A Fuquay-Varina man who said a detention officer broke his arm during an improper strip search filed suit in state court Wednesday against Wake County and Sheriff Donnie Harrison.
Devaughn Holmes, 36, is the second former inmate to file a lawsuit alleging brutal behavior by the same officer in the jail. A third former inmate suffered incapacitating brain injuries after the detention officer, Michael J. Hayes, struck him once in the head with his fist. Hayes dealt with all three men within a year’s time.
Wake jail administrators dispute that Holmes suffered the broken arm while in jail on Sept. 27, 2010. They have suggested it happened after he was discharged.
But another inmate being processed at the same time as Holmes, and the bondsman who bailed Holmes out the next day, backed his story.
Holmes said in interviews that he objected to being told to wear a pair of dirty underwear as he was being processed into the jail. He said Hayes then called in other officers to force Holmes to the floor for a body cavity search, which according to jail policy is only supposed to be done by medical personnel. During the struggle, Holmes said that Hayes pulled Holmes’ right arm back and broke it.
Holmes’ attorney, Jeremy Leonard of Raleigh, said his client cannot straighten the arm and cannot do many tasks as a result. He also said that Holmes should not have been arrested because there was no warrant out of Maryland as police in Wake County had thought.
Leonard said the county and sheriff committed gross negligence in the way they supervised Hayes and handled Holmes’ injury.
Jail administrators do not dispute injuries to the other two inmates, Eugene Dunston of Wake County, who suffered a deep cut above an eye and required stitches following a strip search on Sept. 3, 2011, and Joshua Martin Wrenn of Benson, who left the jail in a coma a year ago. But they say Hayes did nothing wrong in the way he handled either inmate. The State Bureau of Investigation looked into Wrenn’s injury and found that Hayes acted in self defense.
That investigation has not been made public, though Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby has said that it is available for review by Wrenn’s legal guardian.
Hayes worked in strip search rooms that, unlike much of the jail, lacked security cameras. After Dunston’s injury, Hayes was transferred out of that area and jail officials installed cameras. They said Hayes’ move was unrelated to the incidents, but they declined to say whether the camera installations had anything to do with them.
A spokeswoman for the sheriff said the department has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation..