Lawyers for a Black man who became paralyzed while in the custody of Texas police have asked the Department of Justice to open a probe in the case.
Christopher Shaw, 41, alleged in a federal lawsuit filed last month that on 12 June 2021, Beaumont police officer James Gillen slammed him into a concrete platform at the rear entrance of Jefferson County Correctional Facility, The Guardian reported.
Officer Gillen had reportedly found Mr Shaw in the middle of a roadway and “in need of medical assistance,” so he was transported to a hospital and cleared shortly after. The officer then took Mr Shaw to the correctional and used excessive force when Mr Shaw “slightly turned his body,” the suit alleges.
Mr Shaw sustained several fractures in his spine that have left him paralyzed from the waist down. He claimed he immediately became immobile and had to be wheeled inside the jail, where he defecated and urinated on himself when he was left unassisted for 20 hours as he begged medical staff for help.
During a press conference on Wednesday, attorneys for Mr Shaw decried the officer’s actions and asked for assistance from the DoJ to investigate what happened during the arrest. They’re also demanding the release of footage of Mr Shaw in the jail that Beaumont officials have refused to share with the public citing concerns over jail security.
“We now have subpoena power afforded to us by the federal courts,” one of Mr Shaw’s attorneys, Harry Daniels, said, according to The Hill.
“We are in the process of getting everything … that shows that the city of Beaumont has a custom where their officers engage in unlawful use of force, and it is swept under the rug.”
According to the lawsuit, Officer Gillen positioned Mr Shaw’s “hands behind his back and placed handcuffs on him, restricting his ability to move. Mr. Shaw was placed in the rear of Defendant Gillen’s patrol car and was transported to Baptist Hospital in Beaumont, Texas due to signs of impairment.”
After being cleared, Mr Shaw was transported back to the Jefferson County Correction Facility. Although he was able to stand and walk on his own as he about to walk inside the jail, he was then allegedly slammed to the concrete by Officer Gillen.
The lawsuit goes on to say that Mr “Shaw clearly showed signs of paralysis [and] ... was not ambulant.” He was placed in a wheelchair and taken inside because he could not control his lower extremities.
Mr Shaw then allegedly begged staff at the facility for help but they refused to assist him. One nurse even told him “I won’t help you until you help yourself,” he alleged.
“He eventually soiled himself and … told the jail staffer that if he died, it would be on her head,” said Daniels.
He was eventually rushed to the hospital, where he underwent several emergency surgeries.
Footage of Mr Shaw’s moments in the jail is disturbing, Chance Lynch, another attorney for Mr Shaw, also said.
“When we saw this video, we really thought we watched him die,” Mr Lynch said during the presser.
The lawsuit claims that the actions of Officer Gillen, the city of Beaumont, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office deputies and medical staff at the facility contributed to Mr Shaw’s medical complications and ultimately caused him to become paralyzed.
Last year, Beaumont police chief James Singletary told local news station KBMT that he regretted that Mr Shaw’s had been injured, but Oficer Gillen was “doing his job.” The Independent has reached out to the Beaumont Police Department for comment.