Midtown Raleigh News

Family of man who died after jail fight wants to see videotape

The family of Shon Demetrius McClain, who died this week after an altercation with a detention officer in the Wake County jail, wants to see the videotape of the incident, but it will remain confidential as long as there’s a possibility of criminal charges.

If the officer isn’t charged, Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said the video would be turned over to the family’s lawyer, who could use it to determine if there are grounds for a civil lawsuit.

“I just want the truth to come out,” said McClain’s only sibling, Marlene Gilbert, 45, of Holly Springs. “He was not a violent person. No one has told me what happened.”

Funeral services for McClain, who died Monday, will be held Friday in Apex. The N.C. State Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet said how he died, but Jessie Jeffers, the attorney representing McClain’s family, said Thursday that McClain suffered a broken neck, spinal cord injuries and brain damage.

McClain, 40, was booked into the Wake County jail May 28 on misdemeanor charges: drinking alcohol in the city’s bus depot at Moore Square in downtown Raleigh and failing to appear in court for possession of drug paraphernalia, state records show.

McClain and Detention Officer Markeith Council were involved in an altercation on the night of June 5. McClain was taken to WakeMed where he remained on life support until Monday.

“His injuries were going to be permanent,” Jeffers said.

McClain grew up in Apex and is the father of a 15-year-old daughter and a 17-year-old son. His parents are both deceased, but he had a large extended family in the Triangle area.

“He was close to his daughter,” Gilbert said. “It’s a little rough on her.”

Gilbert said her brother was a “normal” guy who loved popcorn and worked at a variety of fast food outlets, including Arby’s, Burger King and Snoopy’s.

His niece, Amber Gilbert, 21, is a rising senior at UNC-Greensboro where she is majoring in human development and family studies.

“He was always encouraging me to stay in school,” Amber Gilbert said Thursday. “When he found out I was accepted into college, he was really excited.”

McClain had past legal troubles that included convictions for obstruction of justice, failing to register as a sexual offender, breaking and entering and larceny.

The sex offender charge stemmed from a 1996 conviction for taking indecent liberties with a child in Wake County. McClain served nearly two years in prison for inappropriately touching a child relative, said Marlene Gilbert, who added that she was never convinced of his guilt.

“He was pressured into a plea deal,” she said. “They scared him into thinking he was going to do a whole lot of years in prison. Regardless of what his past was, it doesn’t justify what the (detention) officer did.”

The SBI has been investigating the incident. Willoughby said SBI agents interviewed inmates and jail staffers and will turn over their findings to his office, which will determine if Council or anyone else should be charged with a crime.

Central to the SBI investigation is a video recording of the incident, which occurred just before 8:30 p.m. in the 1F housing unit of the jail. Jeffers said Council reportedly picked McClain up and slammed him twice on his head on the jail’s concrete floor. Jeffers has not seen the video recording of the incident.

“I’m waiting for that opportunity,” he said. “Once the investigation is concluded I will be able to see it.”

Council was treated for minor injuries after the altercation. He is at work, assigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of the SBI investigation, said Capt. Jimmy Stevens, a sheriff’s office spokesman.

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