United States District Court, District of Wyoming
DAVID LEE JOHNSON and BRENDA JOHNSON, individually and as the Wrongful Death Co-Representatives of Hunter Lee Johnson, Deceased; and as the Duly appointed Administrators of the Probate Estate of Hunter Lee Johnson, Deceased, Plaintiffs,
THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE COUNTY OF LARAMIE, WYOMING, et al., Defendants.
ORDER ON MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
W. SKAVDAHL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Defendants Laramie
County, Wayne Graves, Glenna Hansen and Russell Martens'
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 92) and the
Individual Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 94). The Court, having considered the
briefs and materials submitted in support of the motions and
Plaintiffs' responses thereto, having heard oral argument
of counsel and being otherwise fully advised, FINDS and
ORDERS as follows:
1999, at the request of then-Sheriff of Laramie County Roger
Allsop following two incidents of suicide in the Spring of
that year, Judith Cox conducted an independent review and
critique of the suicide prevention practices at the Laramie
County jail. (See “Cox Report” at 1,
Pls.' Ex. 3-8, ECF No. 102-1.) The Cox Report set forth a
number of recommendations, including:
• Implement suicide screening protocol using essential
suicide screening indicators. Id. at 3.
• Continuous observation of suicidal inmates or, if
insufficient staff available, house inmate in a dormitory and
check every 10-15 minutes until an assessment of suicide
intent by a qualified mental health staff member determines
the inmate is not suicidal. Id. at 3, 4.
• Collaboration between medical and mental health staff
and security personnel to facilitate an interdisciplinary
approach to tracking high risk suicidal inmates. Id.
• Implement a protocol to encourage outside agencies and
families to report an inmate's suicide risk and to
consult with an inmate's treating mental health
professional if he/she is receiving mental health treatment.
• Enhanced suicide risk training of security personnel
and nurses. Id. at 4-5.
• Improved communication between medical and mental
health staff. Id. at 5.
• Mental health services should be made visible and have
routine hours of operation; increase mental health treatment,
planning and follow-up time for inmates with special needs;
expand mental health assessments to include a history of
psychiatric care, current psychotropic medications, history
of suicidal ideation and behavior, and drug or alcohol usage,
and psychiatric consultation in treatment planning decisions.
Id. at 6.
the Laramie County Sheriff's Department
(“LCSD”) has a policy entitled “Medical
Program Objectives” (Policy No. 08.18) which provides:
“Inmates will not be denied necessary medical services
for a serious medical need; medical, dental and mental health
matters involving clinical judgments are the sole provinces
of the jail physician, dentist and psychiatrist or qualified
psychologist respectively.” (Pls.' Ex. 3-5-B, ECF
No. 101-8 at 27.) Further, LCSD has a written policy that
covers suicide prevention, intervention, and behavior watch
procedures, which was in effect in 2015. (Ind. Defs.' Ex.
1, ECF No. 95-1) (“Suicide Policy”). As the
Suicide Policy states, all new inmates are to be screened at
intake “for current suicidal ideations, a history of
suicide attempts, and a history of mental health
counseling.” Id. at 1. Inmates who are
actively having suicidal ideations are placed on a 15-minute
watch in a central-booking cell. Id. at 1, 2. The
inmate will be placed in a safety smock and a watch log will
be initiated. Id. at 2. The jail's mental health
staff will then be notified. Id. at 3. Only the
mental health staff can end or modify a 15-minute watch.
Id. at 5. When the mental health staff does so, the
inmate will be placed on a 30-minute watch for at least 48
hours. Id. And only a member of the mental health
staff can end or modify a 30-minute watch and allow the
inmate's regular housing assignment. Id. at 6.
