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Detention officer goes to trial in inmate's beating death

Shon McClain, 40, died from blunt force trauma in June, 13 days after prosecutors say detention officer Markeith Council slammed his head twice to the ground.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — A detention officer charged with voluntary manslaughter after the death of an inmate at the Wake County Detention Center this summer threatened the prisoner before the assault, a witness testified in the case Tuesday.

Shon Demetrius McClain, 40, died from blunt force trauma to the head and neck 13 days after, the Wake County Sheriff's Office said, he was involved in an argument with officer Markeith Council.

Council, a detention officer at the jail since 2009, was indicted in August and is on trial this week. He has been suspended from his job indefinitely without pay.

"He said, 'I'll beat you to death, and I'll take my time calling the nurse for you,'" said Aaron Mitchell, an inmate in cell block FI at the Wake County jail in June.

Jurors saw a 15-second video of the June 4 encounter in which it appeared that McClain and Council exchanged words before McClain unsuccessfully tried to hit the officer.

Council then pushed McClain to the floor and slammed his head twice.

Bashiri Sandy, another inmate, witnessed the attack.

"I seen him dump him on his head, like twice," Sandy testified. "I witnessed that with my own eyes – him holding the guy by his uniform and turning him upside down and slamming him."

Inmate James Alston said he also saw the attack.

"After (McClain) first got slammed, there was nothing he could do," he said.

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.

Physician Dr. Tim Gardner and Dr. Lauren Scott, associate medical examiner for the state, said he died from a lack of oxygen to the brain.

"The injuries I observed are consistent with the falls I observed in the video," Scott said.

McClain, who was 5 feet 7 inches tall and 119 pounds, wasn't a violent person, family members said Tuesday, His sister, Marlene Gilbert, said she believes Council abused his power.

"I just think it's really clear to me," she said. "He was so small, and the officer was much bigger than he was."

Gilbert said she wants justice for her brother.

"He's the father of two kids, just a loveable person," she said. "I miss him dearly."

The state rested its case Tuesday afternoon, and the defense was expected to call witnesses Wednesday morning. The jury could begin deliberating as early as Wednesday afternoon.


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