Harrison County

When a Coast deputy slammed an inmate's head into a van, they turned on a camera

The Harrison County Sheriff's Department is investigating how deputies treated an inmate as he was loaded into a transport van at the Gulfport courthouse.

Sheriff Troy Peterson said a citizen complaint prompted the investigation.

“We don't push anything under the rug," he said. "Everything is transparent. We're going to be swift with this. If (deputies) are found guilty on their actions, then they're going to be held accountable for it.”

Peachrich Pouerie McLemore said she was waiting on a vehicle to pull out as she was leaving the Gulfport courthouse Monday morning with three of her children. She said deputies were walking an inmate, whose arms and legs were shackled, to the back of a county transport van.

One of the deputies and the inmate appeared to be arguing, she said.

Then, McLemore said, the deputy slammed the inmate's head against the van. She told her oldest son to start shooting video, so he did. He videoed the same deputy shoving the inmate forcefully enough that he fell forward into the van.

“I feel like it was definitely uncalled for," McLemore said. "He had handcuffs on his hands and feet. Regardless of what he had done, I just don't see the point of slamming that man's head and throwing him in the back like he done. We're taught that we can't go out and abuse children or abuse citizens, and still the police do it on a daily basis and get away with it.”

McLemore felt strongly enough about what she had seen to call the jail. When she got no answer, she went to the jail in person. She was referred to Capt. Neil Culwell of the Professional Standards Division.

The video also has been posted to Facebook and shared hundreds of times.

Peterson said he would be unable to discuss the ensuing investigation until it is completed.

"Any time a complaint is filed and there's merit to it, and there seems to be merit to this, then we're going to start an internal investigation,” he said. “Once this is over with . . . I will gladly tell you anything you want to know.”

Anita Lee can be reached at 228-896-2130 or at @CAnitaLee1