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Former Muscogee County Jail inmate suing city officials for cruel and unusual punishment

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Cortney Jackson, a former Muscogee County Jail inmate suing city officials for cruel and unusual punishment, was staying in a dormitory for mentally ill inmates when he was beaten and stunned repeatedly with a Taser by correctional employees, according to records from the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office.

The Ledger-Enquirer obtained video cam footage, as well as incident and use-of-force reports, of the June 29, 2016 incident from officials through an open records request submitted to City Attorney Clifton Fay.

Jackson, who had been at the jail for two years, was released unexpectedly Thursday when the video was made public, according to his attorneys.

The video footage shows correctional officers and deputies grabbing and punching Jackson frantically while he was naked in HD Cell 7, reserved for inmates on suicide watch. They stunned him 10 times, the Taser making loud clicking sounds with each surge of energy.

At one point, correctional employees put a white spit bag over Jackson’s head, as he sat on the floor seemingly in a daze, his mouth oozing with blood. A tooth was knocked out, according to reports from the Sheriff’s Office, and officers restrained him using leg shackles and handcuffs during the altercation.

On July 18, 2016, Major T. Culpepper described the use of force as extensive and “outside of policy under most circumstances.” He recommended better training for staff to avoid such situations in the future.

Though the incident occurred before she was in office, Sheriff Donna Tompkins said Friday that video cam footage doesn’t always capture the full story and the public needs to be careful drawing conclusions about the incident.

In the video footage obtained by the Ledger-Enquirer, Jackson appears fairly subdued and putting up little resistance, except during the moments when his body stiffened or he tried pulling away as the guards tried to stun him.

But in their reports regarding the incident, officers and deputies wrote that Jackson had flooded his cell via the toilet multiple times that week, and he had been removed so his cell could be cleaned. Once escorted back to HD-7, Jackson refused to comply with verbal commands and became aggressive and violent towards the officers, according to official reports.

“Inmate Jackson then stepped up onto the bench in the cell and was beginning to try and fight all the officers in the cell,” wrote Deputy Brian Davis in his report. Officers managed to get Jackson off the bench and on his knees, removing handcuffs from both hands. But he continued to resist, according to Davis’ account of the incident, and more officers were called in.

When Davis and another officer tried to leave the cell, Jackson grabbed them by their shirts, according to the report. Multiple verbal commands were given and he would not comply.

“At this point, several closed fist strikes were delivered to inmate Jackson’s head, face abdomen and ribs,” Davis wrote. “Due to his continuous combative and aggressive behavior, C.O. Gilliland attempted to drive stun using the CEW (Controlled Electronic Weapon). The CEW had no effect and the subject, as he attempted to grab the CEW from C.O. Gilliland. A second CEW and all available officers were called for.

“… Once multiple officers and another CEW arrived, they entered the cell and at that point a second CEW was deployed at this time,” Davis continued. “Contact was made and he eventually let go of me. Once he released his grip, I was then pulled from the cell by other officers as others moved into the cell to restrain him.”

The footage the Ledger-Enquirer received didn’t show Jackson being combative. It started with him already subdued by officers.

Eventually, the officers and deputies placed Jackson in a restraint chair where he was given a shot and then taken to the jail clinic for observation. Sixty-one minutes later he went back to his cell.

Jackson’s family and attorneys said the officers and deputies gave him Haldol, a medicine for schizophrenia.

Response from family

On July 5, 2016, Jackson’s sister, Chasity Lee, a resident of Birmingham, Ala., sent a letter to then Sheriff John Darr and other officials expressing concern about how her brother was being treated at the jail.

“… No one has seen him since an altercation that happened on Saturday, June 25th,” she wrote. “A worker with the NAACP has went to the jail to see him, with permission from Sheriff Darr and he was denied the visit. I am asking you to please help my brother and stop the attacks that is inflicted on him by jail guards.”

Lee said the family had spoken to nurses, doctors and the jail warden about her brother’s condition, and they all said Jackson was fine with no physical injuries.

