United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Statesville Division
D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge
MATTER comes before the Court on a Motion for Summary
Judgment by Defendants FNU Copeland, FNU Murray, and FNU
Quigley. (Doc. No. 87).
Plaintiff Damon Demond Stafford, a North Carolina inmate
incarcerated at Scotland Correctional Institution in
Laurinburg, North Carolina, filed this action on November 17,
2014, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He filed a verified
Amended Complaint on June 1, 2015. In the Amended Complaint,
Plaintiff alleges that he was subjected to excessive force on
July 30, 2014, when he was incarcerated at Alexander
Correctional Institution. Plaintiff originally named five
Defendants, but all Defendants except for moving Defendants
Copeland, Murray, and Quigley have been dismissed from the
filed the pending summary judgment motion on August 30, 2016.
(Doc. No. 87). On August 31, 2016, this Court entered an
order in accordance with Roseboro v. Garrison, 528
F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975). (Doc. No. 91). Plaintiff filed a
response to the summary judgment motion on October 17, 2016.
(Doc. No. 95).
verified Amended Complaint, Plaintiff states that while he
was housed at Alexander Correctional Institution
(“Alexander”), on July 30, 2014, he was on a
hunger strike and was found on the floor of his cell. (Doc.
No. 12 at 3). While Plaintiff was taken by wheelchair to the
main medical area, Defendants Murray and Copeland allegedly
expressed frustration with inmates on hunger strikes.
(Id. at 5). When they reached the main medical area,
Defendant Quigley began to change Plaintiff's restraints.
(Id.). Quigley placed handcuffs, shackles (leg
irons), and a waist chain on Plaintiff and then instructed
him to “turn his hands one over the other” so
Quigley could secure Plaintiff's handcuffs to his waist
chain. (Id.). Plaintiff refused and told Quigley
that the black box could be applied the “normal”
way. (Id.). Plaintiff claims that he was secured in
that fashion just days earlier. (Id.).
then told Quigley to “twist his wrists” and
grabbed Plaintiff's left wrist. (Id.). Quigley
took hold of Plaintiff's left wrist and Copeland grabbed
Plaintiff around the right side of the neck, choking him.
(Id. at 5-6). Murray then ordered Copeland to flip
over the wheelchair. (Id. at 6). Quigley and Murray
“dove” on Plaintiff and Murray pushed
Plaintiff's forehead with his arm, causing it to hit the
floor and “split.” (Id.). Murray
instructed Copeland to “spray” him and then
Plaintiff felt something hit the back of his head.
(Id.). Plaintiff eventually complied and Quigley
applied the black box to his handcuffs. (Id.).
Captain Huneycutt arrived in the area and ordered statements
to be taken. (Id.). Plaintiff was not taken to the
hospital and photographs of Plaintiff were taken.
(Id. at 6-7). Plaintiff claims that he injured his
wrists, forehead, ear, and throat during the incident.
(Id. at 7). Plaintiff also claims that Murray and
Copeland were involved in other “questionable”
force incidents. (Id. at 8).
Defendants' Summary Judgment Materials
support of the summary judgment motion, Defendants rely on
all pleadings, discovery responses, and materials in the case
record. Defendants also rely on the affidavit of Lane
Huneycutt, with supporting materials, and the affidavit of
Daren Bruce, with exhibits. See (Doc. No. 88:
Huneycutt Aff.). In his affidavit, Huneycutt explains that he
was the first-shift Captain and Officer-in-Charge
(“OIC”) at Alexander on July 30, 2014.
(Id. at ¶ 4). On the date of the incident,
Huneycutt was aware that Plaintiff was on a self-imposed
hunger strike. Daren Bruce, former Assistant Superintendent
of Operations at Alexander, explains that he was also at
Alexander that day. (Doc. No. 89: Bruce Aff.). Plaintiff had
been on a hunger strike to protest his placement in
segregation due to a pending disciplinary investigation.
