United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington
CHRISTOPHER S. GAMBLE, Plaintiff
TIMOTHY W. PEAVYHOUSE, ET AL., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
KAREN K. CALDWELL, Chief District Judge.
Plaintiff, Christopher S. Gamble, claims that Defendants assaulted him in violation of his constitutional protections from cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. This case is presently before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (R. 20). Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, has filed a Response to Defendants' Motion. (R. 23). Defendants have chosen not to file a Reply to Plaintiff's Response, and briefing is therefore complete. For the reasons explained below, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment will be denied.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
On September 6, 2012, Plaintiff Christopher S. Gamble was an inmate confined at Northpoint Training Center ("Northpoint") in Burgin, Kentucky. (R. 1, at 1; R. 5, at 1). At all times relevant hereto, Defendants Timothy Peavyhouse, S.R. Taylor, and Robert Humfleet were corrections officers at Northpoint. It is undisputed that on the morning of September 6, 2012, Gamble had an altercation with officers Peavyhouse and Taylor, followed shortly thereafter by a separate altercation with officer Humfleet and an officer John Phillips, who is not named as a defendant in this action. It is the alleged excessive use of force by these Defendant officers - what Gamble describes as unprovoked assaults on his person - that gives rise to this lawsuit.
According to the record, each side's version of the facts of the assaults diverge greatly. Since this is the only information outside of the pleadings that has been offered, and the account of events differs so, the first-hand descriptions become important. As to the first altercation, officer Peavyhouse stated in a Northpoint Training Center Information Report he prepared on September 6, 2012:
On the above date and time myself & Sgt Taylor went into the upper right wing of Dorm 6 getting I/m's out of their bed areas into the middle of the wings for a shakedown. The above I/m [Gamble] was walking down the wing to sit down being beligerent with staff. I walked down there and told him to be quiet and go sit down and so did Sgt. Taylor. When Sgt Taylor told him again he turned around. Myself and Taylor stopped with him at the big gameroom and told him again. He turned again. Myself and Sgt Taylor placed him on the wall. He began to push off the wall and tried to turn around again. Sgt Taylor placed the I/m in handcuffs. While we were taking the I/m off the wing he tried to headbutt myself and Sgt Taylor. He was taken downstairs and the snatch and grab team came and got him and escorted him to SMU.
(R. 15-3, at 1). Peavyhouse's coworker, officer Taylor, also completed a Northpoint Information Report for this first incident, upon which he stated:
On the above date and approximate time I SGT Taylor was Tasked and deployed in a state wide C.E.R.T. shakedown of North Point Training Center. I was tasked to shakedown Dormitory 6 Upper Left Side. Upon entering the dormitory I held the door for the other institution's as they made a fast shuffle to there target area. After that I resumed to my area and found that my team members have already secured the area and inmates in the center of the floor and all but one was compliant. As I came to the two man room I herd Officer Joe Thomas #475 trying to move Inmate Christopher Gamble # 213166. Inmate Gamble stated that this was not serious and made it a point to move at his time and speed. Furthermore as we tried to get Inmate Gamble to the secure area he turned to his right and faced me and began too use aggressive language and took a offensive stance. At that time simultaneously Inmate Gamble was restrained by myself and Officer Thomas and cuffed by SGT Peavyhouse. Inmate Gamble was being escorted to the lower foyer and began to fight and stated he was not going and locked his legs. The commander of the dorm asked me was I hit due to he said he was trying to head but me. I was unaware of that action due to I was trying to watch the inmates legs and prevent him from kicking me. Inmate Gamble continued to resist till we got to the lower foyer where he was picked up by a the Snatch And Grab Team.
(R. 15-3, at 2). There were also Northpoint Information Reports completed regarding the second incident. Officer Humfleet reported on September 6, 2012, that
[o]n the above date and approx time and location CERT members Mann and Hess from Marion County brought Inmate Gamble into SMU. When I/m Gamble came in he started mouthing, arguing, and not being compliant. I/m stated he had blood in his mouth, he needed a nurse. I/m was argumentative the entire time we was strip searching him. He turned and spit blood into the sink. After I told him not to. I/m Gamble was placed in the inside visiting room until we had a cell ready. I was advised he was placed on MAS status. I brought I/m Gamble out, put leg restraints on him and advised him he was on MAS status. Anytime he was moved within the unit he will have cuffs and shackles on. Nurse Sowders was ready to check him out so we brought him out and while he was being checked out he became disruptive, and argumentative, so myself and Officer John Phillips removed him from the area and placed him back in the inside visitation room. He was placed on the floor face down after he tried to spit at us. There was a few blood spots in the visiting room where he had spit. After about 15 min. to 20 min. I took I/m Gamble along with Officer Hoeck and placed I/m in cell 409. I/m was still being argumentative and disruptive.
(R. 15-3, at 6). Humfleet's coworker, officer Phillips, also completed the following Northpoint Informational Report on September 6, 2012:
On the above date approximate time I was called to SMU to help with pill call. When I got there nurse Sanders was evaluating inmate Gamble. He became very argumentative and aggressive toward us. Myself an LT Humfleet was removing him from the table and he began to spit blood at us. Myself an LT Humfleet place him in the floor in the visiting room until he calmed down and quit spitting. We then left the room and shut the door to let him calm down.
(R. 15-3, at 3). There were also Northpoint Information Reports completed by a member of the medical staff, LPN Sowders, who was present at the time and tending to Plaintiff Gamble.
