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Williams v. Bourn

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

September 13, 2017

RANDALL ALAN WILLIAMS PLAINTIFF
v.
KRISTI BOURN et al DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          ROBERT H. WALKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Randall Alan Williams, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 prisoner civil rights complaint alleging that various defendants violated his constitutional rights by subjecting him to excessive force incident to an arrest and by failing to provide adequate medical care subsequent to the arrest. Doc. [1]. The Court conducted a screening hearing on October 15, 2015. See Minute Entry (10/15/2015); Doc. [145-1]. There are now several pending motions for summary judgment filed by the various Defendants. Doc. [139] [145] [146] [148].

         Factual Background

         (1) The Arrest

         Plaintiff's Account

         In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that on January 26, 2015, while being pursued by City of Pascagoula police officers, he “ran a few yards on foot then laid down on the ground face first and spread out his arms screaming out ‘I surrender. I give up.'” Doc. [1] at 6. Officer John Doe #1 (later identified as Defendant Sergeant Scott Clayton) flipped the Plaintiff over and started punching him “repeatedly” in the face while a K-9 Officer (Rambo) bit him two or three times. Id. Officer Clayton then flipped Plaintiff back over and began searching him. Officer Clayton poked himself with a syringe in Plaintiff's pocket and started screaming obscenities. Id. Officer John Doe #2 (later identified as Defendant Sergeant Richard Davis) released Rambo resulting in 14 more bites. Id. Plaintiff alleges that he never resisted arrest. Id. In an amended complaint, Plaintiff added as Defendants Pascagoula police officers Joshua Ghabbour, Lionel Bourgeois, Michael Dunn, and Steven Loris, whom he alleged were present during the arrest and had an opportunity to intervene and protect Plaintiff from excessive force committed by Davis and Clayton. Doc. [40] & [69].

         At the screening hearing, Plaintiff elaborated on the factual allegations. He testified that on the night of the incident he was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Christopher Allen Joiner being pursued by police officers. Doc. [145-1] at 14. After about a 30-minute car chase, Plaintiff and Joiner exited the car and ran a “short distance” into the back yard of a residence. Id. at 15-16. Plaintiff testified that Joiner was a few feet ahead of him. Id. at 16. Joiner hit the ground and Rambo was on him. Id. Plaintiff stated that he saw officers everywhere, so he laid down on the ground and spread his arms out. Id. About 30 seconds later, Officer Clayton rolled Plaintiff over on his back and started punching him in the face. Id. Officer Clayton rolled him back over on his stomach. At that time, Plaintiff felt the dog bite him once or twice. Id. Officer Davis and Officer Ghabbour then handcuffed Plaintiff. Id. at 16-17. According to Plaintiff, Officer Ghabbour got pricked by a needle in Plaintiff's pocket. Id. at 17. Officer Ghabbour started screaming and backing up off of Plaintiff. Id. at 17. When Officer Ghabbour started yelling, Officer Davis released Rambo who started biting Plaintiff again. Id. Plaintiff testified that Officer Davis kept releasing Rambo to bite Plaintiff. Id. at 18. At one point, Officer Davis pulled off Plaintiff's shoe. Id. Rambo jumped forward and started biting Plaintiff's foot and toes. Id. After the officer got the dog off of him, Plaintiff was taken to the police cruiser for transportation to the Pascagoula Police Station. Id. at 18-20.

         Arresting Officers' Account

The arresting officers submitted affidavits and police reports that provide a slightly different account of the arrest. See Doc. [148-1] [148-3] [148-4] [148-7] [148-8] [148-9] [148-10] [148-11]. On the evening of January 26, 2015, at approximately 9:00 p.m., officers pursued a vehicle driven by Joiner following the commission of an armed home invasion. Plaintiff and Joiner were later charged with armed robbery relating to the events from January 26, 2017. Doc. [145-1] at 14. In fact, Plaintiff later pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the incident. Doc. [146-2] at 1-2. During the pursuit, Joiner stopped the car and the two fled on foot into a residential neighborhood. Officer Davis exited his vehicle and released Rambo, while Officer Davis pursued on foot. Officers Ghabbour and Clayton also pursued on foot. Eventually, Rambo caught up to Plaintiff, bit him, and held onto his lower leg. Officer Davis instructed Plaintiff to get on the ground multiple times. Plaintiff did not comply. Instead, Plaintiff's hands moved towards his waist. Officer Davis then approached Plaintiff and struck him with a closed fist to his nose and forced him to the ground. When Officer Ghabbour arrived to assist with the apprehension of Plaintiff, he saw Plaintiff in a seated position facing him, unsecured with his hands free. Ghaboour ran into Plaintiff, knocking his upper body to the ground. Ghabbour and Davis were then able to get Plaintiff's hands behind his back and handcuffed. Officer Davis did not immediately command Rambo to release out of concern for the safety of himself and the other officers. Once Plaintiff was secured and handcuffed, Officer Davis commanded Rambo to release. Once Rambo let go of Plaintiff, Officer Davis pulled Rambo back and did not release him again. Following a search of Plaintiff, a handgun was recovered, as well as marijuana and a syringe. Officer Bourgeois' police report confirmed that Ghabbour's hand may have been punctured by the syringe in Plaintiff's pocket.

         According to the officers' affidavits, Sergeant Clayton never entered the backyard where Plaintiff was apprehended, was not part of Plaintiff's apprehension, and had no physical contact with Plaintiff. Likewise, Officers Dunn and Loris were involved in the pursuit of the fleeing felons, but stated that they had no involvement in Plaintiff's apprehension, which occurred in the back yard. Rather, they were busy securing Joiner in the front yard, about 15 to 25 feet away, separated from Plaintiff by a four-foot high chain link fence. Officer Bourgeois did not arrive at the scene until after Plaintiff and Joiner had been secured and handcuffed.

         Video Evidence

         Plaintiff filed a motion to compel production to the Court of video and audio recordings that he alleged demonstrate the use of excessive force during his arrest. Doc. [151]. Out of an abundance of caution, the Court compelled production of the recordings. Doc. [164]. The Court received and reviewed the recordings and finds them to be inconclusive. They depict a chase, but a fence obstructs the view of the camera. Rambo can be heard barking and Plaintiff can be heard yelling, but the audio and video do not provide material summary judgment evidence on any disputed issue of fact.

         (2) Medical Treatment

         Plaintiff's Account

         In his complaint, Plaintiff alleged that he was denied medical care from January 26, 2015, to February 15, 2015, for injuries sustained during the arrest. Doc. [1] at 7. Corporal Lamar Palmer was the intake officer at Jackson County Adult Detention Center (JCADC) on the night of January 26th. Id. He informed Plaintiff that only a nurse employed by Health Services, LLC could send Plaintiff to the hospital. Id. Plaintiff alleged it was obvious that he needed stitches and treatment. Id. He further alleged Nurses Kristi Bourn, Jessica Bolen and Jane Doe #1 (later ...


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