United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
OPINION & ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
F. Cox United States District Judge.
action, Plaintiff David Alan Mitchell
(“Plaintiff”) brings § 1983 claims against
the County of Monroe and several of its officers. Plaintiff
alleges that Defendants violated his constitutional right to
be free from excessive force. The excessive force claims stem
from an altercation between Plaintiff and the individual
Defendants while Plaintiff was in custody at the Monroe
County Jail. During this altercation, Plaintiff was tasered
and physically restrained. Plaintiff allegedly suffered
physical and mental injuries as a result. Plaintiff also
brings a municipal liability claim against Monroe County.
before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment. (Doc. # 37). Defendants' motion has been fully
briefed. The Court finds that oral argument would not
significantly aid in the decisional process and therefore
orders that the instant motion will be decided upon the
briefs. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f). For the reasons that
follow, the Court shall GRANT
December 19, 2014, Plaintiff was stopped by a police officer
for speeding. (Def.s' Stmt. ¶ 1). During this
encounter, the officer (who is not a party to this case)
discovered that there was an outstanding warrant for
Plaintiff's arrest for failing to pay child support.
(Id.). Plaintiff was subsequently transported to the
Monroe County Jail. (Id.).
Arrival and Booking at Monroe County Jail
arriving to the jail, Plaintiff testified that he was
searched, stripped down, given clothes, and one blanket. (Ex.
A to Pl.'s Resp., Pl.'s Dep. at 46). Plaintiff was
subsequently placed in a holding cell until he was booked
later that morning. Plaintiff estimates that the cell was
approximately 51 degrees and that he was unable to sleep as a
morning, Plaintiff was taken to the jail's booking room.
The ensuing activity was largely captured on video recording.
(Ex. 5 & 6 to Def.s' Br.). Although there is no
audio, Plaintiff can be seen standing at the booking counter
speaking to Corrections Officer Sean Almes (“Defendant
Almes”). Defendant Almes can be seen standing inside
the guard booth. Defendant Almes and Plaintiff were separated
by a chain link fence. (Ex. D to Pl.'s Resp. at 53).
Plaintiff was not handcuffed at this time and had a blanket
wrapped over his shoulders. Plaintiff appears calm and
Almes was responsible for asking Plaintiff intake questions,
which included questions as to whether Plaintiff suffered
from depression and/or whether Plaintiff was on medication
for depression. The parties dispute whether Plaintiff
responded to these questions by stating that he was feeling
to Defendant Almes, Plaintiff stated that “he was
feeling suicidal” during booking. (Ex. 3 to Def.s'
Br. at ¶ 1). However, Plaintiff testified as to the
I admitted to him that, yes, I'm under anti-depressants
for suicidal thoughts, and [Almes] jumped right to that, are
you suicidal now. I never gave an answer to that question was
I suicidal now. I gave a, what would I do if I was, grind my
nose back and forth on this chicken wire until I was dead?
(Pl.'s Dep. at 49). According to Plaintiff, Plaintiff
then sarcastically pressed his nose up in the chain link
fence and “kind of emulated what [he] would
do...” if he were feeling suicidal. (Id. at
this exchange, Defendant Almes notified Field Training
Officer Ryan Miekos (“Defendant Miekos”) that
Plaintiff stated he was feeling suicidal. Defendant Miekos,
who was also in the guard booth, instructed Defendant Almes
to place Plaintiff in a suicide prevention suit. (Ex. 2 to
Def.s' Br., Almes Incident Report). According to
Defendant Almes, Plaintiff became agitated when he realized
that he was going to be placed in a suicide prevention suit.
(Id.). Despite being asked to give up his blanket
and dress into the suit, Plaintiff refused. (Ex. D to
Pl.'s Resp. at 22-23).
Miekos then notified Sergeant Julie Massengill
(“Defendant Massengill”) of the situation.
Defendant Massengill testified that she was informed of
“a suicidal subject at the counter that was
uncooperative.” (Ex. D to Pl.'s Resp. at 22).
Defendant Massengill subsequently made her way to the booking
room to explain the jail's suicide policy to Plaintiff.
