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Jail officer accused in inmate's death felt 'threatened'

Posted December 11, 2013

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— A Wake County detention officer charged with causing an inmate’s death said in court Wednesday he felt the prisoner was a threat and needed to be subdued.

Shon Demetrius McClain, 40, died from blunt force trauma to the head and neck 13 days after prosecutors say he got into a fight with officer Markeith Council.

Council, a detention officer at the jail since 2009, is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the case. The defense rested Wednesday, and the jury began deliberation shortly before 4 p.m.

Testifying on his own behalf, Council recalled the night he got into an altercation with McClain. Council said he was the only officer in the cell block with 55 inmates when McClain started arguing with him.

Council had been passing out sheets to the inmates when McClain accused him of nearly slamming his hand in the cell door.

“He talked about how we had too much power,” Council said. “Other inmates were egging him on. I told him not to listen.”

About 15 or 20 minutes later, Council said, inmates were out of their cells when a combative McClain approached him again.

“I’m telling him that he needs to back up,” Council testified. “Again, I’m telling him don’t let his friends get him in trouble. You could hear these guys saying something to him.”

Council said within moments McClain struck him in the jaw, and they began to tussle. The officer tried to handcuff him while keeping an eye on the crowd.

“I’ve got to get him off of me and get him secured,” Council said. “I’m worried about what is going on around me. Your mind shuts down and you go to what you know, which is your training.”

Council said he didn’t have time to use pepper spray. He called on all available officers and a nurse, and put the block on lockdown.

McClain – who had been in custody since May 28 on misdemeanor charges of possession of drug paraphernalia and consuming malt beverage on public property – was taken to WakeMed, where he remained on life support until his death on June 17.

Council, who has three children and a baby on the way, said his career goal is to become a prison warden. His wife is a Raleigh police officer.

He said he didn’t know McClain prior to that night and “didn’t have a problem” with him.

During testimony Tuesday, other inmates said that McClain – who was 5 feet 7 inches tall and 119 pounds – was helpless once he was pinned by the bigger officer. Jurors were shown security video that showed Council slamming McClain to the ground twice.

During his cross-examination Wednesday, Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby focused on the physical differences between the men. Council weighs 290 pounds and played football in college.

Willoughby asked Council whether he considered subduing McClain by sitting on him, rather than slamming him to the ground.

"Why did you throw him down the second time?" the prosecutor asked. "You know that at that point, throwing him down was going to hurt him."

Council replied: "I didn't think to hurt him. I was thinking about getting him off of me."


 

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  • 678devilish Dec 13, 2013

    It is easy to judge the guard as out of line.

    Smilester, we clearly SAW the video for ourselves. What were you looking at. He was found GUILTY. Accept the verdict the jury gave and move on.

  • 678devilish Dec 13, 2013

    However, I think making the guard the scapegoat for doing his job as best he can in a bad situation is terrible.

    Smilester

    Really? He did not have to slammed him down the second time like that. It was deliberate and yet he was found GUILTY! Thanks jury for doing your job. The judge felled all of us.

  • 678devilish Dec 13, 2013

    They found him guilty and then the judge slapped him on the wrist. He gave no regards to the death of the inmate that he killed. No, I am sorry. I pray that he struggles to find a job when he is out of jail. That will certainly tell him something. He now has a criminal record.

  • Smilester Dec 13, 2013

    It is easy to judge the guard as out of line. That is until you are the only person standing alone in the middle of a large crowd of prisoners. Simply put I am fully aware of this fact. I am an average sized guy. If I walk up to a guy twice my size & pick a fight with him I can't expect that to go well. If I am a prisoner doing this I would expect that to go worse than I would on the street. I hate that the guy lost his life. I'm sure the guard didn't mean to kill him either. However, I think making the guard the scapegoat for doing his job as best he can in a bad situation is terrible.

  • LastSon1981 Dec 12, 2013

    They found him guilty congrats you got your scapegoat

  • scubagirl2 Dec 12, 2013

    I do like that the jury asked for guard training standards and, if memory serves, to see the video again....sounds like they are taking all into account. I still say, ANYONE who watches this video with even a semi-open mind will see the guard was out of line and excessive

  • scubagirl2 Dec 12, 2013

    "Don't forget people here love inmates they forget they are criminals. LastSon1981"

    Don't forget people here love to stir the pot regardless of what's in it......

  • Classified Dec 12, 2013

    "Don't forget people here love inmates they forget they are criminals"

    Not really, people just don't like out of control corrections officers. No doubt McClain was a small time criminal but he certainly didn’t deserve to be beaten to death. As I said before, there’s a mindset that believes that they can’t be held responsible for their actions both within the corrections dept. and out on the streets. This needs to stop, they need to be held to the SAME laws that the rest of us do.

  • mrr03 Dec 12, 2013

    I think the jury has to be very careful in this case because their verdict could have a chilling effect on the remaining officer who work in the detention center...Before long the inmate will be running the place if you are not careful.

  • LastSon1981 Dec 12, 2013

    "Why they even bother to put other inmates on the stand to testify is beyond me, what credibility is there in that?"

    I imagine it would be about the same credibility as if you put a guard on the stand.

    Backpacker

    Don't forget people here love inmates they forget they are criminals

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