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Sparks v. Henderson County Sheriffs Office

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

March 21, 2018



          Frank D. Whitney Chief United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendant Kyle Collins, (Doc. No. 72). Plaintiff is represented by Ernest Charles Grose, Jr., and Meghann K. Burke.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on July 27, 2015, alleging claims of excessive force and deliberate indifference to his medical needs by the Henderson County Sheriff's Office, Henderson County Sheriff's Officers Kyle Collins and Captain Chris Denny, Henderson County Sheriff Charles McDonald, Captain Player, Lieutenant McDonald, Henderson County Law Enforcement Commissioner, John Doe Officers # 1-3, and Jane Doe, the Nurse Administrator at the Henderson County Jail (the “jail”). (Doc. No. 1). On July 14, 2016, after initial review, this Court allowed the claims to proceed against Collins, John Does 1-3, and Jane Doe. (Doc. No. 33). The Court granted Plaintiff's motion to amend the Complaint and, on October 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Proposed Amended Complaint, in which he identified “John Doe 2” as FNU Newell, identified as a correctional officer at the jail. (Doc. No. 51). In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Collins used excessive force against Plaintiff and that the John Doe Defendants failed to intervene in the use of excessive force. Plaintiff also named as a Defendant Henderson County Sheriff Charles L. McDonald.

         On August 4, 2017, Defendant Collins filed the pending summary judgment motion. (Doc. No. 72). On August 14, 2017, this Court entered an order in accordance with Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising Plaintiff of the requirements for filing a response to the motion for summary judgment and of the manner in which evidence could be submitted to the Court. (Doc. No. 73). Plaintiff responded to the summary judgment motion on August 28, 2017, and Defendant filed a Reply on September 5, 2017. (Doc. Nos. 74, 75). On February 15, 2018, the parties filed a stipulation of dismissal as to Newell and McDonald, and agreed that Collins is the only remaining Defendant in this action. (Doc. No. 78 at 1).

         B. Factual Background

         1. Plaintiff Is Arrested on March 24, 2015, and Taken to Jail

         The Hendersonville Police Department (“HPD”) arrested Plaintiff on March 24, 2015, for possession of methamphetamine and two counts of resisting a public officer. (Doc. No. 72-3 at 18:21-23; 20:23-25; 21:1: Pl. Dep.; Doc. No. 72-6: Collins Dec. Attachment A). After his arrest, HPD took Plaintiff to the jail. (Doc. No. 72-6 at ¶ 4). When an arrestee is brought to the jail, the arresting officer serves the warrant on the arrestee and then takes the arrestee before the magistrate to determine the conditions of release. (Id. at ¶ 3). HPD informed officers at the jail that Plaintiff refused to give them his real name. (Id. at ¶ 4). As a result, Plaintiff was served with “John Doe” warrants for possession of methamphetamine, possession of marijuana, and two counts of resisting arrest. (Id., Attachment A).

         After Plaintiff was served with the warrants, he was taken to Henderson County Magistrate Kathryn Carpenter to receive the conditions of his release. (Id. at ¶ 5). Plaintiff refused to give Magistrate Carpenter his name, and one of the conditions of his release was that he produce a valid form of identification and be fingerprinted. (Id. at ¶ 5, Attachment B; Doc. No. 72-3 at 82:24-25; 83:1-2). Plaintiff was then taken to the booking area for his photograph and fingerprinting to confirm his identity and make sure he had no outstanding warrants. (Doc. No. 72-6 at ¶ 3).

         2. Plaintiff Is Taken to Booking, Secured to a Bench, and Assessed by a Jail Nurse

         Before being photographed and fingerprinted, Plaintiff was placed on a bench in the booking area. (Doc. No. 72-6 at ¶ 6). He began moving around the bench and standing up and down, twisting around uncontrollably. (Id.). Plaintiff admits he was constantly moving around on the bench, but he attributes it to shooting pains across his body. (Doc. No. 72-3 at 27:7-12). As a result, Plaintiff could not sit up on the bench and was “moaning…writhing, like I-I was almost rolling where I was in pain.” (Doc. No. 72-3 at 27:15-16). When Plaintiff tried to sit down on the bench, the pain wouldn't stop, and he lay down on the bench and started to cry. (Doc. No. 72-3 at 28:4-5).

