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Karrick v. Washington

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

February 3, 2017

Jesse Lee Karrick, Plaintiff,
Mr. Washington, et al., Defendants.



         Both Plaintiff Jesse Lee Karrick and Defendants Applewhite, Rivers, Schankweiler, and Hunt request that the court enter summary judgment in their favor as to Karrick's excessive force claim. D.E. 44, 49. The parties' submissions establish that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the Defendants' actions on May 14, 2015, did not violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on the use of excessive force. The Defendants' actions were constitutionally permissible in light of their perception that Karrick threatened to harm himself and his attempt to assault correctional officers. Therefore, the undersigned recommends that the District Court deny Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and grant the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment.

         I. Procedural Background

         On March 3, 2015, Karrick, proceeding pro se, filed an unverified Complaint against several employees of the Warren Correctional Institution (“Warren C.I.”), alleging the use of excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment. D.E. 1. Karrick named Deputy Warden Washington and Warren Correctional Officers Applewhite, Rivers, Schankweiler, [1] and Hunt as defendants. On the same day, Karrick filed a motion seeking appointed counsel. D.E. 3.

         After conducting a preliminary review pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court allowed Karrick's individual capacity claims against Defendants Applewhite, Rivers, Schankweiler, and Hunt to proceed; denied Karrick's motion to appoint counsel; dismissed the claims against Washington in their entirety; and dismissed the claims against the defendants in their official capacities. D.E. 13, 14. The remaining Defendants filed an answer that denied the material allegations in the Complaint and raised a number of affirmative defenses. D.E. 27. After conducting discovery, both parties filed motions seeking summary judgment in their favor. D.E. 44, 49. Karrick's motion is neither verified, nor accompanied by supporting affidavits. Neither party responded to the opposing party's summary judgment motion.

         After considering the parties' arguments and the relevant law, Karrick has not demonstrated that he is entitled to the relief he seeks and the undersigned recommends that his motion for summary judgment be denied. On the other hand, the Defendants have shown that they are entitled to summary judgment on Karrick's claim against them and the undersigned recommends that the district court enter a judgment in their favor.

         II. Factual Background

         On May 14, 2014, at approximately 12:00 Noon, Correctional Officer Dionne Garrett was working in her office when Karrick arrived to complete some paperwork. Garrett Aff. ¶ 4, D.E. 52-5. After he arrived, Karrick became loud and argumentative about his work assignment in the kitchen. Id. He ignored orders from Garrett and Correctional Officer Sandra Smith to be quiet. Id. Karrick continued to be argumentative, but eventually left Garrett's office. Id. Fifteen minutes later, Karrick returned, threw his hands in the air, and screamed out “Mrs. Smith, I'll be back to talk to you after her ass is gone.” Id.

         Due to his disruptive behavior, an unspecified staff member handcuffed Karrick and began to escort him to the restrictive housing unit. Id.; see also Rivers's Resp. to Req. for Admis. ¶ 7, D.E. 44-1 at 66. The restrictive housing unit is designated for those inmates deemed to be repeatedly disruptive of the orderly operations of the facility, are threats to the safety of staff or other inmates, or who threaten the security or operational integrity of the facility. Applewhite Aff. ¶ 9, D.E. 57-1. Prior to this incident, Karrick had been found guilty of numerous facility infractions, including two instances of threatening to harm/injure staff and nine instances of refusing to obey an order. Id. ¶ 8.

         A few minutes later, Schankweiler saw Karrick struggling to pull away from Correctional Officer Patton's grip. Schankweiler Aff. ¶ 5, D.E. 52-6. Schankweiler assisted Patton in securing Karrick by grasping Karrick's upper left arm. Karrick yelled, “The kitchen trapped me! That dumb bitch. Now I know how they do new workers. Fuck this place!” See Schankweiler Aff. ¶ 5, D.E. 52-6. Karrick stated, “I get out in a year and my apartment is going to be paid for. The state is gonna pay for my apartment.” Id. ¶ 6. Schankweiler gave Karrick a direct order to state his name, but Karrick refused to answer. Id. ¶ 7. As Patton and Schankweiler attempted to escort Karrick to restrictive housing, Karrick continued to struggle and pull away from them, ignoring several orders to stop resisting, and instead pulling and twisting in attempt to escape. Id. ¶ 6; Rivers Aff. ¶ 5, D.E. 52-5. Rivers observed that Schankweiler and Patton were having difficulty controlling Karrick and went to assist them. Id. Karrick refused several direct orders to stop resisting and to calm down. Rivers asked Karrick his name, and Karrick responded, “Fuck you.” Id.

