JeffCo corrections officer punches inmate

Published 10:06 pm Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Officer back to work after time without pay for hitting spitting inmate

Southeast Texas law enforcement agencies know a change is coming, even if they’ve stayed out of “recent events” so far.

Local police and sheriff departments are requesting larger budgets to accommodate the addition of body cameras in response to the national outcry surrounding mounting police brutality cases throughout the U.S.

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The Jefferson County Correctional Facility, however, is dealing with its first clamor for transparency after a video was released showing a corrections officer repeatedly punching a handcuffed inmate this spring.

The video, released this week by a Nederland blogger, shows Officer Raymond Sellers repeatedly hitting inmate Lisa Hayes — a 37-year-old Kountze resident, who officers described as “highly intoxicated” and “combative” — after Hayes spat in his face when she was brought in for booking on Feb. 19.

Rod Carroll, assistant deputy chief of corrections, said Hayes was brought to the jail that night on four charges — one count of public intoxication, one count of harassment of a public servant and two counts of resisting arrest/transport.

Multiple officers filed incident reports about Hayes that night, but it was a Jefferson County Correctional Facility supervisor who filed a complaint against Sellers.

“As far as officers being spat on or having feces or urine thrown on them, this behavior is typical in the jail. We had it happen twice just last night,” Carroll said Wednesday evening. “This is where we house everybody you don’t want on the streets, people picked up because of criminal acts. This woman is a lifelong drug user, and she came in that night acting very typically for someone under the influence of alcohol and drugs. She was combative, she wasn’t cooperating, she was ornery.

“But all that being said, having an officer respond in this way is atypical for our facility. It’s very rare for our officers to react this way, and it definitely violated our standards. We have to be above reproach — we can’t be reactionary. I am very proud of our supervisor who came forward and reported this. That, to me, says a lot more about the ethics of the organization.”

The complaint filed against Sellers launched an Internal Affairs investigation. Footage from 10 security cameras and affidavits from five corrections officers, including Sellers, were compiled for consideration of a Disciplinary Review Board.

An incident report filed by Sgt. Robert Minard on Feb. 19 states when officers with the Beaumont Police Department delivered Hayes to the jail that night, they said she “had attempted to spit on and bite officers arresting her.”

“We saw that the officers had the female hobbled and in handcuffs,” Minard’s affidavit, dated April 21, states. “When we opened the door, she literally slid out. We had to catch her before she hit her head on the ground. She was then placed in a wheelchair and brought in to booking… One of the (officers) told us he thought she was just playing because she had been spitting, kicking and attempting to bite them.

“When we got in booking and started asking her questions, she started responding by yelling. She started yelling at me, ‘I’m going to kick you in the (redacted).’ This was the first thing she said.”

Multiple officers’ accounts report the shackles around Hayes’ legs were removed and she was asked to walk on her own. Hayes stood on her own and walked over the counter where Sellers was standing.

“She was still cursing the nurse,” Sellers’ affidavit, dated Feb. 23, states. “I was asking her if she was OK and just trying to get her to calm down. I told her that she did good, and had made it to the counter. Hayes then lunged at me and told me to ‘suck her (redacted).’ I told her that I’ve heard this before in a movie. I was still not bothered by her, was simply trying to get her through the process.

“Immediately after, Hayes lunged again at me, spitting on me. She spit on my jacket and my face. It all happened so quick I didn’t have time to think. I immediately responded by swinging at her, trying to get her out of my face and away from me. I went from being very relaxed and trying to talk to her, to being very upset that she had just spit on me. I didn’t realize that I swung at her several times. I was simply reacting to being spit on.”

Sellers’ affidavit states he didn’t realize Hayes was handcuffed “until after it was all over” and chose not to file charges against Hayes “because I knew she was intoxicated, and that’s part of working in booking. We face this all the time.”

“I have never been to IAD for excessive force. I only use the force that is necessary to gain control of someone,” Sellers’ affidavit states. “Normally, I’m the officer that calms irate inmates down.”

Minard said in his affidavit he felt Sellers “over-reacted” and “let his anger get the best of him.”

“I’ve never had a problem with Officer Sellers,” Minard writes in his affidavit. “He’s taught me how to handle situations without over-reacting. He’s a good classification officer.”

Carroll said the six-member Disciplinary Review Board majority voted Sellers should receive a punishment of 10 days off without pay “to ensure this does not recur in the future.”

Jefferson County Sheriff Mitch Woods agreed with the board’s decision, writing “this force was excessive, certainly for the provocation. It is clear that Office Sellers responded to a vile and insulting act before thinking.”

Incident reports filed the night of Hayes’ arrest state Hayes was taken away from Sellers and toward a changing room. Hayes was “twisting and turning,” fighting the officers still handcuffed, and taken to a solitary room instead.

“There was already a set of restraints in the cell to restrain her to the bench. We needed to do this to keep her from harming herself,” Officer Della Manuel wrote in a Feb. 24 affidavit. “She would not keep still. We had to cut her clothes off of her, which was just a top, a pair of hose and some panties.

“Sgt. Minard had to tase her to keep her from hurting us. She kept rolling and twisting and pulling away from us. When he tased her, she stayed still long enough for us to get the suicide gown on her. She just kept saying that she was going to spit on us.”

Hayes was later removed shortly from her cell after “flooding it.” She stayed on suicide watch for several hours with “bruising to face, arm and legs” reported by one of the medical staff.

Carroll said Sellers took his 10 days off without pay in early May and has since returned to work without incident. Hayes never filed a complaint against Sellers for the beating or Minard for using his taser.

The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office referred the newly surfaced video to the Texas Rangers for investigation late Wednesday afternoon. As of Wednesday night, Trooper Stephanie Davis said, “no formal review of the incident has been initiated by the Texas Rangers.”

Twitter: @crhenderson90