On 9-6-12 at approximately 9:30 am while doing pill call in SMU Inmate C. Gamble #213166 was checked for injuries after being brought straight in by the CERT Team. Upon assessment inmate was noted to have the following injuries: 1) abrassion on left forehead 2) loose upper left back tooth. Inmate became verbally aggressive with staff and unable to complete assessment. Inmate was placed in visiting room and was spitting blood at security staff. Inmate on max status due to combative behavior.
(R. 15-3, at 5). LPN Sowders also filled out an Information Report for her physical check of Officers Humfleet and Phillips.
On 9-6-12 at approximately 9:30 am inmate C. Gamble #213166 became aggressive with staff spitting blood. Lt. Humfleet #213 and c/o J. Phillips #489 escorted inmate into visiting room in SMU. Upon assessment Lt. Humfleet and c/o Phillips had no apparent injuries at this time.
(R. 15-3, at 4).
On September 10, 2012, before any formal Disciplinary Reports were completed by the involved officers, Gamble completed two Department of Corrections Inmate Grievance Information Forms, one for each encounter, noting that the subject matter of the grievance was a conflict with staff. (R. 1-1, at 1-4). Policy No. 14.6 of the Kentucky Corrections Policies and Procedures governs Inmate Grievance Procedures. Gamble's completed Inmate Grievance Forms contain the following as the Brief Statement of the Problem:
I was physically/criminally assaulted by a team of staff members led by Sgt. S.R. Taylor. This action was caught on tape, and the footage serves to prove that I, myself, initiated no form of threatening behavior (be it verbal or physical) and was therefore a victim of excessive brute force and official misconduct at the hands of northpoint staff. I received physical injury from this (bloody mouth, large knot on head) and suffered the worst part of the abuse while bound with handcuffs behind my back, making this a criminal act. Staff had no reason to ensue such harsh measures because I was passive and non-violent to begin with.
(R. 1-1, at 2).
I was physically assaulted by seg officer Lt. Humfleet and an accomplice whose name is unavailable. After being assaulted by another group of staff, I was escorted to seg barefooted and forced to walk across rocks and other painful debris. Upon reaching seg I was visibly upset, with blood around my mouth. And while being handcuffed behind my back I was making passive comments, never threatening or indicating violence, but during my medical examination I was complaining about my mistreatment when Humfleet forcefully ripped me up from my seat and dragged me to the visitation room and slammed me into the wall and onto the tiles, threatening to "break every bone in my body."
(R. 1-1, at 4). Gamble requested these grievance reports be sent to the Warden and Commissioner of the Department of Corrections, an internal affairs investigation be undertaken, appropriate legal measures taken against the staff involved, and that any and all disciplinary actions pursued against him be dismissed. (R. 1-1, at 2, 4).
Subsequently, on September 14, 2012, officer Peavyhouse completed a Kentucky Department of Corrections Disciplinary Report Form Write-Up on the first altercation, using the description he had provided in his prior Northpoint Information Report quoted above. (R. 1-2, at 1; R. 15-2, at 1). Gamble was charged with taking physical action against an employee or non-inmate, a major category 7-1 offense. ( Id. ). This same date, officer Humfleet also completed a Department of Corrections Disciplinary Report Form Write-Up for the second altercation, for which Gamble was charged with creating or causing a health hazard, a major category 6-11 offense. (R. 1-2, at 6; R. 15-1, at 1).
Disciplinary Reports are addressed per Policy No. 15.6 of the Kentucky Corrections Policies and Procedures, Adjustment Procedures and Programs. Both Write-Ups were assigned to Investigating Officer Andrew Epperson. Epperson subsequently reported that Gamble, upon being read the first report, stated "It was all captured on camera and that's a lie" (R. 1-2, at 1; R. 15-2, at 1) and upon being read the second report, stated "That's a lie and I was assaulted by those officers." (R. 1-2, at 6; R. 15-1, at 1). On September 16, 2012, Epperson referred both Disciplinary Reports to the Adjustment Committee, to be heard by a hearing officer upon Gamble's waiver of an Adjustment Committee hearing.
Meanwhile, as to the Inmate Grievance Forms completed by Gamble, it appears that grievance aide James Riggs became involved, as the Forms reflect he signed them on September 17, 2012. (R. 1-1, at 2, 4). However, both Grievances then contain a September 19, 2012, notation by staff member Michelle Bonta that "Disciplinary actions are non-grievable per CPP 14.6, Inmate Grievance Procedure. However, I will pass this information on to the appropriate staff." ( Id.; R. 1-1, at 1, 3). The last notation on the Grievances is a September 20, 2012, signature by the grievance aide of being informed of the above staff member determination. (R. 1-1, at 2, 4).
On September 24, 2012, consecutive hearings were held on the two disciplinary charges brought against Gamble. According to the Disciplinary Report Form Part II, Gamble was present with his legal aide and requested the camera footage of the incident be viewed. The footage, however, was "denied due to safety and security of the institution." (R. 1-2, at 2; R. 15-2, at 3). Under Findings, the Adjustment Officer stated as follows:
Inmate Stated that he was going into the foyer and inmate and Sgt. Taylor stated that he was going into the foyer and Sgt Taylor came up behind him and started yelling move, move, move, and that he stated that Sgt. Taylor said move buddy are you death, and inmate stated he turned and looked at Sgt. Taylor that he isn't his buddy and Sgt. Taylor was yelling and spit was coming out of his mouth hitting him in the face. Inmate stated he slammed to the ground, and That he was carried from the area. Inmate Stated at the time on the write up that states he was trying to headbutt Sgt. Peavyhouse and Sgt Taylor it was impossible due to him begin carried and his ...