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Gulley v. Iweka

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 15, 2016

CHAZ O. GULLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPUTY WARDEN IWEKA, et al., Defendants.

          RULING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          MICHAEL P. SHEA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff, Chaz O. Gulley, is currently incarcerated at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution, in Uncasville, Connecticut. He commenced this civil rights action pro se by filing a complaint naming Deputy Warden Iweka, Counselor Supervisor Peterson, Captain James Watson, Lieutenants Kenny and Santopietro and Correctional Officers Griffin, Smith, Rowold, R. Crowell, and Dicosmo as defendants. The complaint alleges claims of excessive force, failure to intervene in the use of force by others, and assault and battery against all the defendants in their individual capacities. The defendants move for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Standard of Review

         In a motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the moving party to establish that there are no genuine disputes of material fact and that it is “entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law, ” and a dispute about a material fact is “genuine” if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         When a motion for summary judgment is supported by documentary evidence and sworn affidavits and “demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, ” the nonmoving party must do more than vaguely assert the existence of some unspecified disputed material facts or “rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation.” Robinson v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 781 F.3d 42, 44 (2d Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). The party opposing the motion for summary judgment “must come forward with specific evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact.” Id. In reviewing the record, the court must “construe the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and . . . draw all reasonable inferences in its favor.” Gary Friedrich Enters., L.L.C. v. Marvel Characters, Inc., 716 F.3d 302, 312 (2d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted).

         Where one party is proceeding pro se, the court reads the pro se party’s papers liberally and interprets them “to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest.” Willey v. Kirkpatrick, 801 F.3d 51, 62 (2d Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Despite this liberal interpretation, however, “[u]nsupported allegations do not create a material issue of fact” and cannot overcome a properly supported motion for summary judgment. See Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 811 (2003).

         II. Facts[1]

         On August 10, 2014, the plaintiff was confined at Cheshire Correctional Institution (“Cheshire”). At about 4:00 p.m. that day, the plaintiff and other inmates from his housing unit were walking to the cafeteria for dinner. Correctional Officer Rowold was posted at the metal detector located in the north corridor near the CC3 door and was monitoring inmate movement to the cafeteria. Officer Rowold directed the plaintiff to step out of line and return to the area near the metal detector.

         Officer Rowold approached the plaintiff and removed the identification card from the plaintiff’s shirt. Officer Rowold then called for additional staff support and a supervisor. He applied force to move the plaintiff to the wall of the corridor. Another officer arrived and assisted Officer Rowold in securing the plaintiff against the wall and applying handcuffs to the plaintiff’s wrists. When Lieutenant Kenny arrived and observed the situation, he asked another officer to relieve Officer Rowold. Under the supervision of Lieutenant Kenny, two officers escorted the plaintiff to the restrictive housing unit dayroom.

         Pursuant to an instruction by Lieutenant Kenny, a third officer conducted a controlled strip search of the plaintiff as the same two officers held the plaintiff’s arms. After the strip search, officers escorted the plaintiff to a cell in the restrictive housing unit. As the officers were removing the handcuffs from the plaintiff’s wrist through the trap in the door of the cell, the plaintiff made statements regarding a desire to harm or kill himself. Lieutenant Kenny then directed the officers to remove the plaintiff from the cell and to escort him back to the dayroom.

         In the dayroom, officers conducted a second controlled strip search under the supervision of Lieutenant Kenny and dressed the plaintiff in a safety gown. The officers escorted the plaintiff to cell 116 in the restrictive housing unit, which had a camera to monitor the plaintiff’s behavior. The officers placed the plaintiff in the cell with a clean mattress and a blanket and removed the handcuffs.

         A nurse checked the plaintiff’s wrists and jaw in response to the plaintiff’s complaints of pain in those areas. Lieutenant Kenny photographed both of the plaintiff’s wrists and his jaw, and placed the plaintiff on behavior observation status due to his statements of self-harm.

         At approximately 4:35 p.m., correctional staff passed the plaintiff’s dinner meal to him through the trap in the cell door. Very shortly after receiving his dinner, the plaintiff covered the camera in the cell, which made it impossible to view the inside of the cell. The plaintiff also covered the window in the door of the cell.

         As soon as an officer noticed that the plaintiff had covered the camera and cell window, he informed Lieutenant Kenny. When Lieutenant Kenny arrived at the cell, he ordered the plaintiff to remove the covering from the window, but the plaintiff refused to do so. Lieutenant Kenny was able to open the trap in the door of the cell and observe the plaintiff standing in the corner of the cell. Lieutenant Kenny allegedly ordered the plaintiff to lie on the mattress in the cell and the plaintiff allegedly did not respond.

