Placer County jail inmates talk about officers arrested for alleged abuse
Even as Placer County Sheriff Devon Bell announced Wednesday that three of his employees would be charged with crimes stemming from abuse of inmates in the Auburn jail, his department faces allegations by another former inmate who alleges he was beaten by officers while they held him face down in his cell.
“It was horrendous,” ex-Marine Brendan Coleman said of his treatment after his July 14, 2016, arrest. “I kept asking them, ‘Why are you doing this?’ ”
Coleman filed two claims against the Sheriff’s Office in January and April. The Board of Supervisors rejected his first claim and has not made a decision on the second one.
The first claim alleges excessive force and wrongful arrest by deputies. The second claim accuses officials of tampering with evidence, alleging that key portions of video shot at the scene of the arrest and at the jail have been altered.
Coleman’s alleged beating occurred prior to the September 2016 through May 2017 incidents described in the complaint filed against the three officers this week. Bell, who was appointed sheriff in February following the retirement of Ed Bonner, said at a news conference Wednesday that he was committed to rooting out bad behavior in the department and would review jail video to determine if more abuse occurred.
Bell said the department had identified six potential victims in the jail abuse case
Lt. Troy Minton-Sander, a Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said Coleman’s case is not part of the complaint filed against the two correctional officials and a deputy, and officials say it played no role in the decision to pursue the criminal investigation.
But Coleman’s attorney Patrick Dwyer said there is a similarity. While Coleman’s claim doesn’t name specific officers, it refers repeatedly to a “female deputy who appeared to be in charge” and told officers how to handle Coleman. Dwyer said that officer was Sgt. Megan Yaws, one of the defendants arrested in the sheriff’s case. Yaws could not be reached for comment Friday.
Coleman identified Yaws through jail video supplied by the Placer County District Attorney’s Office as part of his case. The video contains captions identifying Yaws and Deputy Robert Madden, also arrested this week in the jail abuse case, in the same vicinity as Coleman when he is booked at the jail and led into a cell. Coleman said he can’t be certain what Madden did – if anything – because he was held face down in the cell while he was beaten. The video doesn’t show anyone beating Coleman. He has filed a claim against the county alleging that it was altered.
A criminal complaint filed as a result of the Sheriff’sOffice’s investigation says Madden, a 10-year veteran, has been charged with four counts of assault by a public officer and three counts of falsifying an incident report. Yaws has been charged with one count of falsifying police reports. The third person arrested was corrections Officer Jeffrey Villanueva, who has been charged with three counts of assault by a public officer and three counts of falsifying police reports.
Minton-Sander said he could not respond to Coleman’s allegations because of his pending claim. A claim is an administrative filing that precedes a lawsuit.
Dwyer said he plans to file a lawsuit in federal court once the county makes a determination on the remaining claim.
Coleman, 40, of Folsom faces a single charge of resisting arrest stemming from his July 14 encounter with Placer sheriff’s deputies.
He said he became tired driving from a music festival in Grass Valley to his ex-wife’s house in Sacramento, where he was going to watch his daughter. He said he pulled into the parking lot of a Granite Bay church because it is in the same diocese as the Folsom church where he is a parishioner.
“This was a safe and familiar place for me to pull over and rest,” he said.
Minutes after getting into the back of his truck, Coleman said, he saw headlights from a patrol vehicle and went to meet the deputies. Coleman said he told deputies that he was there to rest and then agreed to have a deputy search his truck, which turned up nothing. He said he asked why he was being detained but couldn’t get an answer.
Coleman said one of the deputies twisted his arm and pushed him toward the ground and put his knee into his back. The second deputy helped keep him on the ground and handcuffed him.
“It was horrendous,” he said. “I kept asking them, ‘Why are you doing this?’ ”
A deputy yanked him up by the cuffs, aggravating a herniated disk and causing him to soil himself, Coleman said.
At the jail, Coleman said he was brought into a solitary cell and ordered to get down on his stomach with his hands cuffed behind his back. He said he was kicked in the ribs and kneed in his shoulder and back. A deputy then held his arms behind his head and his feet behind his back, “like I was being hog-tied,” Coleman said in his claim.
Coleman said he was left facedown in the cell. “There I was, barefoot, in my shorts, bruised and in pain, filth all over my clothes and face. I was in this cell by myself for about 6-7 hours,” he said in his claim.
Coleman said he went to the Mather VA hospital after being released from the jail. Medical records show extensive bruising on his back and shoulder, his lawyer Dwyer said.
Coleman said he has felt pain in his shoulder and back since the incident, but the most lasting impact has come from emotional and mental distress. Coleman said he once had strong faith in law enforcement and unsuccessfully applied for a job with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department after he left the U.S. Marine Corps in 2006.
The incident undermined that faith, he said.
Dwyer said he is also troubled by law enforcement’s response to Coleman’s allegations. He said he was not able to get video of Coleman’s arrest and incarceration until a Superior Court judge compelled its release in December, and then he received video clips that appeared to be altered.
Sound is missing from sections of the video, including when Coleman says he was yelling in pain, Dwyer said. The video also includes a 26-minute gap when deputies acted inappropriately, he said.
Dwyer has filed motions in Superior Court asking the district attorney to provide more video or answers about why portions are missing. A court hearing on those motions is scheduled for next month.