She said it was another inmate who called and informed her that her brother was stunned with a Taser and injured.

“Also, I want to know why a doctor introduces such strong psychotic drugs to my brother without knowing his health history,” she wrote. “My mother and I are also asking to visit Cortney. The doctor stated he has not spoken since the altercation date listed above. We are in need of help and beg you to please help us, this has already gotten worse.’

Jackson, 21, was arrested Feb. 2, 2016, and charged with obstruction of a law enforcement officer, theft by receiving stolen property and pedestrian darting into traffic, according to information on the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office website. He was incarcerated at the jail for two years and released unexpectedly on Thursday, according to his attorneys.

He is being represented by Mark Shelnutt, a Columbus attorney, and Meghan Garcia, an attorney with a Birmingham-based law firm, living in Atlanta.

Last month, Shelnutt filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Jackson’s behalf, seeking redress for the “deprivation of rights guaranteed by the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.”

Defendants listed in the case are the Columbus Consolidated Government, City of Columbus, Muscogee County Sheriff’s Department, Muscogee County Jail and West Central Regional Hospital, as well as individual correctional officers, deputies, a doctor and nurse involved in the alleged incidents.

The June 29, 2016 incident occurred three days after Jackson asked for a psychiatrist in another incident during which he was stunned with a Taser. At the time of both incidents, he was under suicide watch because of a suicide attempt when he first entered the jail on Feb. 2, 2016, according to authorities.

In that situation, officers found Jackson at the top tier of a second floor cell with one end of a bed roll wrapped around his neck and the other end wrapped around the bars, according to an incident report.

Response from sheriff

On Friday, Sheriff Donna Tompkins said incidents referred to in the lawsuit occurred under the previous administration and she wasn’t aware of the details until contacted by the Ledger-Enquirer.

“Supposedly there’s litigation. I don’t know,” she said. “We have not been served with anything, me or any of my officers that I’m aware of. But I certainly wouldn’t want to endanger them by making any unwise comments about any of them.

 

NO VIDEO CAPTURES YOUR FEELINGS, OR WHAT YOU SEE, OR YOUR PERCEPTION AT THAT MOMENT. I’VE SEEN TOO MANY VIDEOS TO KNOW THAT THAT JUST MAY NOT ALWAYS BE EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE SEEING.

Sheriff Donna Tompkins

“… But I will say this,” the sheriff continued. “No video captures your feelings, or what you see, or your perception at that moment. I’ve seen too many videos to know that that just may not always be exactly what you’re seeing.”

She used Jackson being naked on the video as an example.

“One of the things that I do know from looking at some if it: the fact that he was naked, he has clothes, he just didn’t put them on,” she said. “We give everyone down there a smock. It’s a green suicide smock, that’s what’s issued from our mental health people. … I can’t make you wear it if you won’t wear it.”

Reports: officers injured

In his use-of force report, Correctional Officer Jerald Gilliland wrote that he struck Jackson with a closed fist when the inmate attempted to bite him. He said the spit bag was placed over his head because multiple officers were bitten.

“Once the mask was applied to Inmate Jackson, he calmed down a little,” he wrote.

Gilliland attempted to stun Jackson with a CEW, according to a report written by Corporal Robert Denney. Jackson tried to take the weapon from him.

“I then kicked inmate Jackson on his right side multiple times until he released the CEW,” Denney wrote. “Jackson was then brought down to the ground in attempt to roll him over to be handcuffed. Jackson continued to fight the officers and refused all commands given.

“The CEW was deployed and contact was made,” Denney continued in his report. “I became tangled up in the wires during the fight. I was tased multiple times during the fight trying to get Jackson to roll over. All officers then attempted to back out of the cell while tasing inmate Jackson under power. I was the last one out attempting to leave the cell. Inmate Jackson jumped up at the end of the 5 second cycle. He came at me and got me in a headlock. I reached for his testicles and squeezed them until he released me. Inmate Jackson was then brought to the ground and shackled.”

