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Lucas v. Co II Shawn Lowicki

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

September 14, 2018

ANTONIO LUCAS, # 430-414 Plaintiff,
v.
CO II SHAWN LOWICKI, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Antonio Lucas filed this civil rights action against Warden Ricky Foxwell, Lt. Stephen Elliott, and Correctional Officers Shawn Lowicki, Skylar Waters, and Richard Bankard, all employees at the Eastern Correctional Institution (“ECI”). ECF No. 5. Lucas claims that he was subject to unconstitutional conditions of confinement and excessive force. Id. at 3-5. Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 16. Although advised of his right to do so, ECF No. 17, Lucas has not filed a response to Defendants' dispositive Motion and the time to do so has expired. The matter is now ripe for review. The court finds a hearing in these matters unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' dispositive Motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Plaintiff's Allegations

         In his sworn complaint, [1] Plaintiff states:

That on 01/13/2017 [he] was placed in punitive segregation based on allegations that the plaintiff was found in possession of an object considered a weapon. . . . [T]he plaintiff was physically assaulted while on handcuff by Officer Bankard, Ofc. Lowicki, and Ofc. Waters inside a mental observation strip cell because of allegations that the plaintiff refused to take order contrary to legitimate penological goals. The plaintiff sustained physical and emotional injuries including but not limited to sw[o]llen face, facial lacerations and bruises, broken jaw and extreme anxiety. Furthermore, the plaintiff was taken to the segregation housing unit medical unit for consultation and photographs of the injuries were taken.

ECF No. 5 at 3-4. Lucas has attached copies of Administrative Remedy Procedure (“ARP”) requests alleging that the officers assaulted him; the requests were dismissed as repetitive to a previously filed request that Lucas did not submit to this Court. ECF No. 5-1 at 3-5.

         Lucas alleges that, thereafter, he “was forced” by an unnamed person(s) to:

sleep on the [bare] floor in a strip cell for 10 days naked without a mattress, blanket and bedsheets under extremely cold cell temperature with inadequate ventilation system and unsanitary floor with excessive dust, lint particles, mold on the wall, no toiletries and shower taken, limited food, and toxic fumes coming out of the cell vent with very strong ordor [sic].

ECF No. 5 at 4. Lucas asserts that, as a result of his confinement under these conditions, he suffered “choking sensation, labored breathing, constant cluster migraine headaches, changed [sic] in voice, mucus full of dust and lint, watery eyes and difficulties sleeping.” Id. Lucas has attached a copy of an ARP request and ARP appeal concerning the conditions of the cell. ECF No. 5-1 at 1-3. The ARP request was dismissed as repetitive, and the appeal was dismissed with instructions to provide the Warden's response to an earlier ARP; it is unclear from Lucas' filings whether he complied. Id.

         Lucas alleges that while he was confined under these conditions, he placed “many sick call slips but were [sic] ignored by the medical and psychology department.” ECF No. 5 at 4. Lucas does not identify the individual who received his sick call slips, nor does he name any member of the medical or psychology department as a defendant.

         B. Defendants' Response

         According to Defendants, correctional officers found a weapon on Lucas' person on January 13, 2017. ECF No. 16-13 at 11, 13. Afterward, Defendant Bankard attempted to conduct a strip search of Lucas, but claims Lucas refused to comply with orders during the strip search and swung a closed fist at Bankard. ECF No. 16-2 at 3. According to Defendants, “Officer Bankard responded to the attempted physical assault by placing plaintiff against the wall and taking him down to the floor to gain his compliance. At that point, Officer Waters handcuffed plaintiff, Officer Lowicki applied the leg irons, and Officer Bankard removed himself from the incident.” Id. at 3-4 (internal citation omitted); ECF No. 16-6 at 7-8, 12-13; ECF No. 16-15 at 8-9; see also ECF Nos. 16-18, 16-19, 16-20. Defendants Bankard, Lowicki, and Waters denied punching or striking Lucas, and stated that the only force they used was that force required to restrain Lucas on the ground and handcuff him. ECF No. 16-6 at 7-8, 12-13; ECF No. 16-15 at 8-9. After Lucas was handcuffed, Defendant “Bankard removed himself from the incident.” ECF No. 16-6 at 6. Defendants state that after Waters and Lowicki escorted Lucas to an interview booth, they also removed themselves from the situation. Id. at 12-13.

         Afterward, a nurse came to evaluate Lucas, and Lucas told the nurse that he had no injuries. Id. at 4. After Lucas was strip searched by other officers (who are not named as Defendants), Captain Benedict ordered that Lucas be placed on Staff Alert Level 1 due to Lucas' attempt to punch Bankard. ECF No. 16-9 at 1. Inmates placed on Staff Alert Level 1 are limited to “one paper gown” instead of ordinary prison apparel, their hygiene items remain under the control of the guards, and no mattress or sheets are permitted, among other limitations. ECF No. 16-10. Over the next 12 days, Lieutenant Elliott gradually reduced Lucas' Staff Alert level before removing him from Staff Alert. ECF No. 16-9 at 2-4.

         A Use of Force (“UOF”) Report was prepared regarding the January 13, 2017 incident. The UOF Report included statements from the involved officers; Lucas refused to make a statement. ECF No. 16-6 at 7-8, 12-14. The author of the UOF Report concluded that the Defendant Officers' use of force was “within the guidelines, polices, and procedures as stated in the Use of Force Manual.” ECF No. 16-6 at 4.

         As a result of the incident, Lucas was also charged with several inmate rule violations, including assault on staff. ECF No. 16-13 at 4-5, 7-11. At the disciplinary hearing, the hearing officer found Lucas guilty on all charges after finding that the officers' testimony was credible and that Lucas' testimony that the three officers assaulted him was not credible “based on the fact the report indicates he refused medical treatment.” Id. at 5. Lucas appealed the hearing officer's decision to the warden, arguing that he only refused medical treatment “because the officers who assaulted me was [sic] the ones who was ...


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