United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. BODENHAUSEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the Court on defendants' motion for
summary judgment. Plaintiff has filed a response in
opposition and the issues are fully briefed. In addition,
both parties filed motions seeking extensions of time. The
parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the undersigned
United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
events giving rise to this dispute occurred while plaintiff
Terry Pearson was incarcerated at Northeast Correctional
Center (NECC). He filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, alleging that the defendants, corrections officers
Myron Woodson and Brice Simmons, sprayed him with
and assaulted him in the course of completing a strip search,
in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Defendants argue
that they are entitled to qualified immunity and move for
morning of July 31, 2017, inmates in NECC's Housing Unit
6 were gathered in the gym building to be strip-searched for
weapons following an assault on a female corrections officer.
Complaint [Doc. # 1 at ¶¶ 1-2]. Hundreds of inmates
were strip-searched that day. See Jason Woodhurst
Affidavit at ¶ 4 [Doc. # 75-1 at 23]. In his verified
complaint, plaintiff alleges that, while waiting to be
searched, he asked to use the restroom. He was escorted to a
restroom where defendant corrections officers Myron Woodson
and Brice Simmons were assigned to search inmates. Complaint
at ¶ 3; Defendants' Statement of Uncontroverted
Material Facts (SUMF) at ¶ 10. [Doc. # 75-1 at 2]. Both
defendants, who normally worked at Moberly Correctional
Center, were specially assigned to assist in the searches at
NECC and neither one knew plaintiff before this encounter.
See Myron Woodson Affidavit at ¶¶ 1, 3-4,
6 [Doc. # 75-1 at 11]; Brice Simmons Affidavit. at
¶¶ 1-3 [Doc. # 75-1 at 16]. Defendants conducted
the searches from the hallway outside the bathroom. Woodson
visually searched the inmates while Simmons inspected their
clothing. Woodson Aff. at ¶ 5; Simmons Aff. at ¶ 4;
see also DVD titled “NECC B-Rec Hallway
7-21-17 A.M.” Other inmates waiting to use the bathroom
lined up in the gym. Affidavit of Loren Zartler at
¶¶ 4-5 [Doc. # 75-1 at 20].
alleges in his complaint that defendant Woodson instructed
plaintiff to remove his clothing piece by piece. Plaintiff
states that, after he removed his socks, he remained standing
on top of his shower shoes. When Woodson asked plaintiff for
the shoes, plaintiff asked him if he was going to “make
him stand barefoot on the dirty restroom floor.”
Complaint at ¶¶ 5-6. According to plaintiff,
defendant Woodson then placed his hand on his “mace
can” and stated, “That wasn't a question,
” and plaintiff gave his shoes to defendant Woodson.
Woodson then allegedly directed plaintiff to bend over and
cough in a manner that plaintiff described as having
“immense sexual overtones” that made him feel
embarrassed and uncomfortable. ¶¶ 7-8. While he was
dressing again, plaintiff asked Woodson his name but could
not understand the response. He asked again while he was
putting on his sock. According to plaintiff, Woodson then
swore and sprayed plaintiff's face and body with pepper
spray. Id. at ¶¶ 9-10. Plaintiff alleges
that both defendants then entered the bathroom, struck him,
and slammed him into the sink and onto the ground. Plaintiff
was cuffed and escorted to another housing unit. Plaintiff
states that he was not verbally aggressive and made no
attempt to fight back. Id. at ¶¶ 11-12.
Woodson testifies by affidavit that he handed plaintiff his
underwear and socks after the search was completed. After
plaintiff put on his underwear and one sock, he turned around
to face Woodson. Plaintiff had what Woodson describes as a
“stern look on his face” that conveyed, “If
I had the opportunity, I would go at you.” Plaintiff
then slapped his hands together once or twice,
“hard.” Woodson Aff. at ¶ 7. Woodson told
him to finish dressing and plaintiff responded that he did
not have to get dressed and started flailing his arms.
Id. at ¶ 9. Woodson then showed plaintiff his
wrist restraints and directed him to turn around and face
away from him. He told plaintiff, “Stand. Put your
hands on your head. I will enter the bathroom and apply
restraints.” Plaintiff did not comply. Id. at
¶ 9. Woodson again instructed plaintiff to dress and
come out and showed him the pepper spray, telling him that he
would use it if plaintiff did not dress and come out.
According to defendant Woodson, plaintiff was “getting
loud, not dressing, not listening.” Id. at
¶ 10. Woodson then “took the aerosol, aimed at the
middle of [plaintiff's] face and sprayed for less than a
second.” Id. at ¶ 11. Woodson entered the
bathroom to restrain plaintiff, but had to slow down because
the residue of the spray made his eyes water and his nose
run. According to Woodson, he helped plaintiff, who was
flailing his arms, to lie down on the floor. Woodson applied
restraints, helped plaintiff to stand up, and escorted him
out of the bathroom. Woodson denies that he hit or struck
plaintiff. Id. at ¶¶ 12-14. Plaintiff had
no visible injuries and was breathing and walking without
difficulty. He did not voice any complaints about injuries to
his ribs or any other part of his body. Woodson wrote a
conduct violation against plaintiff for creating a
disturbance. Id. at ¶¶ 16-18; see
also Conduct Violation Report [Doc. # 1-2 at 1].
