LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Outrage and anger. Those were some of the feelings that arose following a WAVE 3 News Troubleshooter investigation in December that made public a video of an inmate in handcuffs being punched by a corrections officer.
The incident happened last April at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections.
The two officers shown in the video were immediately fired after learning about the incident. The jail’s director, Mark Bolton, described one of the officers as being in a “fit of rage.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating possible civil rights violations.
Now, WAVE 3 News Troubleshooters have uncovered exclusive information about another sergeant accused in the incident, with a long history of being in trouble.
When WAVE 3 News tracked down Donna Gentry, she did not want to comment on the punching incident or the federal lawsuit on which she is now listed.
According to those documents, two LMDC corrections officers, Devan Edwards and David Schwartz, beat inmate Terry Whitehead after he’d placed toilet paper over his cell window while using the bathroom. Gentry gave the two officers the command to enter Whitehead’s cell and then pepper spray the inmate, the documents said.
“It is our belief that she instructed them to take him to the west hole, where there were no cameras,” Whitehead’s attorney, Lonita Baker, told WAVE 3 News. She works with Attorney Sam Aguiar. XXXXX
Baker said Gentry also covered her tracks with an incident report filed by Schwartz against Whitehead, claiming Whitehead was the one assaulting them.
“She is someone who had no business supervising anyone, especially two officers who were in their probationary periods,” Baker said, adding that she feels that way because of Gentry’s personnel file.
Since her hiring in 2000, Gentry has been demoted, reassigned and promoted again. According to Baker’s count, Gentry received more than 30 disciplines and reprimands. She was suspended 12 times for a total of 37 days since her employment began.
The incidents include a five-day suspension in 2004 for using “excessive” and “abusive” force on a female inmate.
In 2006, UofL Hospital security kicked Gentry out of the facility after staff said she prevented a pregnant inmate from accessing medical staff. They also said she refused to wear a face mask around the infant even though Gentry was coughing. Documents described her as “angry” and “rude” and “confrontational.”
In 2012, she was accused of forcing an inmate to walk through sewage in his bare feet after he’d plugged the toilet. That inmate was later accused of breaking Gentry’s nose in a separate incident.
In 2013, she was disciplined and suspended after a lieutenant found a section of the jail Gentry was in charge of was excessively hot. The lieutenant noted several dorms over 80 degrees, and that Gentry had not allowed for food slots to be opened. The documents state she “aided in creating a potential hostile environment for the inmates and officers assigned to manage the wings on the floor.”
A more recent discipline involved the incident with Whitehead. Jail officials said she allowed Schwartz and Edwards to enter his cell against policy. That’s because they were still new employees on probation and did not have the training. Gentry had been suspended for similiar reasons in 2009 and 2013.
“At the end of the day, why was she employed with Louisville Metro Corrections?” Baker asked.
Gentry filed 15 grievances against LMDC from 2005 through 2016. Some of them were in response to the suspensions.
The Louisville Corrections FOP Lodge 77 President Tracy Dotson told WAVE 3 News it does not condone violations of the law by any member, but said it is entitled to be defended by the Legal Defense Plan.
LMDC did not comment, citing a criminal investigation and civil litigation.
Gentry retired in August, after she was demoted for sending untrained home incarceration officers to arrest a murder suspect. Her retirement form indicated “DO NOT REHIRE.”
“If the corrections officers and the sergeants are the ones causing the mayhem, what do we expect the other inmates to do?” Baker asked.
Gentry had previously served in the military. She has yet to respond to the lawsuit.