United States District Court, D. Maryland
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Gregory Thomas, a state inmate confined at the Western
Correctional Institution (WCI), filed this civil rights
complaint against Defendants Warden Denise Gelsinger, Warden
Richard Graham, Correctional Officer II Daniel Faulkner,
Correctional Officer II Trey Brenneman, and Correctional
Officer II Sharon Dayton. Pending before the Court is
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, Alternatively, for
Summary Judgment. ECF No. 8. Plaintiff opposes the motion.
ECF No. 14. No. hearing is necessary. See Local Rule
105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow,
Defendants' motion, construed as a Motion for Summary
Judgment, is granted.
April 19, 2015, at approximately 9:10 a.m., Officer Sharon
Dayton, who was assigned to housing unit 1 A wing, went to
the upper A wing recreation hall after hearing an inmate
yelling loudly. ECF No. 8-2 at 18 (Notice of Inmate Rule
Violation). There she observed Thomas acting in a loud
and disruptive manner, waving his arms, appearing to be under
the influence of an unknown controlled dangerous substance.
Id.; ECF No. 8-2 at 2 (tier log). He yelled,
“I'm on the honor tier, you can't do shit to
me.” ECF No. 8-2 at 18. Dayton noted that Thomas failed
to follow direct orders and she called for assistance. ECF
No. 8-2 at 2.
Faulkner and Brenneman responded to the call for assistance
and saw Thomas standing in front of the recreation hall
bathroom yelling and acting erratically. ECF No. 8-2 at 10
(Faulkner Use of Force Report); ECF No. 8-2 at 52 (Brenneman
Use of Force Report). Thomas was observed clenching his fists
and “display[ing] an aggressive defensive
stance.” ECF No. 8-2 at 10, 18, 52. He spoke
incoherently and “put his hands in the air and stated,
‘Don't shoot.'” ECF No. 8-4 at 11
(Faulkner interview with Intelligence and Investigative
Division (IID)); ECF No. 8-4 at 11 (Brenneman interview with
IID). Thomas appeared to Faulkner and Brenneman
to be under the influence of an unknown controlled dangerous
substance. ECF No. 8-2 at 10, 52. Faulkner directed Thomas
several times to turn around in order to be handcuffed, but
Thomas refused to comply. ECF No. 8-2 at 10, 18, 52; ECF No.
8-4 at 11, 12. Due to concerns of a possible fight, Brenneman
called for additional assistance to the wing. ECF No. 8-2 at
10, 18, 52. As other officers arrived on the wing, Thomas
dropped to the floor and continued to yell in such a way that
officers believed he was attempting to incite other inmates.
ECF No. 8-2 at 5, 7, 13. Because housing unit 1, A wing, is
an honor tier all of the cell doors remained open. ECF No.
8-2 at 10, 18, 52. Faulkner attempted to place handcuffs on
Thomas but he resisted. ECF No. 8-2 at 10, 18, 52; ECF No.
8-4 at 11. Ultimately, with the assistance of Brenneman,
Faulkner applied the handcuffs. ECF No. 8-2 at 10, 18, 52. As
Faulkner and Brenneman escorted Thomas to the medical
department, Thomas continued to yell and attempt to incite
other inmates. ECF No. 8-2 at 10, 18, 52; ECF No. 8-4 at 11.
He also acted aggressively toward Faulkner and Brenneman,
spitting, jumping, and attempting to pull away from them. ECF
No. 8-2 at 10, 18, 52; ECF No. 8-4 at 11. Thomas denies
spitting, jumping, or pulling away from the officers. In his
opposition response, Thomas indicates that due to a
pre-existing knee injury, during the escort his knee began to
hurt and he “attempted to shift his weight to one side
to minimize the pressure and pain on his knee from the
unusual position the Officers were escorting him in.”
ECF No. 14 at 2. Then without warning his “leg was
clipped from beneath him” and he lost his footing and
was taken to the ground. Id. He alleges, for the
first time in his opposition response, that he was kicked in
the face once on the ground. Id. However, Thomas
does not support these assertions with any record evidence.
and Brenneman took Thomas to the ground in order to gain
control over him. ECF No. 8-2 at 10, 18, 52; ECF No. 8-4 at
11, 12. Video of the incident shows Faulkner and Brenneman
escorting Thomas across the compound and taking him to the
ground. ECF No. 14-4. Although Thomas claims that he was
lifted up of his feet and slammed onto the concrete ground,
the video shows that Thomas was neither lifted off the ground
nor slammed into the ground. Id. It does show,
however, that while Thomas was handcuffed, Brenneman and
Thomas pushed him facedown to the concrete ground in an
apparent effort to control him. Another officer, Lieutenant
Smith, observed Thomas attempting to pull away from the
officers and yelling at the officers and other inmates. ECF
No. 8-4 at 12 (Smith interview with IID). Smith also reported
that Thomas was out of control, yelling, and did not appear
to know what was going on. ECF No. 8-4 at 12.
