United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
LAMEEK S. JOHNS, Plaintiff,
E. GWINN,  Defendant.
K. MOON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
S. Johns, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed
a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that defendant Officer Gwinn used excessive force
against him. Officer Gwinn answered the
complaint and Johns filed a motion for summary
judgment,  to which Officer Gwinn responded. After
reviewing the record, I conclude that Johns' motion for
summary judgment must be denied.
verified complaint, Johns asserts that on April 5, 2016,
without warning or provocation, Officer Gwinn used Oleoresin
Capsicum (“OC”) spray on him, spraying him in the
face, eyes, and chest, “continuously” for three
to four minutes. Johns states that he began “screaming
and hollering, ” but Officer Gwinn and others
“ignored” his requests for medical attention.
Johns states that he could not see; his face, chest, and arms
burned; and he coughed, gagged, sneezed, choked, and gasped
for air, while his nose was “continuously
running.” Later, when Officer Gwinn and another officer
came into Johns' pod, Johns advised them that he needed
medical attention, but they still ignored his request.
Approximately sixty-five minutes after the OC spray was used,
Johns was moved from his cell and later provided with a
response to Johns' motion for summary judgment, Officer
Gwinn submits an affidavit denying that he used any force
against Johns. Officer Gwinn avers that he did not spray
Johns with OC spray and did not refuse to decontaminate him.
Officer Gwinn also submits an affidavit from Unit Manager
Swiney who avers that records reflect that on April 5, 2016,
Officer Gwinn stated that Johns threatened to break a
sprinkler head in his cell, but that when Officer Gwinn
removed his OC canister from its holster, Johns ceased his
activities and Johns returned the canister back to its
holster. Unit Manager Swiney also avers that a review of
rapid-eye video confirmed Officer Gwinn's account and
that there “was no evidence to substantiate”
Johns' allegation the Officer Gwinn ever used OC spray in
is entitled to summary judgment if the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits show that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Material facts are those
necessary to establish the elements of a party's cause of
action. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists if,
in viewing the record and all reasonable inferences drawn
therefrom in a light most favorable to the non-moving party,
a reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the
non-movant. Id. The moving party has the burden of
showing - “that is, pointing out to the district court
- that there is an absence of evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). If the movant
satisfies this burden, then the non-movant must set forth
specific, admissible facts that demonstrate the existence of
a genuine issue of fact for trial. Id. at 322-23. A
party is entitled to summary judgment if the record as a
whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find in
favor of the non-movant. Williams v. Griffin, 952
F.2d 820, 823 (4th Cir. 1991); see Ennis v. Nat'l
Ass'n of Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55,
62 (4th Cir. 1995) (“Mere unsupported speculation . . .
is not enough to defeat a summary judgment motion.”).
However, summary judgment is not appropriate where the
ultimate factual conclusions to be drawn are in dispute.
Overstreet v. Ky. Cent. Life Ins. Co., 950 F.2d 931,
937 (4th Cir. 1991). A court may not resolve disputed facts,
weigh the evidence, or make determinations of credibility.
Russell v. Microdyne Corp., 65 F.3d 1229, 1239 (4th
Cir. 1995); Sosebee v. Murphy, 797 F.2d 179, 182
(4th Cir. 1986). Instead, a court accepts as true the
evidence of the non-moving party and resolves all internal
conflicts and inferences in the non-moving party's favor.
Charbonnages de France v. Smith, 597 F.2d 406, 414
(4th Cir. 1979).
alleges that Officer Gwinn used excessive force against him
when he used OC spray on Johns. Having reviewed the record, I
conclude that genuine disputes of material facts preclude
summary judgment and, therefore, will deny Johns' motion.
Eighth Amendment prohibits prison officials from inflicting
unnecessary and wanton pain and suffering on prisoners.
Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 320 (1986). To
resolve a claim that prison staff's excessive force
violated the Eighth Amendment, the court must determine
whether the force applied was “in a good faith effort
to maintain or restore discipline or maliciously and
sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.”
Id. at 320-21. Whether the force was necessary or
intentionally aimed at inflicting unnecessary physical harm
depends on factors such as the need for the application of
force, the relationship between the need and the amount of
force used, the extent of injury inflicted, the extent of the
threat to the safety of staff and inmates reasonably
perceived by responsible officials, and any efforts made to
temper the severity of a forceful response. Id. at
321; see, e.g., Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34
states that he was not resisting staff, attempting to assault
anyone, refusing any orders, or breaking any prison rules
when Officer Gwinn used OC spray on him for three to four
minutes, without warning or provocation. Officer Gwinn, on
the other hand, denies using OC spray on Johns at all. Johns
submits a medical record that shows that he was
decontaminated from OC spray on the date of the incident.
reviewed the record as a whole and drawing all reasonable
inferences in the light most favorable to Gwinn, the
non-moving party, I conclude that there are genuine issues of
material fact precluding summary judgment. Accordingly, I
will deny Johns' motion as to this claim.
alleges that Officer Gwinn subjected him to cruel and unusual
living conditions when Officer Gwinn failed to decontaminate
Johns after using OC spray on him. Having reviewed the
record, I conclude that genuine disputes of material facts