SUFFOLK, Va. (WVEC) – An incident at the Western Tidewater Regional Jail is being investigated by the Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office following an alleged assault by a correctional officer on an inmate.
The incident reportedly happened on the night of November 5. Superintendent Chris Smith says a correctional officer and a nurse were delivering medication to an inmate housing area when the officer became involved in an incident with inmate Gregory Lassiter.
Smith says there are two surveillance videos of the incident and a witness account from the nurse who was there. He said he cannot disclose what was in the video because it is part of a criminal investigation, but he said what he saw was enough to fire the officer in question. The evidence was turned over the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office on November 7, and the correctional officer was fired the very next day. The officer has since appealed the termination.
“The officer in the control room called for emergency assistance for the officer. Thirty seconds later the first staff member showed up, and approximately another 10-15 seconds later the shift supervisor showed up. At that point the inmate was handcuffed, stood up and taken to medical,” Smith said.
Lassiter's attorney Justin Bush says he personally has not seen the two surveillance videos of the incident, but he did talk to other correctional officers, sheriff's deputies and his client Gregory Lassiter. According to them, Bush says Lassiter was choked from behind, punched in the face and at some point lost consciousness.
“A correctional officer at the jail apparently took issue with him for no real apparent reason and made several threats to him for his physical safety. Mr. Lassiter had a fractured nose, his nose is crooked-- I just saw him today. He has a concussion, he has bruised ribs, bruises all over his entire body,” Bush said.
Superintendent Smith says an internal investigation found that the officer in question did violate the jail's excessive use of force policy. He says the entire incident lasted for approximately three minutes.
“The officer in the control room called for emergency assistance for the officer. Thirty seconds later the first staff member showed up, and approximately another 10-15 seconds later the shift supervisor showed up. At that point the inmate was handcuffed, stood up, and taken to medical,” Smith said.
According to Lassiter’s account of what happened, the other officers who put handcuffs on him also assaulted him. Superintendent Smith says those officers were investigated and cleared of any wrongdoing.
“It's very unfortunate. We feel like this is an isolated incident for the facility,” Smith said.
Shortly after the incident on November 5, Smith says the correctional officer in question filed a report saying that it was Gregory Lassiter who assaulted him. Lassiter was placed in solitary confinement then released because the report was unfounded.
Lassiter's attorney has filed a claim with the jail and the Commonwealth of Virginia. Based on the outcome of that, and the Commonwealth’s Attorney's investigation, he will determine whether to file a civil suit.