See (Doc. No. 12 at 3). The investigation was the
result of an incident on July 22, 2014, which resulted in
disciplinary infractions for use of profane language and
disobeying orders. A charge of actively rioting on July 22
was subsequently dismissed. (Doc. No. 89, Ex. A).
recounts that Plaintiff had been disruptive on the
segregation unit that week and was transported to the
hospital after being found “unresponsive” due to
his hunger strike on July 26, 2014. (Doc. No. 89, Ex. B).
Bruce reviewed and approved the incident report from the July
26 transport. (Id.). Bruce explains that when
inmates are called “unresponsive” by prison
staff, it is not meant to indicate a medical diagnosis of
that inmate because officers are not trained medical
professionals. (Doc. No. 89 at ¶¶ 7-9). Instead, it
indicates that the inmate simply will not communicate with
staff from inside the cell. (Id.). When officers
make rounds, look in cells, and observe inmates, they try to
communicate with the inmates. (Id.). If the inmates
do not respond to the officers attempts to communicate with
them, then they are deemed “unresponsive, ” and
staff begins a procedure to enter the cell and check the
inmate's condition, which includes assembling a group of
four or five staff members with a shield for their protection
and a handheld video camera to record the entry to the cell,
in the event force has to be used on the inmate because of
their entry into the cell. (Id.). The officers also
call a “Code Blue” to assemble correctional and
medical staff at the cell. (Id.). If no force is
used and the inmate is compliant when the officers enter the
cell, the camera footage is not preserved because there was
no force to document. (Id.). Further, when
responding to the “Code Blue, ” medical staff at
the cell is prepared for emergency because the medical
condition of the inmate is not known before the officers
enter the cell. (Id.). Thus, the presence of medical
staff or medical equipment does not necessarily mean that the
inmate requires some extensive medical treatment.
(Id.). Bruce states that, in his twenty-six years of
experience, he has learned that inmates often prefer to
receive outside medical care because it allows them time out
of their cell, in public, and, possibly, access to medical
treatment, including medications, that they would have a more
difficult time accessing in the prison. (Id. at
¶ 10). Unresponsiveness by an inmate will generate a
response from medical staff and a possible transport for
outside medical care. (Id.).
30, 2014, around 2:25 pm, officers working in Alexander
segregation unit checked on Plaintiff during rounds and, on
surveillance footage, are seen standing outside of
Plaintiff's cell, looking into the cell and trying to
communicate with him. (Doc. No. 89 at ¶ 14; Ex. C).
Officers radioed for backup, which arrived at approximately
2:26 pm. (Id. at ¶ 15). Staff came to the cell
with a shield and a handheld camera. (Id. at ¶
16). Bruce again explains that staff initially began to film
their entry to the cell, but did not continue recording or
preserve the footage because, based on Bruce's
observation of the surveillance footage, it was apparent that
staff were not going to have to use force to remove Plaintiff
from his cell. (Id.).
video shows that, at 2:27 pm, the officers have entered
Plaintiff's cell and additional medical staff are seen
arriving with a stretcher. (Id. at ¶ 17).
Additional medical staff and medical equipment continue to
arrive in the unit until 2:34 pm. (Id.). Both Murray
and Copeland were working the segregation unit that day and
were in the group of officers in the cell. (Id.). It
does not appear that any force was used on Plaintiff
whatsoever at this point. (Id. at ¶ 18). The
officers appear to be talking, communicating, radioing, and
even sitting inside of the cell and, according to Bruce, the
officers appear fairly relaxed during the encounter.
pm, medical staff begin to exit the unit, taking the
emergency medical equipment with them. (Id. at
¶ 19). At 2:41 pm, medical staff exited the cell.
According to Bruce, based on his experience, this indicates
that medical staff had evaluated Plaintiff and concluded that
his medical condition did not require the additional staff or
medical equipment. (Id.). At 2:42 pm, staff arrive
with a wheelchair while the officer in the cell are talking
and gesturing. (Id. at ¶ 20). The officers
begin to move around 2:45 pm, presumably around Plaintiff to
secure him and then assist him to stand and sit in the
wheelchair. (Id.). At 2:47 pm, officers exit the
cell, pushing Plaintiff, who appears conscious and calm, in a
wheelchair. (Id. at ¶ 21). The officers,
including Murray and Copeland, continue talking and do not
appear angered or frustrated with Plaintiff. (Id.).
