Submitted: March 9, 2017
from United States District Court for the District of
Minnesota - Minneapolis
LOKEN, MURPHY, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.
disturbance resulted in Minnesota inmate Ronnie Jackson
spending three-and-one-half hours on a restraint board,
Jackson filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against
correctional officers and medical staff of the Oak Park
Heights maximum security prison. Defendants moved for summary
judgment, and the district court dismissed all claims except
an Eighth Amendment excessive force claim against Lieutenant
Jeff Gutzmer, who authorized use of the restraint board.
Gutzmer appeals the denial of summary judgment based on
qualified immunity. Reviewing that issue de novo and
the facts in the light most favorable to Jackson, we reverse.
See Burns v. Eaton, 752 F.3d 1136, 1138 (8th Cir.
Convicted of arson, Jackson was admitted to the Minnesota
Correctional Facility in St. Cloud in November 2012. An
initial psychiatric assessment reflected his self-reported
history of 28 suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, hearing
voices to harm himself and others, cutting himself,
depression, and anxiety. The assessment also related violent
episodes including stabbing his school principal with
scissors and striking his fiancé with a bottle. The
examining doctor diagnosed Jackson with depression,
borderline personality disorder with possible dissociative
episodes, and alcohol dependency.
Jackson's first week at the St. Cloud facility, he
violated multiple rules, including threatening others,
possessing a weapon, and assaulting correctional staff. The
weapon possession violation was a major infraction. Jackson
also reported that voices were telling him to slit his
cellmate's throat. The Minnesota Department of
Corrections (DOC) transferred Jackson to the Oak Park Heights
maximum security facility, placed him on disciplinary
segregation status, and assigned him to the Administrative
Control Unit (ACU). Designed to protect inmates from
themselves and others and to maintain orderly prison
operations, the ACU is the most secure prison living unit in
Minnesota. ACU inmates are confined to their cells for
twenty-three hours per day and allowed only limited personal
property. To receive medical attention, an ACU inmate can
submit a written "kite" for a medical visit; for
emergency life-threatening situations, an inmate can press a
duress button in his cell.
at Oak Park Heights, Jackson was sent repeatedly to ACU or to
Complex 5, a segregation unit for less threatening inmates or
those with shorter segregation sentences. He was convicted of
more than twenty rule violations, including assaulting staff,
disorderly conduct, threatening behavior, disobeying direct
orders, abuse or harassment, and destruction of prison
property. In one incident, Jackson refused to return to his
cell, kicked a responding officer in the thigh, and
threatened that "whoever put hands on me is going to
November 2013 incident, after scheduling a medical visit for
neck pain, Jackson told a correctional officer that he had
swallowed a razor blade, triggering an Incident Command
System (ICS) call for a self-injurious inmate. A doctor
responded and evaluated Jackson's complaint of chest,
arm, and neck pain. He was then placed in a Complex 5 cell. A
few hours later, he covered his cell camera with plastic
lining from his mattress, refused directives to come to the
door to be placed in restraints, and stated he was going to
"get to ACU by doing whatever it takes." The next
day, while staff removed the mattress, Jackson spat in the
eye of a correctional officer. For these violations, Jackson
was placed in the ACU for 540 days of segregation and given
180 days of extended incarceration. Jackson resided in the
ACU until April 2014, when ACU inmates were moved to Complex
5 because of ACU construction.
The events giving rise to this lawsuit occurred on May 13,
2014. We relate facts stated in Jackson's Declaration In
Opposition to Defendants' Motion For Summary Judgment.
Around 7:20 a.m. that morning, Jackson declared, he informed
a non-defendant correctional officer he was not feeling well,
but it was not serious enough for medical attention. By noon,
he was experiencing severe chest pains, nausea, shortness of
breath, and vomiting, side effects he attributed to a
depression medication, Effexor. Over the next hour and a
half, Jackson tried to get medical attention by notifying a
nurse and a correctional officer and by pushing his emergency
duress button at three different times. At 1:38 p.m.,
thinking his medical situation was "dire, " Jackson
grabbed a "grease container" in his cell and began
to knock on the door to alert staff of his medical needs.
Then, Jackson declared:
For several minutes I was knocking on my door with the grease
container, [and] at approximately 1:40 p.m. my neighbors . .
. began asking me what was going on and why I was knocking on
my door. My neighbors (I believe) had been hearing me ask for
medical assistance. I explain to them the situation and tell
them I need 'help' and they began hitting their doors
trying to get the attention of the staff.
For approximately 5 minutes staff completely ignore the noise
. . . [until defendant Sergeant Donn] Weber finally heads
towards [my cell] and all inmates stop hitting their doors. .
. . Weber walks directly to my door, I attempt to stand and
speak with him but my chest contracts painfully hard and I
cry out in pain, and in my weakened state, slide down the
inside of my door . . . . I see [Sergeant] Weber . . .
activating an ICS response . . . for a self-injurious inmate.
I was not hurting myself.
Gutzmer, responsible for supervising the ACU until 3:00 p.m.
that day, responded to Weber's ICS call for a
self-injurious inmate. Though it is disputed whether Gutzmer
witnessed Jackson kicking and punching the cell door after
Gutzmer arrived, it is undisputed that Sgt. Weber told
Gutzmer that Jackson had been kicking and punching his cell
door and ignored directives to stop. In Gutzmer's
experience, he had seen inmates break their wrist, feet, or
hands by kicking or punching a cell door. Gutzmer averred
that he feared Jackson may continue to engage ...