Above is video from the Wake County Detention Center in 2012, which went viral after prosecutors charged the guard who is doing the body-slamming, Markeith Council, with killing Shon D. McClain, a 5-foot-6, 145-pound inmate in jail awaiting trial on misdemeanor charges of drinking in public and failing to appear in court. (The estate is being represented by attorney and N.C. Senate Minority Leader Daniel Blue Jr.) In 2013, Council was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and slapped on the wrist
: three months behind bars followed by probation.
On Monday, McClain’s sister filed a federal lawsuit on his behalf against Council, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison and an insurance company. The wrongful death claim (see below) accuses the defendants of “grossly negligent and wanton acts and omissions,” and Council of “maliciously and sadistically inflicted unnecessary and wanton pain and suffering for the very purpose of punishing and causing physical harm to Mr. McClain.” Beyond that, however,
Following a verbal altercation between Mssrs. McClain and Council, Mr. Council killed Mr. McClain when he struck Mr. McClain and picked him up and slammed his body to the ground twice. After the initial blow to Mr. McClain, he was rendered helpless and defenseless; nonetheless, in a gross use of excessive force, Mr. Council delivered successive body slams that caused blunt force trauma to Mr. McClain’s head and neck and eventually, his death.
Wake County Detention Center
McClain’s (L) and Council’s mug shots
As the video shows, Council picked up McClain and threw him to the ground; after the inmate’s body was limp, he did it again. According to the lawsuit, this wasn’t the first time Council abused his authority:
Defendant Council’s use of excessive force against Mr. McClain is not an isolated incident. On or about September 30, 2012, during his employment in the processing unit, Defendant Council pushed a pre-trial detainee and physically moved him from one location to another by pulling the detainee by his hair. Defendant Council was ordered to write a report on the use of force, and the matter was investigated. As a result of the investigation, Defendant Council was relocated from the processing unit to the dormitory, but was not subjected to additional and necessary training.
Beyond that, however, the lawsuit charges the sheriff’s office with fostering a culture that looked the other way when its corrections officers acted improperly. Harrison, the lawsuit alleges, knew or should have known then that he had a bad apple on his hands. But he didn’t do anything to bring his guard into line.
“This failure to require additional training posed a pervasive and unreasonable risk of harm to detainees housed in the Wake County Detention Center,” the lawsuit says. “As such, Sheriff Harrison was deliberately indifferent to the serious and specific need for additional training on the appropriate use of force for detention officers who worked at the Detention Center.”
The family wants both punitive and compensatory damages, and they’ll probably get it, although these sorts of claims are usually settled out a court. The only question, it seems, is this: How much money will Council’s violent reaction cost Wake County taxpayers?
I’ll update this post as more information comes in. ABC 11 first reported on the lawsuit’s existence
McClain federal lawsuit