LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. – The jail security video is frightening. It shows a female inmate repeatedly beaten in the face by a Gwinnett County sheriff’s deputy while trying to subdue her.
The FOX 5 I-Team has learned that case is now part of a federal grand jury investigation into how Gwinnett County inmates are treated.
The grand jury subpoenaed all records and videos involving 26-year-old Shelby Clark. This is the third subpoena for jail records, but the first involving a case where a deputy has already been arrested.
According to her father, Shelby Clark suffers from a variety of mental illnesses. On August 20, members of the Gwinnett County Jail’s Rapid Response Team entered Clark’s cell to stop “self-harming behavior.” A spokesperson says an earlier encounter with Clark had injured three deputies, although none seriously.
Three punches from deputy Aaron Masters would send Clark to the hospital. A week later, her father says their lawyer took a picture of Clark, her right eye still badly bruised.
“No matter what you do, nobody should deserve to be hit like that,” said Brian Clark.
Eleven days after the incident, the sheriff’s department arrested one of their own. Deputy Masters is charged with battery, the first member of the Rapid Response Team to face a criminal charge while a federal grand jury continues its own investigation. The panel has now subpoenaed all records and videos involving that August 20 incident, a sign the feds aren’t just focusing on what happened in the past. Masters has resigned.
The FOX 5 I-Team was the first to raise questions over the jail’s repeated use of restraint chairs on seemingly compliant inmates. Some of those inmates are suing the county, claiming civil rights violations. The sheriff’s department insists all use of force is done to stop inmates from harming themselves or others, or damaging property.
Already the grand jury has received three years’ worth of Rapid Response Team records. The panel also specifically asked for what happened to current inmate Brandon Andrews. Last September, instead of returning to his cell with the other inmates, security video shows Andrews putting on his jail slippers and refusing to follow orders. The Rapid Response Team tackles him, and under a pile of bodies, one deputy fired a Taser into Andrews’ chest and thigh.
What do Andrews and Clark have in common? According to jail records, each has mental health problems.
“They’re overcrowded now with mental patients because there ain’t no place to go in Georgia,” pointed out Brian Clark. “There ain’t no place to put them.”
Among other things, he says his daughter suffers from micro-encephalitis, her brain not growing to fill her skull. She’s still in the Gwinnett County jail on her original charge of hitting another patient at the Gwinnett Medical Center. It’s the third time she’s been jailed because she attacked someone.
“I told her she’s gotta stop this hitting,” Clark said, clearly frustrated. “She said I know, I know. But she’s always said that. I know. I know. And she still hits.”
He says he’s glad to see the grand jury investigating his daughter’s case. And he’s glad deputy Masters is no longer a cop.
“I’ve been there before,” Clark admitted. “I’ve been frustrated enough where I wanted to hit her. But I never did.”
Shelby Clark has been in the Gwinnett County jail since July. Her father says she can’t post bond until he finds a mental health treatment facility that will take her.
So far, he says, none will.