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King v. Dorn

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 8, 2019



          Ellen L. Hollander United States District Judge

         Plaintiff James Arthur King, Jr., who is self-represented, filed a civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that correctional officers at Patuxent Institution used excessive force against him, causing a broken ankle. ECF 1. Defendants Captain Lonnie Dorn, Officer Cordell Donnor, and Officer Philip Fashola[1] filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment (ECF 15), supported by a memorandum (ECF 15-1) (collectively, the “Motion”) and several exhibits. They assert that plaintiff's injury was due to his own actions and not that of the officers involved. Plaintiff opposes the motion, but does not include with his opposition a statement under oath. ECF 18. Plaintiff and defendants rely on video footage of the events giving rise to this lawsuit, which has been filed with the court (ECF 16), [2] along with a Declaration under oath stating that plaintiff viewed the video footage at Western Correctional Institution, where he is now incarcerated.

         No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, defendants' Motion will be construed as one for summary judgment and shall be granted.

         I. Background[3]

         As about 12:20 p.m. on November 18, 2017, while plaintiff was incarcerated at Patuxent Institution, he was asleep in his cell when Officer Phillip Fashola awakened him by yelling at other inmates about the television. ECF 1 at 5. Plaintiff claims he observed that Fashola “had grabbed some old man and put his arm around his back.” Id. Plaintiff then heard another inmate criticize the manner in which Fashola was running the tier (B-Wing) and that he was “acting like a B.” Id. Fashola allegedly responded that all of the inmates who were assigned to B-Wing were there because the “rest of the jail don't want to mess with [you].” Id.

         King then spoke up and said, “Hay [sic], let me get your name, I'm gonna rite [sic] you up.” Id. In response, Fashola replied, asking plaintiff for his identification and stating that he was going to put plaintiff on lock-up for threatening him. Id.

         Plaintiff followed Fashola “outside to the bubble, ” told Fashola he did not want any “problem, ” and asked Fashola to return his identification. Id. Plaintiff claims that Fashola then threw up his hands and said he was not scared of plaintiff. King replied that he was not scared of Fashola, either. Id. Fashola then called for assistance. Id. Other correctional officers arrived, Fashola went into the “bubble” after the inmates in B-Wing were interviewed, and then the additional officers left. Id. Plaintiff does not indicate why other inmates were interviewed or the topic of the interview. In any event, the video surveillance does not appear to depict officers interviewing other inmates in the dorm. See ECF 16 (video).

         After one hour passed, plaintiff was called into the hallway by Officer C. Donnor. ECF 1 at 5. When plaintiff came to the hallway he saw approximately eight correctional officers lined up on the side of the hallway so he turned around to leave. Id. He states that Donnor tried to stop him from going back to B-Wing and, in so doing, slammed the door on King's ankle, breaking his ankle. Id. Plaintiff adds that the door was slammed so hard on King's ankle that a screw came out of the door and impaled the skin on plaintiff's ankle. Id. As a result, plaintiff states he walks with a cane now and claims he has been left in a cell without assistance for his broken ankle. Id.

         Further, plaintiff states that Captain Lonnie Dorn contributed to his injury because he believed “Fashola's lies on the ticket” when Dorn was investigating Fashola's removal from his post.[4] Because Dorn believed what was written in the ticket, plaintiff reasons, the “squad came back and slam[med his] ankle in the steal door.” Id. Plaintiff suggests that Dorn could have instead simply asked why the “squad” did not lock plaintiff up the first time they came to B-Wing, but instead Dorn ordered them to go back to B-Wing and move plaintiff to lock-up. Id.

         As noted, defendants have submitted with their Motion a video recording of the incident. Unfortunately, it does not have sound. Defendants aver that the video contradicts plaintiff's assertion that his ankle was slammed in a steal door by Donnor. Rather, they assert that the video and/or exhibits establish the following relevant events, ECF 15-1 at 2-4:

         1. Plaintiff left the dorm area and walked around the day room for several minutes. ECF 16 at 13:51:17 through 13:53:22.

         2. Plaintiff returned to the dorm and laid on his bed until Fashola came to the dorm to conduct inmate count following “chow time.” Id. at 13:53:22 through 13:56:22.

         3. Plaintiff left his bed and “acting belligerently, confronted” Fashola; Fashola turned to leave the area. Plaintiff “demanded” Fashola's “name and information” so he could put it in an administrative remedy procedure (“ARP”) complaint and followed Fashola out of the dorm, “continuing to argue” with Fashola. Id. at 13:55:27 through 13:55:33.

         4. After Fashola turned off the television to conduct inmate count, plaintiff removed his shirt and “took a fighting stance while verbally threatening” Fashola. Id.; see ECF 15-4, ¶ 3.

         5. Plaintiff continued to engage with Fashola “in an agitated and belligerent manner.” ECF 16 at 13:58:00 through 13:58:22.

         6. Fashola called for assistance on his radio. Id. at 13:58:54.

         7. Additional correctional officers arrived to talk to plaintiff. Id. at 13:59:57.

         8. After approximately ten minutes, the correctional officers left and plaintiff returned to his bunk. Id. 14:08:22 through 14:12.00.

         9. At approximately 4:00 p.m. the same day, Donnor asked plaintiff to come to the control area (“Bubble”). ECF 15-5 (Donnor Decl., ¶¶ 3-4). Plaintiff approached the Bubble, saw other correctional officers, turned around, and ran back into the dorm. The officers pursued plaintiff into the dorm. ECF 16 at 16:35:00 10. Plaintiff attempted to close the door. ECF 15-5, ¶¶ 3-4. He is seen falling to the floor as he attempted to enter the dorm. Plaintiff got back up and ran into the dorm area. ECF 16 at 16:35:07.

         11. Correctional officers followed him, cuffed him, bandaged his wound, and placed him in a chair. Id. 16:37:40 through 16:45:50.

         As noted, there is no sound for the video. Thus, the video does not reflect threats or demands by plaintiff.

         Moreover, there is no video footage that depicts how plaintiff's ankle was injured or who closed the door. Indeed, plaintiff is seen walking, without assistance. Verified medical records submitted by defendants indicate that plaintiff's ankle bones were not broken, but an x-ray revealed that there was a possible fracture of the hardware placed in his ankle in connection with the repair of a previous fracture. ECF 15-8 (medical records) at 8 (x-ray report). The wound to plaintiff's ankle, which was dressed and treated immediately after plaintiff fell, was caused by orthopedic hardware puncturing plaintiff's skin. Id. at 2 (initial treatment); 6 (indicating bleeding stopped quickly); 30 (orthopedic surgeon notes ...

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