(CN) – An off-duty Chicago police officer who drunkenly tried to arrest a man for running a red light may have been acting in his official capacity, thereby implicating the city in his erratic behavior, a federal judge ruled.
Willie Flood left his house for work at about 4:15 a.m. one day in May 2006. Kevin Carey, an off-duty Chicago police officer, pulled up beside Flood at a red light. He was out of uniform, driving his personal vehicle and carrying his personal firearm.
It is disputed whether Carey was leaving directly from a bar or from his friend’s house, but there is no dispute that he had been drinking. Hours later, his blood alcohol content was 0.145, well over the 0.08 legal limit.
Flood claimed Carey was visibly drunk and began tailgating him so closely that their vehicles almost touched. When Flood drove onto the expressway, Carey followed and allegedly pointed a gun at Flood’s head.
Flood called 911 and reported that a “drunk white guy” was chasing him, but was unable to follow directions to the nearest police station.
Trying to escape from Carey, Flood got off the expressway and drove through some red lights. When he saw a police car, he pulled over, jumped out of his car and told the officers that a guy was chasing him with a gun.
Carey also exited his car, pointing his gun at Flood, and identified himself to the other officers as a policeman, whereupon both men went to the police station.
Carey claimed he had been following Flood to arrest him for running multiple red lights. He said that he flashed his badge at Flood, but Flood sped away.
After Carey was found guilty of driving under the influence, but not guilty of aggravated assault, Flood filed suit to hold Carey and the city of Chicago liable for several state tort claims and violating his Fourth and 14th Amendment rights.
Chicago moved for summary judgment on all counts.
Last week, U.S. District Judge Joan Gottschall said there was no evidence of a city policy that violated Flood’s rights or that the city had been negligent in any manner.
But the judge also found that Flood raised a triable issue concerning whether Carey’s actions “related in some way to the performance of a police duty,” which would implicate the city in his actions.
Although he was off duty, “Carey testified that he followed Flood in order to effect Flood’s arrest after observing Flood commit various crimes.” He also displayed his badge and pulled a weapon on Flood to carry out that arrest.
Flood’s state tort claims rest on this same issue – “whether Carey was acting within the scope of his employment” when he tried to arrest Flood, Gottschall added.
“Certainly a reasonable jury could conclude that Carey was motivated in part to serve the city in committing the torts,” the ruling states.