(Id. at 32). Defendant Massengill testified that she
advised Plaintiff that the officers have a duty to protect
anyone who makes a suicidal statement by placing them in a
suicide garment. (Id.). She further advised that
there were no exceptions to the policy and that when the
policy is enacted, the inmate is to be placed in a special
holding cell - to be checked on every 15 minutes.
(Id.). Plaintiff denies being advised of the
jail's suicide policy.
was asked numerous times to step into the intake shower room
so that the male officers could dress him in the suicide
prevention suit. (Id. at 34). Massengill stated that
she advised Plaintiff that “if he didn't cooperate
with us and go into the suicide garment, that he would force
us to have to do it for him because we weren't going to
allow him to remain unwatched.” (Id.).
admits that he refused to comply with Defendants' orders.
At his deposition, he explained that: “I told them that
I was not suicidal, and they weren't going to humiliate
me by ... stripping me down butt naked and putting the suit
on me when they know I was just being a smart aleck.”
(Pl.'s Dep. at 54). Plaintiff further claims that he
explained to Defendant Massengill that he was not suicidal,
but that she insisted he could not “retract” his
statements. (Id. at 103). According to Plaintiff,
Defendant Massengill threatened to “shoot [him] in the
chest with this stun gun” if he refused to wear the
suit. (Id. at 49). Plaintiff told Defendants that he
would sue them if they touched him and forced him to dress
into the suit. (Pl.'s Dep. at 104).
Plaintiff failed to comply, Defendant Massengill eventually
ordered Officer Jamie Francisco (“Defendant
Francisco”) to escort Plaintiff to the intake shower
room so that he can be dressed into the suit. (Ex. D to
Pl.'s Resp. at 36). At this point in time, Defendants
claim that Plaintiff's refusal to cooperate escalated to
Video Footage of Altercation
previously mentioned, the altercation that forms the basis of
this suit was fully captured by two cameras affixed to the
ceiling in the booking room. (Ex. 5 & 6 to Def.s'
Br.). Defendants have submitted a copy of two video
recordings, which provide the Court with different vantage
points of the incident. Exhibit 5 contains footage of the
guard booth, the booking counter, and the hallway directly in
front of the counter. Exhibit 6 contains footage of the
hallway abutting the guard booth and booking counter. To the
extent possible, the Court will defer to the video footage-as
opposed to the parties' versions of the facts-when
describing the altercation.
Court will refer to the video recordings by the second to the
time-stamped information that appears on the tapes. The
recording begins with video footage of Plaintiff standing at
the booking counter. (Ex. 5 to Def.s' Br.). Plaintiff can
be seen conversing with Defendant Almes, presumably answering
intake questions. At approximately 9:19:49, while Plaintiff
is at the booking counter, a jail trustee can be seen placing
a suicide prevention suit on the counter to Plaintiff's
right. (Id. at 9:19:49). Defendant Almes then walks
over to the booking counter and retrieves the suit.
(Id. at 9:20:03). Defendant Almes then stands next
to Plaintiff and gestures toward the shower room several
times. (Id. at 9:20:10). Almes eventually walks over
to the shower room door and faces Plaintiff, who is still
standing at the booking counter. (Id. at 9:20:23).
Plaintiff can be seen conversing with Defendants Almes and
Miekos, both of whom are standing at the shower room
entrance. (Id. at 9:20:25-9:20:50).
9:20:55, Defendant Francisco enters the picture. He walks
over to Plaintiff's side and can be seen gesturing toward
the shower room. (Id. at 9:21:01). Plaintiff does
not move. Defendant Francisco eventually begins to put on
rubber gloves. (Id. at 9:21:29).
Francisco then steps toward Plaintiff, reaches for the
blanket over Plaintiff's shoulders, and attempts to
secure a grip over Plaintiff. (Id. at 9:21:55).
Plaintiff can be seen resisting Defendant Francisco's
hold by pulling away. (Id. at 9:21:57). Defendant
Francisco testified that it is considered “active
aggression” when an inmate pulls away from an officer.