They exit the unit and leave the view of the surveillance
camera by 2:48 pm. (Id.).
wheeling Plaintiff out of the unit, staff took him to the
main medical area for further evaluation and transport to the
local hospital. (Id.). According to Huneycutt, once
the officers arrived in the main medical area, Officer
Quigley, a transport/receiving area officer, responded to
prepare and secure Plaintiff for transport to the hospital.
(Doc. No. 88 at ¶¶ 15-16). To do so, Quigley began
to secure Plaintiff with “receiving” restraints
and to remove the restraints from the segregation unit, as
per NCDPS and Alexander policies. (Id. at ¶ 16;
Ex. B). Quigley provided Huneycutt a written statement which
states that he first applied the receiving handcuffs to
Plaintiff and then removed the segregation unit's
handcuffs and waist chain. (Id. at ¶ 18; Ex. C
at 13). According to Huneycutt, at that point, Plaintiff
would have been seated in the wheelchair but only secured
with leg irons and handcuffs. (Doc. No. 88 at ¶ 18; Ex.
C at 16). This is not considered “fully
restrained.” (Doc. No. 88, Ex. B at 7, 26, 33; Ex. C at
16). And, it would allow Plaintiff a full range of motion
with the handcuffs and the means and opportunity to assault
staff or evade their attempts to restrain him. (Doc. No. 88
at ¶ 18; Ex. C at 16).
secure Plaintiff's black box, Quigley instructed
Plaintiff to place his hands close to his waist, palms down
and crossing at his wrists, but Plaintiff refused. (Doc. No.
88 at ¶ 19; Ex. C at 13). Copeland and Murray were
standing next to Plaintiff and heard him tell Quigley,
“I don't have to put my hands like that.”
(Doc. No. 88, Ex. C at 10, 11). Quigley then told Plaintiff
that he was restraining him according to policy and again
ordered him to submit to the restraints. (Id.).
Plaintiff again refused. (Id.). At that point,
Sergeant Beal (Quigley's supervisor) told Plaintiff that
Quigley was correct and ordered him to submit to the
restraints. (Doc. No. 88 at ¶ 20; Ex. C at 17). Murray
(Copeland's supervisor) also ordered Plaintiff to submit
to the restraints and he refused. (Id.; Ex. C at
pulled his hands to his chest to avoid having them restrained
to his waist. (Id. at ¶ 21). At the direction
of the supervising officers, Quigley and Copeland attempted
to place Plaintiff's wrists in the correct position so
they could apply the black box. (Id.). As Copeland
and Quigley were touching Plaintiff's wrists, he grabbed
at Copeland's left hand and tried to bite Quigley.
(Id. at ¶ 22; Ex. C at 10, 11, 13). Murray,
seeing that Plaintiff was aggressive with the officers,
ordered Copeland to administer OC (pepper) spray to
Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 23; Ex. C at 10, 16).
Plaintiff was continually being ordered to comply with orders
during this time. (Id.).
gave a short burst of OC spray to Plaintiff's facial
area, which, according to Copeland and Quigley, caused
Plaintiff to become more agitated and aggressive.
(Id. at ¶ 24; Ex. C at 11, 13). The OC spray
was administered in compliance with policies regarding its
use. (Id., Ex. C at 16). Plaintiff's level of
resistance increased and Copeland and Quigley (at their
supervisor's direction) placed Plaintiff on the floor try
to restrain him and stop him from assaulting them.
(Id. at ¶ 25; Ex. C. at 16). The increasingly
volatile situation required additional force to match the
threat posed by Plaintiff. (Id.). Huneycutt states
that, in his twenty-one years of experience, it is not
uncommon for OC (or pepper) spray ...