United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION RECOMMENDATION AND ORDER OF UNITED
STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Webster United States Magistrate Judge.
matter comes before the Court upon Defendants' motion for
summary judgment. (Docket Entry 47.) This matter is ripe for
disposition. For the following reasons, the Court will
recommend that Defendants' motion for summary judgment be
GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
case arises out of correctional officers' use of physical
force against Plaintiff James Howard McLean, a pro se
prisoner of the State of North Carolina in the custody of the
North Carolina Department of Public Safety
("NCDPS"). The uncontroverted facts are as follows.
On September 24, 2015, Plaintiff-then a pretrial detainee at
Scotland County Detention Center ("Scotland")-filed
a grievance indicating that he was officially on a hunger
strike. (Docket Entry 50-2 at 3.) He explained that because
his specially-prepared and marked food trays had been
tampered with, he feared for his safety. (Id.) He
also specifically noted that he was not otherwise suicidal.
(Id.) To address concerns of self harm arising from
Plaintiffs hunger strike, Defendant Captain Sandra Miller
ordered that Plaintiff be placed on suicide watch. (Miller
Decl. ¶¶ 5-6, Docket Entry 48-1 at 3-4.) Defendant
Sergeant Stephanie Hudson and Defendant Detention Officers
Clinton Gooselin, Laura Prevatte, and Chris Strickland
attempted to carry out Captain Miller's order by
escorting Plaintiff, unrestrained, to the "drunk
tank" where Scotland monitors inmates on suicide watch.
(Compl. § V, Docket Entry 2 at 4-6; Hudson Aff. ¶
3, Docket Entry 48-2 at 3-4; Gooselin Aff. ¶ 3, Docket
Entry 48-3 at 3; Prevatte Aff. ¶ 2, Docket Entry 48-4 at
3-4; Strickland Aff. ¶ 2, Docket Entry 48-5 at 2-4.) As
they approached the "drunk tank, " Plaintiff
punched Officer Gooselin. (Compl. § V; Hudson Aff.
¶ 3; Gooselin Aff. ¶ 4; Prevatte Aff. ¶ 4;
Strickland Aff. ¶ 2.) Officer Gooselin punched Plaintiff
back. (Compl. § V; Hudson Aff. ¶ 3; Gooselin Aff.
¶ 4; Prevatte Aff. ¶ 4; Strickland Aff. ¶ 2.)
Officer Gooselin restrained Plaintiff on the ground until
Officers Prevatte and Strickland administered pepper spray.
(Compl. § V; Hudson Aff. ¶ 3; Gooselin Aff. ¶
4; Prevatte Aff. ¶ 4; Strickland Aff. ¶ 2.) The
Officers then handcuffed Plaintiff, rinsed off the pepper
spray, and made sure he was seen by the jail nurse. (Hudson
Aff. ¶¶ 3-4; Gooselin Aff. ¶¶ 4-5;
Prevatte Aff. ¶¶ 4-6; Strickland Aff. ¶ 2-4.)
Plaintiff received further treatment at Scotland Memorial
Hospital. (Docket Entry 20-2 at 15-36.) Hospital records
reveal that Plaintiff had facial lacerations, head injury
with headache, maxillary sinus fracture, neck strain, orbit
fracture, and periorbital contusion. (Id.)
25, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Defendants
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging Defendants
subjected Plaintiff to excessive force. [See generally,
Compl., § V, Docket Entry 2.) In his Complaint, Plaintiff
recounts the incident as follows:
Detention Officer Clinton Gooselin grabbed Plaintiff in which
Plaintiff struck Officer Gooselin one time and then dropped
to his knees with his hands out to submit to the cuffs. Sgt.
Stephanie Hudson took her handheld radio and struck Plaintiff
on the right side of his face just below his right eye on top
of his cheekbone while he was in this submissive position.
Officer Clinton Gooselin then kicked Plaintiff in the face.
Plaintiff was then peppered sprayed by Officer Laura Prevatte
and Officer Chris Strickland.
(Id. at 5-6.)
seeks declaratory judgment and compensatory and punitive
March 20, 2017, Plaintiff pled guilty in Scotland County
Superior Court to the offense of assaulting a governmental
official in the course of his duties in connection with his
having punched Officer Gooselin on September 24, 2015.
