Wake DA reviewing SBI report of jail altercation that killed inmate

tmcdonald@newsobserver.comJuly 29, 2013 

— Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby is reviewing a State Bureau of Investigation report on an altercation at the Wake County jail last month that severely injured an inmate who later died of his injuries.

Willoughby must decide whether the detention officer, Markeith Council, used excessive force and if criminal charges are warranted.

Meanwhile, the autopsy report for the dead man, Shon Demetrius McClain, corroborates witness accounts that Council slammed McClain twice on his head and neck after the inmate apparently hit him in the face. The autopsy report summary made public Monday also stated, “It appears after the first throw that Mr. McClain was unconscious.”

Council suffered minor injuries and returned to work shortly after recovering, said Capt. James Stevens, a spokesman with the sheriff’s office. Stevens said Monday that Council has been on administrative duty at the jail since the incident.

“We are just waiting to hear from” Willoughby, he said.

Wake County Sheriff’s Office contacted the SBI after the June 4 altercation between Council and McClain, 40, who was booked into the Wake County jail May 28 on misdemeanor charges.The altercation occurred in a day room at the jail. Two witnesses, both inmates, say it started when McClain told Council that if the detention officer had slammed his finger in a door that “it would have been some problems.”

The verbal exchange continued between the two men before Council pushed McClain to the floor. McClain got up and took a swing at Council.

The witnesses say McClain did not connect, but the autopsy report from the state medical examiner’s office stated that McClain punched Council in the face.

Witness accounts and the autopsy report agree that Council then hoisted McClain up and slammed him twice on his neck and head.

Jessie Jeffers, a Raleigh lawyer representing McClain’s family, also contends that Council picked McClain up twice and both times slammed his head on the facility’s concrete floor.

McClain was about 5 feet, 7 inches tall and weighed 145 pounds, according to arrest reports. Inmates say Council is about 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs close to 300 pounds.

Emergency workers arrived and transported McClain to WakeMed, where he remained on life support until he died June 17. The autopsy concluded he died of head and neck trauma that included a broken neck, spinal cord injuries and brain damage.

On May 29, one day after McClain was booked into the jail, another detention officer, Jamaal Rali Covington, 30, was fired for conduct unbecoming an officer. On June 6, he was charged with one misdemeanor count of simple assault, according to a criminal summons filed at the Wake County Clerk of Courts Office.

Sheriff’s investigators accused Covington of striking inmate Joshua Frazier, 25, of Raleigh in the head with his fist, according to the summons.

McDonald: 919-829-4533

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