Deputy Kimberly White wrote that she struck Jackson multiple times with her feet until he released his hold on Denney.

Deputy Stephanie Bowers wrote: “Once the new C.E.W. arrived, I grabbed it and yelled, “Taser Taser” and deployed the CEW after a connection was made.”

Cortney Jackson Still4

She said Jackson continued to resist. “At some point during this struggle, Lieutenant Trotter was pushed backwards and fell and his head hit the concrete bench and he began to bleed from his head. I yelled for officers to get Lieutenant Trotter out of the cell. Due to the inmate continuously resisting and fighting with officers, the inmate was tased several more times.”

A few officers were treated for minor injuries related to the incident, according to official reports.

On July 1, 2016 ,Captain Glenda Hall issued a statement to jail administrators.

“On today’s date I spoke with Deputy Stephanie Bowers regarding the (Use of Force) involving Inmate Courtney Jackson on June 29, 2016,” she wrote. “Deputy Bowers deployed the CEW multiple times in an effort to gain control and compliance from Inmate Jackson. The CEW did not faze the inmate and did not stop his combative actions towards the officers. I asked Deputy Bowers to please recognize for any future (Use of Force) incidents the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of the CEW. Basically if the CEW is not effective after a few attempts, to go to a different method for control and compliance. Deputy Bowers said she understood.”

Use of Force Report

On July 18, 2016, Major T. Culpepper summarized a Use of Force Report received by the Office of Professional Standards for Darr.

“The Use of Force submitted along with documentation was extensive and outlined what seemed to have been a serious force event where Inmate Jackson combatively engaged multiple officers,” he wrote. “The report details of the resistance and aggression against the deputies and officers were such that some of the deputies and officers reported they used numerous hard hand strikes with both fist and feet, and the deployment of E.C.W. (Electronic Control Weapon)was used on Inmate Jackson an estimated ten (10) times which is outside of policy under most circumstances.”

Culpepper recommended Bowers receive “refresher training regarding E.C.W. deployment when the results are not effective against the party it is being used on.”

In addition, “It is my observation that a best practices approach of having inmate Jackson examined by an independent medical staff at one of the hospitals instead of the Jail Clinic may have been a more prudent action considering the following reasons: number of strikes received by Inmate Jackson to the face and head area, i.e., tooth knocked loose, estimated possible seventy (70) seconds of off and on E.C.W. current, mental state of Courtney Jackson both historically and at the present time of the resistance, medication (shot) having to be administered.”

Culpepper further recommended that training staff review the event in order to provide suggestions, recommendations, guidance and tactics planning advice in the event of another similar occurrence.

 

The lawsuit also refers to a July 1, 2016, incident when Jackson was allegedly struck by a corporal on the right side of the mouth. And on July 10, a deputy allegedly struck him several times in the face, body and mouth with a closed fist.

Jackson underwent a CT scan of his chest, neck and brain to evaluate physical injuries sustained following the alleged assault by guards and officers at the jail. The results showed that he “suffered a pneumothrorax to his right lung and emphysema due to the trauma sustained at the hands of defendants,” according to the lawsuit. He also allegedly “suffered from urethral stricture secondary to his trauma, as well as subcutaneous facial hematomas caused by the repeated blows.” He was subsequently diagnosed with abnormal liver function and elevated liver enzymes and his hematology lab work was abnormal, according to the lawsuit.

“Despite all these serious medical conditions, the Plaintiff was not provided medical care to determine the reason for the abnormal findings,” it reads. “The Plaintiff also did not receive any additional or follow-up medical treatment for his injuries.”

He was hospitalized at the West Central Georgia Regional Hospital to undergo an assessment of his competency to stand trial, according to the lawsuit. “The Plaintiff did not receive a complete and adequate psychiatric/mental health evaluation and was not given adequate medical and mental care from either the Muscogee County Jail or the East Central Georgia Regional Hospital.”