Conners, RN evaluated Thomas. She noted that when he was
brought to medical, “[h]e was yelling and screaming,
‘it is God's day.'” ECF No. 8-2 at 23.
Initially he would not stop yelling long enough to be
questioned. Eventually he was evaluated and a 5 centimeter
laceration with partial detachment was noted above his right
ear. ECF No. 8-2 at 23. A 2-3 centimeter laceration was noted
above his right eye. ECF No. 8-2 at 23. Plaintiff declined to
have any suturing or other treatment or evaluation. ECF No.
8-2 at 23. The wounds were cleaned and dressed and Thomas was
taken to special housing. ECF No. 8-2 at 23. There, while
undressing, another wound was discovered and medical was
called to come reassess Thomas. ECF No. 8-2 at 23. An
abrasion, 9 centimeters in diameter, with swelling and dried
blood was observed on Thomas's right shoulder. ECF No.
8-2 at 23. Plaintiff appeared to be calming down and was
advised by Conners that he should consent to having a
physician assess him later. He indicated his agreement but
continued to refuse suturing. ECF No. 8-2 at 23. Conners
returned to the special housing unit at approximately 12:20
p.m. that afternoon and asked Thomas if he would consent to
the provider coming to look at him. ECF No. 8-2 at 23. He
agreed he would. Conners noted that Thomas “appear[ed]
hypervigilant in his physical and emotional reaction, pacing
and quick responses.” ECF No. 8-2 at 23. Conners
contacted the physician who indicated he and the
physician's assistant would evaluate Thomas when they
were available. Id. Conners also noted that custody
staff advised that in order to provide safety extra staff
would need to be present for the assessment. ECF No. 8-2 at
that day, at approximately 3:47 p.m., Krista Swan, RNP
treated Thomas. ECF No. 8-2 at 21. She noted that he suffered
a small head laceration and right ear laceration. She
described him as alert and oriented. Thomas refused to have
the right ear laceration, which was described as a
“partial detachment, ” sutured. ECF No. 8-2 at
21. He told Swan that, “I am a child of God and I will
heal on my own, right before your eyes.” ECF No. 8-2 at
21. Thomas did submit a urine sample, which was negative for
CDS. ECF No. 8-2 at 92-93.
following day, Thomas refused wound care stating, “I am
God in the flesh, my ear will grow back [and] I may not be
alive tomorrow.” ECF No. 8-2 at 57. That day a member
of the psychology staff, Jonathan Hess, provided Thomas with
individual therapy. ECF No. 8-2 at 29. Mr. Hess reported that
Thomas was loud and boisterous during the therapy session.
ECF No. 8-2 at 29. Thomas told Mr. Hess “that he
becomes very passionate about certain things and becomes
loud.” ECF No. 8-2 at 29.
April 21, 2015, Thomas refused to take medications or allow
his dressings to be changed. ECF No. 8-2 at 59. He yelled at
the medical provider and laughed while stating, “I am a
God.” ECF No. 8-2 at 59. He was also seen that day by
psychology staff. ECF No. 8-2 at 31. He was described as
“alert but not fully oriented. He is argumentative and
has difficulty understanding why he is in SOH.” ECF No.
8-2 at 31. When challenged that his behavior was out of
character, he responded that he was fine and that he
“is just very passionate at times about certain
things.” ECF No. 8-2 at 31.
April 22, 2015, Thomas again refused medication. ECF No. 8-2
at 60. He was observed singing and yelling which could be
heard outside of the special housing area before entering the
door. ECF No. 8-2 at 60. Later that day he consented to a
dressing change, but again refused medication. ECF No. 8-2 at
was seen again by psychology staff on April 23, 2015. He
continued to be loud and boisterous and his speech was
described as cyclical. ECF No. 8-2 at 33. He calmed down
later in the day and asked to speak to members of the
psychology staff to whom he expressed his belief that the
incident was all a misunderstanding, that he was never under
the influence of drugs, and was simply speaking passionately
to other inmates. ECF No. 8-2 at 33-34. His demeanor was
described as much improved and calmer. ECF No. 8-2 at 35. The
following day, Thomas was alert and oriented, his speech was
normal in rate and tone and he appeared calmer. ECF No. 8-2
at 38. He was determined not to be a risk for
self-destructive behavior and released from observation
status. ECF No. 8-2 at 38.
was evaluated by medical staff on April 29, 2015. He
complained of right and left shoulder pain as well as neck
pain. He was provided analgesic medication and x-rays of his
shoulder and neck were ordered. ECF No. 8-2 at 64. He
continued to receive wound care. ECF No. 8-2 at 66, 68.
result of the incident, Thomas was charged with inmate rule
violations: Rule 100 (engage in a disruptive act); 312
(interfere with or resist the performance of staff duties to
include a search of a person, time, area or location); and
400 (disobey an order). ECF No. 8-2 at 72. After a contested
hearing, Thomas was found guilty of all three infractions.
ECF No. 8-2 at 78. He was sanctioned with 250 days ...