Black man left paralyzed after Texas police allegedly slam him on to concrete

<span>Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock</span>
Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

Lawyers of a Black Texas man and civil rights activists are calling for justice after he was allegedly grabbed and slammed on to concrete ground by police officers at a jail in Beaumont, Texas, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down.

Related: US officer pursuing white suspect held knee on Black man’s neck, lawsuit says

On Wednesday, lawyers of 41-year-old Christopher Shaw hosted a press conference that called for justice for Shaw, who was severely injured while in custody in June 2021.

According to a lawsuit filed last month, Shaw was arrested on 12 June 2021 over misdemeanor public intoxication charges after Beaumont police officer James Gillen found him standing in the middle of a roadway, “in need of medical assistance”. Shaw was then taken to a hospital to be evaluated before being transported to Jefferson county correctional facility in Beaumont, where he was restrained for “noncompliance”.

“Before entering the facility, Mr Shaw slightly turned his body. Defendant Gillen responded by attempting to slam Mr Shaw to the concrete platform at the rear entrance of the facility,” the lawsuit said.

He landed on his head and fractured his spine in multiple places, the lawsuit alleges. Shaw asked for help from jail staff and employees of the jail’s medical contractor, CorrHealth, but they refused to help him, according to the lawsuit. When Shaw asked one nurse for assistance, she allegedly told him, “I won’t help you until you help yourself.”

The lawsuit added that Shaw was left alone in his jail cell for approximately 20 hours before someone attended to him medically. While he was left alone in his cell, he “defecated and urinated on himself multiple times due to his inability to control his bowels and kidney function”, the lawsuit said. Only later was an ambulance called for him and he was taken to the hospital again, where he underwent various emergency surgeries.

Upon coming back to jail from the hospital, “Mr Shaw clearly showed signs of paralysis. Specifically, Mr Shaw was not ambulant. Mr Shaw was placed in a wheelchair and, with the assistance of another officer, Mr Shaw was wheeled back into JCCF. Mr Shaw was unable to control his lower extremities,” the lawsuit said.

Shaw has since filed the lawsuit against police officer James Gillen, the city of Beaumont and CorrHealth.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Candice Matthews, the statewide steering committee chair for the Rev Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Push Coalition, said, “We’re dealing with America’s chaos. And from police brutality, that is exactly what we’re dealing with. We’re dealing with road cops that operate on ignorance and authority. And that is a dangerous combination because the end result is what has happened to dear brother Christopher Shaw.

“We’re dealing with lack of accountability because accountability breeds responsibility. And therefore we need our law enforcement to be responsible enough to hold their officers accountable when wrongdoing has been done,” she added.

Speaking to KBMT last September, the Beaumont police chief, James Singletary, said that although he felt “very badly about the gentleman that got injured”, Gillen was “just doing his job”.

The incident was captured on video which Shaw’s attorneys have seen, but according to Beaumont officials, public release of the video is prohibited as it may jeopardize jail security. Shaw’s attorney and civil rights advocate said they are working to release the video.

On Thursday, the bishop and social activist William Barber II, of the non-profit organization Repairers of the Breach, called for the Texas governor, Greg Abbott, to release the video.

“Today we are asking and demanding that Governor Abbott demand the release of the video and any other politician that cares about justice, that are running for office, should be demanding the release of the video,” Barber said at a press conference.

“This case is about investigating a pattern and practice … what made the officer think he could do this in the first damn place?

“We must have a full and thorough investigation, not only here … but also the [US] Department of Justice to ensure that anyone can be safe … and even if you are arrested, an arrest is not a death sentence or a license to maim.”