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Muhammad v. Core Civic Inc.

United States District Court, D. Colorado

September 26, 2019

HAKI MUHAMMAD, Plaintiff,
v.
CORE CIVIC INC., BICKLE, C.O., and MEDINA, Captain Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          William J. Martinez United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Haki Muhammad (“Plaintiff”) brings claims against Defendants Correction Officer Brandon Bickle (“C.O. Bickle”), Captain Jeremy Medina (“Captain Medina”), and Core Civic Inc. (“Core Civic”) (together, “Defendants”) alleging that Defendants violated his constitutional right under the Eighth Amendment to be free from cruel and unusual punishment during his incarceration, as well as state law claims for assault and battery. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 20–32.)

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (the “Motion”). (ECF No. 29.) For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The followings facts are undisputed and mostly drawn from Defendants’ Statement of Material Facts. (ECF No. 29 at 2–7, ¶¶ 1–34.) All ECF page citations are to the page number in the CM/ECF header, which does not always match the document’s internal pagination.

         Plaintiff is incarcerated at Crowley County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”), which is operated by Core Civic. (ECF No. 29 at 1.) At the time of the relevant events, C.O. Bickle and Captain Medina were employed at CCCF.

         At the time of the incident giving rise to Plaintiff’s claims, he was housed with James Harrell in Unit 1-A pod, Cell 3113, a two-man cell with a bunk bed. (Id. at 2–3, ¶¶ 3–4.) Plaintiff was assigned to the top bunk. (Id. at 3, ¶ 5.) On July 7, 2017, at 2:30 a.m., Harrell was informed he needed to go to the medical department for lab work. (Id. at 6.) Harrell refused, and at approximately 3:15 a.m., C.O. Bickle was called to Unit 1. (Id. at ¶ 7.) C.O. Bickel told Harrell that even if he did not want the lab work performed, Harrell nonetheless needed to go to the medical department to sign a refusal form. (Id. at ¶ 8.) Harrell threatened C.O. Bickle, who then secured the cell door, called for a response team, and left Unit 1. (Id. at ¶¶ 9–10.)

         Captain Jose Arebalo, Lieutenant Michelle Blue, Lieutenant Joe Ortiz, Correctional Officer Elissa Collins, and Correctional Officer Tony Martinez responded to C.O. Bickle’s call for a response team. (Id. at ¶ 11.) Harrell continued to refuse to go to the medical department to sign the necessary form, and was “cussing and irritated.” (Id. at 4, ¶ 12.) Captain Arebalo deployed Oleoresin Capsicum spray (“OC spray”) under the cell door at 3:30:33 a.m. (Id. at ¶ 13.) C.O. Bickle returned to the cell around 3:40:14 a.m. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Notably, neither C.O. Bickle nor Captain Medina were present when Captain Arebalo deployed the OC spray. (Id. at ¶¶ 14, 16.) “The [Motion] presents videos which demonstrate that the Defendants did not spray OC Spray into the cell when Plaintiff was in the cell.” (ECF No. 32 at 1, ¶ 1.)

         Captain Medina, Commander of the Special Operations Response Team, was at home at 3:30 a.m. when CCCF called him to assist with Harrell. (ECF No. 29 at 4, ¶ 17.) Captain Medina arrived at CCCF around 5:26 a.m. and assessed the situation. (Id. at 5, ¶¶ 18–19.) He decided to take Plaintiff out of the cell “since [Captain] Medina viewed [Plaintiff] as an innocent bystander, ” and removed Plaintiff from the cell at 6:05 a.m. (Id. at ¶¶ 19–20.) Plaintiff states that Captain Medina’s actions were “model conduct and evidence of good training.” (ECF No. 32 at 1.) After Plaintiff was removed, Captain Medina again opened the cell door at 6:12:14 a.m. and deployed OC spray directly in Harrell’s face. (ECF No. 29 at 4, ¶ 22.) Shortly thereafter, Harrell was removed from the cell by Captain Medina and members of the response team. (Id. at ¶ 24.) Plaintiff and C.O. Bickle were not present when Captain Medina used the OC spray on Harrell. (Id. at ¶ 23.)

         At some point during the night, although it is unclear exactly when, CCCF turned off the water and ventilation to the cell shared by Plaintiff and Harrell. (Id. at 6, ¶¶ 28–29.)

         As a result of being present while OC spray was deployed in his cell, and perhaps due to a lack of ventilation after the OC spray was deployed, Plaintiff “experienced some coughing and burning . . . but those issues resolved within one hour after he was extracted from the cell.” (Id. at ¶ 26.)

         After the incident, Plaintiff wrote and signed an “Incident Statement, ” completed an “Informal Resolution Form, ” filed Step 1 and Step 2 Grievances, wrote to the CCCF warden about the incident, and then completed a Step 3 Grievance. (Id. at 6–7, ¶¶ 28–33.) None the these documents identified C.O. Bickle or Captain Medina as the individuals who deployed OC spray or turned off the water and ventilation. (Id.)

         In his Response to the Motion, Plaintiff admits that Captain Medina was not involved in spraying pepper spray into Plaintiff’s cell while Plaintiff was present, but rather removed Plaintiff from the cell when he arrived, exhibiting “model conduct and evidence of good training.” (ECF No. 32 at 1.) The Response does not address the actions of C.O. Bickle or the liability of Core Civic. (See generally id.) Rather, Plaintiff simply states that Captain Arebalo was the unreasonable actor, and asks to amend his complaint to name Captain Arebalo as a defendant. (Id. at 2.)

         II. ...


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