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King v. Spears

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

February 14, 2019

JOHN R. KING, Plaintiff,



         Pro se plaintiff John R. King is proceeding in this civil action on Fourteenth Amendment claims against Dane County Sheriff Officers Robert Spears, Brant Foltman, David Walker, Brandi Anderson, Sydney Bryant and Kyle McNally for allegedly entering his cell and assaulting him on December 30, 2015. Currently before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. #45.) Because the audio and video footage of this incident removes virtually all material disputes as to what actually occurred during this cell extraction, the court finds that a reasonable finder of fact would have to conclude that defendants' actions were objectively reasonable. Accordingly, the court will grant defendants' motion and enter judgment in their favor.


         I. Parties

         As of December 30, 2015, John King was being held at the Dane County Jail. At the time, defendant Kyle McNally was a Sergeant and defendants Robert Spears, Brant Foltman, Derrick Walker, Brandi Anderson, and Sydney Bryant were working as Sheriff's Deputies at the Jail.

         II. Dane County Jail Policies and Procedures

         At booking, Dane County Jail inmates all receive an Inmate Handbook (“Handbook”), which outlines the jail's policies and procedures. Among other things, the Handbook directs inmates to be aware of the “Rules of the Jail, ” including the requirement that inmates obey all rules and follow all staff directions. Those Rules explicitly prohibit inmates from fighting, acting in a disorderly manner, and threatening to harm jail staff or other inmates. Inmates also must cooperate with staff when being transferred within the jail, and they may not deface or damage items in their cells. Finally, the rules prohibit inmates from obstructing the view into their cells.

         Under certain circumstances, Dane County Jail Policy 604.04 provides that staff may enter cells and extract inmates, including when necessary for self-defense or the defense of others, “prevention of self-harm, prevention of escape, to change the location of a prisoner, or prevention of destruction of property.” (Def. Ex. 4 (dkt. #46-4).) Dane County Jail deputies receive training on cell entries and extractions. To initiate a cell entry or extraction, a deputy must first obtain authorization from a supervisor, and the supervisor must remain present during the deployment of the team. When available, the entry team consists of: (1) entry person one, (2) entry person two, (3) team leader, (4) handcuff deputy, (5) equipment deputy and (6) video camera operator. With the exception of the video camera operator, each member of the entry team must wear a protective vest, jumpsuit, elbow pads, kneepads, helmet and a gas mask.

         Before conducting a cell entry, Policy 604.04 also provides that the team leader must conduct a negotiation with the inmate, providing specific and direct instructions. If the inmate persists in failing to comply with verbal instructions, then the team may conduct a cell entry.

         III. King's History at the Dane County Jail Prior to December 30, 2015

         King is 6'3” and weighs approximately 215 pounds. Since 2000, he has been incarcerated at the Dane County Jail on multiple occasions, the most recent time before this incident began on June 22, 2015, after King had been arrested for a number of charges related to domestic abuse.[2] See State v. King, Case No. 2015CF1305 (Dane Cty. filed June 26, 2015), available at (last visited Jan. 2, 2019). At that time, King also had fraud and forgery charges pending against him in another criminal matter in Outagamie County. See State v. King, Case No. 2015CF0007 (filed Jan. 5, 2015), available at (last visited Jan. 15, 2019).

         Beyond his criminal charges, King had already been involved in an altercation with Dane County Jail Deputies in October of 2015, which resulted in staff tasing and placing him in a restraint chair. That altercation also led to King being charged with battery to law enforcement officers and resisting an officer, both as a repeat offender, on December 22, 2015, just days before the incident at issue in this case. See State v. King, Case No. 2015CF2740 (Dane Cty. filed Dec. 22, 2015), available at (last visited Jan. 15, 2019).

         IV. December 30, 2015, Cell Extraction

         On December 30, 2015, King was being held at the jail in an administrative confinement cellblock used to house inmates with behavioral issues or other problems that make general population inappropriate. That same day, another inmate in King's cellblock, Sydney Coleman, was to be transferred to a disciplinary cellblock after he allegedly committed several rule violations and caused a disturbance, including threatening Deputy Foltman. When Coleman refused to follow instructions related to his transfer, multiple deputies came to the cellblock to assist.

         As fate would have it, King's cell was next to Coleman's, and as the deputies attempted to transfer Coleman, King became agitated and started speaking loudly directly to the deputies, eventually yelling profanities at them and barricading his cell door with his mattress. King agrees that these actions violated jail policies but insists that he did so “to protect his well-being.”

         From defendants' perspective, King's involvement only worsened Coleman's disturbance by agitating him. As a result, the deputies decided that King should be moved to another cell as well. At that point, King requested that a camera be brought into the cell block before he would consider complying with any order of the deputies. Deputy Foltman then left the cellblock to request a cell extraction team, which Sergeant McNally approved. More specifically, McNally agreed that King should be moved to a disciplinary cell with a solid door, based on King's disruptive and potentially violent behavior, and the fact that the cellblock doors are made of steel bars.[3]

         Accordingly, multiple deputies met in the equipment room to be briefed about King and to plan the cell extraction. During the meeting, King's history of fighting with deputies was discussed. Therefore, defendants decided that Oleoresin Capsicum (“OC”) spray would first be deployed to try to gain King's compliance before the deputies entered the cell. The team also decided to have one deputy record the events using a jail-issued GoPro video camera.

         When the cell extraction team returned to the cellblock, they confirmed that King had barricaded his cell bars using his mattress. Despite the deputies ordering King to lay down in his cell, he refused. Then Deputy Walker approached the blocked cell door, and he specifically warned King that “if you do not lay down, I will spray you with OC spray.” (Elve Aff., Ex. 2 (dkt. #46-2) 10; see also Walker Aff. (dkt. #50) ¶ 5.)[4] At that point, King had wrapped a shirt around both his face (to block the spray), and around his rib cage (to protect him from bodily harm). In response to Walker's directive, King also responded “spray that shit, ” while pressing the mattress against his cell door. Walker then deployed the OC ...

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