Pepper spray ignites lawsuit

An inmate involved in a jail disturbance last year is suing Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis, accusing a sheriff’s deputy of firing pepper spray balls into his chest without justification.

The incident, which occurred in August, was videotaped by sheriff’s personnel and has been generating thousands of hits online after portions of it were posted several months ago on YouTube.

Michael Jackson, 25, filed the civil rights lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court and is seeking unspecified damages.

The video shows an emergency response team at the Hamilton County Justice Center confronting inmates who had disabled the locks on their cell doors, clogged their toilets and refused to cooperate with correctional officers.

The team members are seen on video going from cell to cell and ordering the inmates to open their doors. If they refuse, as many do, the deputies fire pepper spray under the door.

The pepper spray, an eye and throat irritant, caused the inmates and a few of the deputies to cough and gag.

Jackson, who was in jail on a charge of receiving stolen property, appears near the end of the video. The deputies fire pepper spray into his cell and then burst inside, shackle him and carry him to a restraint chair.

As they try to strap him into the chair, Jackson complains that he is being choked and uses a racial slur, apparently referring to an African-American deputy.

Another deputy then fires three pepper spray balls into Jackson’s bare chest at point blank range. According to the lawsuit, that deputy is Sgt. Michelle Moore.

“Defendant Moore acted negligently, intentionally, recklessly, knowingly and with deliberate indifference to the safety and rights of plaintiff Jackson,” the lawsuit states.

Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Barnett declined Monday to discuss the disturbance or the lawsuit.


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