Monroe County sheriff fires jail guard who “failed to follow our high standard” in struggle with prisoner

Monroe County sheriff Ruben Marté has fired a guard at the county jail after an altercation with a prisoner, because the guard “failed to follow our high standard requiring de-escalation whenever possible.”

Monroe County Sheriff Ruben Marté addresses the community justice response committee (CJRC) on Jan. 23, 2023.

In the bodycam footage  that was released by the sheriff’s office, as three guards tussle with the prisoner, one of them can be seen throwing punches at the prisoner.

A still frame from that part of the altercation is included below.

According to the news release from the sheriff’s office, the prisoner and the guard were both injured: “One of the corrections officers suffere[d] a split lip and [the prisoner] suffered a fractured nose and orbital bone.”

The bodycam footage, in condensed form  and also in a full-length version, was released along with a statement from Marté around 3 p.m. on Friday.

The incident took place 10 days earlier on Jan. 31.

Marté’s decision to fire the guard came after a mandatory use of force review, which was conducted by the jail commander Kyle Gibbons, who is a certified use of force expert, according to the news release.

Marté ordered an internal investigation and called on the Indiana State Police to investigate whether any crimes were committed during the struggle between the prisoner and the guards.

According to Friday’s news release, the previous day, on Thursday, Feb. 9, the Indiana State Police presented their findings to the Monroe County prosecuting attorney Erika Oliphant. According to the news release, Oliphant decided not to file charges.

The news release says the sheriff’s office had no role in the investigation and “deferred to the sound judgment and discretion of the prosecuting attorney in determining whether to file criminal charges.”

It’s the second time since he was sworn in as Monroe County’s new sheriff about six weeks ago that Marté has announced disturbing news out of the jail. In the third week of January, Marté delivered a presentation to the community justice response committee (CJRC) that showed photographs of horrific conditions at the jail.

The CJRC is a committee that was formed to respond to the work of two consultants, released to the county government more than 18 months ago. The consultants concluded that the Monroe County jail facility is “failing.”

The episode leading to Marté’s firing of the guard began when the prisoner, who is named in the sheriff’s news release as Marcus Ford, complained about some health issues. After the jail’s onsite nurse examined Ford, the nurse said he should be put in a medical observation cell, according to the news release.

But no medical observation cell was immediately available. So Ford was put in a holding cell, until a medical observation cell could be made ready for him.

When the guards asked Ford to walk from the holding cell to the observation cell, he didn’t want to move. The news release describes Ford’s unwillingness to move like this: “[H]e refused and threatened the officers with violence.”

On the bodycam footage, as the guards are standing outside the holding cell trying to get Ford to go to the medical observation cell, Ford can be heard telling the guards: “I’ve been wanting a fight. Y’all better know how to wrestle, y’all better know how to handle your weight, because I’ll knock one of ya’ll motherfucker’s out. That’s on my dead mama, rest in peace.”

As the guards move into the cell where Ford is standing, Ford says, “I’ve been to the penitentiary, I know how to handle myself.”

On the footage as Ford struggles against the guards, one of them throws punches at Ford. A few seconds later, the guard’s bloody lower lip can be seen.

At least four guards can then be seen trying to strap Ford into a restraint chair. During that process, Ford can be heard crying out in pain.

At one point, when he is seated but bent forward, as two guards have their hands on his back, Ford says, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!”

The image links to the Youtube video.

5 thoughts on “Monroe County sheriff fires jail guard who “failed to follow our high standard” in struggle with prisoner

  1. The prosecutors office needs to have file criminal charges on the prisoner who started the fight. If this was out in the public he would be charged and arrested because he was a criminal to begin with.

    1. I don’t know, Mr. Schleibaum. Have you looked at the video? The physical contact was initiated by the three guards, despite prior the verbal provocations by the prisoner; the prisoner resisted and fought back. If this were “out in the public” the charge would, I suppose, be resisting arrest (if arrest were the police intent), but I don’t think it would be assault. Moreover, the dispute was over a physical transfer ordred by the “medical assessor.” It may well be that the medical issue was a psychiatric one (the video certainly doesn’t undercut that), in which case any charge might face the barrier of diminished responsibility.

      I don’t know anything about the laws governing prisoner non-cooperation/resistance in situations like this, but I don’t see any reason to second guess the prosecutor.

  2. It’s obvious the prisoner was threatening the officers, however the charges in my opinion should be on the officer that punched the prisoner in the face multiple times (look when they first put the prisoner in the restraint chair and you can see how swollen his eye is already). Obviously it was against policy, and obviously the sheriff was right to fire the officer. I also think the officer was further out of line than just being fired and should also be charged with assault. The only reason he punched him was because he was pissed off that the prisoner got a lick in and gave him a split lip.

  3. I’m spending the winter in Kampot Cambodia. My favorite breakfast place is a bar called the Rusty Keyhole. It is next to the province Court of First Instance. Twice each week a truck load of chained prisoners are brought into court about 8:30 AM. By 11:00 they are gone and justice is once again served. Then the lawyers drink coffee next door to where I am smoking weed. My brain is playing bad boy, whatcha goin do? Then I see our high sheriff in the Bulletin. He looks fresh from Blazing Saddles. And its only Tuesday.

  4. Here in SE Asia, it would not be unusual for twenty prisoners be in one cell with no furniture, no bedding, and one shared bucket.

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