No. 27. Plaintiff filed the Second Amended
Complaint on December 19, 2018. ECF No. 29.
parties later sought to stipulate to dismiss two counts from
the Second Amended Complaint, which the Court disallowed
pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See ECF No.
60. Following several months of discovery and attempts by
Plaintiff to stay the case pending disposition of parallel
criminal proceedings against him, Plaintiff filed the
now-operative Third Amended Complaint. ECF No. 95. The Third
Amended Complaint alleges seven counts: (I) violation of 42
U.S.C. § 1983 (“§ 1983”) by Captain
Jelsma; (II) violation of § 1983 by the County; (III)
false arrest/false imprisonment; (IV) defamation per se; (V)
defamation per quod; (VI) false light; and (VII) negligent
before the Court is the County Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment, ECF No. 109, filed on October 22, 2019.
Plaintiff filed his Opposition on November 26 and the County
Defendants filed a Reply on December 2. The Court held a
hearing on the Motion on Tuesday, December 17, 2019.
judgment is proper where there is no genuine issue of
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure (“Rule”) 56(a) mandates summary
judgment “against a party who fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to the party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex ...