United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Loretta C. Biggs, United States District Judge.
Michael Chadwick Geddings, initiated this action, pro
se, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging
violations of the United States Constitution. (ECF No. 2.)
Before the Court is Defendant Michael McDougald's
(“Defendant”) Motion for Summary
Judgment. (ECF No. 47.) The matter is ripe for
disposition. For the following reasons, the Court will
GRANT Defendant's motion.
case arises out of a correctional officer's use of
physical force against Plaintiff, a prisoner of the State of
North Carolina in the custody of the North Carolina
Department of Public Safety
(“NCDPS”). In March, 2015, Plaintiff filed a
complaint against Defendant alleging that Defendant subjected
him to excessive force while enforcing the
“unconstitutional practice” of punishing
inmates by denying them dayroom (out of cell) recreation for
up to (2) two days for even a minor infraction.”
(Compl., § V ¶¶ 2-3, ECF No. 2.) Specifically,
Plaintiff asserts the following account.
December 17, 2014, Defendant entered C Pod, the unit in which
Plaintiff was housed, alone at approximately 7:40 p.m.
(Id. § V ¶ 3, ECF No. 2 at 4.) Defendant
approached Plaintiff in an unprofessional manner
(id.) and disrespectfully demanded that Plaintiff
lock down in his cell (Geddings Aff. ¶ 7). When
Plaintiff asked why, Defendant stated that another inmate had
been in Plaintiff's cell, which was prohibited. (Compl.
§ V ¶ 3.) Plaintiff denied any wrongdoing and,
instead of complying with what he perceived to be an unlawful
order, Plaintiff “respectfully requested” to
speak with the sergeant on duty before locking down.
(Id.) Plaintiff then attempted to walk in the
opposite direction of Defendant in order to sit at a table
and wait for the sergeant. (Id.) Defendant blocked
his path, bumping Plaintiff's chest with his own.
(Id. ¶ 5; Geddings Aff. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff
attempted twice more to walk in the opposite direction before
he made it to a table where he sat down. (Compl. § V
¶ 5.) He made no movements which could be construed as
threatening or aggressive. (Id.) Defendant came over
to Plaintiff, and began pacing back and forth beside him,
using profanity to repeat his request. (Id.;
Geddings Aff. ¶ 18.) Defendant's conduct became
threatening and angry. (Geddings Aff. ¶ 18.) Defendant
demanded Plaintiff stand up, but did not indicate why.
(Compl. § V ¶ 5.) Plaintiff remained seated, and
again requested to see the sergeant on duty. (Id.;
Geddings Aff. ¶ 19.) Then, without provocation or
warning, Defendant sprayed pepper spray on Plaintiff's
face “from point blank range.” (Geddings Aff.
¶¶ 20-21.) Plaintiff “continue[d] to show no
signs of aggression or threat” although he “may
have pushed [Defendant's] arm away due to a natural
reflex to protect [him]self.” (Geddings Aff. ¶
stated in his complaint that after hesitating, Defendant
tackled Plaintiff onto the table. (Compl. § V ¶ 5.)
Defendant hesitated again, then pulled Plaintiff off the
stool, slamming Plaintiff's head and face into the floor.
(Id.) Plaintiff almost lost consciousness.
(Id.) In his affidavit, Plaintiff stated that
attempt[ed] to tackle [him] immediately after spraying [him]
with pepper spray. When [Defendant] [couldn't] move
[Plaintiff], he then wrap[ped] his arm around
[Plaintiff's] neck and pulled [Plaintiff] backward by way
of [Plaintiff's] neck. When Defendant [couldn't] pull
[Plaintiff] off the stool, he then pushe[d] [Plaintiff]
sideways off the stool and slam[med] [Plaintiff's] face
into the floor, almost knocking [Plaintiff] unconscious.
(Geddings Aff. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff further states that
later, when Sergeant Locklear was attempting to cuff him,
[a]n officer assisting Sergeant Locklear accidentally placed
the right cuff on [his] left wrist and when she attempted to
place the left cuff on [his] right wrist, the cuff on [his]
left wrist turned and pinched [his] wrist, causing [him] to
jump a little bit from the unexpected shock of pain. . . .
Sergeant Locklear wasn't paying attention to the
handcuffs and when [Plaintiff] jumped, she mistakenly thought
[Plaintiff] was trying to resist. She placed [him] against
the table. [Plaintiff] then explained the problem with the
handcuffs. Sgt. Locklear look[ed] down and the officer
correct[ed] the mistake made.
