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Judge declines to dismiss NY official from federal lawsuit over fatal police shooting

By: Bennett Loudon//July 25, 2023

Judge declines to dismiss NY official from federal lawsuit over fatal police shooting

By: Bennett Loudon//July 25, 2023

A federal judge has denied a motion to remove one defendant from a lawsuit that was filed by the family of a parole officer who was fatally shot in her bed by a city of Canandaigua police officer.

The family of Sandy Guardiola filed the lawsuit against the city of Canandaigua, the city’s police chief, a police sergeant, and several employees of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS).

In December, U.S. Magistrate Judge Marian W. Payson granted the plaintiffs’ motion to file a second amended complaint, which included claims against a new defendant, DOCCS Regional Director Grant Scriven.

Scriven filed a motion to dismiss the claims against him, on the grounds that the statute of limitations had expired. In a recent decision, U.S. District Court Judge David G. Larimer denied Scriven’s motion.

Guardiola was shot to death in her bed by city of Canandaigua Police Sgt. Scott Kadien on Oct. 4, 2017.

Guardiola was a parole officer who originally worked in the Rochester DOCCS office. During the time she worked there, she complained about hostile and discriminatory treatment by supervisors and coworkers, which was allegedly permitted to continue by several senior officials, including Scriven and Senior Parole Officer Thomas O’Connor.

Guardiola was home on medical leave from Sept. 4, 2017, through Oct. 3, 2017, because of injuries from a motor vehicle accident. During that time, she was granted a voluntary transfer to the Binghamton DOCCS office.

On the afternoon of Oct. 3, 2017, Guardiola spoke on the phone with the bureau chief of the Binghamton office. She said she was doing well and was waiting for a doctor’s note to clear her to return to work.

The next day, the Binghamton bureau chief allegedly tried to telephone Guardiola and got no answer, which he told Scriven. Scriven contacted Parole Supervisor Thomas O’Connor at Guardiola’s former office in Rochester and told him to do a wellness check on Guardiola.

“According to testimony from O’Connor, Scriven falsely stated that the reason for the wellness check was that Guardiola had not been heard from for three weeks,” according to Larimer’s decision.

In the afternoon of Oct. 4, 2017, O’Connor went to Guardiola’s apartment complex in Canandaigua and met with an employee of the complex’s management company. After they were unable to determine whether Guardiola was home, O’Connor called 911 and requested a welfare check on Guardiola, stating that she had been missing from work for three weeks, according to court papers.

Kadien was sent to Guardiola’s apartment and met with O’Connor. The complaint alleges that O’Connor and Kadien discussed Guardiola’s allegations of employment discrimination at the DOCCS office in Rochester, and other issues related to her transfer to the DOCCS office in Binghamton.

They ultimately agreed that only Kadien would enter Guardiola’s apartment, due to “an issue between (Guardiola) and Parole,” according to court papers.

At Kadien’s request, building management staff unlocked Guardiola’s door for him. Kadien walked through the apartment and opened the closed door to Guardiola’s bedroom, where she was sleeping, according to Larimer’s decision.

As Kadien entered the bedroom, Guardiola awoke and reached for her service revolver, which she kept under a pillow for protection because she had received threats from parolees with serious mental issues.

Kadien allegedly did not retreat or announce that he was a police officer. He shot Guardiola in the right arm. The bullet passed through her arm and into her right ear and head, according to court papers.

Guardiola’s gun fired in the opposite direction from Kadien and into a wall, then Kadien shot Guardiola twice more, in the head and abdomen.

Emergency responders were stationed across the street, but Kadien did not immediately call for their help. Instead, he called for backup.

After other law enforcement personnel arrived and allegedly talked about how to handle the situation for about 10 minutes, emergency responders were finally called. Guardiola died a short time later.

O’Connor called Scriven 90 minutes after Guardiola was killed. Scriven said he had already heard about the incident and was on his way to the apartment complex.

Scriven filed a motion to dismiss the claims against him on statute of limitations grounds.

This was not the first time the issue of timeliness has been raised. In a Dec. 13 decision concerning the plaintiffs’ motion seeking permission to file a second amended complaint, Payson ruled that all of the claims against Scriven, in the then- proposed second amended complaint, were untimely.

But she granted the motion to amend the complaint and make the claims against Scriven because “the record contained troubling evidence of ‘inexcusable conduct’ on the part of the defendants,” Larimer wrote.

The conduct included “inaccurate and incomplete discovery responses which remained uncorrected at the time of her decision, and repeated non-compliance with court-ordered discovery deadlines, which had together served to completely obscure Scriven’s role in the events that led to Guardiola’s death until after the applicable statutes of limitations had passed,” Larimer wrote.

Payson concluded that “the defendants’ obfuscation was sufficiently serious as to raise questions about whether plaintiffs were entitled to equitable tolling … or equitable estoppel.”

Payson noted that, if Scriven asserted the statute of limitations as a defense to the second amended complaint, the plaintiffs could invoke “either or both of the equitable doctrines, and the Court may then address the issues after a full briefing and on a fully developed record.”

“Scriven’s argument misses the mark,” Larimer wrote.

He wrote that equitable tolling or equitable estoppel issues “will require consideration of extensive matters outside the pleadings.”

“They can only be decided upon a motion for summary judgment, with full briefing and on a fully developed record. If any party wishes to file such a motion, the Court will afford it due consideration,” he wrote.

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