United States District Court, W.D. Arkansas, Fayetteville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
TIMOTHY L. BROOKS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Michael Tripp filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. He proceeds pro se and in
forma paupehs. Plaintiff is currently incarcerated in
the East Arkansas Regional Unit of the Arkansas Department of
case concerns an incident that occurred while Plaintiff was
incarcerated at the Washington County Detention Center
("WCDC"). Specifically, Plaintiff maintains that on
November 9, 2016, Deputies C. Morgan, J. Hill, and M.
Smothers either used excessive force against Plaintiff or did
not act to prevent the use of excessive force.
case is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. 15) filed by the Defendants. Plaintiff filed a Response
in Opposition (Doc. 20), and the Motion is now ready for
was arrested on September 30, 2016, and booked into the WCDC.
(Doc. 17-2 at 5). Plaintiff denied he had any mental problems
and indicated he was taking no medication at the time. (Doc.
17-4 at 2). On October 5, 2016, the nurse made a mental
status note on Plaintiffs file because he was refusing
"to communicate" and speaking "non- sensical
gibberish." Id. at 52. On October 6, 2016, a
nurse noted that Plaintiff was acting like he did not speak
English but "readily responded to the request to read
his TB test." Id. On October 12, 2016, the
nurse noted that Plaintiff acted like he did not speak
English, preferred "non-sensical gibberish," but
had books in his possession and responded to "commands
for meals and count." Id.
November 2, 2016, Plaintiff was added to "psych
call" after it was noted he was acting strangely and
being non-verbal and non-cooperative. (Doc. 17-5 at 52). The
nurse called the Plaintiffs mother who indicated Plaintiff
had a significant mental health history, including diagnoses
of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Id.
Plaintiffs mother reported that Plaintiff had spent thirty
days at Northwest Behavioral Health in September. Id
November 3, 2016, Nurse Landon Harris spoke with Dr. Meakum
at Northwest Behavioral Health, who indicated Plaintiff had
been on Lithium and Zyprexa and had serious mental illnesses.
(Doc. 17-4 at 51-52). Medications were ordered for Plaintiff
that same day. Id.
November 4, 2016, a social worker met with Plaintiff.
Id. at 50. Plaintiff refused to talk, denied he was
Michael Tripp, called himself Muhammad, and told the social
worker to get away from his cell door. Id. The
social worker noted that Plaintiff had spread feces on the
wall of his cell. Id. An officer confirmed that
Plaintiffs behavior had been becoming increasingly bizarre.
November 6, 2016, it was noted that Plaintiff had been
refusing his Lithium and Seroquel medications. Id.
at 48. These medications were discontinued. Id. He
was prescribed Haldol to be given as an intramuscular shot
every three weeks. Id. at 48-49. On November 7,
2016, Plaintiff said he would not take the shot, but a note
was made in his file that, at the time, he did not know where
he was or his own name. Id. at 47. The decision was
made to medically treat him based on his best interests.
Id. As a precaution, two officers held his arm while
the intramuscular shot was administered. Id.
According to Nurse Harris, Plaintiff did not act aggressively
or give any indication that he was upset. Id.
November 9, 2016, a note was made in Plaintiff's file
that he was drinking from the toilet and "protruding his
tongue to drool." Id. at 47. Deputy Hill's
incident report states as follows:
On November 9, 2016 at approximately 3:08 pm I was in A Pod R
Block putting a detainee back into his cell. The detainee out
on his hour out said that R14 said he needed to see a nurse.
I went to see what he needed; Detainee Michael Tripp . . .
was leaning over the toilet with an empty milk carton dipping
toilet water out and drinking it. I asked him what was wrong
and then he went back to the toilet took his towel and dipped
[it] in the toilet wiped the inside of the toilet and put the
rag in his mouth and started sucking on it. He then walked to
the door and said as if his tongue was swollen, his neck hurt
because of the shot he got Monday. I went to pod control
[and] called the nurse. Detainee Tripp walked to the door and
then acted like he was going to fall. Deputy M. Smothers #489
and I caught Detainee Tripp and put him on the chair and the
dinner table. The [nurse] came and evaluated Detainee Tripp.