(Geddings Aff. ¶¶ 25-26.)
alleges that he was then taken to “segregation (lock
up)” and placed in a holding cage, where he was
examined by Nurse (FNU) Floyd, who noted a knot on his
forehead and abrasions on his face and neck. (Compl. § V
¶ 6.) Nurse Floyd gave Plaintiff Tylenol for his head
pain. (Id.) Sargent Simmons and Officer Hunt took
photographs of Plaintiff's injuries (id. ¶
7) which have not been made part of the record.
section of the complaint entitled “Exhaustion of Inmate
Administrative Remedies, ” Plaintiff indicates that he
filed several grievances and refers to a written letter which
expressed the “continual rejections of [his] grievance
based upon frivolous reasons and justifications.”
(Id. § III & Ex. I, ECF No.
2-9.) Plaintiff now seeks a declaratory judgment
that Defendant's acts violated Plaintiff's rights
under the Constitution, as well as compensatory and punitive
damages and injunctive relief. (Id. § VI ¶
1, 4, 5.)
October 23, 2015, Defendant moved for judgment on the
pleadings arguing that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies. (ECF No. 20.) On July 11, 2016, this
Court denied Defendant's motion. (ECF No.
Defendant now moves for summary judgment, again asserting
that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative
remedies. (Def's Br. Supp. Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 48 at
10-14.) Defendant also argues that
(2) the evidence demonstrates that on December 17, 2014 any
force utilized by correctional staff was reasonably applied
in a good faith effort to maintain and restore discipline
because Plaintiff refused to comply with correctional orders
to lock down; (3) Plaintiff cannot establish that on December
17, 2014 Defendant acted maliciously or sadistically for the
purpose of causing harm; (4) qualified immunity bars any
claims against Defendant in his individual capacity; and (5)
Eleventh Amendment and sovereign immunity bar any claims.
(Def's Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 47 at 1.)
support of his motion for summary judgment, Defendant has
submitted numerous affidavits and exhibits. To address the
incident itself, Defendant has submitted: his affidavit and
written statements (McDougald Aff. & Exs. A & B, ECF
No. 48-10); the affidavits and written statements of
then-Sergeant on duty, Lieutenant Helena Locklear (H.
Locklear Aff. & Ex. C, ECF No. 48-7) and Correctional
Officers Shaquanna Wall and Quatilla Wall (S. Wall Aff. &
Ex. A, ECF No. 48-8; Q. Wall Aff. & Ex. A, ECF No. 48-9);
the incident report (Bullard Aff. Ex. A, ECF No. 48-5) which
contains written statements by Correctional Officers Jessica
Gonzalez, Yolanda Covington, Danielle Henry, and Benjamin
Harrington, and Nurse Amora Floyd, all of whom were present
on December 17, 2014 (Gonzalez Statement, id. at 19;
Covington Statement, id. at 20; Henry Statement,
id. at 24; Harrington Statement, id. at 25;
Floyd Statement, id. at 26); the affidavit of Nurse
Supervisor Melissa Smith and selected medical records (Smith
Aff. & Ex. A, ECF No. 48-11); the affidavit of
Scotland's Assistant Superintendent for Custody and
Operation III, William Bullard, who recommended an internal
investigation based on the incident report (Bullard Aff.
¶¶ 5, 15, 31); the affidavit of Correctional
Captain Marietta Barr (Barr Aff., ECF No. 48-6), her internal
investigation report (id. Ex. A, ECF No. 48-6 at
10-31), North Carolina Department of Correction, Division of
Prisons, Policies & Procedures § .1504, “Use
of Force” (id. Ex. B, ECF No. 48-6 at 33-46);
Scotland Standard Operating Procedures, Custody and Security
§ .6100, “Use of O.C. Pepper Spray”
(id. Ex. C, ECF No. 48-6 at 48-55); and video
footage of the incident (id. Ex. D, ECF No. 48-6 at
affidavit, Defendant offers his account of what occurred on
December 17, 2014. According to Defendant he observed that
Plaintiff had another inmate in his cell without
authorization (McDougald Aff. ¶ 12.) He radioed the
control booth operator to reopen the two inmates' cell
doors so they could be locked down in their cells.
(Id. ¶¶ 12-13.) Scotland had a staff
shortage that evening, so he entered the Pod alone.