Simmons testifies by affidavit that he had searched the
clothing of five inmates without incident before the search
of plaintiff began. According to Simmons, plaintiff threw
some of his clothes at Simmons, which Simmons considered
aggressive. Simmons Aff. at ¶ 5. Simmons observed as
Woodson directed plaintiff to dress and come out, saw
plaintiff refuse, saw Woodson show plaintiff the handcuffs
and direct him to turn around to be restrained, and saw
plaintiff again refuse. Woodson then showed plaintiff the
pepper spray and told him he would use it unless plaintiff
dressed and came out of the bathroom. Plaintiff refused to
dress and Simmons could see other inmates waiting to use the
bathroom. Id. at ¶¶ 6-8. Woodson then
sprayed plaintiff for less than a second from where he stood
in the hallway. Woodson entered the bathroom and helped
plaintiff to lie face down on the floor. Plaintiff was
flailing his arms, however, and Woodson had difficulty
grabbing them. Simmons “reached in the bathroom for a
few seconds to hold the arms so that Woodson could grab
[plaintiff's] wrists and apply the restraints.”
Id. at ¶ 9. Simmons denies striking or hitting
plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 10. Simmons had
“several good looks” at plaintiff in the hallway
and saw no signs of trauma. He did not hear plaintiff
complain about any injuries. Id. at ¶ 11.
Officer Zartler testifies by affidavit that he was overseeing
a line of inmates waiting to use the bathroom. Zartler Aff.
at ¶ 4. He saw defendants Woodson and Simmons standing
in the hallway outside the bathroom searching an inmate he
later learned was plaintiff. Woodson was speaking to
plaintiff and directing the search while Simmons searched
plaintiff's clothing. Zartler states that plaintiff
“was getting louder with Woodson” and that the
inmates in the line became aware that “something was
going on in the bathroom” that was causing a delay.
Id. at ¶¶ 7-9. Zartler approached and
looked in the bathroom to see if Woodson needed
assistance. He did not see Woodson or Simmons strike
or hit plaintiff. The fumes from the pepper spray entered the
hallway toward the inmates in line. Id. at 10-11.
Zartler, who had a good view of plaintiff after he came out
of the bathroom, did not see any evidence of injury.
Id. at ¶ 12.
Officer Jason Woodhurst was also in the hallway in the
vicinity of the bathroom where defendants searched plaintiff.
Affidavit of Jason Woodhurst at ¶¶ 5-6 [Doc. # 75-1
at 23]. Woodhurst saw plaintiff as he left the bathroom in
restraints. Plaintiff did not have any visible injury and had
no difficulty walking or breathing. Id. at ¶ 9.
Woodson arranged for plaintiff to be escorted to the medical
unit and to Housing Unit 1. Id. at ¶ 10.
Court has reviewed a video recording that begins before
plaintiff is escorted to the bathroom. The camera is
placed in the ceiling of the hallway several feet from the
bathroom doorway and does not capture any activity within the
bathroom. The events depicted in the video are consistent
with the description set forth above. Defendants stood side
by side at the bathroom door during the search of plaintiff,
with Simmons closer to the camera with Woodson on his far
side. Simmons is shown searching plaintiff's clothes
while Woodson speaks to plaintiff. The video shows that after
some discussion Woodson extended his arm into the bathroom
and then immediately entered the bathroom. Simmons bent
forward slightly and reached in to the bathroom while using
his feet to move plaintiff's clothing out of the doorway.
At no time did Simmons enter the bathroom. Zartler and
Woodhurst peered in without entering. Nineteen seconds
elapsed between when Woodson deployed the pepper spray and
plaintiff was escorted out in handcuffs.
records show that plaintiff was seen on August 1, 2017, the
day after the search. He complained of rib pain in his right
side. It was observed that plaintiff's breathing was even
and unlabored, and there were no visible signs of injury.
Four x-rays of plaintiff's right ribs were taken on
August 2, 2017. [Doc. # 75-1 at 27-29, 37]. One of the four
images showed “a lucency through the anterior aspect of
the right seventh rib” that “may represent a
nondisplaced fracture. Ribs are otherwise intact.”
[Doc. # 75-1 at 37]. Progress notes from medical encounters
with plaintiff between August 1st and August 9th indicate
that he did not have any complaints or signs of trauma. [Doc.
# 75-1 at 29-35].
facts will be included in the discussion as needed.