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Goodwyn v. Roop

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

August 19, 2019

XAVIA T. GOODWYN,[1] Plaintiff,
v.
ROOP, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Norman K. Moon Senior United States District Judge

         Xavia T. Goodwyn, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, [2] naming ten defendants: Roop, R. Adams, J. Roberts, J. Statzer, J.W. Kiser, Shannon K. Hayes, S.B. Franklin, John Messer, Jordan Fleming, and Jerel Dickenson. He asserts the following claims: (1) excessive force against all ten defendants, which includes claims of “bystander liability” based on some unidentified defendants' failure to intervene to stop the use of force; (2) state-law assault and battery claims against defendants Messer, Adams, Roberts, and Statzer; (3) what he calls “assault by agent” claims against defendants Roop, Hayes, and Adams, based on their use of Oleoresin Capsicum (“OC”) spray[3] or K-9 dogs against him; and (4) state-law claims of willful and wanton negligence against defendants Franklin, Fleming, Messer, and Dickenson.

         Defendants have filed a collective motion for summary judgment, which is ripe for disposition and addressed herein. Upon review of the record, I conclude that defendants' motion for summary judgment should be granted in part and denied in part.

         I.

         Goodwyn is a Virginia inmate housed at Red Onion State Prison (“Red Onion”). On December 17, 2015, there was an incident in the A-1 Pod at Red Onion in which multiple offenders were reported to be fighting. Many staff responded to this incident, including two K-9 officers, Roop and Hayes, with their dogs. Goodwyn's claims all arise from events on that date and can be grouped into three categories of allegations by time period: (1) uses of force against Goodwyn in the A-1 Pod itself, during the initial officer response to the fights; (2) uses of force against Goodwyn while he was being transported from the A-1 Pod to various places while restrained; and (3) Goodwyn's placement in ambulatory restraints in a segregated cell for approximately twenty-four hours, without being permitted to decontaminate from the OC spray used on him.

         The evidence includes numerous affidavits from defendants and other Red Onion employees (some of which also include exhibits, such as incident reports), as well as an affidavit from Goodwyn and the statements in his verified amended complaint.[4] The record also includes a Rapid Eye video and handheld video from the incident.[5]

         At approximately 7:15 a.m. on December 17, 2015, forty-four inmates were released from their cells in the bottom tier of the A-1 Pod at Red Onion, so that they could eat breakfast. Several offenders began fighting with other inmates, and Goodwyn was among them. Goodwyn does not deny that he was fighting with another inmate, and he admits that he had a weapon (a sock filled with bar soap), but he alleges that he complied with all orders immediately following the inmate fights and before any force was used on him. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 16-18, Dkt. No. 57.) Specifically, he asserts that when ordered to do so, he immediately dropped his weapon and got down on the floor in a prone position. He states that he was being completely compliant and following orders when Roop engaged his assigned dog, Canine Lojzo, on Goodwyn's left leg. He also states that, at about the same time, and while he continued to lie in the prone position and comply with all commands, Adams sprayed him with OC spray. (Id. ¶¶ 18-20.)

         Shortly after Roop ordered Lojzo to disengage from Goodwyn, a number of officers attempted to place Goodwyn in wrist and leg restraints. They contend that he was not being compliant, and several have testified that Goodwyn kicked repeatedly at one of the officers, Officer Vanover. Goodwyn asserts, however, that he did not kick Vanover at any time nor did he try to. He states instead that he was being compliant with all orders and commands. Goodwyn also claims that at or about the same time, Messer stood on his back such that he could barely breathe.[6] (Id. ¶¶ 20-21; Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 3, Dkt. No. 76-1.)

         The second time-period occurred while Goodwyn was being transported to several locations, while in wrist and leg restraints. According to him, [7] he was taken first to the A-4, 5 and 6 side of the building to be assessed by medical staff. While he was there, it appears that Ms. Murphy, with the Institutional Investigator's Office, talked to him. He was then taken to A-3, where he was searched. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 22-27.)

         Lastly, he was escorted to B-304, where he was placed in ambulatory restraints per orders of Franklin. (Franklin Aff. ¶ 4, Enclosure A.) Goodwyn was released from ambulatory restraints at approximately 7:30 a.m. on December 18, 2015.

         During the course of the transport, Goodwyn alleges that, while he was fully restrained and leaving A-1, Adams kicked or stomped on him. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 22-23.) He further alleges that after being searched in front of cell A-303 and as they reached the exit to A building, either Roberts or Statzer rammed his head into a steel doorframe, Statzer bent his left wrist backwards closing the restraints tighter on him, and Roberts “held his face aggressively on the right side against the wall” while making racial remarks and threats. (Id. ¶ 29.) He also alleges that, at this same time, while he was fully restrained and while Messer, Dickenson, Fleming, Roberts, and Statzer were present, K-9 Officer Hayes engaged his dog on Goodwyn's lower right leg and that they did nothing. (Id. ¶ 30.) He also complains that, during this transport, he asked for decontamination repeatedly, because his eyes and face were burning from the OC spray, and that he was repeatedly denied decontamination. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 28, 32.) Lastly, he was transported to B-3, where he was placed in ambulatory restraints. On the way there, he alleges that Statzer and Roberts were bending his arms and wrist to cause intentional pain. (Id. ¶ 31.)