(Docket Entry 48-7 at 7). On June 22, 2017, the Court entered
a discovery scheduling order establishing a discovery
deadline of December 22, 2017 and a January 22, 2018 deadline
to file dispositive motions. (Docket Entry 35.) On November
2, 2017, Defendants served Plaintiff via certified mail their
first set of requests for admissions ("requests for
admissions") and first set of requests for production of
documents ("requests for production"). (Docket
Entry 43-1.) On November 15 and 16, 2017, Plaintiff filed two
letters in which he indicated that he did "not
understand the things the Defendants' counsel is
arguing" and asked the Court to appoint counsel to
represent him. (Docket Entries 43, 44.) To these two letters,
Plaintiff attached his copies of Defendants' requests for
admissions and requests for production. (Docket Entries 43-1,
44-1.) On November 21, 2017, the Court denied Plaintiffs
motions to appoint counsel. (Text Order dated Nov. 21, 2017.)
now move for summary judgment. (Defs.' Mot. Summ. J.,
Docket Entry 47.) In support of their motion, Defendants have
submitted (1) a memorandum of law (Defs.' Mem. Supp. Mot.
Summ. J., Docket Entry 48); (2) their own declarations and
affidavits (Miller Decl.; Hudson Aff.; Gooselin Aff; Prevatte
Aff.; Strickland Aff.); and (3) Plaintiffs criminal records
(Docket Entries 48-6, 48-7). Defendants also reference their
requests for admissions. (Defs.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J.
at 4; Docket Entry 43-1.) Defendants accurately represent the
supporting declarations and affidavits in the following
summary of their version of the September 24, 2015 incident:
As the Detention Officers and the Plaintiff reached the
hallway leading to the segregated holding cell, the Plaintiff
apparendy realized that he was being placed on a suicide
watch. The Plaintiff stopped walking and became combative,
loudly proclaiming that would not put on the "Turde
Suit" or go to the segregated holding cell. After being
told that he did not have a choice in the matter, the
Plaintiff shouted "Fuck Captain Miller" and,
without warning, punched Officer Gooselin in the left side of
his face with a closed fist, injuring Officer Gooselin's
eye and nose. Defending himself, Officer Gooselin punched the
Plaintiff back, striking him in the right side of his face,
and then wrestled the Plaintiff down to the floor.
Sergeant Hudson, Officer Prevatte, and Officer Strickland
moved to assist Officer Gooselin in his efforts to gain
control over the Plaintiff. The defendant Detention Officers
repeatedly ordered the Plaintiff to surrender and stop
resisting, but he refused to obey their commands.
The Plaintiff continued to resist efforts to subdue him until
defendants Officer Prevatte and Officer Strickland deployed
their OC pepper spray against him. The OC pepper spray had
the intended effect, causing the Plaintiff to stop fighting
and submit to being handcuffed. After Detention Officers
handcuffed the Plaintiff, they assisted him to his feet and
took him to a shower where he could wash the pepper spray
residue out of his eyes and off of his face. Other than
Officer Gooselin's counter-punch immediately after being
punched in the face by the Plaintiff, none of the defendants
hit, kicked or otherwise struck the Plaintiff in any way.
(Defs.' Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J., Docket Entry 48 at 9-10
(internal citations omitted); Miller Deck ¶ 6-8; Hudson
Aff. ¶¶ 3, 4, 6; Gooselin Aff. ¶¶ 3-5, 8;
Prevatte Aff. ¶¶ 3-4, 6-7; Strickland
opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment
Plaintiff has filed (1) his own declaration (McLean Deck,
Docket Entry 50-1); (2) records of Assistant District
Attorney J. Shober's interviews with Officers Gooselin
and Prevatte and Sergeant Hudson (Docket Entry 50-2 at 1-2,
9); records of Assistant District Attorney Ashley E.
Weilman's interviews with Officer Gooselin and Detective
Roger Alford (Docket Entry 50-2 at 7-8, 10); Plaintiffs
September 24, 2015 grievance as well a similar grievance and
related correspondence from September, 2014 (Docket Entry
50-2 at 3-6); the incident reports Officers Gooselin,
Prevatte, Strickland, and Sergeant Hudson signed on September
25, 2015 (Docket Entry 50-2 at 11-14); Plaintiffs September
24, 2015 ...