County Detention Center (“LCDC”) staff receives a
variety of training related to the Suicide Policy and mental
health risks generally. The jail captain, Michael Sorenson,
has attended formal trainings from national agencies
regarding suicide prevention in jails and also receives and
reviews monthly email updates from those agencies. (Sorenson
Dep. 22:11-14, 23:14-21, 24:1-9, Ind. Defs.' Ex. 9.) All
deputes upon hiring complete a three-and-a-half-week
orientation program that includes classes on suicide
prevention. Id. at 25:21-26:3. The new hires then
complete an eight-week field training program, where a deputy
who has already completed the training instructs the new hire
by example, and this process covers the jail's Suicide
Policy. Id. at 26:20-21, 27:12-28:1, 28:20-29:23.
Additionally, all jail staff receives an annual training on
mental health risks and suicide prevention. Id. at
30:14-25. This annual mental health training purposely occurs
sometime in the fall, prior to the holidays, because that is
a “high-stress” time for people, especially for
those arrested and separated from families. Id.
59:13-21; H. Johnson Dep. 7:10-8:10, Ind. Defs.' Ex. 11.
have been suicides in LCDC before; though, in the 16-plus
years that Defendant Danny Glick has been Sheriff, there have
been fewer than ten. (Glick Dep. 5:17, 46:6-14, Ind.
Defs.' Ex. 10.) Five of those occurred in 2015 and 2016.
Id. at 46:15-17. But, there have been many more
attempted suicides that were successfully stopped through
some form of prevention or intervention. See Id. at
46:21-23, 54:4-15; Sorensen Dep. 22:5-10 (25 to 30 attempted
suicides annually); H. Johnson Dep. 15:5-16:16; Weiland Dep.
16:22-18:12, Ind. Defs.' Ex. 12.
Wayne Graves is the Mental Health Services Coordinator for
LCSD. His responsibilities are “to plan, direct,
manage, and deliver psychological services with all
components of Laramie County Government, but primarily with
staff and Inmates of the Laramie County Sheriff's
Department.” (Pls.' Ex. 3-5-B, ECF No. 101-8.) His
essential duties include coordination of psychological
services to LCDC inmates with primary focus on providing
mental health services to jail staff and inmates, providing
psychological services to inmates, and assessment and
management of inmates with active suicidal behaviors.
Id. at 1.
December of 2015, LCDC mental health staff consisted of
Glenna Hansen and Russ Martens, who Graves supervised. Graves
has a Master of Social Work degree and is a Licensed Clinical
Social Worker. (Graves Dep. 9:2-3, 11:21-12:7, County Ex.
13.) Martens has bachelor's degrees in psychology and
sociology and a master's degree in clinical psychology.
(Martens Dep. 7:9-22, County Ex. 12.) Prior to working at
LCDC, Martens worked for ten years at the Arapahoe County
Jail in Arapahoe County, Colorado as a classification officer
and member of the mental health staff. Id. at
8:9-9:9. At the time relevant to these proceedings, Martens
was working as a provisionally licensed professional
counselor under the supervision of Graves and other private
clinical supervisors. Id. at 11:7-25; Graves Dep.
28:16-32:16. Hansen has a master's degree in counselor
education and is a licensed mental health counselor. (Hansen
Dep. 9:2-6, Pls.' Ex. 10.)
Friday, December 18, 2015, 19-year-old Hunter Johnson,
believing he was going to start outpatient treatment for
alcohol the following Monday, went out for a “last
hurrah.” (D. Johnson Dep. 59:17-60:10, County Ex. 1,
ECF No. 93-1.) At approximately 1:23 a.m. on Saturday,
December 19, 2015, Cheyenne Police Department
(“CPD”) officers JoAnne Young and Lisa Koeppel
responded to a call at the Walmart in Cheyenne where an
intoxicated Hunter was causing a disturbance. (Young Dep.
16:22-17:8, County Ex. 2; CPD Incident Report, County Ex. 3.)
Hunter's parents, David and Brenda Johnson, were also
present at the Walmart having been notified by a third party
of Hunter's whereabouts. (D. Johnson Dep. 57:16-24.)