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WATCH: Copwatch | Gang Unit Vehicle Stop Foot Bail | Tossed Gun | Man Tasered

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San Diego Copwatch April 10, 2018

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POLICE claim Man said ‘shoot me’ twice before he was shot to death by police, Audio Experts Heard Different

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Las Vegas Metro police shot and killed a 22-year-old man early Friday morning after he reached for a weapon and defied commands repeatedly, police said.

 

Officers Francisco Rivera, 28, and Padilla Mills, 23, were involved in the shooting in the 200 block of Madge Lane, near Charleston Boulevard and Sloan Lane.

Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Monday said officers were on their way to another call when they spotted Junior David Lopez driving recklessly with two women in a blue Chrysler 300.

“Hey, what are you doing? Stay in the car man,” one of the officers yelled. “Stay in the ****ing car! Don’t move! Do not ****ing move!”

When officers stopped the vehicle, Lopez got out of the vehicle with a Smith and Wesson Bodyguard .380 firearm in his hand then tossed it on the ground, police said.

Zimmerman said Lopez defied officers’ commands to put his hands up and step away from the weapon. Instead Lopez grabbed the firearm and raised it, he said.

“Hey, get away from the gun!” officers yelled. “Do not move! Don’t reach for the gun, man. Do not reach the gun.”

Officers believe the body camera footage shows Lopez twice saying the words “shoot me.”

“I don’t know what was going through his head, but he was given ample opportunity to be taken into custody and he wasn’t,” Zimmerman said.

Officers Rivera and Mills both fired their weapons. Lopez fell to the ground and rolled over. Police say he reached for the guns once more. Officer Mills fired one more round, striking Lopez.

“We’re going to need medical for the subject,” one of the officers said, over his radio. “He’s reaching. Don’t reach for it! … His 4-13 is about one foot from his left hand. Don’t!”

Lopez was taken to Sunrise Hospital where he later died at 5:15 a.m.

The two women in the car were not injured. One was Lopez’ girlfriend and the owner of the vehicle. The other was a friend.

Both women on Monday night.

“I remember when we got pulled over they told us to get the **** out of the car, for him to get the **** out of the car. Why don’t I hear that in the video?” said Lopez’s girlfriend, Amber. “He was the best thing in my life… He said, ‘Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me.’ You can’t hear the don’t, but you can hear him. ‘Don’t shoot me. Don’t shoot me.'”

Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman said 22-year-old Junior Lopez told officers to shoot him, twice.

“I don’t know what was going through his head but he was given ample opportunity to be taken into custody and he wasn’t.”

Lopez’s girlfriend said he was yelling, “Don’t shoot me!”

Lopez’s girlfriend also says officers told him to get out of the car… before they yelled at him to get back in the car. She argues that the first portion was conveniently cut out of the video released today.

“Everything they said is not true,” said Jorge Luis Martinez, Lopez’s father. “The video is not complete. ”

Lopez had one prior charge for false statement to a police officer in North Las Vegas in 2016

Both officers have been employed with Metro since May 2016. They are both assigned to the Community Policing Division Northeast Area Command. They were both placed on routine paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

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Freedom of Speech Everywhere except a Courthouse so Says the US Attorney General

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How an anti-illegal immigration YouTuber turned a $280 fine into a federal criminal trial

How an anti-illegal immigration YouTuber turned a $280 fine into a federal criminal trial

Gary Gileno

Gary Gileno is shown outside the federal courthouse on Friday before his trial. Gileno was fighting a $280 citation for failing to comply with orders while trying to bring a video camera into a L.A. County Sheriff oversight meeting in 2017. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

 

It began as a $280 citation for using a video camera in a courthouse.

But to Gary Gileno, at stake was much more than the couple hundred bucks he was told to pay.

An attorney for the anti-illegal immigration activist and prolific YouTuber told a judge Friday that the four-hour trial over the fine was really about preventing government abuse of power, protecting the rights of journalists and ensuring that citizens can hold public officials accountable.

“If he is convicted … it’ll chill speech, it’ll chill journalism, it’ll say the federal government has a superpower to do whatever it wants,” attorney William Becker said. “This is unprecedented. This is what we expect to see in a police state.”

