Crime & Courts

Former inmate’s lawsuit accuses deputy of attack while he was handcuffed, defenseless

A former Sedgwick County inmate is suing the county commission, sheriff and a detention sergeant after he says the sergeant slammed him against a cell wall and punched him hard enough to break bones while he was handcuffed and defenseless.

The federal lawsuit, filed last week by Kristopher Welch, argues the sergeant’s actions violate the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and infringes on Welch’s civil liberties. It also contends Sheriff Jeff Easter and the county have failed “to properly or sufficiently train and supervise its detention deputies,” which amounts to a “deliberate indifference” to inmates’ rights.

Neither the county nor the Sheriff’s Office would comment on the lawsuit. Interim County Counselor Michael Pepoon said Friday a copy of the complaint hasn’t been served yet.

The lawsuit alleges that a detention sergeant with the last name Alexander “forcibly removed” Welch from a bed at the Sedgwick County Jail, ordered him into handcuffs and then slammed him against a cell wall when he didn’t comply quickly enough with an order to move bunks on March 13, 2017.

“Rather that provide Plaintiff (Welch) with sufficient time to comply, Defendant Alexander forcibly removed Plaintiff from the bunk he was sleeping in,” the lawsuit alleges.

After he was in cuffs, Welch “made a comment of frustration” towards the sergeant.

The sergeant reacted by punching Welch “from behind in the left side of his face” while Welch was “in a defenseless position and was facing away,” the lawsuit says. The blow fractured “multiple bones” and caused Welch “to black out,” it continues.

The lawsuit calls the alleged attack unnecessary and unreasonable and says it “served no legitimate law enforcement, safety, or jail administration purpose.”

Welch is seeking more than $75,000 in damages.

Court records show Welch, 31, was in jail at the time of the alleged assault for violating the terms of his probation in two 2016 cases. He pleaded guilty in those cases to damaging a 2012 Camaro and possessing marijuana and methamphetamine. He was booked on the probation violations March 8, 2017, records show.

His arrest came a day after he was thrown out of an inpatient drug treatment center in Winfield for “disruptive behavior, failing to attend groups and throwing a drink at his counselor,” his probation violation warrant says.

The federal complaint doesn’t give the first name of the sergeant allegedly involved, saying it’s unknown. Welch’s attorney, Michael Shultz, declined to comment beyond the allegations in the lawsuit.

The Sedgwick County Jail is located at 141 W. Elm in downtown Wichita.

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Amy Renee Leiker has been reporting for The Wichita Eagle since 2010. She covers crime, courts and breaking news and updates the newspaper’s online databases. You can reach her at 316-268-6644. She’s an avid reader and mom of three in her non-work time.
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