(Ex. E to Pl.'s Br. at 37). Defendant Francisco
immediately attempts to put Plaintiff in an “escort
hold, ” which has been described as putting one hand
over an inmate's shoulder and one hand on an inmate's
wrist. (Ex. 5 to Def.s' Br. at 9:21:59). Plaintiff
continues to resist Defendant Francisco's hold.
Almes and Miekos then approach to assist Francisco in
securing Plaintiff. (Id. at 9:22:00). At this point
in time, all three officers are surrounding Plaintiff and
there appears to be a struggle as Defendants attempt to pull
Plaintiff down toward the hallway abutting the booking
counter. (Ex. 6 to Def.s' Br. at 9:09:50).
Miekos testified that he attempted to secure Plaintiff by
using a straight arm-bar takedown. (Ex. C to Pl.'s Resp.
at 44). Miekos explained that he stepped in to grab
Plaintiff's arm, but Plaintiff turned away.
(Id.). This caused Miekos to lose his grip over
Plaintiff, and when he attempted to “re-grab”
Plaintiff's arm, they both went down towards the ground.
(Id.). Miekos believes that when they initially hit
the ground, Plaintiff was on his stomach and that as soon as
he hit the ground, he rolled over to his back. (Id.
Plaintiff is pulled down to the ground, he can be seen
thrashing about and kicking his feet in the air. (Ex. 6 to
Def.s' Br. at 9:09:55). Defendants Francisco, Miekos, and
Almes attempt to secure him, but Plaintiff continues to twist
and turn. (Id. at 9:09:55-9:10:07). Defendant Almes
was attempting to secure Plaintiff's legs and Defendant
Miekos attempted to secure Plaintiff's upper body.
Massengill was following behind as the struggle ensued. While
Plaintiff was on the ground, actively resisting, Defendant
Massengill applied the taser. (Ex. 6 to Def.s' Br. at
9:10:02). A taser keeps a digital record of the times it is
discharged and the data may be downloaded into a log format.
Plaintiff claims he was tased three times. However, here, the
log indicates that the taser was deployed by trigger one
time, with the readout being 9:04:44,  for a total of
six seconds. (Ex. 12 to Def.s' Br., Taser Report; Ex. 11
to Def.s' Br.). One prong went into the blanket Plaintiff
was wrapped in and one prong penetrated Plaintiff's skin
in his chest area. (Ex. 7 to Def.s' Br.; Ex. 11 to
stopped resisting after he was tased. Deputy Matthew Frazer
(“Defendant Frazer”) can be seen approaching the
hallway at this time. (Ex. 6 to Def.s' Br. at 9:10:29;
Ex. 13 to Def.s' Br.). Plaintiff remained still on the
floor, as several officers surrounded him. Nurse Denise Saks
enters the picture several minutes later and appears to
examine Plaintiff while he lay on the ground.
was then lifted to his feet. (Id. at
9:12:27-9:13:41). Nurse Saks can be seen removing one prong
from Plaintiff's chest area (Id. at 9:13:47) and
checking the rest of Plaintiff's body for prongs.
(Id. at 9:14:10). Saks provides the prong she
retrieved from Plaintiff's chest to an officer and
proceeds to check Plaintiff's mouth and chest. The video
footage ends as the officers walk Plaintiff to the shower
room. (Id. at 9:15:00).
is no dispute that Plaintiff was subsequently dressed in the
suicide prevention suit and placed in a cell. (Def.s'
Stmt. at ¶ 30; Pl.'s Stmt. at ¶ 30). Nor do the
parties dispute that within approximately 20 minutes, an
Oakland County sheriff's deputy appeared at the jail in
response to the Oakland County warrant.
Plaintiff's Testimony Re: Altercation
the video footage clearly depicts the altercation, the Court
will briefly recite Plaintiff's version of events to
highlight any disputes. Plaintiff denies that he was
resisting and describes the incident as follows:
There wasn't much talking going on. There was - they
brought me out and up to the desk to book me, and as she was
trying to convince me by telling me either I'm going to
strip and put this suit on or she's going to shoot me in
the chest, when I said no, they surprised me by jumping over
my back and grabbing ...