A federal prosecutor dismissed the rhetoric, arguing the Class C misdemeanor charge was simply about Gileno’s refusal to follow a security officer’s orders.

The unusual legal battle came after Gileno, 32, tried to bring a video camera into a meeting of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission last year. California law specifically allows the public to use recording devices at such meetings, but the commission’s meeting in August was held at a federal appellate court building where filming is prohibited.

Someone just detained at federal courthouse, where public Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission meeting takin place, 4 trying 2 take pic

The commission, a civilian panel set up to monitor the Sheriff’s Department and listen to public concerns about the agency, had been gathering in different locations around the county since it began meeting in January 2017. This was the first time commissioners had met at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals building in Pasadena.

As Gileno entered the courthouse, deputy U.S. marshals told him he had to leave his camera in his car. Gileno insisted he had a right to record the meeting under the First Amendment and the state’s open meetings law, known as the Brown Act, and began filming the officers.

They responded by handcuffing and detaining him for about an hour.

After Gileno was cited, Robert C. Bonner, a former federal judge who chairs the commission, told The Times he wasn’t aware of certain provisions of the state’s open meetings law and relied on the county’s lawyers for legal advice.

Rather than pay the fine, Gileno opted to take his case to trial, facing a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and 30 days in jail if found guilty.

Gileno, who began his YouTube career after showing up at his local council meeting in West Covina, said he has made a living off of his channel in recent years. His copious videos — 3,237 and counting — focus primarily on denouncing illegal immigration and promoting supporters of President Trump. His criminal case may have been a boon for his channel — a recent screed on his own prosecution was viewed more than 10,000 times.

On Friday, two court security officers who clashed with Gileno took the stand and testified that there were signs clearly posted saying photography wasn’t allowed in the courthouse. They said Gileno grew belligerent and disruptive, turning on his camera after being warned several times that it was not allowed.

Testifying in his own defense, Gileno said he was a freelance citizen journalist who has attended and filmed local government meetings and legislative town halls for about five years.

“I believe in the United States of America, you should be able to keep tabs on the government,” he said.

In more than 250 other public meetings he attended, he said, he never had an issue with bringing in his video camera. He said the security officer all of a sudden “exploded” at him, so he turned on his camera “to document what I felt was a violation of my rights at the time.”

Assistant U.S. Atty. Benedetto Lee Balding said Gileno’s disruption of security officers working at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was no small matter. It was Gileno who escalated the encounter by refusing to go along with the officers’ orders, he said.

“He decided unilaterally he didn’t have to follow the rules,” the prosecutor said.

Becker, who primarily represents conservatives and Christians in free-speech cases, worked for free on Gileno’s case. He argued that the federal courthouse essentially became a “limited public forum” when it hosted the commission meeting, which Gileno should have been allowed to film under the state law.

Magistrate Judge Jean P. Rosenbluth said she could understand why Gileno was angry and frustrated given his past experience filming the meetings, but she said that didn’t excuse his failure to follow orders. Security at the appellate courthouse, where justices could be filmed without their knowledge, was a serious concern, the judge said.

“Even if these seem arbitrary or don’t make any sense to Mr. Gileno or anybody else, clearly they serve this very important purpose,” Rosenbluth said, finding Gileno guilty.

Acknowledging that a “misunderstanding” had led to the kerfuffle, the prosecutor recommended a sentence of no fine, which would leave Gileno having to pay just $35 in court fees. Rosenbluth said she felt the need for “some consequences” and ordered Gileno to pay a $50 fine, bringing his total penalty to $85 with the fees.

Gileno said he was “outraged” and “astounded.” After the verdict, he turned to nine supporters in the audience, including a man in a red “Make California Great Again” hat, and exclaimed, “I was never read my rights!”

His attorney said they would seriously consider an appeal and possibly a civil lawsuit against the government.

“What the judge just said is if a city council can move to a federal building, they can keep the meeting secret,” Gileno said. “That’s grossly illegal.”

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