         The third time period involves his time in ambulatory restraints in a segregation cell, in which he repeatedly requested that he be allowed decontamination because his eyes and face were burning, but he was instead held for 24 hours in a cell without soap, water, or toilet paper. While held in that room, a nurse came to change his dressings at 3:00 p.m., and noted that he had additional puncture wounds on his right leg that were bleeding that she had not seen before. Franklin was the person who approved the use of ambulatory restraints on Goodwyn. As discussed in more detail below, Goodwyn alleges that he complained to Kiser several times while being held in the cell about the effects of the OC spray, and that one of those times Kiser said he would help him, but Kiser never took any action.

         Defendants have provided affidavits painting a different picture, and they dispute much of Goodwyn's account. As to events in the A-1 Pod, Roop states that he ordered Goodwyn to stop fighting with offender J. Sheldon and he issued several warnings for them to stop. According to Roop, Goodwyn failed to comply and so Roop engaged his canine on Goodwyn's left calf. It was at that point that Goodwyn complied with orders to stop fighting and got on the ground. Roop therefore commanded Lojzo to disengage Goodwyn, which the canine promptly did. (Roop Aff. ¶¶ 5-6, Dkt. No. 39-1.)

         Adams alleges that he was commanding Goodwyn to stop fighting, but Goodwyn was non-compliant and, due to that non-compliance and “with the sole purpose of ending the offender altercations for the safety of both staff and offenders, ” he utilized the OC spray on Goodwyn. (Adams Aff. ¶ 6, Dkt. No. 39-2.)

         A number of the officers also testified that Goodwyn was kicking at Officer Vanover as others were trying to place restraints on Goodwyn. (See, e.g., Adams Aff. ¶ 5; Messer Aff. ¶ 4, Dkt. No. 64-4; Roberts Aff. ¶ 4, Dkt. No. 50-1.) Adams began restraining Goodwyn's hands, while Officer Vanover attempted to place leg restraints on him. They assert that Goodwyn continued to be combative, rolled over on his back, and kicked Officer Vanover several times. Messer then came to assist with restraints. Messer denies standing on Goodwyn's back, but states that he kneeled on Goodwyn's back while the officers were attempting to restrain him. (Messer Aff. ¶ 4.) He claims that he did so only to gain control of Goodwyn so he could be restrained. (Id. ¶ 4.) Roberts and Statzer assisted in controlling Goodwyn while the other officers placed him in restraints.

         Turning to the events during transport, Messer states that Goodwyn became combative again while being transported and so he was placed on the ground outside of A-303 until control could be regained. (Id.) Roberts states that he assisted in holding Goodwyn against the wall for a period while he was searched, but did not slam his head against the wall or threaten him. (Roberts Aff. ¶ 4.)

         The rest of the alleged misconduct is flatly denied by defendants.[8] Specifically, they deny trying to kick or stomp Goodwyn, slamming his head against a doorframe, and Hayes denies engaging his canine on Goodwyn at any point. They also argue that the uses of force they admit to were justified by Goodwyn's repeated noncompliance.

         With regard to the decontamination, defendants' affidavits are inconsistent on this issue. At least one says Goodwyn was offered and refused decontamination. (Adams Aff. ¶ 5.) Another said that Goodwyn continued to be non-compliant and combative and suggests that he could not be decontaminated. (Messer Aff. ¶ 5 (explaining that the priority for an offender who is combative and resisting staff is to get the offender to a secure area).)

         The medical records reflect that when Goodwyn was first evaluated in the vestibule area of the housing unit, he stated, “I can't breathe, ” but the nurse noted that he had no respiratory distress. The nurse noted a small amount of blood on his lip and a dog bite to the lower left leg, which was treated and dressed. At 3:00 p.m. the same day, medical staff was called to change the dressing on Goodwyn's left leg. While doing so, she saw blood on his right leg and noted three puncture wounds to the right leg. The nurse notified the watch office. (Bledsoe Aff. ¶¶ 4-5.) On December 18, 2015, he received x-rays on both his left wrist and his right ankle. The x-rays did not reveal any fractures or dislocation in either location, although the reports stated that his right ankle was swollen. (Med. Records 8-9, Dkt. No. 76-1.)

         As I noted above, there are videos of some of the relevant time-frame, consisting of Rapid-Eye video footage before, during, and after the fighting in A-pod, and handheld video footage taken for a portion of the time Goodwyn was being transported and afterward. Both Goodwyn and defendants generally assert that these videos support their versions of events. I find, however, that the videos are generally inconclusive as to the main disputes of fact in the case.

         First of all, the Rapid Eye video is not a continuous recording of events; instead, by its very nature, it contains gaps. Moreover, the events during the altercation in the pod unfolded relatively quickly. Only two of the three views available contain portions of the relevant events.

         The first, the view labeled “PTZ, ” has big gaps as to what is happening to Goodwyn because it was being manually controlled for much of the relevant time period. Nonetheless, for the time that the camera shows him or portions of him, the view is inconclusive as to whether Goodwyn is complying with orders before Roop engaged Lojzo on Goodwyn's leg or before Adams used OC spray on him.[9] That view is also inconclusive as to whether Goodwyn was compliant after the dog disengaged. At one point, it appears that the top half of Goodwyn's body looks like it is going into (or coming out of) a push-up type-stance, so he might be attempting to get up. At another point, there is one frame where an officer appears to be kneeling on Goodwyn's legs and it does appear that Goodwyn's left foot is off the ...


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