Hunter's parents were observing Hunter, who was inside
the Walmart, from the entrance vestibule, when Officers Young
and Koeppel arrived. Id. at 57:25-59:11. David
Johnson told the officers about Hunter's alcohol and
depression issues and warned them they might need backup to
arrest his son. Id. at 59:12-60:18.
the officers made contact with Hunter inside the Walmart, he
was informed he was under arrest, he resisted, and he was
taken to the ground and handcuffed. (Young Dep. 17:7-18:5.) A
bottle of beer was found in his coat pocket. (Young Dep.
18:6; County Ex. 3.) As the officers escorted Hunter from the
Walmart, Hunter saw his parents and began to curse and yell
at them. (Young Dep. 18:23-25; County Ex. 3.) Once outside,
Hunter again began resisting and tried to get away from the
officers, at which point he was taken to the ground a second
time. (Young Dep. 18:25-19:15; County Ex. 3.) Hunter, again
cursing and yelling at his parents, continued to resist the
officers by kicking his legs violently. (Young Dep.
23:17-27:21; County Ex. 3.) At about this point during the
altercation, Hunter indicated he was suicidal and demanded he
be taken to the hospital. (Young Dep. 28:4-18.) Eventually,
Hunter was restrained using a WRAP device and placed in a
patrol car. Id. at 33:1-2. Hunter then forcefully
banged his head against the door window of the patrol car two
to four times so he was placed in a sparring helmet.
Id. at 33:5-19, 37:13-38:13; County Ex. 3. Because
Hunter continued to hit his now padded head against the
window, he was removed from the patrol car for eventual
transport to the LCDC by ambulance strapped to a gurney.
(Young Dep. 33:17-24, 41:9-22; County Ex. 3.) While waiting
for the ambulance, David Johnson informed the arresting
officers his son had been subject to previous emergency
detentions. (Young Dep. 28:25-30:22, 41:23-42:8, 43:7-19.)
Hunter was charged with breach of the peace, interference
with a peace officer, and being a minor under the influence
of alcohol. (County Ex. 3.)
was booked into LCDC at approximately 2:30 a.m. December 19,
2015. (Laramie County Sheriff's Department Strip Search
Report, County Ex. 5.) At that time, he signed a form
authorizing the release of his health care information from
Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. (Pls.' Ex. 3-4, ECF No.
101-6 at 212.) The arresting officer, Jo Young, completed the
upper portion of LCDC's “Inmate Screening
Form” indicating Hunter had made suicidal statements
and informed the detention center booking officer, Deputy
Kemp, of the same. (Young Dep. 56:24-59:8, 64:18-65:23;
County Ex. 6.) Deputy Kemp placed Hunter in a safety suit,
put him on a 15-minute close watch, and notified the mental
health staff of the situation. (Close Watch Report, County Ex.
7, ECF No. 93-7 at 6; Kemp Dep. 32:4-9, County Ex. 4.) Hunter
was observed every 12-13 minutes until he was cleared from
the 15-minute watch at 1:11 p.m. that same day by LCDC mental
health staff member Russell Martens, who noted Hunter denied
any suicidal ideations. (County Ex. 7 at 8-10 (watch log),
this December 19th meeting with Martens, Hunter further
denied ever telling the arresting officer he was
suicidal and denied any history of suicidal
ideations. (Martens' notes, Ind. Defs.' Ex. 5.)
Hunter acknowledged his misbehavior during his arrest and
asked how long he would have to be in jail, because he was
scheduled to start rehab in a week. Id. Hunter also
asked for normal clothes and a phone call. Id.
Martens found Hunter to be “future oriented, ”
polite, and cooperative. Id. Martens cleared Hunter
from the 15-minute watch, placed him on a 30-minute follow-up
watch, and approved him for regular clothes. Id.
