Deputies dispute claims of inmate assault, show video from inside jail

Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 1:59 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 29, 2021 at 5:16 PM EST
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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - The Dorchester County Sheriff’s Office showed footage recorded inside the county jail to refute claims an inmate was assaulted by detention deputies.

Deputies showed the video during a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

The footage showed an encounter with an inmate whom deputies identified as Russell Cole, who they said alleged he was mistreated by detention deputies during a search of his cell.

Lt. Rick Carson said Cole was being held in Dorchester County on a narcotics charge but that Lexington County had a hold on him on a murder charge.

“We were doing our routine search to check his cell,” Knight said. “Apparently, he [the inmate] didn’t agree with it. He didn’t want to come out to begin with.”

During the search, deputies found an extra mattress in the cell and consulted a jail nurse, who told them he was not medically entitled to a second mattress.

After deputies removed the second mattress and approached Cole to bring him back to his cell, Carson said Cole told the officers, “I want y’all to earn your money tonight. You’re gonna put me back in my place.”

Video showed him being dragged back into the cell after Carson said deputies asked him twice to go back into the cell.

Knight said Cole claimed detention officers struck his head on the door, which he said the video disproves.

“He said we hit his head on the door, I think, when he was going back in but as you saw, I didn’t see it. I don’t I don’t think we hit his head,” Knight said he looked at the video “real close several times.”

Authorities showed surveillance video taken from inside the jail as well as body cam video. While deputies displayed the bodycam footage on a big screen during the news conference, they did not release the actual footage, citing sheriff’s office policy.

Knight said periodic searches of inmate cells are necessary.

“We found out over the years of running this place that if you give them too much stuff, they find some bad things to do with it,” he said. “So we do two searches to make sure we keep them safe for their own safety, and after we got him out of the cell, he didn’t want to go back in and he wanted to mistreat my officers. You know, we want to treat them as good as they let us treat them. But we are in charge.”

Asked about a claim that detention deputies did not provide medical treatment the inmate allegedly requested, Carson said the video shows he does not cooperate with a nurse.

“He just won’t do anything,” he said. “We even have a detention officer that comes back after the nurse leaves to try to talk to him and he just doesn’t want to cooperate.”

Dramatic video shows deputies rescuing inmate during suicide attempt

Deputies grabbed an inmate they said was attempting to hang himself from an upper-level railing...
Deputies grabbed an inmate they said was attempting to hang himself from an upper-level railing as he was about to jump over the railing. Authorities said neither the inmate nor the detention deputies were injured in the rescue.(Dorchester County Sheriff's Office)

The second incident involved an inmate who attempted suicide in the jail.

The inmate, whom they did not identify, was attempting to hang himself from an upper railing. Carson said he walked with detention deputies up a staircase while holding his jumper closed to conceal a sheet he had tied around his neck. Once on the second floor of the detention center, he begins tying the other end of the sheet to the railing.

Footage shows a group of detention deputies talking to him in an effort to distract him while a second group of detention deputies moved in from behind and grabbed him as he attempted to jump over the railing.

Carson said the entire incident lasted from beginning to end nine minutes and 56 seconds. Neither the inmate nor the deputies were injured in the attempt, Carson said.

“This particular inmate had reached a point in his life, he had had a bad day,” Carson said. “He had been sentenced in North Charleston for a crime that was committed in North Charleston and Dorchester County and he had also gotten some bad news from a family member earlier in the day. He’d reached the point where he thought this was the best thing for him. And he saw an opportunity.”

Carson said that in a case like this, the inmate would receive counseling and would be placed on suicide watch.

Of detention officers and their training, Carson said when they walk through the door, they know what their job is. In this situation, everything worked, he said.

“There is training to get this job, there is training on the job, you go to the Criminal Justice Academy for training and if you don’t learn something every day that you’re on the job, in this particular job, you’re not doing it right,” he said. “In law enforcement, this is probably the most dangerous job.”

By all appearances, Carson said, the officers did exactly what they were supposed to do.

“I just wanted you to see this, that we do care,” Knight said.

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