Troubleshooters: No investigation after man tased repeatedly, eventually died in Harrison Co. jail
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - On Oct. 4, 2018, while being strapped to a chair and tased, Jarod Draper’s screams echoed off the walls of the Harrison County Jail.
He was tased a total of seven times. Draper, who was suspected of having swallowed a bag of meth, would die shortly after the final tase.
During a deposition in a federal civil rights case, Draper’s family attorney Larry Wilder asked former jail captain Dustin Cundall, “You took that taser and put it on Mr. Draper’s body and admitted 50,000 volts of electricity. You believe that was appropriate?”
“I believe it was appropriate, yes,” Cundall responded.
“Because he’s just some pissed off guy who’s entertaining himself?” Wilder asked.
The 40-year-old, whose criminal record involved drug offenses, was placed on suicide watch. The surveillance video shows him in distress. He’d been brought into the jail on a traffic infraction.
“It’s like something in a movie that you can’t bear to watch,” Draper’s mother, Vicki Budd, told WAVE News Troubleshooters. “He was tortured to death in the Harrison County Jail. If you don’t believe me, watch the video.”
While being shocked, Draper’s hands, chest, and feet were all strapped to a five-point restraint chair. His official cause of death was determined to be an overdose, but what angers his mother is how he was treated while he was alive.
“For over 15 minutes, they tortured Jarod with a stun gun until he died,” she said. “Until he died.”
After Draper’s death almost four years ago, the statements the officers made during the civil lawsuit have surfaced. The family of Draper sued the sheriff’s office in 2021 and the case was settled the same year.
The jail officers said that they were trying to stop Draper from hurting himself, especially since he was hitting his head against the back of the chair. The theory behind the commonly used method is to introduce pain to gain control of a person.
“The purpose of a dry stun or any pressure point is to get pain compliance,” Cundall said.
“50 thousand volts shot in your body is a little bit of pain?” Wilder asked Cundall.
“Yes,” he replied. “I’ve been tased myself.”
Despite being strapped, the officers describe Draper as flailing around and being a danger to himself. So much so, that on top of the tasing, the nurse steps twice on Draper’s bare, shackled feet.
“Anything that I could think of, off the top of my head that could help keep him from bouncing that head, and it was ineffective,” the nurse, Michael Gregory, said.
“But you haven’t taken his pulse?” Wilder asked.
“Or his blood pressure or his raspatory rate, you are correct,” Gregory said.
He said even though Draper was restrained, he was still resisting.
“Was he trying to strike you with his hands?” Wilder asked former Sgt. Matthew Hulsey, who alsos tased Draper several times.
“No sir,” Hulsey said.
“Was he trying to kick you with his feet?”
“No sir, he was flailing around.”
During the course of the deposition, Hulsey said he continues to relive the event and that he does not want what happened to Draper to happen to anybody else. Because of this, he said to Wilder, he no longer carries a taser.
At one point in the video the officers try what’s known as “stapling” which is a sort of electrical tasing circuit that incapacitates the body. Stapling involves placing the taser directly on the body. One of the officers is seen placing the taser over Draper’s heart.
Cundall testified that when that didn’t stop Draper’s screaming, they realized he may not have been acting out after all.
“I guess they wanted him to stop screaming as they were stunning him,” Budd said.
The nurse finally called an ambulance, but by the time it arrives, it was too late. Draper’s heart stopped.
“The addiction was awful,” Budd said. “But his whole life, such joy, such love, family. But they dismiss all of that because when someone is an addict, they’re not worth it, they’re not human. They’re not treated as human.”
Budd said she has a lot of unanswered questions, such as why, if Draper was thought to have consumed drugs, he was not sent to the hospital for emergency treatment but was instead restrained in a chair. She also has one other burning question: why was the event not investigated?
WAVE News Troubleshooters submitted a request to Indiana State Police for a copy of any investigation related to Jarod Draper during the time of his stay at the jail. The request was denied stating no such investigation existed. After being requested them to double-check, ISP confirmed it again.
Harrison County Prosecutor Otto Schalk revealed in a letter he declined to prosecute any of the officers involved. That decision was made before the case was investigated by any outside agency, and Schalk said he has already examined the video and the relevant paperwork.
“I do not believe a crime occurred, nor do I believe there are circumstances evident to merit an additional investigation,” Schalk wrote.
He did however, provide the information to ISP for their review. He did not refer the information to the FBI for possible civil rights violations.
According to Indiana State Police, conducting an investigation into a death that occurred in a jail is not required by state law.
Schalk has repeatedly refused to talk about his decision to decline prosecution without an investigation, either by returning the numerous calls or while in person at his office during two separate visits.
“There should never be the dismissal for an investigation when someone dies while in custody,” Budd said. “They continue to say Jarod was an addict, he overdosed in jail. Maybe God will show them more mercy than they did my son.”
Nick Smith, the current sheriff of Harrison County, was not serving in that role when Draper was killed. He said he’s now implemented policy changes changes, including that officers can no longer tase prisoners strapped to a chair.
“The autopsy clearly shows that Mr. Draper’s death was directly caused by an acute methamphetamine overdose,” Smith wrote in a statement. “Although the autopsy report also clearly shows that the Taser deployment was not a contributing fact in Mr. Draper’s death, upon taking office I ordered the jail policy changed to not allow a Taser to be used on a person while in a restraint chair. I have also purchased a body scanner to detect items smuggled into the jail during the booking process. When Mr. Draper came into the jail after swallowing a bag of methamphetamine, the previous administration had no viable means of detecting this bag of methamphetamine before it ruptured and subsequently caused Mr. Draper’s death. We hope the body scanner will provide early detection to the smuggling of dangerous drugs into our facility that may have been ingested prior to arrest.”
The attorney who represented the department’s employee’s did not respond to our email asking if they wanted to comment.
The FBI is aware of the events that occurred in Draper’s final moments, but there has been no indication that they have begun an investigation into the possibility of civil rights crimes as of yet. This week, Wilder filed a criminal complaint with the FBI and the US Department of Justice in regards to Draper’s treatment before his death.
Copyright 2022 WAVE. All rights reserved.