COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The former Kershaw County deputy who stood within feet of former Sergeant Oddie Tribble during a two-minute beating of a handcuffed inmate told a federal jury Tuesday about his version of the events from August 5, 2010.
Former deputy Jimmy Simmons, Jr. said he thought Tribble was justified in the beating that broken inmate Charles Shelley's leg.
Simmons and Tribble were fired from the sheriff's office within days of the beating in August 2010 for "misconduct in office," in connection with the beating, according to employment records from the sheriff's office. Former Sheriff Stephen McCaskill fired Tribble for "physically abusing a prisoner," and fired Simmons for "failing to act," according to the men's personnel files.
At 6:00pm on August 5, 2010, all Kershaw County deputies were to report to two roadblocks set up just outside the Camden city limits. Simmons and Tribble were assigned to drive the sheriff's prisoner transport van, which could hold up to 14 detainees. Simmons was the driver, Tribble the front passenger. The deputies picked Shelley up from the Hasty Road and Haile Street checkpoint. Shelley was charged with driving under suspension, open container, possession of marijuana and giving false information to police.
"He was hollering, cussing, raising Cain," Simmons described Shelley's behavior inside the van that night, "He was raising holy hell." Shelley testified that he became "upset" after Simmons and Tribble ignored his requests for the officers to retrieve his asthma inhaler out of his car. Simmons said Shelley's "mouth was nonstop" inside the van, and that at one point Shelley told Tribble "he was going to find him, find his family." "You don't pay attention to most of that stuff, you let it roll off your back," Simmons testified. That's until you threaten an officer's family, according to Simmons' testimony.
Defense attorney Johnny Gasser asked Simmons if he'd ever heard an inmate threaten an officer's family in his 30 years of law enforcement. Simmons replied, "Never."
Simmons' version of what happened inside the jail's sally port described Shelley as "resistant" and "non-compliant" to Tribble's orders. It started when Tribble ordered Shelley out of the van, which Simmons told the jury that Shelley ignored several commands to get out of it. When he started to climb out, Simmons told the jury, "Mr. Shelley's right foot moved forward. I don't know if it was a kicking motion or not." At that point, Simmons said Tribble pulled out his steel police baton, "That was an indication of if you want trouble, you're going to get trouble, " Simmons said.
Simmons stood within feet of Tribble as he landed 27 hits to the handcuffed inmate's legs. The blows broke Shelley's right leg and opened a cut in the other that required stitches to close. "Based on my training of using an asp (baton), it did not appear to be excessive force," Simmons said.
The video showed Simmons push Shelley away from himself two separate occasions. The moves, according to Simmons' testimony, was to defend himself because he didn't "want to be incapacitated." In the video, Shelley moved toward Simmons during the beating. The movement was Shelley's attempts to get away from Tribble's strikes, according to testimony from the government's use of force expert.
"We're taught to hit him in the legs and not above the belt unless your life's in danger," Simmons testified. The state's criminal justice academy's use of force instructor testified earlier in the trial that South Carolina officers are trained to never use a police baton on handcuffed inmates.
Tribble's defense team plans to put Oddie Tribble on the stand.
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