The nurse stated all vital signs were normal and he was ok to
put him back into the cell.
Smothers and I had to lift him and carry him to his cell. We
laid him [on] the floor of his cell and shut the door.
Smothers and the nurse left the block and I stayed in the
block. I waited a minute and then went back to R14 cell and
when I looked in Detainee Tripp had gotten up off the floor
and was walking around his cell. When he noticed me he
immediately started acting like he was hurt and then could
not talk. I asked him if he was ok now since he had gotten up
and he did not say anything. I continued my daily duties.
(Doc. 17-5 at 1).
all occurred prior to the alleged use of excessive force.
Plaintiffs Version of the Incident
that same day, November 9, 2016, at approximately 4:30 pm,
Plaintiff was involved in an altercation with Deputy Morgan.
According to Plaintiff, he was having side effects from his
medicine. (Doc. 17-9 at 16). Specifically, Plaintiff
testified in his deposition that his neck and different parts
of his body had been "locking up" at the time.
Id. at 16, 18. Plaintiff believed his "nerves
were just locking up and aching and hurting."
Id. at 21. Plaintiff further testified that he was
"high off the medicine"; he had a headache; and he
could not stop his "arm from moving or [his] neck from
turning." Id. at 18, 24-25. Plaintiff admitted
that he flooded his cell because "they acted like they
couldn't get no nurse at all to come see about the
situation." Id. at 18.
Plaintiff was talking to Morgan about his medical emergency
and his request to see the nurse, he reached out and touched
the silver part of Morgan's badge. (Doc. 17-9 at 16, 23,
31). According to Plaintiff, after Morgan touched him, he
"touched him back because [Morgan] got to tussling
me." Id. at 16; see also Id. at 28
("I grabbed him back."). Plaintiff stated that he
was taken to the ground, and Morgan "hit [him] three
times in the face while [he] was down." Id. at
18, 23. Plaintiff recalled that Hill was one of the officers
holding him down. Id. at 33. Plaintiff believes Hill
and another deputy who was present violated his rights by
allowing Morgan to strike him while he was on the floor.
Id. at 49. However, Plaintiff conceded during his
deposition that the other, third officer who appears in the
video recording of the incident was not Smothers.
Id. at 49-50.
the altercation, Plaintiff testified that he was bleeding
from his right eye, and he was not even given a bandage.
Id. at 18, 37. However, Plaintiff indicated that a
deputy did bring him some ice. Id. at 39. Plaintiff
also claims that it took a couple of hours for the bleeding
to stop, he could not see from his eye for a couple of days,
and his eye was swollen. Id. at 37. Plaintiff
contends that he continues to suffer from headaches that he
believes are related to the incident because of the location
of the headaches. Id. at 41.
also testified that he frequently touched officers'
badges if he needed something. Id. at 29. However,
this was the first time he had done that with Morgan.
Id. Plaintiff explained that he does not touch
officers' badges at the Arkansas Department of
Correction, where he is currently imprisoned, because he
believes the officers there would perceive it as an assault.
Id. at 29-30. But, according to Plaintiff, it was a
different situation at the WCDC because his inmate
"class" was not at issue there, so he did not worry
about reaching for an officer's badge. Id.
asked to describe what County policy or custom caused the
alleged violation of his constitutional rights, Plaintiff
explained that there is a County policy that once an inmate
is in restraints, the deputies are not "supposed to
swing on you." Id. at 50. Plaintiff indicated
that all the proof he needs to establish his claim is on the
video of the incident, and therefore, he does not intend to
call any witnesses or present any documents to support his
claim. Id. at 54.
Defendants' Version of the Incident
Morgan describes the incident as follows:
On November 9, 2016 at approximately 4:30 P.M., I was in
R-block letting Detainee Michael Tripp out for his hour. When
I opened Cell 14, I noticed water and wet books on the floor
and water running into the day room. I approached the R-block
slider and pushed the book cart into the hallway when I heard
Detainee Tripp walking up behind me. I turned around and told
Detainee Tripp to go take a shower. Detainee Tripp continued
to approach me as he reached up with his right hand to grab
something on my shirt. I knocked Detainee Tripp's hand
away and told him to back up ...