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Reed v. Jones

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

July 21, 2015

OMAR LIONEL REED, Plaintiff,
v.
SHEP JONES, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

CATHERINE C. EAGLES, District Judge.

The plaintiff, Omar Reed, has sued a number of state and county correctional employees alleging various violations of his constitutional rights arising out of an August 2010 incident at the Scotland County Detention Center. He claims that Scotland County detention officers tased and pepper-sprayed him in the holding cell where he was temporarily housed and that transporting North Carolina Department of Correction ("DOC") officers thereafter refused to provide him with medical care until he was returned to his prison unit some four hours away.

Each of the Scotland County and some of the DOC defendants have moved for summary judgment. (Docs. 59, 74.) The Court will grant the defendants' motions except as to Mr. Reed's deliberate indifference claims against certain DOC defendants.

FACTS

The facts are presented in the light most favorable to Mr. Reed, the non-moving party. The defendants have presented substantial evidence contradicting Mr. Reed's version of events, but, at summary judgment, the Court is prohibited from resolving disputed questions of fact against the non-moving party. See, e.g., Foster v. Univ. of Maryland-Eastern Shore, 787 F.3d 243, 248 (4th Cir. 2015).

In August 2010, Mr. Reed was a "high security maximum control" inmate at Polk Correctional Institution. (Doc. 87-1[1] at ¶ 3; Doc. 88-1 at ¶ 3.) On August 10, North Carolina Department of Correction ("DOC") Officers Evans, Thrower, and Carter transported Mr. Reed to the Scotland County Courthouse to face felony charges for an assault on Scotland County detention officers. ( See Doc. 18 at 8, 10; Doc. 60-5 at ¶ 4.) Correctional Case Manager Totten followed the transporting DOC officers in a "chase vehicle." ( See Doc. 74-3 at ¶¶ 1-4; see also Doc. 18 at 8.)

After Mr. Reed appeared in court, the DOC officers brought him to the Scotland County Detention Center and asked detention officers there to temporarily keep Mr. Reed in a holding cell while they went to lunch. ( See Doc. 18 at 8-9; Doc. 60-4 at ¶¶ 3-5.) Sergeant Miller, the shift sergeant on duty, agreed and placed Mr. Reed in a holding cell in "full restraints"-two sets of handcuffs and two sets of ankle shackles. (Doc. 18 at 9; Doc. 60-4 at ¶¶ 2-5.) The holding cell was empty except for a toilet, a table, and a broken shower stall. (Doc. 87-1 at ¶ 9.)

The detention officers gave Mr. Reed two lunches packaged in Styrofoam boxes to eat in the holding cell. (Doc. 18 at 9; Doc. 60-4 at ¶ 5; Doc. 60-5 at ¶ 6.) Mr. Reed found hair in his food and requested another lunch from a detention officer. (Doc. 18 at 9.) That officer was "hostile" towards Mr. Reed, ( see Doc. 18 at 9; Doc. 87-1 at ¶ 8), and Mr. Reed disposed of both lunches in the toilet. ( See Doc. 18 at 10; Doc. 87-1 at ¶ 9.) After Mr. Reed flushed the toilet, it overflowed. (Doc. 18 at 10; Doc. 87-1 at ¶¶ 9-10.)

Officer Jackson issued a radio call that Mr. Reed "was being disorderly and was flooding out the holding cell." (Doc. 60-4 at ¶ 6; Doc. 60-5 at ¶ 7; Doc. 60-6 at ¶ 6; see also Doc. 60-4 at 10.) Sergeant Miller and Officers Hutchinson, Jackson, and Williams responded to the call, and Sergeant Miller began screaming obscenities at Mr. Reed. (Doc. 18 at 10; Doc. 87-1 at ¶ 11.)

Without warning, Sergeant Miller "tased" Mr. Reed in the stomach through the holding cell bars, which caused Mr. Reed to fall to the floor in pain. (Doc. 18 at 11; Doc. 87-1 at ¶ 11.) She tased Mr. Reed a second time, (Doc. 18 at 12; Doc. 87-1 at ¶¶ 12-13), and then pepper-sprayed him in the face from "close range."[2] (Doc. 18 at 12; Doc. 87-1 at ¶ 14.) Mr. Reed lost consciousness. (Doc. 18 at 12; Doc. 87-1 at ¶ 14.)

Mr. Reed regained consciousness when DOC Officers Evans, Thrower, and Carter and Correctional Case Manager Totten returned from lunch and entered the holding cell area. (Doc. 18 at 12; Doc. 88-1 at ¶ 8; see also Doc. 60-4 at ¶ 14; Doc. 60-5 at ¶ 15; Doc. 60-6 at ¶ 13.) Sergeant Miller told the DOC officers that Mr. Reed had been pepper sprayed. (Doc. 60-4 at ¶ 14; see also Doc. 60-5 at ¶ 15; Doc. 60-6 at ¶ 13.) Mr. Reed then asked the DOC officers to decontaminate him or allow him to be seen by medical staff. (Doc. 18 at 12-13; Doc. 87-1 at ¶ 19; Doc. 88-1 at ¶ 12.) The DOC officers ignored Mr. Reed's request, entered the holding cell and took control of him, and escorted him to the transportation vehicle. ( See Doc. 18 at 13; Doc. 60-4 at ¶ 14; Doc. 60-5 at ¶ 15; Doc. 60-6 at ¶ 13.)

