Cleveland, OH — The Free Thought Project has reported on numerous incidents in which police officers have attacked people for utterly senseless reasons. We have reported on instances of police beating people up for having epileptic seizures, or for being in a diabetic shock, or even being deaf. However, this is the first time we have reported on someone getting attacked by an officer for trying to pray.
A former inmate at the Cuyahoga County Jail, Tyrone Hipps, named Cuyahoga County and officer Christopher Perdue as defendants in his lawsuit. Hipps can be seen in the video footage obtained from the incident Nov. 3, 2018 having a discussion with Perdue in what appears to be an overly crowded jail where inmates are sleeping on floors and jailers are woefully outnumbered.
Perdue, at some point, decides to grab Hipps by the neck and walk him out of the common sleeping area. The choke hold was administered and the two men walked out with Hipps walking backwards for much of the way, being dragged out by the corrections officer. The former inmate contends the jail was an inhumane place to be incarcerated, the same sentiment he expressed to the U.S. Marshals Service in an interview about Cuyahoga County Jail's living conditions. Hipps believes he was targeted for ratting out the police to the Marshals and singled out for violence as he tried to pray.
The Cuyahoga County jail has been the focus of much scrutiny involving deaths of inmates, deplorable living conditions, and mistreatment by guards. In 2018 alone, eight inmates died while residing inside the jail. Prior to 2018, no more than 2 inmates died per year going back 10 years. According to Cleveland.com:
Of the eight deaths in 2018, four came from suicide, three from drug overdoses and one from cancer.
In June, two of five jailers were indicted and charged with assault, interfering with civil rights, and unlawful restraint for pepper spraying a woman who was already incapacitated in a restraint chair. The woman did try to kick an officer but pepper spraying a woman who is already fully restrained amounts to torture some might conclude. The Ohio Attorney General's office apparently agrees, charging the jail guards with serious crimes.
Following the U.S. Marshals investigation, the report found jailers would withhold food from inmates and use excessive force. Conditions were so bad at the jail the FBI and the Ohio Attorney General launched an investigation. According to Cleveland.com
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The attorney general’s investigation has netted several indictments, including of the former jail director Ken Mills and former warden, now an associate warden, Eric Ivey, along with seven corrections officers accused of various crimes, including attacking inmates strapped to restraint chairs.
Representing Hipps is civil rights attorney Ashlie Sletvold who filed the lawsuit on Monday in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. The suit also alleges Cuyahoga County has created a culture of violence within the jail. The suit maintains Hipps has suffered immense physical damage which has been long lasting.
Hipps, a Muslim, claims the jail complied with his strict Halal dietary requirements but the portions were so small he was inadequately fed. The complaint also alleges Perdue ordered Hipps to pick up his prayer mat and pray in another location. Hipps threatened to sue saying:
This is my religion. I could sue you for this.
That's when Perdue promised retaliation and started choking the inmate, dragging him across the room and down the hallway — all because he wanted to pray.
I’ll give you something to sue for.
With the history of inmate deaths, jailhouse guards being arrested and charged with crimes, and with torture caught on video camera, it is highly likely Hipps and his attorney will win in court and the American taxpayer will foot the bill for disallowing a man from peacefully praying.