WATCH THE VIDEO: A clip of the surveillance video is available on the Greenfield Daily Reporter YouTube channel. A direct link to the video can be found at http://youtu.be/ceZ-GVB7t_w or by visiting www.youtube.com and typing “Surveillance Footage: Jailer Strikes Inmate.”
GREENFIELD – A jailer’s decision to punch an inmate refusing to go to his cell cost the officer his job earlier this month, but the prosecutor has determined Sam McDaniel didn’t commit a crime when he struck his uncooperative charge.
Surveillance video shows McDaniel, who joined the department in 2008, punching a 22-year-old inmate multiple times about the face and head. The altercation occurred after the inmate refused to go into a cell after being booked into the jail on drug charges.
The incident prompted McDaniel’s superiors to call for an investigation after firing him two weeks ago, and evidence was recently turned over to the prosecutor’s office for review. After watching the video, Prosecutor Michael Griffin said he will not file charges because he believes McDaniel acted appropriately under the circumstances.
“They simply wanted us to make our own evaluation,” he said. “I think they recognize that a decision about employment is different than a decision about filing a crime. He absolutely did not commit a crime.”
Griffin and Sheriff Mike Shepherd had opposing views on how to characterize the inmate’s actions before McDaniel punched him.
Shepherd said the inmate is shown “passively resisting,” which, while frustrating, does not necessitate violence. Griffin disagreed, saying the inmate is seen “resisting very actively” and is “beginning to thrash when McDaniel starts to subdue him.”
The video provides valuable insight into what led up to the altercation.
The surveillance camera recorded a lengthy conversation between McDaniel and the inmate, who at first politely refused to be put in a cell with other offenders.
“Sorry, Sam, I just can’t agree to that,” he said. “You’ve got sex offenders in there.”
McDaniel attempted for some time to reason with the inmate, who could not be swayed.
Moments before the altercation, the inmate said, “It’s gonna take a Taser or you physically doing it to get me in there.”
McDaniel was attempting to drag the inmate, who refused to move, when McDaniel began punching him in the head.
Much of the physical contact occurred on the floor behind a desk, out of the view of the camera.
After the altercation, the inmate asked McDaniel why he punched him.
“I’m not resisting,” he said. “You didn’t have to hit me, Sam. What’d you hit me for? You hit me, like a real fist hit me.”
McDaniel replied, “An inmate’s supposed to follow the rules.”
McDaniel said he was called back to the booking area three separate times that evening to deal with the inmate, who was being uncooperative with two other staff members.
McDaniel said the staff tried to diffuse the situation, talking to the inmate for almost an hour, before physically taking him to a cell.
McDaniel said he believes he followed the department’s procedures and was just trying to defend himself and the other officer who was trying to help.
“When I first went hands on with (the inmate), I didn’t know if he was gonna hit me or the other officer,” McDaniel said. “He was obviously threatening violence multiple times. I was in fear or him striking me or the other officer.”
Shepherd said McDaniel did not have a history of disciplinary issues, though he did serve a brief suspension in recent weeks for speaking inappropriately to a fellow employee.
Chief Deputy Maj. Brad Burkhart said the prosecutor’s decision has no bearing on McDaniel’s position at the department.
“We hold the jail staff to a high standard of conducting themselves … in dealing with inmates in the facility that we feel is appropriate,” he said. “Violation of a policy or procedure is not necessarily a criminal act.”