Telling Suicidal Inmate to "Just Die" and 9 Other Deputy Discipline Cases
Additional photos and more below.
But while the cases involving the three men — William Jackson, Steven Roybal and Monwell Fuller — may be the most serious disciplinary matters involving Denver Sheriff Department personnel of late, they're hardly the only ones.
A document on view below includes details about Jackson, Roybal and Fuller among a total of nine incidents for which punishment was meted out; the other six involved suspensions without pay ranging in duration from two days to ten days. Violations included the use of a racial epithet, the accidental release of an inmate and more. And a separate report, also shared here, tells the story of a deputy sanctioned for allegedly responding to a plea from a suicidal inmate with the two-word phrase "Just die."
The ten cases were resolved between late June and mid-August. But when we asked Daelene Mix, communications director for the Department of Safety, how this number compared to similar periods during the past few years, she was unable to give us an answer. "It's not necessarily something we track," Mix said. But she pointed out that "the actual occurrences spanned from October 2014 to February 2016 — and I would keep in mind that there are nearly 900 employees within the sheriff's department. Ten discipline cases over a year and a half, when you put it in that context, isn't really a huge amount."
Views will differ on that assertion — but DSD spokesman Simon Crittle emphasizes the efforts to reduce such problems by way of a multitude of recommendations currently being put in place, including a new use-of-force policy introduced in June. He adds that "we were significantly under-resourced, so we've put on almost 200 new people, and what they're doing takes up the slack. It boosts the number of people hitting the floors, and they're well-trained, they're rested and they're doing their job. That's giving a lot of relief to the folks who were there before and were basically overworked."
Adds Crittle: "This is about changing the culture, and it's going to take some time. But we've got a new sheriff [Patrick Firman], a new organizational structure, and we're working hard to get this done."
The following ten discipline-case stories, illustrated with images from DSD-managed facilities such as the Denver County Jail and Denver Detention Center, show why these efforts are necessary. They're followed by the aforementioned documents. Note that one individual was disciplined twice — first for an error made in conjunction with a sergeant, the second time due to something he did all by himself.
Deputy William Jackson
On November 24, 2014, Deputy Jackson was one of two officers assigned to a housing unit designated for inmates with severe mental-health issues. Among those housed there was an inmate designated by the initials MW. He was classified as exhibiting "major symptoms of mental illness" and was taking "psychotropic medication."
At approximately 11:38 a.m., MW was let out of his cell for "free time." He had with him what the inmate later described as "a whole Bible that was missing the back cover and looked as if it had been ripped in half, although it had not been." He maintained that the item had divine origins: "Clouds came down in [his] cell and [God] came down the stairwell and then he handed it to [him] and he said, 'I love you.'" For his part, Jackson maintained the item was the hard cover for a Bible, with no pages.
Jackson subsequently confiscated the Bible portion and tossed it in the "sally port where contraband is collected to be picked up."
What followed was an argument between Jackson and MW about whether the object was or wasn't a Bible. Jackson ended it by "physically directing" the inmate back to his cell. There, video surveillance showed that "Deputy Jackson wrapped his left arm around inmate MW's neck from behind and violently threw [him] backwards off his feet," causing his head to slam into a round metal table in front of his cell.
Discipline: On June 27, Deputy Jackson was notified that he was being terminated from his job, effective immediately.
Deputy Steven Roybal
On July 31, 2015, Deputy Roybal was working as a housing officer in another unit at the Denver Detention Center set aside for inmates with severe mental-health issues, including one referred to in the report as JD. Like inmate MW in the Jackson case, JD was classified as exhibiting major symptoms of mental illness.
Roybal and two clerks were tasked with serving breakfast to the inmates, and in the case of JD, his meal was pushed through the door flap of his cell without incident.
After breakfast, however, JD is said to have initially refused to give his tray back to Roybal through the flap, throwing out coffee instead. Shortly thereafter, JD tossed his tray through the flap and moved his hands out of them.
According to Roybal, JD yelled a number of slurs at him, including "Fuck you," "I'll fucking murder you when I come out!" and "Let me out, bring it on, motherfucker!"
Rather than immediately engaging with JD, the report says, Roybal left his cell's flap open and picked up the breakfast trays from other inmates before returning and delivering "a swift kick to the door flap...while inmate JD's hands were clearly visible." Roybal then stalked away without securing or closing the flap — something that was handled later by another deputy. Neither did he report the kick or the possible injury JD suffered as a result of it.
Discipline: On June 27, Deputy Roybal was notified that he was being terminated from his job, effective immediately.
Deputy Rudy Olave
On October 7, 2015, Deputy Olave was scheduled to work overtime at the Denver Detention Center, and upon his arrival, he and another staffer began speaking in a mixture of Spanish and English.
During the conversation, a third employee told them that they were talking so loudly that she couldn't hear her radio — a remark to which Olave responded with what's described simply as "a racial epithet" that he repeated at least once more.
The employee told Olave that his comments were "harsh, aggressive and wrong" — an observation that prompted an apology from the deputy — and filed a complaint about them.
When speaking with investigators, Olave conceded that he used the epithet, which "he hears often in music" during his personal life. But he was remorseful that it had "slipped out" in a work setting.
Discipline: On June 27, Deputy Olave was notified that he would be suspended for ten days without pay, beginning on July 17.
Deputy Gerry Carter (Incident 1) and Sergeant Jeffrey Smith
On June 29, 2015, Sergeant Smith was updating the sentencing history of an inmate known as RS to reflect six days of earned-time credit. In the process, however, he mistakenly projected the date of the inmate's release as June 28 of that year rather than June 28, 2016, when she was actually due to be released. As such, he entered the term "time expired" into the system.
At that point, Smith prepared a release form that needed to be reviewed and signed by a second records officer — in this case, Deputy Carter. He didn't catch the mistake, and RS was let go.
The inadvertent release was noticed on August 6, prompting the issuance of a warrant for RS's arrest. Almost two weeks later, on August 19, she was taken back into custody, approximately 52 days after she was prematurely given her freedom.
Discipline: On July 11, Deputy Carter was notified that he would be suspended for two days without pay, beginning on July 26. On the same day, Sergeant Smith was notified that he would be suspended for two days without pay, beginning on August 28.
Deputy Monwell Fuller
On January 18, 2016, Deputy Fuller was in an area where inmates were having lunch when a detainee referred to as JA asked if he could use a designated inmate phone to make a call. Fuller told him that he couldn't do so during meal time.
JA didn't take no for an answer. After being turned down a total of three times, he simply walked over to the inmate phones and picked one up.
Once Fuller noticed what had happened, he approached JA again, and when the inmate still wouldn't put the phone down, he did it himself and ordered JA to "lock down." JA refused to move at first, and when he finally did and began walking toward the center of the housing unit, it was only after warning Fuller not to put his hands on him.
Fuller reacted by pushing JA in the back "for a prolonged amount of time." At that point, JA stopped walking, turned around and took a step toward Fuller — at least until the deputy "moved his arm out toward the inmate," causing JA to step backward. Fuller closed the gap between them further before punching JA in the face, taking him down by the neck and slamming his face into the floor.
Discipline: On July 12, Deputy Fuller was notified that he was being terminated from his job, effective immediately.
Continue for details of five more Denver Sheriff Department discipline cases, including one in which a deputy was suspended for telling a suicidal inmate to "Just die."Next Page