SCSO investigator: Use of force in jail was excessive, Part II

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Publisher’s note – This is the second in a series of four articles about a use of force incident in the Spalding County Jail, its Internal Affairs investigation, the outcome and alleged ongoing racial tension at the facility. To read the first article, please visit http://www.the-grip.net.

An Internal Affairs investigation following a use of force incident in the Spalding County Jail resulted not only in confirmation that excessive force was used, but in complaints of hostility – including allegations of racial hostility – among some staff members of at least one shift.

During Investigator Vickie Massengale-Clift’s interview of Deputy Robert French, he also gave a detailed account of the isolation cell incident involving prisoner Emily Gasaway, Deputy Jamie Cain, Deputy Ivanna Washington and other jail employees.

Later in the interview, Deputy French stated that during the altercation, he observed closed hand punches being thrown by Deputies Cain and Washington while they had the inmate in the corner. He also stated that he observed Deputy Rutledge strike the inmate two or three times,” Massengale-Clift reported. “He further stated that he felt that none of this would have ever been brought to light had he not pressed the issue with Sgt. Law. He stated that he didn’t understand why this issue took so long to be brought forward for an investigation.”

Also interviewed was Deputy Anna Powell, who first encountered Gasaway as she was being booked into the jail.

Describing her as appearing to be lacking short term memory, Powell said it took effort to keep Gasaway focused. She said Gasaway later became “antsy” and began to tap the holding cell door with her foot, and she was instructed more than once to sit down.

At this point in the interview, Deputy Powell became emotional and her eyes welled with tears. She stated, ‘…you just don’t know how hard this is on me…but right is right and wrong is just dad-gum wrong,’” Massengale-Clift reported.

Powell then recounted that after Law told Gasaway to sit down, Washington “went gung ho, grabbed the cell keys and said, ‘No, no, no, we ain’t gonna put up with this,’” the report read.

Washington, Cain and French then began to transport Gasaway to the isolation cell.

Soon after, a call for assistance was issued, which led to numerous jail staff personnel responding to the isolation cell.

Powell said that upon arriving at the isolation cell, she was unable to ascertain why a call for assistance had been made.

She advised that when she got there, Ms. Gasaway was standing against the wall with her hands pulled up to her chest. Deputy Powell stated that she didn’t understand why there was a 10-78 (assistance needed) call when the girl was just standing against the wall with her hands pulled up against her,” Massengale-Clift said.

Asked what was being said at that time, Powell said Cain and Washington appeared to be “on an adrenaline high,” that French had his Taser unholstered and Washington was telling him to use his Taser on Gasaway.

Powell recounted not understanding why Washington asked French to Taser the prisoner when she had a Taser of her own that could be used if necessary.

Deputy French told them, ‘No, I’m not going to Tase her. She’s compliant.’ Deputy Powell recalled that Deputy Washington told Ms. Gasaway something like, ‘You’re gonna get your ass on that bed,’ to which Ms. Gasaway replied, ‘I’m just standing here. I’m not doing anything wrong. Deputy Powell stated that Ms. Gasaway was still standing against the wall with her arms against her chest. Deputy Washington then said, ‘Oh, hell, no. You’re gonna get on that bed.” Next thing Deputy Powell knows, Deputy Washington lunges at Ms. Gasaway and grabs her.”

According to Powell, there were so many people in the isolation cell that she was unable to determine precisely what was happening, but from what she could tell, Cain, Rutledge and Washington had a hold of Gasaway.

As Deputy Victor Shamlin began to enter the cell, Powell discouraged him stating there were already too many people in there. Powell said Shamlin continued on and entered the cell, and Powell said, “Okay, there’s already too many in there and this is out of control bad.”

Deputy Justin Zambujo then entered the cell with handcuffs, and Powell told him they were unnecessary because Gasaway was down on the bed and compliant.

Zambujo enters anyway and he and Deputy Shamlin put handcuffs on Ms. Gasaway. Deputy Shamlin then asks Deputy Cain, ‘Where is she going? Where are we taking her?”

Powell said when Cain responded that Gasaway was remaining in the isolation cell, Shamlin appeared to be shocked.

Deputy Shamlin then asked if they were going to leave the handcuffs on her or not. Deputy Cain responds, ‘I don’t care. She can go to hell as far as I’m concerned,’” Powell reported.

She then tells Zambujo and Shamlin that Gasaway cannot be left handcuffed in the cell as she is compliant and not combative.

The handcuffs were removed and as the remaining deputies left the cell, Powell reported Rutledge said, “I hope she does because I wanna get a couple more good licks in on her anyway.”

Powell said she attempted to speak with Law, but during their conversation, Washington and Rutledge entered to tell their side of the incident.

Powell said she also encouraged French to speak with Law, but he expressed concern that he would “catch backlash.”

Powell also confirmed to Massengale-Clift that it is common policy for an inmate to be checked by medical staff any time there is a hands-on situation. That did not occur at the time of the Gasaway incident.

When asked if there is tension between employees on the shift, Powell said there was animosity at that time. She was asked if anyone in particular seemed to be a target.

She hesitated and stated, ‘I need my little job…’ She then followed up and advised, ‘Yeah…You do have the, um, race thing,’” the report stated. “She was asked if that was present before the incident. She advised that it wasn’t as extreme before, but it was there. She also advised that a shift meeting was called by Sgt. Law several months (sic), where Sgt. Law advised them that she wanted to make it clear to her shift that there was not a clique on the shift and she was not in a clique. Deputy Powell stated that the meeting didn’t solve any of the problems and it didn’t help. She stated the ‘non-clique’ is an unspoken thing and everyone comes to work now and ‘just deals with it.’”

Please see the May 16 edition of The GRIP for the third article in this series.

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Comments

  1. That’s crazy I went to school with gassaway she’s really not a bad girl

  2. Shelby Barge says:

    This kinda thing happens all the time, its just never spoken of or listened to. People get locked up for breaking the law only to get abused and mistreated by the ones suppose to be enforcing the law! Spalding county is the most difficult county to deal with, all the corruption in the system. Feds need to come in and do a sweep on them, now that the streets are swept

  3. Mindy Danser says:

    This is so sad!!!!

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