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Reynolds v. Russell

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

May 11, 2017

KENNETH DA'VON REYNOLDS, Plaintiff,
v.
HARRY RUSSELL, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JEAN C. HAMILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants Ronald Helms's and James Rodgers's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed on February 23, 2017. (ECF No. 45.) The Motion has been fully briefed and is ready for disposition.

         BACKGROUND

         On February 4, 2016, Plaintiff Kenneth Reynolds filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action seeking monetary and injunctive relief. In his amended complaint, he asserts excessive-force claims against Defendants Helms and Rodgers based upon the following allegations.

         At all relevant times, Plaintiff was incarcerated at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center (“ERDCC”) in Bonne Terre, Missouri, where Helms and Rodgers were employed as correctional officers. On November 4, 2014, Helms and Rodgers approached Reynolds while he was in his cell and directed him to report to the “Sally Port.” Reynolds complied, and upon entering the Sally Port, Helms told Plaintiff to “cuff up.” Plaintiff questioned Helms as to why he was being handcuffed. Helms refused to answer and proceeded to place restraints on Plaintiff's right wrist. Plaintiff then questioned Rodgers as to why he was being handcuffed, at which time Helms slammed Plaintiff's head into a concrete wall, leaving Plaintiff with a split lip, a knot on the left side of his head, and a gash on his forehead. Plaintiff was subsequently taken to the ground, held down, and punched repeatedly. He was escorted to the medical unit shortly thereafter. Plaintiff was later issued conduct violations in connection with the incident, and he filed internal grievances regarding the use of force against him. (ECF No. 9.)

         The summary judgment record reflects the following. During his deposition, Plaintiff testified that he had been in his cell when Helms and Rodgers approached him and told him to report to the Sally Port, and that once he entered the Sally Port Helms told him to submit to restraints. Upon questioning Helms as to why he was being restrained, Helms responded that he had been out of his cell in violation of ERDCC policy. He then turned to and directed the same questions to Rodgers, at which time Helms slammed him against the wall, causing his head to hit the wall. With respect to Defendants' use of force, Plaintiff further stated, in pertinent part:

[A]fter he aggressively slammed my head-well, hit my head on the sally port, I kind of stiffen up, because I didn't know what was going on…
So they took me to the ground. And in the process of me going to the ground, I was getting hit…
And I stood back up. And in the process of me standing back up, well, I guess Ro[d]gers, he was calling for the white shirt or was calling a 10-5, that's what they call it… for staff assault. And he kind of retreated. And me and Helms, I was getting off the ground-I was getting off of them and Helms hit me with an uppercut while holding my hair…
[A]fter he punched me twice, Ro[d]gers came and assisted to try to put me in handcuffs. But I'm-he got my right arm-Ro[d]gers has my right arm now…And by this time, both of them grabbed me to try to get me back on the ground…And my arm-they put me in handcuffs and my arm was getting twisted. I had a knee in the back of my neck. I was getting punched in my ribs. I got punched in my face…
I wasn't resisting no more because I was already in handcuffs…

(Def Ex. A, ECF No. 47.1 at 23-37.)

         Reynolds's ERDCC medical records indicate that he refused assessment, and that he did not appear to have any injuries. (Def. Ex. J.) ERDCC records also show that Reynolds was issued two conduct violations in connection with the incident. The first Conduct Violation Report was issued by Rodgers and stated that Reynolds had refused to comply with directives to return to his cell. (Def. Ex. D.) The second Conduct Violation Report was issued by Helms and provided the following recitation of events:

On the above date and approximate time Offender Reynolds…was directed to the A/B sallyport. Once in the sallyport I gave Offender Reynolds several directives to submit to wrist restraints. Offender Reynolds complied by allowing me to place restraint on his right wrist…[A]t this point the offender pushed away from the wall, I then assisted Offender Reynolds back to the wall. At this time Offender Reynolds spun around striking me on the right side of my face with his elbow. Offender Reynolds was then assisted to the ground, once on the ground Offender Reynolds bit my ...

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