         Officers were eventually able to escort Karrick to a holding cell where he would remain until he was assigned a cell in the restrictive housing area. Schankweiler Aff. ¶ 7; Rivers Aff. ¶ 6. As they entered the holding cell, Schankweiler took control of Karrick's left upper arm. Rivers Aff. ¶ 6. At the same time, Rivers took control of Karrick by the handcuffs with his left hand and placed his right hand on the back of Karrick's right shoulder. Id. Despite Karrick's resistance, the officers moved him to the back wall of the holding cell. Rivers Aff. ¶ 6. Rivers and Schankweiler ordered Karrick to stop resisting and to remain facing the wall several times. Id. Karrick refused to obey the orders and, instead, walked in an aggressive manner toward Schankweiler and Rivers as they were exiting the cell. Id.; Schankweiler Aff. ¶ 7. Karrick told Rivers, “old man, you can't do nothing with this.” Rivers Aff. ¶ 7.

         Shortly thereafter, Sergeant Applewhite joined Hunt, Schankweiler, and Rivers outside of the holding cell. Applewhite Aff. ¶ 9. The officers informed the Sergeant that that they were attempting to escort Karrick to a restrictive housing cell, but he was refusing to cooperate. Id. Applewhite entered the holding cell and ordered Karrick to accompany him to cell # 149 in the restrictive housing section. Karrick obeyed the order. Applewhite and the correctional officers escorted him to a cell in the restrictive housing section. Applewhite Aff. ¶ 9; Schankweiler Aff. ¶ 8.

         After the staff secured Karrick in his cell, Applewhite ordered Karrick to step to the cell door, place his hands through the food passage window, allow his handcuffs to be removed, and then remove his clothes and hand them to Applewhite through the food passage window. Applewhite Aff. ¶ 10; Schankweiler Aff. ¶ 9; Rivers ¶ 8. Applewhite requested that Karrick remove his clothes because all inmates sent to restrictive housing at Warren C.I. are to strip searched to ensure that the inmate is not concealing weapons or other contraband. Applewhite Aff. ¶¶ 10, 11. However, Karrick refused to comply with Applewhite's orders. Applewhite Aff. ¶ 10; Schankweiler Aff. ¶ 9; Rivers ¶ 8. Applewhite gave the orders a second time and, again, Karrick refused to comply.

         Karrick then stated, “You better call mental health because I'm going to be in C.P. tonight.” Schankweiler Aff. ¶ 9; Applewhite Aff. ¶ 10; Rivers Aff. ¶ 8. The officers understood C.P. to be a reference to Central Prison, the main hospital for adult inmates in the custody of the State of North Carolina. Schankweiler Aff. ¶ 9; Applewhite Aff. ¶ 10; Rivers Aff. ¶ 8. The Defendants interpreted this statement to mean that Karrick intended to injure himself. Schankweiler Aff. ¶ 9; Applewhite Aff. ¶ 11; Rivers Aff. ¶ 8.

         Although Karrick was handcuffed, Applewhite knew that Karrick could still seriously harm himself by hitting his head on the concrete block walls, the steel bars, the steel bed, or other hard surface. Applewhite Aff. ¶ 11. In fact, Karrick had been hospitalized in the mental health unit at Central Prison just six weeks earlier when he intentionally injured himself by “head pounding.” Schwartz Aff. ¶ 6. Applewhite also knew that it was possible that Karrick was concealing contraband that he could use to injure himself. Applewhite Aff. ¶ 11.

         Applewhite directed Schankweiler, Rivers and Hunt to strip search Karrick. Schankweiler Aff. ¶ 9; Applewhite Aff. ¶ 11. Karrick was combative as the officers entered his cell. Hunt Aff. ¶ 5. Applewhite ordered Karrick to remove his boots twice, and both times Karrick refused. Applewhite Aff. ¶ 11; Rivers Aff. ¶ 9. Schankweiler then attempted to unlace Karrick's boots. Karrick drew his leg back in what officers perceived as an ...

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