(Id. ¶ 14.) Defendant ordered Plaintiff to lock
down for unauthorized visitation. (Id. ¶¶
15-16.) Plaintiff said, “Fuck that McDougald, I'm
not locking down, and go get the Sergeant.”
(Id. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff then walked past
Defendant, “brushing against [him] in an aggressive
manner as [Defendant] attempted to block [Plaintiff's]
path by standing in front of him.” (Id. ¶
17.) For refusing a direct order and for brushing up against
him aggressively, Defendant ordered Plaintiff to stand up and
submit to handcuffs. (Id. ¶ 20.) When Plaintiff
refused to comply, Defendant took out his handcuffs and
displayed them to Plaintiff while repeating his order.
(Id. ¶ 21.) Plaintiff “continued to
refuse and repeatedly stated, Fuck you, you can't make me
move go get the Sergeant.” (Id. ¶ 22.)
Defendant “was worried because [he] was the only
officer in the Blue Unit surrounded by other inmates. Other
inmates were walking up which made [him] scared. Anything
could have happened to [him].” (Id. ¶
warned Plaintiff that he would spray him with OC Pepper
Spray. Plaintiff still would not submit to handcuffs.
(Id. ¶ 23.) Defendant then sprayed Plaintiff
with one burst of pepper spray, and further attempted to grab
Plaintiff's left hand while also trying to apply the
mandibular angle pressure point technique. (Id.
¶¶ 24-25.) Plaintiff “smacked” away
Defendant's first attempt to grab his right forearm.
(Id. ¶ 26.) In so doing, Plaintiff pulled
Defendant's arm inward toward Plaintiff's neck area.
(Id. ¶ 27.) However, “at no time did
[Defendant's] arm or hands go anywhere near
Plaintiff's throat area, nor did [he] apply pressure to
that region.” (Id.) Defendant lost his
balance, “due to the intensity of the pepper spray
fumes and [Plaintiff's] resistance, ” and
“fell to the floor still holding on to
Plaintiff.” (Id. ¶ 29.) At that time,
Defendant heard the booth operator alert other staff members
that an officer needed assistance in C Pod. (Id.)
Defendant held Plaintiff in a secure position on the floor
until other staff arrived and took over. Defendant had no
further interactions with Plaintiff. (Id.
¶¶ 31, 33.)
affidavits and written statements provide little detail to
corroborate either account. Yolanda Covington stated that
when she arrived at C Pod, Plaintiff was sitting at a table,
and he looked like he had been pepper sprayed. (Covington
Statement, Bullard Aff., Ex. A, ECF No. 48-5 at 20.) Her
written statement does not detail any further observations.
(Id.) Officer Quatilla Wall stated that she was
working in the nearby medication window when she heard
inmates being loud. (Q. Wall Aff. ¶ 6.) Jessica Gonzalez
then notified Officer Quatilla Wall that Defendant needed
assistance at C Pod. (Id. ¶ 7.) Officer
Quatilla Wall further stated that she was first on the scene,
that she called for assistance from the officer in the
control booth, and that she later assisted others in
handcuffing Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.)
Neither her affidavit nor her written statement detail any
other observations. (Id.) Jessica Gonzalez, in the
control booth, observed Defendant talking with Plaintiff and
another inmate. (Gonzalez Statement, Bullard Aff., Ex. A, ECF
No. 48-5 at 19.) Officer Gonzalez stated that she
“turned [her] head for a quick second to pop other
cells . . . when [she] turned back around [she] observed
[Defendant] restraining one of the inmates he was speaking
with and that's when [she] called over the radio for back
Locklear was working canteen when she heard the control booth
call her on the radio. (H. Locklear Aff. ¶ 14.) She was
called a second time, and notified that she was needed in C
Pod. (Id. ¶ 15.) When she arrived, Plaintiff
was on the ground under the table and Defendant “was
trying to control [Plaintiff] to maintain correctional
order.” (Id. ¶ 16.) Sergeant Locklear
stated that Plaintiff was visibly upset and combative and was
threatening Defendant. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 20.)
“Plaintiff was yelling that he was going to ‘kick
[Defendant's] ass.'” (Id. ¶ 17.)
She said that as Sergeant on duty, she “took over for
Defendant to diffuse [Plaintiff's] anger.”
(Id. ¶ 20.) Sergeant Locklear and Officers
Shaquanna Wall, Quatilla Wall and Danielle Henry helped
Sergeant Locklear handcuff Plaintiff. (H. Locklear Aff.
