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Bible v. Johnson

United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division

February 8, 2018



          Timothy L. Brooks Judge.

         Plaintiff William Craig Bible filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. He proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. The case is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 20) filed by the Defendants on June 19, 2017. Additionally, Defendants filed a Brief in Support (Doc. 21), a Statement of Facts in Support (Doc. 22), and a Supplement to the Statement of Facts in Support (Doc. 23). Plaintiff responded to Defendants' Motion on August 18, 2017 (Doc. 29). The Motion is now ready for decision.

         Plaintiff claims that while incarcerated at the Benton County Detention Center, ("BCDC"), he was subjected to the use of excessive force. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that Deputies Aaron Johnson and Jurenal Rubio used excessive force while moving him to a lock down cell and that Defendants Sheriff Meyer Gilbert, Captain Lynn Hahn, and Lieutenant Robin Holt are responsible In their supervisory and official capacities. In his Response to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 29), Plaintiff requests that his suit be dismissed against all Defendants except his excessive force claim against Defendant Johnson. The Court hereby GRANTS Plaintiffs request to dismiss Defendants Rubio, Gilbert, Hahn, and Holt, and will address summary judgment as it pertains to Defendant Johnson only.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In September 2016, Plaintiff waived his right to a final revocation hearing and was in the BCDC awaiting transport to the Arkansas Community Correction Facility. Plaintiff was in convicted status at the time of the events at issue in this case. (Doc. 1 at 4; Doc. 21 at 4; Doc. 22-2 at 6). On October 16, 2016, Plaintiff was standing at the door of D149 waiting in a line to receive medications and have his blood sugar taken by the nurse. (Doc. 22-4 at 22, 23). Defendant Johnson came into the pod where Plaintiff was standing, and Plaintiff witnessed Defendant Johnson reprimand another inmate for a commissary violation, /of. Plaintiff thought Defendant Johnson was giving the other inmate a hard time. Id. at 16, 17). Plaintiff told Defendant Johnson that it was "petty, " referring to how Defendant Johnson was treating the other Inmate. (Doc. 1 at 4, Doc. 22-4 at 17). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Johnson got upset with him and told him to get his stuff ready because he would be going to lockdown when Defendant Johnson returned. The reason given for the punishment was Plaintiffs interference with facility operations and staff duties. (Doc. 22-4 at 17; Doc. 22-2 at 15, 16). Plaintiff responded, "okay, " got his medicine, sat down, and did not think anything more of the incident. (Doc. 22-4 at 17).

         When Defendant Johnson returned, he instructed Plaintiff to get his stuff, as he was being taken to the lockdown cell. Plaintiff asserts that he then told Defendant Johnson "the other day, a guy stood in there and cussed you out, threatened - - told you to take your badge off, threatened you. You didn't do anything to him. You're going to lock me up for saying petty? This is petty." (Doc. 22-4 at 17). Defendant Johnson did not fully understand what Plaintiff was saying, but heard Plaintiff say "take off your badge" and took that as a threat. (Doc. 22-2 at 16). Plaintiff states that Defendant Johnson then grabbed him by the throat and "slammed him off the glass window." (Doc. 1 at 5, 22-4 at 18).

         The video of the incident is without sound but shows Defendant Johnson directing Plaintiff through a doonway between Pod D, Control B and the Pod D hallway. (Doc. 22-5). Plaintiff, who is carrying his belongings and appears to be smiling, can be seen talking to Defendant Johnson as Plaintiff approaches the door. Id. Plaintiff briefly pauses in the doonway while he continues talking, and then something precipitates an aggressive reaction by Defendant Johnson. In a single swift movement. Defendant Johnson pulls Plaintiff from the doonway, applies one hand to the front of Plaintiffs neck, and pins the back of Plaintiffs head against the glass wall of the control room. Id. Defendant Rubio then joins Defendant Johnson and they spin Plaintiff around to secure his arms behind his back. During this process the Plaintiffs chest and the side of his face are mashed against the glass wall. Id. The use of force as just described occurs within a period of 22 seconds. During this time, two other officers are standing in the pod control room watching these events from just a few feet away. Id. Then, while holding both of Plaintiffs arms behind his back. Defendants Johnson and Rubio walk Plaintiff out of the control room and down the hall. Id. They all stop about halfway down the hall and Plaintiff is then positioned (without noticeable force) against the side wall. Johnson and Rubio then escort Plaintiff back to the control room, where Plaintiff is released and permitted to recover his belongings (that had fallen to the floor during the ruckus). Id. This is where the footage ends. The video does not suggest that Plaintiff was physically aggressive or combative at any point. Id. According to Plaintiff, his shoulder began hurting, which he attributed to his arms being restrained behind his back. He took naproxen for the pain. Plaintiff does not allege any other injuries, damages, or impairments.


         Summary judgment is appropriate if, after viewing the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. V. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986), the record "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "Once a party moving for summary judgment has made a sufficient showing, the burden rests with the non-moving party to set forth specific facts, by affidavit or other evidence, showing that a genuine issue of material fact exists." Nat'l Bank of Commerce v. Dow Chem. Co., 165 F.3d 602, 607 (8th Cir. 1999).

         The non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. "They must show there is sufficient evidence to support a jury verdict in their favor." Nat'l Bank, 165 F.3d at 607 (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986)). "A case founded on speculation or suspicion is insufficient to survive a motion for summary judgment." Id. (citing Metge v. Baehler, 762 F.2d 621, 625 (8th Cir. 1985)). "When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). In this particular case, the incident that is the subject of the Complaint was captured on video. The Supreme Court has recognized that a video recording may so contradict the evidence of one party or the other as to eliminate any genuine dispute about what occurred. Id. at 380. In such a circumstance, the Court must view the facts in the light depicted by the video. Id. at 381.


         Defendant Johnson has moved for summary judgment on the following grounds: 1) The force used against Plaintiff was reasonable; and 2) Defendant Johnson is entitled to qualified immunity.

         A. Section 1983 In General

         Section 1983 provides a federal cause of action for the deprivation, under color of law, of a citizen's "rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws" of the United States. In order to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff must allege that the defendant acted under color of state law and that he violated a right secured by the Constitution. West v. Atkins,487 U.S. 42 (1988); Duntiam v. Wadley, 195 F.3d 1007, 1009 (8th Cir. 1999). The deprivation must be intentional; mere negligence will not suffice to state a claim for ...

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