         Lieutenant Kenny then administered a burst of a chemical agent into the cell through the trap in the cell door. Lieutenant Limmer administered a second burst of a chemical agent through the trap in the cell door. At approximately 4:42 p.m., the plaintiff removed the covering from the camera in the cell. Within seconds, Officers Griffin, Smith, Jura, and Johnson and Lieutenants Kenny and Limmer entered the cell and pinned the plaintiff to the bed. Lieutenant Kenny administered a third burst of a chemical agent into the plaintiff’s facial area and Lieutenant Limmer issued a fourth burst of a chemical agent into the plaintiff’s facial area. The officers handcuffed the plaintiff behind his back, escorted him out of the cell, and permitted him to rinse his face in the shower in an effort to decontaminate him from the chemical agent residue.

         Under the direction of Lieutenant Kenny, Officers Smith and Griffin escorted the plaintiff to the dayroom in the restrictive housing unit and dressed him in a clean safety gown. Based on the plaintiff’s behavior and statements that he might harm himself, Lieutenant Kenny directed officers to escort the plaintiff to cell 118 in the restrictive housing unit and to place him in full stationary soft restraints. A nurse checked the restraints on the plaintiff’s wrists and ankles to make sure they were not too tight. Lieutenant Kenny placed the plaintiff on behavioral observation and full restraint status.

         The plaintiff remained on full restraint status until the following day, August 11, 2014, at noon. At that time, Lieutenant Kenny decided to downgrade the plaintiff from full restraint status. The plaintiff informed prison staff that he did not want to be downgraded from full, stationary restraints. As officers attempted to remove the restraints from the plaintiff’s limbs, the plaintiff resisted. Lieutenant Kenny administered a burst of a chemical agent into the plaintiff’s facial area. Another lieutenant administered a second burst of a chemical agent into the plaintiff’s facial area. Lieutenant Kenny administered a third burst of a chemical agent into the plaintiff’s facial area and the plaintiff stopped his resistance to being released from the restraints.

         Plaintiff alleges that officers failed to decontaminate him properly from the residue of the chemical agent. He remained in four-point restraints in the restrictive housing unit pursuant to an order issued by Lieutenant Kenny. The plaintiff claims that for three hours, the chemical agent that had been sprayed on or at him made it difficult to breath and caused him to experience the sensation of burning up. A nurse treated the plaintiff for these symptoms.

         At approximately 3:00 p.m. that afternoon, Lieutenant Kenny decided to downgrade the plaintiff to behavior observation status. Officers removed the plaintiff’s restraints without incident.

         On September 4, 2014, the plaintiff and three other prisoners were confined in cells in the restrictive housing unit at Cheshire. In an effort to protest conditions at Cheshire, the plaintiff and the three other inmates covered their cell windows so that prison officials were unable to see into their cells. Officer Crowell notified Lieutenant Santopietro about the conduct of the four inmates.

         When Lieutenant Santopietro arrived at the plaintiff’s cell, he ordered him to remove the covering over the window in the door of the cell. The plaintiff refused to comply with the order. When Lieutenant Santopietro opened the trap in the cell door, he observed that the plaintiff had draped sheets and blankets to cover the lower bunk of the cell and he could not see the plaintiff behind the sheets and blankets.

         Lieutenant Santopietro directed four officers, including Officers Dicosmo, Griffin, and Crowell, to enter the plaintiff’s cell. As the officers and Lieutenant Santopietro entered the cell, Lieutenant Santopietro pulled down the sheet and administered a burst of a chemical agent towards the plaintiff. The officers brought the plaintiff to the floor of the cell. Lieutenant Santopietro issued a second burst of a chemical agent towards the plaintiff as the officers shouted at the plaintiff to stop resisting their attempts to handcuff him. At the same time, the plaintiff was yelling that he was not resisting and that the officers were using excessive force against him. Eventually, one or more of the officers applied handcuffs to the plaintiff’s wrists, and Officers Crowell and Griffin escorted the plaintiff to the shower for decontamination. After Officer Crowell had decontaminated the plaintiff, he and Officer Griffin escorted the plaintiff to a cell in the restrictive housing unit. Officer Griffin applied leg irons to the plaintiff’s ankles. Later that day, officers transported the plaintiff to Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Institution.

         Additional facts concerning the circumstances of each incident involving the use of force against the plaintiff are set ...


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