When they reached the transportation vehicle, the DOC officers contacted defendant Reid, the Assistant Superintendent at Polk, to notify him that force was used on Mr. Reed. (Doc. 18 at 13; Doc. 88-1 at ¶ 13; see also Doc. 74-4 at ¶¶ 1, 3-4; Doc. 60-4 at 10-11.) Mr. Reed was then transported back to Polk without receiving medical attention. (Doc. 18 at 13; Doc. 88-1 at ¶¶ 12-13.) During the four-hour drive back to Polk, Mr. Reed experienced complications with his chronic asthma, chest pains, burning and blindness, and "extreme breathing problems, " including coughing, gagging, and choking. (Doc. 18 at 13; Doc. 87-1 at ¶ 20; Doc. 88-1 at ¶¶ 13-14.) He continued to request medical attention, but the DOC officers ignored his requests. (Doc. 88-1 at ¶ 12.)

A nurse evaluated Mr. Reed upon his return to Polk. ( See Doc. 60-9 at ¶ 3; Doc. 87-1 at ¶ 21; Doc. 88-1 at ¶ 14.) The nurse asked Mr. Reed what happened at the Detention Center, and he responded, "I'm good, I was pepper sprayed and a stun gun was used on my right arm at the jail today." (Doc. 60-9 at ¶ 3; Doc. 60-9 at 4; Doc. 60-10 at 5.) Mr. Reed's vital signs were "essentially normal, " and, other than redness in his right eye, the nurse observed no reddening, open wounds, or bruises on Mr. Reed. (Doc. 60-9 at ¶ 3; Doc. 60-9 at 4; Doc. 60-10 at 5.) Mr. Reed denied having any injuries, ( see Doc. 60-9 at ¶ 3; Doc. 60-9 at 4), and "almost totally disregarded even talking to the nurse" because he was "exhausted and in a hurry to get in the shower [and] remove the [pepper spray] from [his] eyes [and] skin." (Doc. 87-1 at ¶ 21; see also Doc. 88-1 at ¶ 14.) The nurse recommended that Mr. Reed "be decontaminated ASAP" from the effects of the pepper spray. (Doc. 60-9 at 4; Doc. 60-10 at 5.)

The next morning, August 11, another nurse at Polk evaluated Mr. Reed. ( See Doc. 60-10 at ¶ 4; Doc. 60-9 at 5; Doc. 60-10 at 6.) According to his prison medical records, Mr. Reed denied any discomfort and stated that being tased "didn't hurt, not really sure they hit me." (Doc. 60-9 at 5; Doc. 60-10 at 6.) Mr. Reed also told the nurse that the detention officers "tried to hit [him] twice, but only got [him] once in [his right arm]" and that he was "fine." (Doc. 60-9 at 5; Doc. 60-10 at 6.) The nurse observed that, other than the redness in his right eye, Mr. Reed had no injuries, such as redness, bruising, or Taser "contact points." (Doc. 60-9 at 5; Doc. 60-10 at 6.)

Mr. Reed testifies that he continues to experience medical problems from the August 10 incident, including damage to his right eye, blurred and cloudy vision, back pain, and psychological trauma that requires medication. ( See Doc. 87-1 at ¶¶ 23-25; Doc. 88-1 at ¶ 16.)

ANALYSIS

Mr. Reed has sued a number of Scotland County detention officers. As best the Court can tell, Mr. Reed asserts an excessive force claim against Sergeant Miller, (Doc. 18 at 15), bystander liability claims against Officers Hutchinson, Jackson, and Williams, (Doc. 18 at 14), due process claims against Sergeant Miller and Officers Hutchinson, Jackson, and Williams, (Doc. 18 at 16), and supervisory liability claims against Scotland County Sheriff Jones and Chief Deputy Johnson. (Doc. 18 at 14; see also Doc. 60-2 at ¶ 2; Doc. 60-3 at ¶ 2.) He has also sued a number of DOC officers and officials. As best the Court can tell, Mr. Reed asserts claims for failure to prevent harm and deliberate indifference to medical needs against Assistant Superintendent Reid, Officers Evans, Thrower, and Carter, and Correctional Case Manager Totten, (Doc. 18 at 14), and a supervisory liability claim against Assistant Superintendent Reid. (Doc. 18 at 14.)

The defendants have moved for summary judgment, contending that Mr. Reed's claims are without merit or, alternatively, that they are entitled to qualified immunity. ( See generally Docs. 59, 60, 74, 75, 93.) The Scotland County defendants also contend that Mr. Reed's claims are barred because ...


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