Mwangangi v. Nielsen, No. 21-1971 (7th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Mwangangi provided roadside assistance around Indianapolis. He set out to jumpstart a car in his used Crown Victoria and activated clear strobe lights on the outside of his car. A driver that Mwangangi passed on the highway twice called 911 to report him as a police impersonator. Shortly after Mwangangi helped the stranded motorist, he found himself at a gas station surrounded by seven police officers. Mwangangi was ordered from his car, handcuffed, patted down twice, and arrested for police impersonation—charges that were not dropped until two years later, when everyone realized he had been telling the truth about his roadside assistance job.
The district court entered summary judgment for Mwangangi on many of his Fourth Amendment-based claims, denying some of the police officers the protection of qualified immunity. The court found for the city and officers on other claims. The Seventh Circuit reversed in part. Officer Nielsen had a “particularized and objective basis” to justify an investigatory Terry stop in the gas station and had the authority to ask Mwangangi to step out of his car to answer questions. Because of the context of the potential crime and surrounding circumstances, Officer Root’s decision to pat Mwangangi down did not amount to a constitutional violation. Officer Noland waived any challenge to the determination that his second pat down violated Mwangangi’s Fourth Amendment rights. The court stated that claims against officers for “bystander liability” required further factual development.