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Amaro v. Kirk

United States District Court, D. Delaware

May 12, 2017

ERIC AMARO, Plaintiff,
NEAL KIRK, et al., Defendants.

          Eric Amaro, James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware. Pro se Plaintiff.

          Stuart B. Drowos, Deputy Attorney General, Delaware Department of Justice, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendants.




         Plaintiff Eric Amaro ("plaintiff"), an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("VCC"), Smyrna, Delaware, proceeds pro se and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. When he commenced this action, plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the Sussex Correctional Institution ("SCI"), Georgetown, Delaware. Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on October 26, 2015 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (D.I. 2) Presently before the court are several motions filed by the parties including motions to preserve evidence, request for counsel, and defendants' motion for summary judgment. (D.I. 40, 44, 49, 54) The court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.


         A. The Complaint

         The complaint alleges that, on August 20, 2015, following an altercation between correctional officers and inmate James Hight ("Hight"), plaintiff's tier was on lockdown. (D.I. 1) While on lockdown, defendant Kirk Neal ("Neal")[1] came to plaintiff's cell and ordered him to open the door. Plaintiff alleges that Neal threatened him and plaintiff told Neal that he had done nothing to deserve the way Neal was speaking to him. Plaintiff alleges that Neal grabbed him by the shirt, punched him, and scratched his neck. Plaintiff was ordered to stay in his cell until the 4 to 12 shift officers arrived. Plaintiff alleges that he was denied medical care prior to the time the 4 to 12 shift officers arrived.

         Following the incident, plaintiff submitted a grievance. He alleges that after he submitted the grievance, he was fired from his job by defendant Cpl. Amos Callaway ("Callaway"). In addition, Neal told plaintiff that he had obtained plaintiff's address and threatened plaintiff that "whatever [plaintiff] did to his family in jail, . . . they would take it out on [plaintiff's] family in the street." Plaintiff also alleges that Callaway and Neal yelled out plaintiff's address and his girlfriend's name

         B. Facts as Presented by the Parties

         Incident reports indicate that on August 20, 2015, after inmate Hight took a cordless phone from C/O Adam Scott's ("Scott") desk, Scott ordered Hight to return the phone and to "lock in." (D.I. 55-1 at 2, 6, 10) C/O Janusiewicz ("Janusiewicz"), Callaway, and C/O Colby Steele ("Steele") responded to the housing unit, [2] entered Hight's cell, secured him in handcuffs, and escorted him from the tier. (Id.)

         The same day, plaintiff submitted a grievance stating that Neal had "put his hands" on him, scratched his neck, and punched him in the face. (D.I. 56 at 7) Plaintiff asked to press charges and stated that he was afraid for his life. (Id.) The grievance is marked received August 25, 2015 and was either returned or unprocessed. (D.I. 55-1 at 14) The grievance was forwarded to investigator Kendall Hickman ("Hickman"). (Id. at 14-15) Plaintiff submitted four other grievances regarding the matter. (D.I. 56 at 8-12) Plaintiff was told that the matter was being investigated but, as of March 14, 2016, he had not been told the results of the investigation. (Id. at 12)

         Hickman investigated the matter and prepared an undated administrative investigation report received at the SCI's warden office on September 8, 2015. (D.I. 55-1 at 19-21) Hickman interviewed plaintiff on August 25, 2015, who told him that after Hight had been removed from his cell, Neal returned to pack up Hight's personal items and grabbed plaintiff by his shirt (like a hockey fight) when plaintiff would not hold the door.[3] (Id. at 20) The report states that plaintiff did not mention injuries or having pictures taken.

         The report states that Steele was present during the time plaintiff claims he was assaulted by Neal. (Id. at 20) Steele stated that he was downstairs when Neal went upstairs to pack Hight's personal items and at no time did Neal assault plaintiff. (Id.) The report concludes that Hight and plaintiff could have fabricated the story once Hight was returned to the cell he shared with plaintiff. (Id. at 21) Hickman found no evidence to support any use of force violations by prison staff. (Id.)

         Inmate Quentin Jones' ("Jones") statement, dated August 20, 2015, states that when Neal demanded that plaintiff hold the door to cell 322, and plaintiff responded "that's not how you talk to people, " Neal grabbed plaintiff around the front collar of his shirt, shoved plaintiff against the upstair guard rail, and told plaintiff to do what he said. (D.I. 56 at 16) At that point Steele told plaintiff to "hush" and "just do what he says do." (Id.) Neal then let plaintiff go into the cell to gather Hight's belongings.[4] (Id.)

         Inmate John Hellstern's ("Hellstern") February 25, 2017 unsigned statement states that Neal asked Scott to open cell 322, and Neal "went rogue" on plaintiff. (D.I. 56 at 18) According to Hellstern, Neal started to punch plaintiff "on what seem[ed] the neck and face area." (Id.) Neal then went into the cell and took ...

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