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Jones v. Vululleh Officer

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

March 12, 2018

VULULLEH Officer, Defendant.


          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge United States District Court.

         Plaintiff Antoine Jones brought this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that Officer Vululleh failed to intervene to protect him during an altercation with another offender at the Correctional Industrial Facility, in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Presently pending before the Court is Officer Vululleh's motion for summary judgment. Mr. Jones's two motions asking for an extension of time to file a surreply, dkts. [76] and [77], are granted. For the reasons explained below, Officer Vululleh's motion for summary judgment, dkt. [61], is denied.

         I. Summary Judgment Legal Standard

         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. See 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 non-moving 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 fact-finder. 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, 477 U.S. at 248. 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).

         II. Background

         The following statement of facts was evaluated pursuant to the standard set forth above. That is, this 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. Jones as the non-moving party with respect to the motion for summary judgment. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

         On February 20, 2016, Mr. Jones was an offender incarcerated at the Pendleton Correctional Industrial Facility. See dkt. 62-2 at 9 (Jones Depo. at 13:1-15). Officer Vululleh was working as a Correctional Officer on that day. Dkt. 62-1 at ¶ 1. For some period of time until February 20, 2016, Mr. Jones shared a cell (cell 8B-2D) with Ricky Outlaw. Dkt. 62-2 at 14, 20-21 (Jones Depo. at 20:5-12, 26:11-27:4). The cell they shared was fairly small, shut by a solid door with two windows, no cuff port, and a gap to the ground almost 2” in height. Dkt. 62-2 at 15-18 (Jones Depo. at 21:12-24:8); dkt. 62-3 at 2; dkt. 73-1; dkt. 73-2 at 2 (photo of door with ruler in the gap). Although Outlaw had a history of argumentative and violent behavior (see dkt. 62-2 at 22-24 (Jones Depo. at 28:7-30:16)), Mr. Jones was not concerned about Outlaw. Dkt. 62- 2 at 25 (Jones Depo. at 31:5-16). He had never expressed any concerns to anyone, including Indiana Department of Corrections employees, that he had any concerns about Outlaw prior to February 20. Dkt. 62-2 at 50-51 (Jones Depo. at 61:24-62:7). Nor did Mr. Jones request protective custody as to Outlaw. Dkt. 62-2 at 56 (Jones Depo. at 67:4-22). Until February 20, they had never had a verbal argument or a physical fight. Dkt. 62-2 at 25 (Jones Depo. at 31:17-22). On this date, Outlaw was approximately 5'7” tall and weighed between 160-165 pounds, while Mr. Jones was almost 6'5” tall and weighed about 278 pounds. Dkt. 62-2 at 26 (Jones Depo. at 32:1-12).

         Some time on the evening of February 20, 2016, Outlaw had just microwaved a cup of hot coffee when Mr. Jones and Outlaw went back to their cell because Outlaw allegedly wanted to talk to him. Dkt. 62-2 at 27 (Jones Depo. at 33:12-24), dkt. 73-4 at 17 (Jones Depo. at 52:20-24). Mr. Jones closed the door behind him when they entered the cell. Dkt. 62-2 at 28 (Jones Depo. at 34:2). At that point, Outlaw began to pick a fight with Mr. Jones, and Outlaw and Mr. Jones entered into a loud verbal argument. Dkt. 62-2 at 28-29 (Jones Depo. at 34:3-35:5).

         At around 11:13pm, Officer Vululleh was conducting a security check of the area. Dkt. 62-1 at ¶ 2. A video camera captured Officer Vululleh outside of Mr. Jones and Outlaw's room at 11:13:12pm. Dkt. 70-1 at 3. Officer Vululleh states that he could see that Mr. Jones and Outlaw were involved in a verbal argument. Dkt. 62-1 at ¶ 3.

