CHARLESTON - An inmate of the Potomac Highlands Regional Jail has filed a suit against the jail, claiming he was brutally beaten by officers because of his race.
Brian J. Barksdale, through attorney S. Sean Murphy, filed the suit March 20 against the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority and several corrections officers, claiming he was beaten because he is African American.
The officers named as defendants are Ronald Anderson, Donald Saville, Aaron Stump and Todd Turner. David Johnson, Lisa Day and Sue Ann George were also named as defendants.
The suit says Barksdale and a Caucasian inmate were in a fight and were temporarily placed in the "hole." At 1 a.m. on April 14, 2006, Day woke up Barksdale and asked him to sign a continuance of a disciplinary matter involving the fight.
According to the lawsuit, Barksdale did not wish to continue the disciplinary matter as he had earlier noticed the Caucasian inmate with whom Barksdale had had a scuffle -– provoked by the Caucasian inmate, the suit says -– being led from a cell unhandcuffed and unshackled to his hearing, and then returned unhandcuffed and unshackled to gather his belongings and return to the general population.
Barksdale claims Day became upset when Barksdale requested the same treatment.
Slightly after 1 a.m., Anderson and Saville arrived and immediately handcuffed and shackled Barksdale. According to the suit, an independent third party asked why Barksdale was being shackled and cuffed when the other inmate was not. This inmate was told to shut up, the suit says.
According to the lawsuit, Barksdale asked why two corrections officers were needed to bring him, handcuffed and shackled, to a hearing when it only took one corrections officer to bring the unrestrained Caucasian inmate to the hearing, to which one of the officers responded with racial remarks.
Barksdale's hearing was conducted, during which he was handcuffed and shackled, the suit says, and Barksdale pled guilty. Barksdale claims he was aware the Caucasian inmate had been given five days in the "hole" for the same charge, but Barksdale was given 10 days. He asked if race was an issue and the suit says several officers then proceeded to mace and beat Barksdale, while he was still handcuffed and shackled.
The suit says during the beating Barksdale was called many insensitive racial names, hit, kicked, choked and sprayed with mace. The suit says Barksdale blood was everywhere.
According to the suit, Anderson grabbed Barksdale's head in his hands and twisted Barksdale's neck so his face would be toward a camera that George was now holding.
"The video camera had not been turned on by any of the officers during the beating, but near the end George quieted the others and said, 'OK, quiet, camera's on, camera's on,'" the suit says. "At his cue, the others began yelling, 'Stop resisting.'"
A nurse came in and tried to stop Barksdale's bleeding, which was so severe it took half an hour to stop, the suit says. Barksdale was then placed in the shower and led back to his cell. However, according to the suit, the beating was so severe that he began to experience breathing and vision problems as well as chest pain. His eyes also began bleeding.
"During the weekend of April 15, 2006, Barksdale was seen by an external doctor who reacted with shock to the beating he sustained and noted the blood vessels in his eyes had actually ruptured," the suit says.
Barksdale claims he was then intentionally hidden in a medical cell for 16 days to conceal from other inmates and employees the brutal beating and the severe injuries it caused. He claims to still experience blurred vision, headaches and severe emotional trauma.
In the eight-count lawsuit, Barksdale claims he was a victim of attack and battery and that the use of the handcuffs and shackles was racially motivated. He also claims the beating was a violation of his civil rights and was caused by negligence on part of the jail system.
Barksdale seeks compensatory damages for pain, medical/dental expenses, permanent scarring and disfigurement.
He also seeks punitive damages against the defendants in an amount to punish them for their "vicious, unprovoked and utterly outrageous racially-motivated attack, and also deter the defendants from engaging in similar heinous misconduct in the future," the suit says.
The case has been assigned to Judge James Stucky.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-501