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Dennis v. Warden

United States District Court, D. Maryland

January 6, 2017

WARDEN, et al. Defendants


          James K. Bredar United States District Judge.

         Defendants filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment in response to plaintiff's claim that he was subjected to excessive force in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. ECF 19. Plaintiff Marcus Dennis was advised of his right to file an opposition response to the motion and of the consequences of failing to do so. ECF 20. Dennis sought and was granted additional time to respond (ECF 21 and 22), but has filed nothing further in this case. The court finds a hearing unnecessary to resolve the matters pending before it. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, defendants' unopposed motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment, [1] shall be granted and judgment entered in their favor.


         In his complaint as supplemented, Dennis alleges that on January 11, 2016, he and other inmates who were also incarcerated at Maryland Correctional Training Center (MCTC) were assaulted by correctional officers following a three-day hunger strike. ECF 1 at p. 1. He claims that he was “maced” and assaulted and that all of the inmates involved were transferred to different institutions.[2] Id. Dennis claims he suffered a broken nose, cracked rib, and serious injuries to his left ankle, right hamstring, neck, and back, but received no medical attention for those injuries. Id. Dennis states that he was found not guilty of an institutional infraction he was issued as a result of the events occurring on January 11, 2016. Id.

         After this court directed Dennis to supplement his original pleading, he filed a supplemental complaint asserting that the officers involved in the assault were Lt. McKenzie, Sgt. B. Younker, Officer M. Hollar, Sgt. Bair, Sgt. G. Durbrow, Officer Fiorita, and Officer H. Carr. ECF 3. In his second supplemental complaint, Dennis explains that on January 11, 2016, he was housed on the segregation unit at MCTC when the officers formed an extraction team to “do a force count.” ECF 4 at p. 3. Dennis claims the named officers came into his cell “and many others” and beat Dennis and his cellmate. Id.

         Defendants provide copies of reports prepared following the January 11, 2016, incident in support of their dispositive motion. ECF 19 at Ex. 1 (Serious Incident Report, Use of Force Report). A narrative is provided in the Serious Incident Report that summarizes the incidents occurring prior to the use of force employed against Dennis. Id. at pp. 5 - 6. The report states that “an incident occurred on C Tier in Housing Unit 7 that spanned the duration of the 8 - 4 and 4 - 12 shifts.” Id. at p. 5. The incident began at 8:45 a.m. when officers attempted to deliver meals to inmates on the segregation tier, a process referred to as “feed-up.” Id. When this process began, inmates on the tier began yelling to other inmates on the tier to refuse their lunch meals. Id. Meals were accepted in only six of the cells. Id.

         When Correctional Security Chief George Morris was briefed about the incident by Sgt. Harold Hall and Lt. Joseph Hewitt, the three officers decided to advise the dietary department to add cookies to the bagged meals being delivered to the inmates. Id. No explanation is provided as to why this decision was made.

         At 9:30 a.m., Sgt. Hall and Lt. Hewitt spoke with Dennis, who was among those who had refused to accept the meal offered initially. Dennis told Hall and Hewitt that the reason the meals were refused is they “lacked protein.” ECF 19 at Ex. 1, p. 5. Hall and Hewitt told Dennis that the same meal was being provided to the general population and advised him of the decision to add cookies to the segregation-bagged meals. Id. While Dennis told the officers he would let others know this information, he advised that the meals would probably be rejected again. Id.

         At approximately 10:00 a.m., after the segregation tier inmates were told about the addition of cookies to the meals being offered, the inmates began to plug their toilets and sinks to flood the tier. Correctional staff went from cell to cell identifying which inmates were participating in this conduct and shut off the water to the cells where it was occurring. Id.

         At 10:30 a.m., Amber Knoll, LPN, came to the segregation tier to distribute medication to the inmates. To ensure the safety of staff, inmates were ordered to the back of their cells while medication was placed in the cell. Knoll was not permitted onto the tier at that time; there is no explanation regarding who delivered medication in her place. ECF 19 at Ex. 1, p. 5.

         Institutional infractions were issued to the inmates who engaged “in the disruptive behavior” and an institutional count was conducted at 3:00 p.m. without incident. Id. During the count conducted at 4:10 p.m. by the 4 - 12 shift officers, “multiple inmates on C Tier refused to uncover their cell windows and only 5 cells accepted their evening meals.” Id. Lt. William McKinley advised Capt. Jeffrey Bradshaw of the situation and Bradshaw notified Warden Morgan who ordered the assembly of a team to conduct a forced count. Id.

         The forced count team assembled at approximately 5:30 p.m. and included McKinley, Lt. Hendershot, Sgt. Younker, Sgt. Bair, Sgt. Durboraw, Officer Hollar, Officer Fiorita, and Officer Carr. ECF 19 at Ex. 1, p. 5. In addition to the correctional staff noted, Christina Poff of the psychology staff was present for purposes of “Confrontational Avoidance” protocol. Id.

         At the first three cells the team approached, the inmates who occupied the cells did not cooperate with orders. First, inmate Andre Williams refused to uncover his cell window despite orders to do so. Force was used to gain his compliance and he was handcuffed and removed from his cell to another “secure location in Housing Unit 7.” Id.

         At the second cell, the two occupants, inmates Charles Fry and Damon Alexander, refused to uncover the cell window and the cell door was ordered to be opened. When the door was opened, Alexander threw his mattress at the team members and began striking Sgt. Younkers in the head. Id. Fry also threw his mattress at the team ...

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