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BLAIR-EL v. TINSMAN

July 31, 1987

THOMAS BLAIR-EL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MAX TINSMAN AND JERRY FRIEMAN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stiehl, District Judge:

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This cause was heard by the Court sitting without a jury. Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 52(a), the Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:

INTRODUCTION

The plaintiff, Thomas Blair-El, was an inmate at Menard Correctional Center, and at all times in question was confined to the segregation unit. This unit is limited to inmates who have committed major infractions of the rules and regulations of the correctional center, and is comprised of long galleries of 44 single-inmate cells in two tiers. The plaintiff was housed at the end of 6 gallery in cell 44, the cell farthest from the guard station. Located in the cell next to the plaintiff was Johnny Brown, who was known to suffer from asthma. The tier of cells above 6 gallery is known as 8 gallery.

Plaintiff alleges that his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment was violated when he was sprayed with C/S gas late on the morning of December 5, 1975 by defendants Max Tinsman and Jerry Frieman, correctional officers at Menard. Plaintiff asserts that around 9:00 A.M. on December 5, Brown suffered an asthma attack, and that Brown then asked him to call the guard at the end of the gallery to bring Brown's asthma medicine. Blair-El alleges that in response to his calling for medical attention for Brown, defendants arrived at his cell with a canister of C/S gas. Plaintiff in his complaint alleges that he was sprayed without warning by defendants, resulting in painful burns on his body, rendering him unconscious and causing him to be taken from his cell and treated at the hospital.

FINDINGS OF FACT

The Court finds that the following events occurred:

The correctional officers determined that the chanting on the morning of December 5th was being generated from 6 gallery. Lt. Hartman went to the area of 6 gallery to check the nature of the disturbance. Hartman did so as a member of the tactical staff, in an attempt to resolve the problem. When he was half-way down the gallery he realized that 8 gallery was also involved. Hartman went up to 8 gallery to check the disturbance. He approached the cell of Alfred Morgan-Bey, talked with him, told him to quiet down, and then walked down 8 gallery.

Hartman then went to the Assistant Warden's office and advised him of the occurrences. The Assistant Warden advised Hartman to go to the armory and draw chemical agents. Hartman was trained in the use of chemical agents and weapons. Hartman left the canisters containing chemical agents at the front gallery, out of the inmates' line of vision. By this time, at least 15-20 inmates in 6 and 8 galleries were involved in the chanting. Hartman returned to 8 gallery, and warned Morgan-Bey to stop the chanting or chemical agents would be used against him. (Approximately thirty minutes had elapsed by this point.) The chanting in both galleries grew in volume and numbers, and in response, Hartman returned to Morgan-Bey's cell carrying the chemical agent. Hartman could hear Blair-El's voice from 6 gallery while he was standing before Morgan-Bey's cell. He heard plaintiff repeatedly yelling "Blackstone," the name of a prison gang.

When Hartman retrieved the canisters from the front of the gallery, he sent defendants Tinsman and Frieman to 6 gallery to stop the disturbance there. Lt. Tinsman started questioning the inmates as to the nature of the problem, and soon realized that plaintiff wanted to act as the spokesman. Tinsman talked with Blair-El about the problem until he "lost contact with him." Plaintiff then started hollering for other inmates on both 6 and 8 gallery. Blair-El was yelling that officers were on the gallery with gas. Tinsman warned plaintiff that they were going to spray him if he did not stop the disturbance. Immediately thereafter, plaintiff threatened to get Tinsman "and his people." Frieman was present throughout the conversation, and corroborated that Blair-El had threatened Tinsman's family. Tinsman made it clear to plaintiff what would happen to him if he did not stop the chanting and yelling. Tinsman made several attempts to quiet Blair-El, and in response to his refusal to stop his chanting, Tinsman instructed Frieman to administer the gas to Blair-El.

Plaintiff was the only member of 6 gallery to be sprayed. The spraying Blair-El received only lasted a few seconds. The C/S gas canister empties its contents in 9 seconds and the canister was not emptied when Blair-El was sprayed. Frieman was wearing a gas mask, through which he could talk, during the incident. Tinsman stood next to Frieman directly in front of the cell, but was not masked. At the time of the incident, Tinsman had had more than 20 years service as a correctional officer, and Blair-El was the first inmate he ever found it necessary to spray.

Immediately after the gas was sprayed, Frieman assisted Tinsman in ventilating the gallery by opening the window located directly across from plaintiff's cell and turning on the 38" blade fan in the gallery. Six more windows in the area of the gassing were also opened. Plaintiff was then offered medical treatment by Tinsman, but refused the treatment. Other inmates needing treatment were taken to the hospital immediately after the gassing. Tinsman authorized Blair-El to be taken from his cell and showered.


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