Previous jail violence video creates stir at debate

Lawsuit claims handcuffed juvenile was knocked unconscious during booking

While discussing the recent beating of a woman being booked into jail during a debate Wednesday between State Attorney Angela Corey and Public Defender Matt Shirk, he brought up a unreported incident of a teenager being knocked unconscious while being processed into the Duval County jail.

Shirk produced a federal lawsuit filed in January over a Nov. 21, 2014, incident where a handcuffed inmate named DeAndre Ezell claimed his head was slammed into the concrete wall by an officer, leaving the boy unconscious.

Video of the incident recorded by a surveillance camera in the jail shows Ezell in a chair. He jumps up after being asked a question and knocks over items on a cabinet.  The officer then grabs him and smashes him into the wall.

The video shows that while Ezell is unconscious, other corrections officers restrain him even more.  Later, a nurse, then Jacksonville Fire-Rescue show up and Ezell was taken to UF Health Jacksonville for treatment.

After he recovered, Ezell, who was originally arrested on charges of lottery and prowling, was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer. His lawyer said Ezell never struck an officer, and that charge was later dropped.

The lawsuit that Shirk released says neither of the officers involved faced any discipline.

"I would like to know why her office continues to protect Jacksonville corrections Officer David Stevens ... who brutally attacked a handcuffed juvenile, our client DeAndre Ezell, and why the State Attorney's Office, having seen the video which depicts  an outrageous attack (on) this defenseless African-American juvenile," Shirk said. "Why they continue to refused to seek justice and charge the corrections officer with his blatant attack."

Confronted with the case during the debate at the Southside Businessmen's Club, Corey said she couldn't know details of every case that came through her office.

"That might be the most pandering political statement I heard anyone get up and do at a debate," Corey responded. "Did you bring the case so I can review it?" Corey said. "We have 10,000 cases in our office. Did you bring the file for me to review? Because I don't give answers on my cases or any other prosecutor's cases until I read everything in the files, reviewed it with my prosecutors and I know the facts of the case. So you got that question from one of your lawyers and you didn't bother to tell me, 'Please be prepared and have an answer for that case?'"

Corey said Shirk never requested her office to review the video. 

The lawsuit, which cites nine other incidents in which a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office employee used excessive force against a person in custody, is asking for damages, attorney's fees and costs for depriving Ezell of his rights under the Fourth and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution. 

After the debate, Shirk provided video of the incident to News4Jax.

Wednesday night, Corey and Assistant State Attorney Rich Mantei fired back by questioning why Shirk waited 16 months to file.

Corey said there were rules at the forum and Shirk broke them. She said all questions were supposed to be vetted and she believes Shirk was working with one her opponents in the race for State Attorney, Wes White, who knew all about the video.

"I think that Mr. Shirk's political stunt today is deplorable," Corey said. 

Mantei added the video also leaves out vital information about the teen's actions.

"They had to sedate him. They had to place them in a spit mask, among other things that went on that day. In part, they suspected that he might be intoxicated," Mantei said.

Mantei, who's assigned to handle integrity cases where an officer's actions would be reviewed for criminal behavior, said he thought the video was never submitted to the State Attorney's Office for review. He and Corey told News4Jax that they do not feel a criminal act was committed by the officer, but they do feel Shirk tried committing a "political stunt."

"The dirty politics have to stop. It's got to stop in every race. And again, I answer to the people of this community but I can only answer to them when I am armed with the facts and the law," Corey said. 

Shirk released a statement Wednesday night to News4Jax in response to what Corey said at the press conference:

"That Ms. Corey can watch this video and see no crime is outrageous. It is she who should be ashamed of herself. That she routinely refuses to do the right thing in favor of substituting her own personal definition of justice is truly appalling. And if Ms. Corey was actually interested in being a responsible public servant she would indeed meet with me when I request meetings, as I routinely do and am completely ignored by her. For her to suggest that me reaching out to her is the "proper channel" is laughable. Ms. Corey is the one who refuses to meet with me. Even when Nassau County Administrative Judge Robert Foster asked her to do so in a meeting with among others Clay County Administrative Don Lester and Fourth Circuit Chief Judge Mark Mahon, Ms. Corey stated "I will not meet with Mr. Shirk." Unlike Ms. Corey colluding with attorney Kenny Leigh to close her primary to the African-American population of the Fourth Circuit, my concern for a battered African-American youth isn't political. It's about right verses wrong. It's about real justice. Not Angela Corey's definition of what she thinks it should be."

Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Lauri-Ellen Smith also issued a statement after the case was discussed at Wednesday's forum:

We have been made aware of an arrest video from November of 2014 that was released today by Public Defender Matt Shirk, during a political debate.

We further understand it includes footage of a juvenile arrestee being subdued by corrections personnel in our booking area.

The video was obtained by the Public Defender’s Office through a routine public records request, with its intended purpose to be used as part of the negotiations with the State Attorney’s Office.

This case is currently being litigated civilly, which limits our ability to comment. At this time we will not confirm the identity of the arrestee.

Until such time as this case is resolved in the courts we cannot comment any further."

Gil Smith, News4Jax crime and safety analyst, weighed in on the video. 

"There are always ways to retrain a person without hitting their heads to the wall, but even with this video, I can't tell if he purposely hit his head against the wall, or if his momentum carried him into the wall, or even if his head hit the wall at all. With this angle, we can't tell," Smith said. "The video camera is a good source of evidence, but now you have to go further. You have to look at the medical records. Did you have any damage to his head? Was he actually unconscious? What type of physical injuries that he actually have? And that will all come out in the medical records."

The lawsuit is pending in federal court. 

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