Local News

Officer resigns amid Central Prison investigation

Posted May 20, 2009 3:54 p.m. EDT
Updated May 21, 2009 11:51 a.m. EDT

— A correctional officer resigned Wednesday during an investigation into an unsupervised use of pepper foam on an inmate who has claimed assault in the past by prison guards.

The officer responded to a disturbance at 3 a.m. Saturday and found Timothy Helms cursing and beating on the door of the prison's hospital ward he occupies with four other inmates, the state Department of Correction said.

Helms suffered brain damage after sustaining injuries last year while at Alexander Correctional Institution in Taylorsville. He has claimed he was left paralyzed after being beaten by prison guards.

DOC officials said in a news release Wednesday that Helms had left his bed, gotten into his wheelchair and wheeled himself to the door before he began banging on the door, DOC said. He was not injured in the incident.

Officials did not say why Helms was banging on the door.

"This agency's job is to protect the public safety and the safety of inmates and employees in our facilities," DOC Secretary Alvin Keller said in a news release. "I will not tolerate anyone who operates outside of established policies and procedures and puts that safety at risk."

According to an emergency room doctor, Helms allegedly set fire to his cell last August, and officers had to subdue him by beating him on his body, face and head.

Earlier this month, Keller spoke out against Helms' claims, saying he had numerous chances to complain of an assault the night of the fire and the next day while talking with authorities.

A State Bureau of Investigation probe found injuries on Helms' head and back were not consistent with a beating.

Helms' attorney has said it might take a lawsuit to determine what happened.

Helms was sent to prison for three life terms after a fatal drunken driving accident in 1994. He has been eligible for parole since 2004, and has another parole hearing on June 1.

A grand jury did indict him on charges related to starting the fire in his cell.