United States District Court, Western District of North Carolina, Statesville Division
Frank D. Whitney, Chief United States District Judge
THIS MATTER is before the Court on initial review of Plaintiff’s Complaint, filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, (Doc. No. 1). See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A. Also pending before the Court is Plaintiff’s Motion to Appoint Counsel, (Doc. No. 4). On December 10, 2014, the Court entered an order waiving the initial filing fee and directing monthly payments to be made from Plaintiff’s prison account. (Doc. No. 5). Thus, Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis.
Pro se Plaintiff Damon Stafford, a North Carolina prisoner currently incarcerated at Scotland Correctional Institution, filed this action on November 17, 2014, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution based on alleged excessive force and deliberate indifference to serious medical needs while Plaintiff was incarcerated at Alexander Correctional Institution (“Alexander”). In his Complaint, Plaintiff names as Defendants (1) FNU Murray, identified as a segregation sergeant at Alexander; (2)
FNU Copeland, identified as a segregation correctional officer at Alexander; (3) FNU Quigley, identified as a transportation correctional officer at Alexander; (4) FNU Honeycutt, identified as a captain at Alexander; and (5) David Guinn, identified as a nurse practitioner at Alexander.
The following allegations by Plaintiff are taken as true for the purpose of this initial review:
On 7-30-2014, around 1410, Plaintiff was found unresponsive on the floor of cell SC-3, by a c/o making their routine rounds through the segregation wing. A code blue distress announcement went out over the institution, to alert all available staff, medical, and custody to respond immediately. Plaintiff had been 7 days without eating in protest against his placement on administrative segregation pending a[n] investigation. After having vital signs checked by nurse practitioner Guinn, Plaintiff was given glucose tablets to raise his sugar level. Then a lengthy discussion ensued between Mr. Guinn and Captain Honeycutt. Afterward plaintiff was told by Mr. Guinn that he would be sent to the outside hospital by ambulance to receive I.V.s for severe dehydration and a[n] elevated blood pressure reading. Video footage was recorded of this from the time officials entered cell SC-3 until they exited with the fully restrained plaintiff in a wheelchair.
Plaintiff was pushed from segregation to main medical, to transition to ambulance, by c/o Copeland with Sgt. Murray walking along side of the wheelchair. Copeland and Murray discussed their frustration with all the extra work they were having to do with the numerous prisoners who were on hunger strikes at the time, on the way to main medical. Murray told Copeland of his desire to start forcing feeding tubes down prisoner’s throat, saying, “I bet that’ll slow this shit down.” Copeland laughed and said, “That’s what’s about to happen to this one” and stated he had witnessed a prisoner pull one of the feeding tubes out of his throat. Transportation c/o Quigley, who would be one of the two officers escorting plaintiff to the hospital, was waiting in main medical of Alexander, to change all the restraints from segregation to transportation’s before the ambulance arrived.
After switching handcuffs, shackles and the waist chain on Plaintiff, Quigley told plaintiff to turn his hands one over the other so the black box could be secured over the handcuffs and attached to the waistchain. Plaintiff told Quigley that wasn’t policy and the black box could be placed over the handcuffs the normal way because he had just went out to the hospital that way on 7-26-14. At that time Murray stated, “Fuck this shit, twist his wrists” and grabbed plaintiff’s left wrist as Quigley tossed the black box onto a nearby stretcher and grabbed his right wrist. Copeland, who was standing behind the wheelchair in which plaintiff sat in proceeded to choke plaintiff by grabbing him around the right side of the neck and applying pressure. Then Murray ordered, “Flip the chair” and Copeland complied.
When fully restrained plaintiff hit floor [sic] Quigley dove on top of him with Murray following with his forearm driving into plaintiff’s forehead which busted on impact with the floor. Murray further instructed Copeland to “spray his ass” while him and Quigley continued to roughly twist plaintiff’s wrists, for no other reason than to hurt plaintiff, neither had the black box at this time.
Copeland sprayed a few bursts of OC pepper spray directly into plaintiff’s face, once he stopped spraying, a moment later plaintiff felt something hard smash into the back of his head, behind the right ear. It’s plaintiff’s belief that Copeland struck him with the bottom of the spray canister. As other staff members arrived on the scene Murray shouted to them, “Go get the big can. We need the big can!”, meaning the more concentrated canister of spray. At that time plaintiff cried out, “Okay please!” to stop them from hurting him any more. Quigley got off of plaintiff, retrieved the black box off the stretcher, and clamped them down over plaintiff’s handcuffed wrists.
Capt. Honeycutt arrived as plaintiff was being lifted off the floor, and asked his subordinates if plaintiff had been in restraints at the time force was used. Upon hearing that plaintiff had been, Capt. Honeycutt stated, “Everyone here who was involved, go make a statement and make it good.” Quigley told the captain that he was assigned as one of the officers who would be transporting plaintiff to the hospital and Honeycutt replied, “not any more.” That’s when E.M.S. personnel arrived in main medical, and Mr. Guinn conversed with them briefly, before conferring with Capt. Honeycutt for a minute. After the two of them conversed for a short time, Mr. Guinn told the E.M.S. workers that plaintiff wouldn’t be going to the hospital now. A Sgt. Walker took a couple of pictures of plaintiff’s busted and bleeding forehead. After the photos were taken, Capt. Honeycutt ordered two staff members to wheel plaintiff back to segregation without being reexamined for the condition Mr. Guinn had just deemed serious enough to be sent to the hospital for, nor was plaintiff examined for the injuries he got during the excessive force. Later after being decontaminated back in C-block wing of the segregation unit as plaintiff laid in bed a male nurse (unknown) stopped by cell SC-3 with 3 packs of ointment for plaintiff’s forehead and advised plaintiff to fill out sick calls about any other problems.
Plaintiff suffered a busted forehead, numerous cuts and scarring around his wrists, throat problems that makes him have bouts that almost chokes him on a thick greenish colored phlegm, that has also been spotted with blood, and makes him cough continuously until these fits subsided. A constant intense ringing in the right ear. Since this incident plaintiff has submitted numerous sick calls that the nurses has referred me to see Mr. Guinn about, and I’ve only been able to get him to address the problem with the ringing of the ear. On 9-23-14, plaintiff was examined by Mr. Guinn about the ringing in his right ear. Mr. Guinn did nothing claiming nothing was wrong, although plaintiff clearly explained the symptoms of his ear problems. Then on 10-30-14, after being referred again to see Mr. Guinn, which the ringing had intensified to a worse condition, Mr. Guinn prescribed a 3-month prescription of Loratadine 10 milligram tablets for the problem. Plaintiff is still trying to be seen about his throat issues as of 11-4-14, although he has referred by the sick call nurses to see Mr. Guinn, he has refused to see plaintiff about his throat.
(Doc. No. 1 at 3-7). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants’ conduct constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment rights. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, ...