LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The release of a disturbing body camera video from inside the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections is gaining national attention, and has led civil rights groups from across the country to demand justice.
The video was first released by WAVE 3 News on Monday. It shows former Corrections Officer David Schwartz beating a handcuffed inmate, Terry Whitehead, who was accused of blocking the window in his cell with toilet paper.
Louisville activist Christopher 2X called a press conference in front of LMDC on Friday to point out the civil rights violations in this case. He said it’s taking too long for charges to be brought against the corrections officers.
“The bottom line is his civil rights weren’t being protected right then,” 2X said.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer issued a statement on the incident on Saturday.
"The disturbing and totally unacceptable actions of these two probationary officers do not reflect the values of Louisville Metro Government, nor our Metro Corrections team. Director Bolton was right in taking immediate action to terminate the officers and referring the matter for criminal investigation, which clearly signals this behavior will not be tolerated, violations are taken very seriously, including accountability through the justice system.
"This behavior is not representative of our Corrections staff. We have a very stringent screening process for officers that includes background checks, psychological tests and polygraphs, and we train our corrections officers for nine weeks following the best training standards in the country, followed by a field training period with seasoned corrections officers lasting three additional weeks. This is one of many reasons why our jail was accredited this year by the American Correctional Association, earning 100 percent on both mandatory and non-mandatory standards for all aspects of jail operations including management, health care delivery, and safety of staff and inmates.
"The ongoing criminal investigation and pending litigation prohibit me from commenting further on this case. But I am confident in the work that Director Bolton and his team are doing.”
He’s been working with the family and says multiple civil rights groups have reached out and are outraged. A Dallas-based group even wants to protest after the video.
Schwartz and Devan Edwards, the other LMDC officer in the video, were fired immediately after another corrections officer brought the video to officials.
“If Terrance did the same thing to the corrections officer charges would have been filed on him,” 2X said. “And to reiterate, the officer filed false charges on Terrance that the court dismissed once they found out the true story.”
Schwartz filed charges claiming Whitehead was assaulting him after the incident.
Whitehead is suing the former officers, Schwartz and Edwards, federally, claiming the two beat him, pepper sprayed him, and handcuffed him right before the video starts.
But local attorney Michael Goodwin said that punch is enough to prove a violation of civil rights.
“A corrections officer has no justification for the force that we see on the video,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin said excessive force is the violation that jumps out to him.
“When a law enforcement officer, like a corrections officer, uses more force than is justified in the situation, that’s a civil rights violation,” Goodwin said.
The suit cites violations of the Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, which guarantee protections for Whitehead -- even in custody.
Since Whitehead could only file a civil suit requesting monetary damages, those involved are calling for criminal charges.
The FBI is investigating, but it may take time -- if charges are ever filed.
“Prosecutors in a lot of these cases regarding law enforcement officers are very slow and careful when they charge, and when they don’t charge,” Goodwin said.
Whitehead’s family has been bombarded with interview requests from national outlets since the video was released. They will hold another press conference at LMDC to discuss policy reforms on Tuesday.
WAVE 3 News reached out to the U.S. Attorney General’s office which said they could not comment on whether they were looking into the case or not. But 2x said he discussed the case with them and they would be willing to look into it if it came across their desk.