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Veteran Dies After Beating by Guards at North Carolina Jail

by David M. Reutter

Guards at North Carolina’s Wayne County Detention Center (WCDC) abused and beat to death a mentally ill veteran who was arrested for breaking the window out his neighbor’s truck in May 2017, a civil rights complaint alleged.

Graydon “Jerry” Parker, III, 54, served two years in the Army with the 182nd Airborne division. On the morning of May 20, 2017, he was arrested for breaking the truck window, telling the deputy he did it “because God told me to.”

During transport to WCDC, a deputy heard Parker singing and mumbling while observing he had a “thousand-yard stare.” He was charged with injury to personal property and resisting an officer, both misdemeanors.

The civil rights complaint filed last May alleged it was obvious, even to lay persons, that Parker was in the throes of an “acute manic state and experiencing a psychiatric emergency.” Yet he was not rendered treatment or even screening for mental-health issues upon booking. Guards, instead, “misperceived him as a disruptive inmate or an intoxicated inmate beyond reasonable comprehension levels.” That led them to pepper spray him several times in the face and drag him to the shower area.

Once there, Parker was sprayed again. Guards undressed Parker and “shot him with a water hose” as he laid facedown. When he defecated himself, he “laughed about it like he did not care.”

Once they finished hosing him down, he was placed on a blanket and placed in an isolation cell. He continued to mumble to himself and to talk unintelligibly. LPN Christina M. Driver, who worked for WCDC’s private medical provider Southern Health Partners, tried to talk to Parker while he was in the cell, but she did not assess or screen his condition, provide treatment, or contact a physician. Once she left WCDC that afternoon, no other health-care workers were present for the weekend.

Parker continued in his state up until the night shift arrived. Shift personnel were apprised of Parker’s condition as being “drunk or mentally unstable.” Around 9:00 p.m., his mental condition deteriorated significantly.

The response to Parker smearing feces on the cell walls and banging his head and hand on the window was pepper spraying. He was again dragged to the shower area. He yelled when sprayed with hot water. Guards Xavier Lee, Brent Woodall, Jose Arias, Robert Hines, and Nathaniel Neal then began attacking Parker as Trooper Charles Grainger watched, the civil rights complaint filed on behalf of Parker’s estate claims.

Parker was tasered on several occasions, hit with an electric shield as he laid on the floor, kicked, stomped, kneed, stomped, and placed in a chokehold over a 15-minute period as guards made efforts to hog-tie him. Grainger assisted in the hog-tie effort, encouraging the guards to “knock him out.” That was achieved by tasering Parker several times while restrained as he laid on his stomach.

Once Parker was unconscious and hog-tied, guards left him and made periodic checks until they noticed he was “turning blue and not breathing.” When EMS arrived, the guards refused to remove the hog-tie restraints, so efforts at CPR were made with them on. Parker’s heart was restarted, but he never recovered consciousness and was pronounced dead at 2:35 pm on May 21, 2017.

The civil rights complaint alleged the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs and used excessive force. It further alleged policies and procedures in place allowed these violations of Parker’s rights to occur.

“It’s something that was completely preventable,” said attorney Matthew Sullivan, who is representing Parker’s 74-year-old mother, Margaret Jean Kelly. “They didn’t do what they should have done to keep this from happening.” See: Kelly v. Wayne County, USDC, E.D. North Carolina, Case No. 5:19-CV-03137. 


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Related legal case

Kelly v. Wayne County