¶¶ 22-24; S. Wall Aff. ¶¶ 10-11; Q. Wall
Aff. ¶ 9; Henry Statement, Bullard Aff. Ex. A, ECF No.
48-5 at 24). Sergeant Locklear stated that when they were
attempting to handcuff Plaintiff, he “tried to resist
and pull away. He became combative. [Plaintiff] was upset
that he was pepper sprayed.” (H. Locklear Aff. ¶
22.) Similarly, Officer Shaquanna Wall stated Plaintiff
“would not submit to the handcuffs. He became very
aggressive.” (S. Wall Aff. ¶ 10.) Officer
Shaquanna Wall also stated, as did others, that Plaintiff has
a history of being “aggressive and combative toward
staff and other inmates.” (Id. ¶ 7; H.
Locklear Aff. ¶ 11; Bullard Aff. ¶ 9; M. Barr Aff.
¶ 9.) Sergeant Locklear and Officer Shaquanna Wall also
stated that, in their experience, Defendant had been
professional and had followed procedures and policies. (H.
Locklear Aff. ¶ 8; S. Wall Aff. ¶ 8.)
Supervisor Melissa Smith reviewed the medical records, which
showed that both Plaintiff's eyes and the right side of
his face, his ear, and his forehead were red. (Smith Aff.
¶¶ 9-10 & Ex. A, ECF No. 48-11 at 6-7.)
Plaintiff also had a quarter-sized lump on his left-upper
forehead. (Id.) She further stated that Plaintiff
reported minimal pain, his vitals were normal, that he was
treated with cool water to rinse out his eyes, a cold
compression for swelling, and non-aspirin medication for his
headache. (Id.) “No additional medical
treatment was documented for the alleged December 17, 2014
incident.” (Smith Aff. ¶ 15 & Ex. A, ECF No.
48-11 at 8-16.)
Superintendent for Custody and Operation III William Bullard,
who reviewed the initial incident report, and Correctional
Captain Barr, who conducted a subsequent internal
investigation, both made statements as to various policies
and procedures. (Bullard Aff. & Ex. A, ECF No. 48-5; Barr
Aff. & Exs. B & C, ECF No. 48-6 at 33-55.)
Superintendent Bullard stated that Plaintiff had been
notified by a November 21, 2014 Memorandum that any Blue Unit
inmate could be subjected to disciplinary action if he
“loiter[s] in the dayroom and [does] not return to
[his] cell in a timely manner” “when count is
called or it is time to lock down any time during the
day.” (Bullard Aff. ¶ 19 & Ex. B, ECF No. 48-5
at 34.) Further, Superintendent Bullard stated that the
mandibular angle pain pressure technique is an approved
technique. (Bullard Aff. ¶ 28.) Bullard stated in his
pepper spray is permitted as the first level of response to
control or deter violent, threatening or aggressive inmates.
Hands-on physical force may be used to restrain or move a
non-compliant inmate. The officer is authorized to use
whatever degree of force that reasonably appears to be
necessary to defend the officer or a third party from
(Bullard Aff. ¶ 14; see also Barr Aff.
¶¶ 15-17 & Exs. B & C, ECF No. 48-6 at
policy, an incident report was written and forwarded to
Superintendent Bullard for approval. (Bullard Aff. ¶
17.) The initial incident report, composed by Officer Brian
M. McKnight, concluded,
After reviewing the statements and video of the incident it
appears the force used was excessive and inappropriate. There
are additional discrepancies in the reporting parties
statement and others collected that are not corroborated by
the video. These discrepancies have been brought to the
attention of administration and will be handled according to
DPS policy and procedure.
(Bullard Aff. Ex. A, ECF No. 48-5 at 13.) Superintendent
Bullard also reviewed the video footage. (Bullard Aff. ¶
17; Barr Aff. Ex. D, ECF No. 48-6 at 57.) He noted that when
Plaintiff refused Defendant's direct orders, Defendant
continued to talk to Plaintiff. (Bullard Aff. ¶¶
then removed his pepper spray with his left hand, and passed
it behind his back to his right hand. [Plaintiff] was sprayed
in the face with pepper spray for about [one] second. . . .
[Defendant] then attempted to restrain [Plaintiff]. . . .
However, [Plaintiff] continued to resist and he grabbed
[Defendant's] arm to stop him. ...