New details shed light on Clark County Jail use of force

Published: Apr. 5, 2022 at 6:49 PM PDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KPTV) - Audio recordings of interviews conducted by Pierce County investigators shed light on what happened during a use of force incident at the Clark County Jail that spurred a criminal investigation.

Obtained through a public records request, the recordings raise questions about the restraint tactics used by corrections officers.

In video released by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office in March, a corrections deputy can be seen forcibly shoving a handcuffed inmate toward his bed and into the cell wall. Moments later, the deputy forces the inmate’s handcuffed arms toward his upper back and pushes him into his bunk.

In a recorded interview with investigators, the inmate describes what was happening from his point of view.

“My throat is basically on the (EXPLETIVE) top of the bunk. He’s pressing down on my head basically like, you know what I’m saying, cutting my breath off,” said the man, whose name was redacted in the public records.

Later during the encounter, the video shows deputies attaching what the Sheriff’s Office describes as a tether to the inmate’s handcuffs. The deputies then can be seen forcefully pulling the tether until the man’s arms are pulled backward through the meal delivery slot in the cell door.

“I didn’t even know they were chaining me up,” said the man to investigators. “They dragged me across the (EXPLETIVE) floor like… like a (EXPLETIVE) slave. You know what I’m saying? Like this was Mississippi Burning or something.”

Investigators also interviewed four deputies involved in the incident. One deputy said he’d had a previous interaction with the inmate in which he struck the man with a closed fist.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office had previously said the inmate had a history of violence toward corrections officers, though none of them mentioned any such history to investigators during their interviews.

Asked also about the use of the tether to restrain the inmate, none of the deputies said they had received official training on the use of the tether.

A fifth deputy involved in the incident declined an interview request by outside investigators through his attorney. That deputy was placed on administrative leave by the Sheriff’s Department.

In a statement last month, Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins said he was “very troubled” by what he saw in the video.

The case is currently being reviewed by the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.