(See also Martens Dep. 22:2, Ind. Defs.' Ex. 15;
Ind. Defs.' Ex. 4 at 11-16 (second watch log); Kemp Dep.
45:3-14, 46:10-15; Pls.' Ex. 31-13 at 40.)
days later, on December 21, 2015, at approximately 2:56 p.m.,
Glenna Hansen interviewed Hunter and removed him from the
suicide watch. (Hansen's Progress Notes, Ind. Defs.'
Ex. 6 at 3.) Hansen recorded the following from her
Inmate Johnson was on a 30 min follow-up watch. He presented
as groggy as he had just woken up. He reported that he was
coping with his situation. His court got moved to tomorrow
and he hopes he gets out then. He denies suicidal
ideation and denies any difficulty eating or sleeping.
He is future-oriented. Inmate Johnson presented as stable, no
SI. Discontinue watch, schedule for follow-up visits.
Id. (emphasis added). Although Hunter had a history
of mental health issues, Hansen testified an inmate's
mental health history is not the decisive factor; the
determination whether to end a mental health watch is based
on the inmate's “current situation, current
behavior, [and] current statements.” (Hansen Dep.
79:10-11, Ind. Defs.' Ex. 16.) “We can't say .
. . a person was suicidal last week, so we have to keep them
on a watch[.]” Id. at 79:12-14. Given her
meeting with Hunter, Hansen felt it was appropriate to end
Hunter's 30-minute watch and allow him to be placed in a
regular cell. (Hansen Dep. 65:13-66:19; Ind. Defs.' Ex. 4
at 11, 16.) However, while Hunter was taken off a 30- minute
mental health watch, the jail's medical staff
had separately put Hunter on a 30-minute medical
watch for alcohol withdrawal. (Stephens Dep. 60:13-16, Ind.
Defs.' Ex. 17.)
next day, December 22, 2015, Hunter appeared in Circuit Court
for his initial hearing on the charges stemming from his
December 19th arrest. (Davis Dep. 15:3-14, Ind. Defs.'
Ex. 20.) Brian Davis and Jesse Ward were sheriff's
deputies working court security that day. Id. Near
the end of the hearing, Hunter told the judge he wanted to go
home. (Ward Dep. 13:18-20, Ind. Defs.' Ex. 21.) He then
turned away from the judge and began moving toward the door
as if he was going to walk out of the courtroom, rather than
go to the courtroom holding area that led back to the jail.
(Ward Dep. 13:20-22; Davis Dep. 19:15-20:5.) Davis
intercepted Hunter, put his hand on Hunter's arm, and
escorted him back to the holding area. (Davis Dep. 20:6-17;
Ward Dep. 14:3-7.) Hunter was “kind of pulling
against” Davis as the two went back to the holding
area. (Ward Dep. 14:8-9.) Ward followed them into the holding
area to assist. Id. at 14:10. At that point, Hunter
began wrestling with the officers. Id. at
15:22-16:11. After a struggle, the deputies were able to get
Hunter on the ground and handcuffed. Id. at
16:11-21, 25:12-14. Hunter was helped to his feet but
continued to pull away, so Davis employed a wristlock to gain
compliance. Id. at 17:7-14. The deputies escorted
Hunter back to the jail, to a holding cell in booking, and
then returned to the courtroom. Id. at 17:19-18:8.
Neither deputy considered Hunter's actions suicidal.
(Davis Dep. 36:18-24; Ward Dep. 27:25-28:14.) Davis had put
inmates on a suicide watch “easily . . . a couple
hundred times.” (Davis Dep. 36:6-12.) As Ward
I saw outward anger. I saw it directed toward us. And
I've seen that before with other inmates. And other
people that did not like the results that they got from the
judge. And that did not result in a suicide attempt. But I
saw outward anger . . . directed toward us, not what I would
consider an inner anger that's self-directed and/or . . .
(Ward Dep. 28:4-12.)
