A pregnant Florida woman has hired legal counsel after she claimed she was the victim of an unprovoked beating and pepper-spraying while being shackled by officers in a Jacksonville jail last month.
Kirenda Welch was five weeks pregnant when she was stopped by police officers for making an illegal turn on June 29. When it was learned that Welch was operating a motor vehicle on a suspended license, she was summarily arrested and taken to jail, News 4 Jax reported. Welch said she did not know her license was suspended.
But it was at the local county jail that circumstances took place that led to the corrections officer being brought up on charges.
Welch said she and the corrections officer went back and forth repeatedly throughout her stay at the jail. But when Welch reportedly complained that her jail jumpsuit was extremely itchy, the corrections officer allegedly assaulted Welch after placing her in four-point restraints, Welch said at the press conference. This means handcuffs and leg shackles are attached with a chain, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Pat Ivey said according to WJCT.org.
Welch said other officers did nothing but look on as she was beaten and pepper-sprayed while laying defenseless on the ground.
“This Officer Thompson called me Kunta Kinte several times before she put me in shackles at the ankles and handcuffs at the wrists,” Welch told the television station. “I complied with every one of her requests. I complied with her requests to shackle me only for her to punch me in the face and stomach over a dozen times. I was just in disbelief.”
Attorney Benjamin Crump, 48, who famously represented Trayvon Martin’s parents following his shooting death at the hands of George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida, in 2012, called this “savage beating” on Welch an “illegal abuse of excessive force.” He is demanding the state attorney’s office investigate the episode as a hate crime.
Thompson was in the midst of her probationary period and has been immediately terminated from her position within the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Moreover, Thompson was arrested Thursday on charges of misdemeanor battery and official misconduct. The latter is a felony.
Crump calls the action taken against the corrections officer a good “first step.”
“Before and during this outrageous attack on this citizen, there were racial slurs being used and hurled at her indicating what was the mentality of this officer as she assaulted and battered this 36-year-old, college-educated Black woman,” Crump said at the press conference. “They were of a nature that could not be misconstrued as anything but racist, [and] those matters need to be charged appropriately.”
Crump called for all records and video footage from the incident to be shown publicly. He also wants the U.S. Department of Justice to audit the training of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
“Make this a teachable moment,” Crump added.