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Grant v. Riley

United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina

May 14, 2018




         Plaintiff Demauera Grant brought this pro se action for damages against three Cabarrus County Sheriff's Office (“CSO”) law enforcement officers after he was placed in a three-point restraint for several hours on December 6, 2014, while awaiting trial at the Cabarrus County detention center (jail). Grant alleges violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution as a result of alleged use of excessive force against him; a Due Process claim for Defendants' failure to properly respond to his grievance within the jail; and a negligent supervision claim for failing to supervise his allegedly excessive restraint as well as for failing to properly train detention officers in how to restrain a non-compliant pretrial detainee.

         A bench trial was conducted on April 10 and 11, 2018. Grant was represented at trial by counsel through this court's pro bono representation program. Grant testified and called as witnesses Defendants as well as CSO Officer Clark and CSO Sergeant Brian Almond. Defendants presented the testimony of the following CSO officers: Sergeant Anthony Haynie, Deputy Chris Shackleford, Sergeant Almond, Defendant Marvin Anderson, and Defendant Mark Nesbitt. At the close of Grant's evidence, Defendants moved for judgment on all claims as a matter of law pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50. Grant disavowed any Eighth Amendment claim for cruel and unusual punishment, and the court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss as to any claim arising from alleged failure to properly handle his disciplinary complaint. The court reserved ruling on Grant's remaining claims. Following trial, the court granted the parties ten days to submit additional proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. Both Plaintiff (Doc. 48) and Defendants (Doc. 49) updated their filings. The case is now ready for decision.

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a), the court enters the following findings of fact - based upon an evaluation of the evidence, including the credibility of the witnesses, and the inferences that the court has found reasonable to draw therefrom - and conclusions of law. The court finds the testimony of each of the officers to be credible and takes that testimony as true, even where that testimony conflicts with that of Grant. To the extent any factual statement is contained in the conclusions of law, it is deemed a finding of fact as well.

         As explained by the following analysis, and after careful consideration, the court concludes Grant has failed to demonstrate that the Defendants are liable under any of his claims for relief.


         A. Grant's Pre-Incident Conduct

         1. Defendant Brad Riley is, and was at all relevant times, the Sheriff of Cabarrus County.

         2. Defendant Nesbitt is, and was at all relevant times, a Captain of the Cabarrus County Sheriff's Office who oversaw the Cabarrus County jail.

         3. Defendant Anderson is, and was at all relevant times, a Sergeant of the Cabarrus County Sheriff's Office employed at the Cabarrus County jail.

         4. In August of 2012, Grant and several others escaped from Stonewall Jackson Youth Development Center, a juvenile correctional facility in Cabarrus County, and in doing so assaulted, strangled, and kidnapped correction officer Johnny Hicks, stole various items of his, and stole his car. The strangulation was so severe that Hicks's hyoid bone was broken.

         5. Grant was arrested for those crimes on August 4, 2012, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and detained in the Forsyth County jail.

         6. For his involvement in the above-described activity, Grant was charged in state court with assault by strangulation, first-degree kidnapping, common law robbery, and larceny of a motor vehicle on October 29, 2012.

         7. On December 4, 2012, Grant was taken to the Cabarrus County jail, where he was to be held until his trial.

         8. On October 27, 2013, Grant was upset, and he threatened to break the sprinkler head in his cell, which would have caused flooding throughout the jail and damage to Grant's property, as well as the property of other inmates. Grant was told to calm down or he would be put in restraints and taken to a padded cell. Grant continued his aggressive behavior, including kicking his cell door, which created such noise as to prevent inmates from sleeping, and was then placed in leg restraints and moved to a padded cell until he calmed down.

         9. “Lights out” - when many inmates go to sleep - at the Cabarrus County jail is at 10:00 p.m., so any disturbance after that time is particularly concerning to the detention officers.

         10. On February 15, 2014, Grant requested that jail staff separate him from a particular inmate because he did not like that inmate. Sergeant Almond refused Grant's request and explained that Grant's dislike of the inmate was not a legitimate reason to separate them. Grant then threatened to stab that inmate in the neck with a pencil, aware that this threat would require the jail staff to separate him from the inmate.

         11. On March 2, 2014, Grant again threatened to break the sprinkler head in his cell. In response, CSO Sergeant Zeman attempted to restrain Grant to prevent him from doing so. Grant resisted Zeman's attempt at restraint, and Anderson, who was there to assist in the handling of Grant, took Grant to the floor and restrained him. Once restrained, Grant was taken to a padded cell, where he began to kick the cell door. In order to prevent Grant from kicking the cell door, creating a disturbance, and causing harm to himself or property, the officers put Grant in leg restraints.

         12. During his time in the Cabarrus County jail and before the incident in question, Grant was involved in multiple incidents of jail misconduct. For example, he was convicted on February 25, 2013, of a January 19, 2013 assault on a detention officer. He was convicted on February 22, 2013, of injury to real property when he decided to pop a jail sprinkler head on January 20, 2013, causing water to discharge, merely because he was unhappy. He was again convicted on May 30, 2014, of popping a sprinkler head on April 30, 2014. On May 23, 2014, Grant was convicted of throwing feces at another inmate on May 10, 2014. Grant was also involved in a No. of incidents that were handled according to Cabarrus County jail policy. These include multiple instances of refusal to lock down, physically assaulting officers and other inmates, blocking his cell door to prevent it from being closed, failure to obey orders on multiple occasions, intentionally clogging his toilet (in addition to that which occurred on December 6, 2014), threatening staff on multiple occasions, and making “jailhouse hooch” (illegal alcohol).

         13. On December 3, 2014, Grant appeared in state court on charges that he had made threats against Anderson and was convicted on December 6, 2014.

         B. The Incident

         14. In early November of 2014, Grant was transferred from his cell on the jail's first floor to a corner cell on the fifth floor, as a consequence ...

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