Skip navigation

North Carolina Guard Gets Three Months for Killing Prisoner

North Carolina Guard Gets Three Months for Killing Prisoner

by Christopher Zoukis

A North Carolina guard was ordered to serve three months in jail after being found guilty of beating to death a prisoner who had been arrested on an open container charge and minor drug violation.

Video footage from the Wake County Detention Center showed guard Markeith Council, 28, pick up Shon Demetrius McClain and slam him head-first into the floor, twice, after a brief altercation.

Council, a former college football player, is 6’3” and weighs 290 pounds; McClain was 5’6” and weighed 145 pounds. McClain died 13 days after the June 4, 2013 incident from blunt force trauma to his head.

A jury found Council guilty of involuntary manslaughter in December 2013 after viewing the video and hearing testimony from witnesses. [See: PLN, Sept. 2014, p.56].

Council claimed that he was worried about “what was going on around [him],” and “didn’t have time” to reach for his pepper spray when subduing McClain.

“This is a very sad case. It’s a case where someone didn’t need to die,” stated Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby.

While a jail spokesman claimed that Council had suffered minor injuries during the incident, at least two prisoners said McClain never landed a punch. Former prisoner Braderick Peak testified that Council had provoked the confrontation and told McClain he “would smack fire out of [his] little ass.” Another prisoner, James Elvis Alston III, said Council was “in a rage” after McClain complained about nearly getting his fingers caught in a food slot.

Superior Court Judge Paul Gessner sentenced Council to 12 to 24 months with all but 90 days suspended, plus three years’ probation.

After the sentencing, McClain’s sister, Marlene Gilbert, said her brother was a loving father. She added, “None of us are perfect. The problem I have with Mr. Council is that he has not at one time showed remorse.... He never said, ‘I didn’t mean to do it.’”

In May 2015, McClain’s family filed a wrongful death suit against Council, the Wake County Sheriff’s Office and other defendants, noting that jailers at the detention center had a “history of disciplinary problems that have resulted in the serious injury of other pre-trial detainees.” See: Gilbert v. Harrison, U.S.D.C. (E.D. NC), Case No. 5:15-CT-03107-FL.


Related legal case

Gilbert v. Harrison