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Shahaddah v. Gotcher

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

June 18, 2019

DEPUTY GOTCHER, et al., Defendants.


          T.S. Ellis, III, United States District Judge.

         Jihad Shahaddah, an incarcerated but represented inmate, initiated this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Virginia law following an incident at the Arlington County Detention Facility.[1] Shahaddah was performing his duties as a workforce trustee when Deputy Gotcher unlocked inmate Andrew Rose's cell door. Rose ran out of his cell, began chasing Shahaddah, and threw a bucket of ice water towards Shahaddah and Deputy Gotcher. Shahaddah slipped on the ice water and injured himself. Shahaddah subsequently initiated this action, alleging that Deputy Gotcher failed to protect him and failed to intervene, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Shahaddah also alleges that Deputy Gotcher was grossly negligent, in violation of Virginia law. Finally, Shahaddah contends that the Arlington County Sheriffs Office and Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur are liable under theories of respondeat superior and strict liability, respectively.

         At issue now is defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendants argue that summary judgment must be entered in their favor because the undisputed factual record reveals that Deputy Gotcher was neither deliberatively indifferent to Shahaddah's safety nor grossly negligent. The parties, by counsel, have fully briefed and argued the motion, and it is now ripe for disposition. For the reasons set forth herein, defendants' motion must be granted.


         Summary judgment is appropriate only where there are no genuine disputes of material fact, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Accordingly, the record facts as to which no genuine dispute exists must first be identified. To this end, Local Rule 56(B) directs a movant for summary judgment to include a section listing, in numbered-paragraph form, all material facts as to which the movant contends no genuine dispute exists. The nonmovant must then respond, also in numbered-paragraph form, to each numbered paragraph, either admitting or contesting the putative undisputed fact and citing admissible record evidence to establish a genuine dispute of material fact. Both parties have complied with this Local Rule. The following undisputed facts are derived from defendants' list of putative undisputed facts and Shahaddah's responses thereto, as well as the video of the incident:

• Deputy Gotcher is employed by the Arlington County Sheriffs Office and works in the Arlington County Detention Facility ("ACDF").
• On April 26, 2017, Deputy Gotcher was tasked with delivering meals to inmates in their cells in ACDF's 11A housing unit and subsequently retrieving the meal trays.
• Shahaddah, a member of the inmate workforce at ACDF, was assigned to assist Deputy Gotcher with meal delivery and tray retrieval on April 26, 2017.
• Following delivery of the meals. Deputy Gotcher approached inmate Andrew Rose's cell and attempted to collect Rose's meal tray. Shahaddah was on the other side of the 11A Day Area retrieving a trash can at the time.
• Deputy Gotcher asked Rose to put his meal tray in the food slot of his cell door, a small opening through which meal trays can pass through. Rose responded that he would not get off his bunk.
• Shahaddah retrieved the trash can and placed it by a table near Deputy Gotcher, who stood in front of Rose's cell. Shahaddah then moved slightly farther away and stood next to the meal cart, [2] a large cart used to hold trays during meal service.
• Deputy Gotcher instructed Rose to stay at the back of his cell, away from the door at the front of the cell, so that Deputy Gotcher could open the cell door and remove Rose's meal tray. Rose did not make any threats or display any pre-assault indicators.[3]
• Rose kneeled on his bunk facing the wall, and Deputy Gotcher caused the opening of Rose's cell door.[4] Rose then got off his bunk, [5] and Deputy Gotcher issued verbal warnings to Rose to stay where he was. Rose did not comply.
• Deputy Gotcher attempted to close the cell door, but Rose escaped before Deputy Gotcher could close the cell door.[6] Rose ran out of his cell and began chasing Shahaddah.[7]
• Deputy Gotcher used the radio on his shoulder to call for assistance and then shouted multiple verbal commands at Rose to stop. Rose failed to comply. Deputy Gotcher took out his Oleoresin Capsicum ("OC") spray and moved to cut Rose off as Rose chased Shahaddah.
• Shahaddah ran behind Deputy Gotcher, who faced Rose. A table separated Deputy Gotcher and Shahaddah from Rose. Deputy Gotcher raised his OC spray, pointed it towards Rose, and took several steps towards Rose.
• Rose grabbed a bucket of ice water from the top of the meal cart and flung it towards Deputy Gotcher and Shahaddah. The bucket did not hit Deputy Gotcher or Shahaddah; rather, it fell to the ground, spilling ice water on the floor.
• Rose moved towards Shahaddah, who took several steps towards Rose. Deputy Gotcher moved closer to Rose and sprayed him with OC spray. Rose bent over, holding his face, and stopped his attack.
• While Rose stood still holding his hands to his face, Deputy Gotcher instructed Shahaddah to move away. Deputy Gotcher then signaled to responding deputies to enter the area.
• While Shahaddah sat on the stairs, another deputy entered the area and assisted Deputy Gotcher with handcuffing Rose and removing him from the unit.
• After Rose was removed, Shahaddah assisted Deputy Gotcher with completing the meal service and then exited the ...

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