         Based on Plaintiff's erratic behavior, he was handcuffed to the bench. (Doc. No. 72-6 at ¶ 6; Doc. No. 72-3 at 22:13-17). Plaintiff asked the jailers and arresting officers to help him and do something because “he didn't know what was happening with my body.” (Id. at 34:11). Plaintiff was writhing on the bench when Collins approached him and told him that he needed to sit up and shut up. (Id. at 30:7-10). Plaintiff said, “Please, you know, it hurts. Please help me.” (Id. at 35:22-23). Collins responded that Plaintiff needed to sit up and be quiet. (Id. at 35:24-25; 36:1). Collins then contacted the nurse on duty, Darla Dunaway, to assess Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 72-6 at ¶ 6). Dunaway talked with Plaintiff and asked him what was wrong. (Id. at ¶ 7). He informed her that he had recently used methamphetamine, his ribs were broken, and he wanted to go to the hospital.[2] (Id.). Nurse Dunaway assessed him and informed Collins that Plaintiff was impaired. (Id.). Dunaway offered Plaintiff a “packet of medication, ” but Plaintiff refused it “because [he] didn't know what was happening to me.” (Doc. No. 72-3 at 36:23-25). During the entire time Dunaway was questioning him, Plaintiff was moving constantly on the bench, raising his arms over his head, and constantly twisting his body. (Doc. No. 72-6 at ¶ 7). Based on Plaintiff's disruptive and erratic behavior, Collins left him on the bench to give him time to calm down before beginning the booking process. (Id. at ¶ 8).

         C. Plaintiff Begins the Booking Process

         1. Plaintiff Is Photographed

         About forty-five minutes to an hour later, Plaintiff was taken to the photograph and fingerprint machine. (Doc. No. 72-3 at 32:15-17). Collins took Plaintiff off the bench to start the booking process, but he did not remove Plaintiff's handcuffs due to his erratic behavior and earlier noncompliance. (Doc. No. 72-6 at ¶¶ 9-10). Collins walked Plaintiff to the photo station and Plaintiff became very tense along the way. (Id. at ¶ 10). Collins asked him to stand still to take his photograph, but Plaintiff initially refused Collins' instructions. (Id.). Plaintiff began swaying back and forth, and he started to clench up his body. (Id.). Plaintiff admits that he was not cooperating with Collins, but again attributes it to his ongoing pain. Plaintiff remembers “trying to breathe, trying to stand up, trying to stand up straight for them.” (Doc. No. 72-3 at 47:15-16). Plaintiff had to lean against the wall, “trying to explain that I couldn't breathe, that I was having a problem, that I needed to lay down…That I felt like I was going to pass out.” (Id. at 47:18-24). Instead of going through the photographing process, Plaintiff begged to be allowed to lie down while at the photograph area: “I remember just begging, please, just let me lay down, if just for a minute.” (Id. at 47:22-24).

         Collins prompted Plaintiff to stand up. (Id. at 49:23-25; 50:1-5). Plaintiff once again conveyed to Collins and another deputy that he was having trouble breathing, but the only response he got was “stand there and shut up.” (Id. at 50:18-19). Plaintiff was “constantly” complaining at the photo station that he couldn't stand up, and “it was just a constant-I need help. It was just over and over . . . I couldn't even stand up straight.” (Id. at 51:22-25; 52:1-4). Collins believed that he needed to attempt to deescalate the situation, as Plaintiff appeared to be angry, so he maintained an open non-aggressive posture in talking to Plaintiff, and Plaintiff ultimately agreed to comply with Collins' request for him to take a photograph. (Doc. No. 72-6 at ¶ 10). After finally getting his photograph taken, Plaintiff was taken to the fingerprint area. (Doc. No. 72-3 at 53:19-23).

         2. Collins Attempts to Take Plaintiff's Fingerprints but Plaintiff Refuses Collins' Orders and Makes an Aggressive Move towards Collins

         The fingerprinting process is twofold: (1) having a picture taken to compare to the fingerprints and (2) having fingerprints taken. (Doc. No. 72-6 at ¶ 11). To begin the process, Collins asked Plaintiff to get his picture taken, but Plaintiff refused, stating, “You need to take me to the hole right now.” (Id.). Plaintiff does not deny refusing Collins' orders to get his picture taken at the fingerprinting station: “I just remember saying to them, please, please, just give me a minute. Let me sit down or at least let me-give me-give me a minute, let me lay down. Put me in a cell.” (Doc. No. 72-3 at 55:12-15). Plaintiff also admitted to moving around at the fingerprinting station because:

things [pain] started to get worse. My vision would blur. And like-and I remember the pain in my chest starting to get worse. And, like, there's just no way that I could make it stop. I remember just trying to move to make it quit. And like, you know, anything I could to just try to make it stop, and it wouldn't quit… I remember moving and to try to find different positions, like, to make it just quit.

(Id. at 54:1-6; 55:1-2).

         Collins asked Plaintiff to hold still and allow his photograph to be taken. (Doc. No. 72-6 at ¶ 11). Plaintiff attempted to pull free from Collins' hand, so Collins grabbed him on the arm and told him to stop moving. (Id.). Plaintiff admits not complying with Collins' commands: “I remember saying it [requesting to lie down] repeatedly and being told, you're not doing shit until we get this done.” (Doc. No. 72-3 at 56:15-16). Plaintiff then jerked away from Collins' arm and turned into Collins from about one to two feet away in an aggressive way. (Doc. No. 72-6 at ¶ 11). Plaintiff admits turning around and looking at Collins from one foot away, and yelling “[t]hen hurry the hell up, man, because I can't take this.” (Doc. No. 72-3 at 56:17-18, 23-25; ...

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