         Mr. Jones was facing the door with Outlaw blocking his way to the door and could see Officer Vululleh through the window. Dkt. 62-2 at 35, 37-38 (Jones Depo. at 41:11-23, 43:23-44:1). Mr. Jones then told Outlaw, “Police at the door.” Dkt. 62-2 at 29 (Jones Depo. at 35:6-7). Outlaw looked back at Officer Vululleh - Mr. Jones characterizes the expression on Officer Vululleh's face as a “smirk” with an “it's okay” look.” Dkt. 62-2 at 29, 47-49 (Jones Depo. at 35:8-20, 58:23-59:2). Outlaw then turned back and threw his cup of hot coffee at Mr. Jones. Dkt. 62-1 at ¶ 4; dkt. 62-2 at 29, 48 (Jones Depo. at 35:8-20, 59:12-19). Mr. Jones screamed to Officer Vululleh to come into the cell - Officer Vululleh did not and took no action. Dkt. 62-2 at 29, 36-37 (Jones Depo. at 35-21:23, 42:25-43:3). Outlaw produced a knife or mirror shard from some unknown place (dkt. 62-2 at 37 (Jones Depo. at 43:12-20)) and began stabbing Mr. Jones in the face and neck, causing severe blood loss and lacerations. Dkt. 62-2 at 29-30, 38 (Jones Depo. at 35:23-36:17, 44:1-3, 44:15-20), dkt. 73:4 at 13 (Jones Depo. at 48:2-17), 68-1 at 7 (image of scarred face), 75-1 at 19 (image of scarred face). Mr. Jones continued to yell out to Officer Vululleh to open the door, stating “[Outlaw] got a knife.” Dkt. 62-2 at 37, 49 (Jones Depo. at 43:21-23, 60:8-9), dkt. 73-4 at 12 (Jones Depo. at 47:12-13); dkt. 62-3 at 2. Mr. Jones attempted to defend himself by punching at Outlaw. Dkt. 62-1 at ¶ 5; dkt. 62-2 at 37-38 (Jones Depo. at 43:2-20, 44:1-3). Officer Vululleh continued to take no action. Dkt. 62-2 at 30, 37-38 (Jones Depo. at 36:9-10, 43:21-44:1), dkt. 73-4 at 12 (Jones Depo. at 47:24-25). At some point, Mr. Jones was finally able to overpower Outlaw and held him down on the ground. Dkt. 62-1 at ¶ 6; dkt. 62-2 at 30, 38 (Jones Depo. at 36:9-10, 44:1-3). During the fight up to this point, Officer Vululleh held the door closed and did not call for backup or order them to stop fighting. Dkt. 68-1 at 9 (¶¶ 13-14), 11 (¶¶ 14-15). At some point soon after Mr. Jones was able to get Outlaw to the ground, Officer Vululleh called a “signal 10-10”[1] over his radio and ordered Mr. Jones and Outlaw to stop fighting (dkt. 62-1 at ¶ 7), yelling “Get off of him. Get off of him. Stop fighting.” Dkt. 62-2 at 30, 38 (Jones Depo. at 36:13-15, 44:4-7). Mr. Jones and Outlaw complied and stopped fighting. Dkt. 62-1 at ¶ 12.

         There is some dispute as to the timing of when and why Officer Vululleh called for backup. Officer Vululleh appears to allege that he called for backup contemporaneously with ordering Mr. Jones and Outlaw to stop fighting. Dkt. 62-1 at ¶ 7; see also dkt. 7-1 at 2 (“I ordered them to stop fighting and called a 10-10.”). Mr. Jones alleges that Officer Vululleh did not call for backup until well after the fight had ended and not until Mr. Jones ran to the door and begged Officer Vululleh to call for backup. Dkt. 62-2 at 30-31, 49 (Jones Depo. at 36:23-25, 37:13-14, 60:10-61:1). Two witnesses, James Lynn and Claude Arender, assert that it was not until about 30-45 seconds after the fight ended that Officer Vululleh got on the radio to ask for assistance. Dkt. 68-1 at 9 (¶ 16), 11 (¶ 17). Backup arrived at 11:14:40pm (dkt. 70-1 at 3), or what felt like seconds to Mr. Jones. Dkt. 62-2 at 64 (Jones Depo. at 37:1), dkt. 73-4 at 16 (Jones Depo. at 51:17-20). Outlaw did not suffer any injuries from this fight. Dkt. 73-4 at 17 (Jones Depo. at 52:7-10).

         Officer Vululleh did not enter the cell until backup arrived. Dkt. 62-1 at ¶ 9. He alleges that is because “by entering a small enclosed cell with two offenders who were fighting, he would have jeopardized his own safety along with the safety of other offenders and staff in the D unit.” Dkt. 62-1 at ¶ 9. He also thought there could be a weapon present in the cell. Dkt. 62-1 at ¶ 10. Additionally, he states that, without opening the door (and endangering himself and other inmates), he could not spray a chemical agent (such as mace) into the cell as the door did not contain a cuff port. Dkt. 62-1 at ¶ 11. In the incident report form from February 20, 2016, Officer Vululleh stated that “he waited to open the door until backup arrived because when he saw the blood he thought there could be a weapon.” Dkt. 70-1 at 2.

         The next day, while Mr. Jones was in the medical unit, Officer Vululleh came by with a Conduct Report. Dkt. 62-2 at 31 (Jones Depo. at 37:19-25). Mr. Jones asked Officer Vululleh why he failed to help Mr. Jones. Dkt. 62-2 at 31, 33, 35, 53 (Jones Depo. at 37:19-20, 39:19-22, 41:7-10, 64:1-4). Officer Vululleh replied, “I didn't want to spray my guy.” Dkt. 62-2 at 31, 33, 35, 53 (Jones Depo. at 37:21, 39:23-24, 41:7-10, 64:1-4). Mr. Jones asked him again something to the effect of either “so you was going to let him kill me?” or why did Officer Vululleh fail to help by spraying mace. Dkt. 62-2 at 31, 35 (Jones Depo. at 37:22, 41:7-10). Officer Vululleh reiterated, “I just didn't want to spray my guy.” Dkt. 62-2 at 31, 35 (Jones Depo. at 37:23, 41:7-10). Mr. Jones is confident that he was not the “my guy” referred to by Officer Vululleh, and that it referred to ...

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