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Armalin v. Pearson

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

July 22, 2019

OFFICER J. PEARSON, et al. Defendants.


          William C. Lee United States District Judge

         Pro se plaintiff, Alexander Armalin (“Armalin”), claims that while he was a pretrial detainee at the Grant County Jail (“the Jail”), he was attacked by two inmates and the Defendants, all confinement officers at the Jail, failed to protect him from harm. Before the Court is the Defendants' motion for summary judgment. [DE 53]. Although notified of his obligation to respond on February 6, 2019 [DE 57], Armalin did not file a responsive brief.[1] For the following reasons, the Motion for Summary Judgment will be DENIED.


         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The movant bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis of its motion, and identifying those portions of designated evidence that demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). After “a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, the adverse party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

         A factual issue is material only if resolving the factual issue might change the outcome of the case under the governing law. See Clifton v. Schafer, 969 F.2d 278, 281 (7th Cir. 1992). A factual issue is genuine only if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party on the evidence presented. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the court “may not ‘assess the credibility of witnesses, choose between competing reasonable inferences, or balance the relative weight of conflicting evidence.' ” Bassett v. I.C. Sys., Inc., 715 F.Supp.2d 803, 808 (N.D. Ill. 2010) (quoting Stokes v. Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chi., 599 F.3d 617, 619 (7th Cir. 2010)). Instead, it must view all the evidence in the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and resolve all factual disputes in favor of the non-moving party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

         That a motion for summary judgment is unopposed doesn't change the summary judgment standard, and the court still conducts “more than just a cursory review of the filings” and scrutinizes the movant's factual submissions in order to “determine that the motion is sound and within the parameters of the law.” Leal v. TSA Stores, Inc., No. 2:13 CV 318, 2014 WL 7272751, at *1 (N.D. Ind. Dec. 17, 2014). An unopposed motion does, however, “reduce the pool” from which facts and inferences relative to the motion may be drawn. Smith v. Severn, 129 F.3d 419, 426 (7th Cir. 1997). Accordingly, facts alleged in the motion are deemed admitted so long as support for them exists in the record. See Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003) (“[F]ailure to respond by the nonmovant as mandated by the local rules results in an admission”); Brasic v. Heinemanns, Inc., 121 F.3d 281, 285-286 (7th Cir. 1997) (affirming grant of summary judgment where the nonmovant failed to properly offer evidence disputing the movant's version of the facts). Mindful of these standards, the Court turns now to the facts of the case.


         Throughout 2014 and 2015, Armalin periodically resided in the Jail. During Armalin's 2015 stay at the Jail, Defendant Officers J. Pearson, Miller, Moore, Francis, and Loth all had contact with Armalin and were on duty in the days prior to the incident giving rise to this suit. This case arises from an incident at the Jail on October 15, 2015, while Armalin was incarcerated there.

         Armalin was housed in block 2B with another inmate, Mitchell Carol (“Mitch”). Both Mitch and Armalin are black and were later joined in the block by a third black inmate, Trey Ferguson (“Trey”). Trey, Mitch and Armalin did not know each other prior to being housed together.

         Armalin testified that he began having safety concerns when two white inmates at the Jail, Travis Tracy (“Travis”) and Eric Tracy (“Eric”), were transferred into his block several days prior to the October 15 incident. Armalin stated that he did not know much or anything at all about Eric and Tracy when he was booked into the Jail in September, 2015 (Armalin Dep. at 22: “Q: So would it be fair to say that prior to the incident you didn't have any personal incident going on with them? A: No. I didn't have no issues with them at all, nothing, because I didn't know them.”). It's a fair summary of Armalin's testimony to say that he had concerns about Eric and Tracy because the two expressed that they were “bored, ” wanted some “action, ” and began trying to start trouble with and between other inmates housed in that block. (Deposition of Armalin, hereafter “Armalin Dep.” pp. 24-38). Armalin testified that the two threatened other inmates with physical violence and the two were attempting to recruit other inmates to form a gang. Armalin testified that they began making racial slurs towards him and the other two black inmates in the block. He repeatedly told the Defendant Officers that Eric and Tracy were a threat to safety in the block, and specifically, a threat to Armalin. (Armalin Dep. at pp. 28-29: “I go to Officer Moore, and I tell Officer Moore like, hey, these people in here, these boys, they in here like threatening us because they talking about they ready to fight now that they got - they getting their gang together or whatever…he's saying to us, oh, we looking at him funny, you know…I'm telling him like…they talking like they want to fight us or whatever … and they want to get us out of the dorm…hey man you know these dudes are here threatening us telling us they want to fight us”; at p. 31: “I talked to an officer - the Officer Francis. I told him the next day that, you know, these guys was - that these guys was, you know, talking about they wanted to fight…”; at p. 33: So [we][2] told Officer Miller…we told them that Eric and Travis Tracy, they're in here on these street gangs or neighborhood jail gangs or whatever they is …you guys need to move this dude out of here because I'm not going to not defend myself because they're in here threatening us, talking about they're going to fight us and that they're bored.”; at p. 33: “I told Officer Pearson and you know, I guess because this dude heard me and Mitchell telling the officer that, you know, that these guys need to get up out of here and these dudes heard us telling the officers, oh, that they threatening us, you know, and that we have an issue.”[3]; at p. 35: “I told - Officer Francis when he was passing out the mail and then it kind of like died down… you know, me and [Mitch] and [Trey], we started being in a room and we wasn't really trying to be around them like that because we know that all the tension is always on us.”

         Armalin testified that when he spoke with Officer Pearson two days before the incident, “Pearson looked at us and opened the flap and was like laughing like that ain't my problem and he closed the flap and he walked off.” (Armalin Dep. at p. 34). Another time, when Armalin spoke to Officer Miller, Armalin testified that Miller took it “like in a joking manner, saying that because we was big enough we should know how to defend ourself.” (Id. at 32).

         On the day of the incident, Armalin testified that Officer Loth was on duty walking on the catwalk. He stated that he was telling Officer Loth the following:

…hey, listen, man, there's too much tension in here like. Either move me out of here or move them out of here. Like it's going to be some problems. Like I can see it. I can feel it. I know there's trouble coming. I'm not trying to even be a part of that. Like get me out of this dorm or, you know, it's going to be a fight because they keep on threatening us. They keep on telling us they're going to beat us up. They telling - they keep on saying - like the dudes in the dorm was telling us like, hey man, they saying when they jump on you - the both of the two brothers they're going to jump on you and then they're going to run over there and jump on Mitchell, then they're going to run over there and jump on Trey…

(Armalin Dep. at pp. 35-36). Armalin testified that when he told Officer Loth this information, Loth responded, “hey, man, I don't give a fuck. I'm about to quit anyway.” (Armalin Dep. at p. 36).

         After this conversation, Armalin testified that he went back to his room where Trey was sitting and the following events ensued:

…Eric Tracy is just going berserk. Oh, fuck you nigger. I'm tired of you niggers. This and that… So out of the blue, he just swung at [Mitch] and hit [Mitch] in the face…So [Mitch] folds up on the back gate and he was like getting ready to go down…I get up and I run down the hallway, like I'm fixing to run down the hallway. So I'm kind of in- between should I help [Mitch], like pick him up or should I just run straight and go get the officer.
So as I'm running towards the officer, [Travis and Eric], they both start beating up on Mitchell. So as I start running down the hallway, [Travis] turns around and just automatically started swinging, boom, boom, boom, boom, hitting me, hitting me. So that's when we start to fight.

(Armalin Dep. pp. 36-38). When asked further about the incident, Armalin ...

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