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Wilson-El v. Majors

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

September 15, 2014




This matter is before the Court on the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Filing No. 61). Plaintiff Shavaughn Carlos Wilson-El ("Mr. Wilson-El") brought this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. 1983 alleging the Defendants violated his constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when correction officers used excessive force against him while he was confined at the Marion County Jail. For reasons explained in this Entry, the Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.


Mr. Wilson-El is an inmate currently confined at the Pendleton Correctional Facility ("Pendleton"), an Indiana state prison. He filed his complaint on September 14, 2011 in Marion Circuit Court seeking compensatory and punitive damages; thereafter, the action was removed to this Court. The Defendants are: 1) Corporal Daniel Majors ("Cpl. Majors"); 2) Sgt. Timothy Esteb ("Sgt. Esteb"); 3) Corporal Charles Tate ("Cpl. Tate"); 4) Deputy Sheriff Dustin Vantreese ("Deputy Vantreese"); 5) Corporal Timothy White ("Cpl. White"); 6) Sgt. John McVay ("Sgt. McVay"); 7) Deputy Sheriff Michelle Barkofsky ("Deputy Barkofsky"); and 8) Lieutenant William Weaver ("Lt. Weaver") (collectively, "the Defendants").

Mr. Wilson-El alleges that on August 11, 2009, Cpl. Majors, Cpl. Tate, Deputy Vantreese, and Cpl. White subjected him to excessive physical force; Sgt. Esteb and Sgt. McVay subjected him to excessive force with a taser; and Lt. Weaver and Deputy Barkofsky failed to intervene. He further alleges that Cpl. Majors, Sgt. Esteb, and Lt. Weaver retaliated against him after he threatened to file a lawsuit. As noted, the Defendants seek resolution of Mr. Wilson-El's claims through the entry of summary judgment. He has opposed the motion and the Defendants have replied.


Summary judgment is appropriate when the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A "material fact" is one that "might affect the outcome of the suit." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). To survive a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must set forth specific, admissible evidence showing that there is a material issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp., 512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the factfinder. O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011).

A dispute about a material fact is genuine only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, then there is no "genuine" dispute. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).


The following statement of facts is not necessarily objectively true, but as the summary judgment standard requires, the undisputed facts and the disputed evidence are presented in the light reasonably most favorable to Mr. Wilson-El as the non-moving party. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.W. 133, 150 (2000).

A. Undisputed Facts

Contrary to the arguments of the Defendants, all parties, including Mr. Wilson-El, submitted a sworn affidavit giving their respective versions of what transpired. ( See Filing No. 62, 75, and 76). On the basis of the pleadings and the portions of the expanded record that comply with the requirements of Rule 56(c)(1) and Local Rule 56.1, the following facts are undisputed for purposes of the motion for summary judgment:

On August 11, 2009, Mr. Wilson-El was serving a prison sentence at Pendleton but was at the Marion County Jail ("the Jail") for proceedings unrelated to this action. All events complained of in the complaint occurred while he was at the Jail.

Deputy Barkofsky was working the area known as 4 East when she was notified by officers in 5S that there may have been an assault in housing unit 4S. Deputy Barkofsky radioed for assistance and entered the housing unit with assisting officers. Once there, Deputy Barkofsky was notified by an inmate that Mr. Wilson-El was stealing commissary within the housing unit. Deputy Barkofsky then ordered Mr. Wilson-El to return to his cell and pack his belongings so that he could be transferred to another cell block. Mr. Wilson-El verbally resisted and refused to follow Deputy Barkofsky's commands to pack his belongings. Instead, he asked the Deputy Barkofsky why he was being moved. When Deputy Barkofsky did not give him an explanation, he sought out a ranking officer, Lt. Weaver, to ask him why he was being sent to another unit.

At that time, officers with the Critical Emergency Response Team ("CERT") entered the housing unit to assist Deputy Barkofsky with the situation. Those officers were Cpl. Majors, Cpl. Tate, Cpl. White, and Sgt. Esteb. Deputy Barkofsky left the cell block as soon as the CERT officers arrived. Deputy Barkofsky never physically touched Mr. Wilson-El. Deputy Barkofsky also did not see Mr. Wilson-El later being tased and handcuffed.

After observing Mr. Wilson-El not follow Deputy Barkofsky's orders, Cpl. Majors gave a loud verbal command for Mr. Wilson-El to pack his belongings. Instead of going to his cell as ordered, Mr. Wilson-El responded that he was not going to pack his belongings. He also said "hold on, I am speaking with the Lieutenant, " and stepped away from Cpl. Majors.[1]

Cpl. Majors then removed his handcuffs from his handcuff pouch and took Mr. Wilson-El's arm and began placing it behind his back for handcuffing. At that time, Mr. Wilson-El pulled his arm away and told Cpl. Majors, "don't touch me!"[2] Mr. Wilson-El yelled that he was not going to be placed in handcuffs. Knowing it was imperative to gain control of Mr. Wilson-El and relying on his training, Cpl. Majors used a defensive tactic known as an arm bar take down and with the assistance of Cpl. White, they took Mr. Wilson-El to the ground.[3]

Once Mr. Wilson-El was on the ground, Cpl. Majors had control of Mr. Wilson-El's left arm and commanded him to release his right arm. Mr. Wilson-El states that another officer was holding his right arm and then that officer released it. Cpl. Majors ordered Mr. Wilson-El at least three to four times to release his arm from underneath his body. Mr. Wilson-El attempted to comply but it was a struggle to put his left arm behind his back, and Cpl. Majors told him to stop struggling. When Cpl. Majors yelled for Mr. Wilson-El to put his hands behind his back, Mr. Wilson-El yelled back that he could not do that until Cpl. Majors let go of his left arm. One arm was behind Mr. Wilson-El's body and the other was being controlled by Cpl. Majors.

Cpl. Majors believed that Mr. Wilson-El was refusing to surrender his right arm from underneath his body despite repeated commands from CERT officers that he stop resisting and release his arm. A number of inmates were observing these events from within their cells.[4] Sgt. Esteb perceived that the situation was becoming more volatile. As a final attempt to gain compliance from Mr. Wilson-El, he ordered Mr. Wilson-El at least twice to stop resisting, give him his arm, or he would be tased. Sgt. Esteb and Sgt. McVay both yelled "taser, taser, taser!" The parties dispute whether Mr. Wilson-El stopped resisting at this point. Cpl. Majors and Cpl. White then released Mr. Wilson-El and stepped slightly away in order to avoid the taser prongs. Sgt. McVay and Sgt. Esteb then discharged their department issued tasers simultaneously.

Sgt. Esteb's taser prongs attached to Mr. Wilson-El's right hamstring area, but they did not pierce his skin. Sgt. McVay's taser prongs made contact with Mr. Wilson-El's upper back, causing him to receive a full five-second taser cycle. Mr. Wilson-El then laid still and released his hands so that Cpl. White and Cpl. Majors were then able to place Mr. ...

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