5 North Carolina Jail Guards Arrested After Inmate Dies in Custody
Five former Forsyth County Sheriff's Office detention officers and a nurse have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of inmate John Neville, 56, at the Forsyth County Jail in Winston-Salem, NC.
The announcement was made by Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O'Neill on July 8. The nurse, identified as Michelle Heughins, has not yet been arrested. According to The New York Times the five former detention officers that have been arrested are:
Sarah Elizabeth Poole, 37
Edward Joseph Roussel, 30
Christopher Bryan Stamper, 42
Lovette Maria Williams, 47
Antonio Maurice Woodley, 26
It is unknown if the accused perpetrators were fired or resigned because of the pending criminal charges.
Neville died in custody back in December 2019 due to prolonged restraint and the inability to breathe, according to his autopsy. Neville also reportedly had asthma. Neville died at the jail four days after he was arrested, he was being held on a pending charge of assault on a female. The district attorney says that around 3:24 a.m. on Dec. 2, Neville "suffered an unknown medical condition" while asleep. Neville then fell from the top bunk in his cell and onto the concrete floor.
Jail detention officers and an on-call nurse found Neville "disoriented and confused." Neville was moved to an observation cell.
"It was over the next approximately 45 minutes that Mr. Neville would sustain injuries that would eventually cause him to lose his life," O'Neill said.
The autopsy report says that Neville repeatedly told detention officers he couldn't breathe as they tried to remove his handcuffs upon falling. But Neville was never taken to a hospital or the medical ward, instead Neville was taken to a holding cell.
Neville eventually died.
There is video of the incident, but it will not be released until the court trial begins, likely over a year from now. The autopsy showed that Neville died from complications from an ischemic brain injury due to cardiac arrest because of restraints. O'Neill says Neville's death was avoidable.
The district attorney says he supports the right for people to protest peacefully but will not allow people to break the law. Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough says that he takes responsibility for what happened to Neville. After the district attorney reviewed the case, he decided to press charges and arrest the five detention officers and the nurse on July 8.
Other Inmate Deaths and Lawsuits at the Jail
The Forsyth County Sheriff's Office and the jail's medical provider have been sued several times due to inmates that have died at the jail. Currently, two lawsuits, one in federal court and one in Forsyth Superior Court, are pending in the case of two Winston-Salem men who died in May 2017.