Three Orange County sheriff’s deputies, including one who allegedly dumped hot water on an inmate’s arm, are on administrative leave as they await word on whether charges will be filed by prosecutors, who were presented Wednesday with the results of the department’s investigation.
The alleged attack happened on April 1 in the mental health housing module at the Intake Release Center in Santa Ana, said Carrie Braun of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
The inmate was asked to sign a disciplinary notice, but refused when it was passed through a cell door hatch, Braun said. The inmate instead stuck his hands through the cell door hatch and refused to bring them back inside the cell, she said.
A short time later, the deputy returned with two other deputies to get the inmate to pull his hands back in so they could secure the hatch, Braun said. When the inmate continued to refuse, one of the deputies dumped hot water on the inmate’s arm, Braun alleged.
The inmate told another deputy during a security check later about the hot water attack and was treated by doctors for visible injuries, she said.
The three deputies were placed on administrative leave April 2 and an internal probe began, Braun said.
“I am absolutely intolerant of this behavior,” Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said. “Deputies working in the Orange County Jail are responsible for providing care and safety for the inmates in our custody, not causing harm or injury.
“Unfortunately, the actions of one can reflect on the many, but I want to make it clear that this is not indicative of the conduct of deputies inside the Orange County Jail,” he said. “I have reiterated to our personnel that anything that even resembles this type of inexcusable behavior will not be allowed, and that anyone who goes beyond their training and department policy will be held fully accountable. We have completed a criminal investigation and submitted it to the District Attorney’s Office for a prosecutorial decision. It is my expectation that the district attorney will review this case in a timely manner to determine if charges are warranted.”
The names of the deputies were not released.
Attorney Paul Meyer, who represents a deputy, issued the following statement:
“We look forward to a careful review of the incident by the Orange County district attorney. Release of facts at this stage was unfortunate. In response to that release, we note that the deputy chose to tip a few ounces of very warm water on the arm of an aggressive inmate who had thrown and smeared feces, swung his arms at deputies and nurses and violently gripped a portable hatch, exposing those nearby to danger.
“When he refused repeated requests to remove his arms and allow the hatch to be closed, the deputies faced a choice of using violent force, tasers or pepperball guns or pepper spray. The decision to tip a few ounces of very warm water on one arm to startle the inmate into compliance solved the problem without brute force or weapons. The claim of injury, not seen for several hours, has not been forensically analyzed to determine if it was self inflicted.
“The use of alternative, non-aggressive compliance techniques is preferred, avoiding old fashioned, violent methods of compliance. We look forward to a fair and ethical evaluation of all facts in this matter by a district attorney who is committed to innovative and humane law enforcement.”