The Sheriff is sued for alleged negligence

JUST RECEIVED: LCSO Statement: Following the incident that occurred on July 29, 2021, I requested the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to respond and conduct an investigation into the matter. Additionally, our Office of Internal Affairs conducted a separate and internal investigation. At this time, I can confirm that my office has been served with a lawsuit pertaining to that incident, and in an effort to protect the integrity of such proceedings, we will not provide any further comment. Our attorney will respond to the formal complaint in the near future. -- Sheriff Don Reynolds

DEATH IN CUSTODY LAWSUIT & PROTEST PHOTOS, the complaint is attached in PDF form.

 

 

An Enoree family has filed a lawsuit against the Laurens County Sheriff Don Reynolds from a July 29, 2021 incident in which Jarvis Johnmichael Evans died in the custody of Laurens County.

“Not a single medical person ever checked on Jarvis that night. You know why? Because not a single deputy ever gave a damn,” Evans family counsel Mark Peper said at a new conference reported on by Fox Carolina and WSPA-TV.

The legal action is in PDF form in the “In the News” section of Peper’s law firm’s website.

The complaint demands a jury trial.

The lawsuit involves Evans’ alleged mental health issues - according to an audio he called 911 asking for officers to respond because he thought people were after him - and neglect by officers at the Johnson Detention Center. The complaint lists “Sgt. Boyd, Deputy Hildebrandt, Deputy Armstrong, Deputy Miller, and others unknown.”

At the time, a SLED investigation was announced; but there was never any outcome reported if such an investigation happened.

Evans, 40, was booked into the Detention Center, which under county law is operated by LCSO, on charges of breach of peace and resisting arrest. Body-cam video released by the family shows him placed in a restraint chair with his face covered by a spit mask. He allegedly was hit with a Taser “three times in less than 20 seconds,” according to one of the television reports.

Family Counsel Peper, State Representative Rosalyn Henderson-Meyers of Spartanburg County, and Evans’ mother, Catherine Cullen Evans, spoke at a news conference announcing the lawsuit, in front of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office last Tuesday. The legal action contains allegations that Sheriff Don Reynolds has engaged in negligent training, negligent supervision and negligent retention of detention center deputies. LCSO had no comment, according to the television reports -- until a 3:38 pm Wednesday statement was issued.

A federal complaint against the deputies involved in arresting and detaining Evans also is a possibility, according to one the television reports.

The Evans family also released body-cam video of Evans being brought in to the detention center (warning: if viewed on the television coverage, this video contains harsh and obscene language which could be offensive to some viewers; the video also is on the Peper law firm website with the complaint document). There are 25 criminal or traffic offenses attributed to “Jarvis Johnmichael Evans” dating to 1999 on the public index of Laurens County and Spartanburg County, and the lawsuit details two other times that LCSO deputies responded to the Evans home and took Evans to a hospital for treatment.

At the time, this was The Clinton’s Chronicle’s reporting on the incident, based on the information available from authorities:

“Person dies in the Sheriff’s custody

“Authorities have identified Jarvis Johnmichael Evans, 40, of Enoree, as the person who has died in custody of the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office.

“Cause and manner of death was not immediately available.

“The LCSO said in a press release:

“‘On the morning of July 30, 2021, the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched to a residence on Beaverdam Church Rd in the Enoree area of Laurens County due to an individual causing a disturbance. An individual was arrested on scene and transported to the Johnson Detention Center where he was booked for Breach of Peace and Resisting Arrest. While at the Detention Center, the inmate experienced a medical emergency, at which time Deputies rendered aid until EMS arrived. The inmate was transported to the Hospital, where he passed away a short time later. SLED was requested to investigate, as is protocol with any in-custody death.’”

No public report was ever issued concerning Evans’ death.

For more information about spit masks, see: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/03/nyregion/spit-hoods-police.html

The lawsuit describes the deputies’ actions, including the Tasing; how Southern Health Partners, Inc., a contracted agency by Laurens County, was never contacted in violation of policies; and how Evans was “checked on” during his incarceration until a deputy saw him “unresponsive” - then the legal action says:

“Laurens County Emergency Medical Services (“EMS”) responded to the JDC and transported the Decedent to the hospital where he pronounced dead at 2:59am on July 30, 2021.

“An autopsy was requested by the Laurens County Coroner and performed less that seven (7) hours later, and a mere two (2) hours after Rev. Evans was finally notified of her son’s death.

“The report listed ‘Accident’ as Decedent’s manner of death.” 

The causes of action alleged against Sheriff Reynolds are gross negligence, wrongful death, and survival claim. The legal document asks that a jury award damages.

In unrelated incidents, this year, LCSO directed by Sheriff Reynolds has faced public questions in connection with two officer-involved shootings and a non-officer-involved shooting, involving three victims: Kalah Shannon Gary, at a house off AB Jacks Road between Clinton and Laurens; Daniel R. Strange, a Clinton real estate broker, in Waterloo; and Ronald S. “Keith” Dunaway, in Waterloo.

SLED reports there have been 23 officer-involved-shootings in South Carolina in 2022.

 

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