Stephens was the jail's shift supervisor on December 22,
2015 when Hunter returned from court. (Stephens Dep. 48:16,
51:18-21.) Davis “radioed ahead” to Stephens that
he was bringing Hunter to B pod; Stephens responded the jail
did not have room in B pod, so she advised Davis to take
Hunter to booking until she could make some room in B pod.
Id. at 51:22-52:3. When Hunter and the deputies
arrived at booking, Davis explained Hunter had tried to walk
out of court and resisted when the deputies tried to put him
in handcuffs and escort him back to the jail. Id. at
52:5-8. B-pod contains the jail's single occupancy,
segregation cells meant for inmates who present a safety and
security risk or have attempted an escape. Id. at
47:7-12; Martens Dep. 38:18-20. Because there was not an open
cell in B-pod when Hunter returned from court, Stephens
placed him in a booking cell at approximately 11:01 a.m.,
until staff could relocate an inmate and open a space.
(Stephens Dep. 54:23-24; County Ex. 22, Time Stamp 11:01
received a sack lunch at about 11:06 a.m. (Pls.' Ex. 34,
Holding Cell Video, Time Stamp 11:06 a.m.) At noon, Stephens
looked into Hunter's cell and observed him standing on
the toilet and putting something into the vent. Id.
at 12:00:09 p.m. Stephens requested another deputy retrieve
the keys and remove all trash from the cell, which was done.
Id. at 12:00:39. Also at one point, Stephens noticed
Hunter was sitting and crying, so she called mental health
staff to check on him and “clear him to go to B
pod.” (Stephens Dep. 53:2-3, 56:3-5, 60:4-9.) Stephens
did not put Hunter on a suicide watch herself because,
although Hunter's behavior was concerning enough to
involve the mental health staff, it did not necessarily
indicate Hunter was suicidal. Id. at 61:2-62:6,
71:23-72:9. Stephens advised the mental health staff member
who came to talk to Hunter, Russ Martens, that she was
planning to put Hunter in B-pod and wanted to get mental
health's clearance for that. Id. at 75:19-24;
Martens Dep. 34:4-7.
Flint-Baker was another deputy working the booking area on
December 22, 2015. (Flint-Baker Dep. 7:9-12, 15:5, Ind.
Defs.' Ex. 19.) Part of her job was to check on inmates
in the booking cells at least twice per hour, but she tended
to do her “watch rotations” every 12 to 13
minutes and recalls doing so that day. Id. at 16:10,
16:25-17:3, 18:5-6, 21:25-22:18. During those rounds, Deputy
Flint-Baker spoke briefly with Hunter; he asked if he was
going to court again and when he was going home, but she did
not know. Id. at 42:7-16, 43:24-25, 44:11-12.
Flint-Baker never saw Hunter crying, acting unusual, or
appearing upset. Id. at 16:16-24, 43:16-18. She was
aware Hunter had been on suicide watch earlier and then
cleared. Id. at 19:14-19, 20:15-21. And she was
aware of Hunter's outburst in court. Id. at
15:3. She also remembers contacting mental health staff to
clear Hunter for B-pod. Id. at 25:14-18, 26:8-16,
after noon, Hunter again met with mental health provider Russ
Martens while still in a holding cell in the booking area of
the jail. (Stephens Dep. 65:7-13; Martens Dep.
33:19-34:34:3.) Martens talked with Hunter for some 22
minutes. (See County Ex. 26, Time Stamp
12:03-12:25.) Regarding this meeting, Martens noted:
Inmate was seen in CBO after he “went off in
court” Inmate appeared calm “I don't want to
be here” “I told them that they could have a
deputy stay in my room at home and I could be released”
“I don't think I have a problem” Inmate
stated a [history] of bipolar disorder, depression, ADHD.
Inmate denied any current [suicidal ideation]. Inmate stated
that he cannot read[.] He presents as if he may be
developmentally delayed[;] he was in special ed during
school. He graduated without being able to read. ...