Crime Cuyahoga County Jail officer accused of punching inmate secured on ground
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CLEVELAND, Ohio — A Cuyahoga County Jail officer is accused of pepper-spraying an inmate and punching him after he was handcuffed, according to county records.
Officer Russell Graham was suspended five days without pay for the Aug. 7 incident. Graham has been a corrections officer at the jail for two years and will begin serving his suspension Nov. 12, records say.
Graham is a member of the jail’s Special Response Team, known as the “men in black” because of their paramilitary gear. That squad was criticized in a 2018 U.S. Marshals Service report for withholding food as punishment to inmates, threatening inmates and using excessive force.
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Graham was punished for making false or misleading statements to investigations and unnecessary physical contact with an inmate, records say.
Adam Chaloupka, the attorney for the Ohio Police Benevolent Association union that represents jail officers, said Graham was acting in self-defense and in defense of his fellow officers.
Cuyahoga County has failed to provide a full account of the incident for approximately two months.
The disciplinary letter the county released Thursday does not include the identity of the inmate from the AUg. 7 incident.
Graham was called to an emergency and walked into a cluster of cells, the letter says. He pepper-sprayed an inmate’s face “without much interaction” with him, the letter says.
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The inmate ran toward a wall, away from Graham. Graham followed him and again pepper-sprayed the inmate, the letter says.
The inmate threw errant punches at Graham, who punched the inmate’s head four times, the letter says. Graham told investigators that he delivered one opened-handed punch and nothing else, the letter says.
Other officers arrived and “secured” the inmate on the ground, the letter says. Graham then punched and kicked the inmate as he was pinned to the ground.
Graham told investigators that he attacked the inmate because the inmate bit him, the letter says. The letter says there was no documentation of Graham being injured.
Chaloupka said the inmate bit Graham on the hand. He also said Graham delivered the blows to the inmate while he was on the ground because the inmate was biting another officer’s leg.
“The punches are to the inmate’s large muscle groups to his back, which are completely appropriate,” Chaloupka said.
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